His eyes blinked. Over and over again in a short rapid succession. Blitz was awake. When his eyes stabilized and the world around him came into clear focus the first image that came into clarity was the one he saw of himself reflected in the polished glow of the black marble floor beneath him. His head was slumped down over the front of his body, a body that refused to budge when he tried to move it. A closer examination of the image beneath his feet that were hovering a couple of feet above the floor clued him into the fact that he was indeed strapped firmly to the soft velvety wall at his back. Blitz struggled some more. Nothing. The restraints running horizontally across his body didn’t give an inch. Wiggling the fingers only allowed him to drum a soft beat onto his shoulders. His arms were shackled at the wrists, right hand against left shoulder, left hand against right shoulder, his arms crossed in front of him. “Ah. You’re awake,” Blitz heard a voice say.
He lifted his woozy head. The light from the lamps that illuminated the large room, an elaborate bedroom by the looks of the furniture present, stung his eyes a bit. His head turned sharply toward his right shoulder and his eyes were instantly greeted by the shocking image of a woman crowned with jet black hair colored with wide streaks of blood red locks. She wore a black robe that was sheer enough for him to clearly make out the black bra and thong panty set she had on beneath it. She didn’t return his look. Her eyes were focused on the long stemmed rose that she brought up to her face and gentle placed against her nose. Blitz watched her softly inhale the aroma of the flower before lowering it down in front of her chest. Her eyes met his for the first time. “I thought you’d sleep for ages,” she said to him.
His lips were unbound, quite a unique circumstance considering the condition of the majority of his body, and free to move as they will. “What am I doing her!?!” he said, struggling against his restraints once more. “What do you want with me!?!”
She walked over to him and tapped him on the nose with the rose, continuing to move past him. Blitz angrily shook his head from side to side at the touch of the flower, his teeth gritted tightly together. “Oh calm down little cotton candy,” she said as she continued to move her bare feet across the lack marble floor towards the wall to the left of Blitz’s bound body that had a very large window embedded in it that over looked the setting sun dropping down over the horizon of the cityscape outside. “No harm will befall you here. You’re safe.”
“Same goes for you…long as I stay locked up in this thing.”
His radiant hostess turned and took a look back over her shoulder, smiling brightly at the sight of the man who was bound to the large black heart shaped fixture resting next to the wall. A deep groan of chuckling escaped her lips. “What? You think you can take me, cotton candy?”
“I’m positive,” Blitz spat out. “Muriel.”
More laughter. “Had I not been so concerned about the bruising I just may have allowed you the time to prove yourself.” She turned back to the view outside of the window she stood in front off that stretched down from the dome shaped, small glass panel covered ceiling to the area just in front of her knees. The amber glowing sun sank down below the rooftops along the horizon and disappeared from sight, leaving behind purple and black late evening sky.
“What exactly are you concerned about, Muriel,” Blitz said to her.
“That’s your majesty,” she said turning around and facing him. She tipped the wine red bud at he end of the thorn free stem down and pointed it towards him as she walked. “You’d do well to remember that.” His eyes followed her as she moved across the room in front of him. “As for my intentions, well…” Muriel spun around on her toes and looked him dead in the eyes. “I’m hopeful that you’ll be extremely intrigued. We certainly have a lot to talk about.”
“Pardon me, sir, but what other choice do we have.” Capt. Cruze folded his arms in front of his chest and stared down is subordinate with seething, fiery eyes as she tried to plead her case. “The Council’s been rendered impotent! Our fighters inside the matrix have proved completely ineffective to say the least! And her power is growing exponentially with each second that we stand here wasting! Not to mention the fact that Blitz has been taken into their custody! Add all that together and I’m telling you that we don’t have much of a choice!” Digital said to him.
“So you propose suicide as a final solution?” Cruze said to her.
Digital blurted out a breathy sigh in frustration at his refusal to see the reasoning behind what she was suggesting. As understandable as Cruze’s reluctance was, Digital had to convince him that this course of action was the only feasible option left for retrieving Blitz back from the clutches of their deranged new antagonist. “I’m not talking about a full on home invasion. I just want to make a person to person call in the hopes that we might…just might…be able to get some help from the only source that’s capable of giving us some real answers.” There was a short pause between them. “How many options do we have left?”
Cruze shut his eyes and slowly shook his head from side to side and Digital could see the doubt in him. She hoped against hope that he would fine a way see through to the method in her madness. All hope, and possibly Blitz’s life, was resting on the next decision that he made. “Am I to understand that you’re simply suggesting raising a beckon? Not a full breach?”
“All I want is to get Blitz back,” Digital said to him.
Cruze could see the earnest, the sadness, the intensity in her eyes and instantly knew that her motives, though possibly misguided, were definitely being governed by a heartfelt intention to do whatever was necessary to see to it that this excursion went off with as few complications as possible. Complications that may have endangered not only the entire crew of the Llorrac, but Blitz himself. And he trusted them. “Set a course,” Cruze said. “Let’s see how this pans out.”
Muriel collapsed back on the black heart shaped structure that was covered with a silk sheet and adorned with two pillows at the top of each crest of the heart. Blitz immediately came to the conclusion that it had to be some kind of makeshift bed. She brought the rose petals up to her nose and pulled her right foot into her body along the warm, slick fabric of the sheet, raising her right knee. “Come on, my little cotton candy,” she said to him. Blitz struggled against his restraints as he stared furiously across the room at her outstretched body across the room, her feet pointing in his direction. “It shouldn’t be that hard of a decision to make.”
“Are you completely out of your head?” Blitz said to her.
A sinister, guttural laugh escaped from her lips. “I suppose that’s simply a matter of opinion, now isn’t it?” She laughed some more.
“Well let’s just assume,” Blitz interrupting her insidious glee, “that I somehow got smacked on the head hard enough to even consider staying here to rule this kingdom at your side. Have you not even entertained the fact that my body’s still plugged into the Llorrac?” The fury inside of him swelled at the thought of her incompetence. “How long do you think the crew of my ship will be able to stay at broadcast level and keep enough power running through their system to keep me alive. Did you even think of that!?! Huh!?!” Blitz began to get irate with her.
“Silly cotton candy.” Muriel plucked a petal from the bud. “Look,” she said, moving the plucked petal over her lips. A soft, gentle breeze escaped her ruby red lips and produced a silent gust of wind that lifted the red rose petal up…up…up on a slow sailing breeze that carried it, along with Blitz eyes up toward the domed glass ceiling above Muriel’s bed. Blitz’s eyes left lost the rose petal (it was just as well-the thing had evaporated into dust shortly before reaching the summit) and tuned toward the starry sky just beyond the glass panel. A sky slowly began to be littered with the bright glow of streaking heavenly bodies. An array of shooting stars filled the sky above theirs heads, having no effect on the glowing orbs that remained stationary. Some of the streaking bolts exploded into an umbrella cluster of light that fell towards the earth and dissipated in the atmosphere. Others continued on past the glass ceiling into infinity as the spectacle continued. “You see,” Muriel spoke. The heart shaped bed she was lying on began to spin slowly. She didn‘t move a muscle “Whether you know it or not, cotton candy, you’re in a new world now.” Blitz looked on in silent amazement as the top of her head passed him time and again. The rose, she held still above her face. Muriel continued to pluck petals from it. “One where anything is possibly. My world. That body of yours, wherever it is. Forget about it. It’s useless. Say you’ll stay with me. And I swear…I’ll show you a reality that you couldn’t possibly fathom.”
Blitz let his eyes follow the revolving body that lay relaxed and tranquil across the same shape that he found himself bound so securely. His eyes squinted and focused more clearly on the form of the woman in front of him. “Who are you?” he asked her.
“Me?” Muriel responded. “Well I’m the Queen of course.”
“No!” Blitz snapped at her. “I mean…who are you really.”
Her laughter resonated throughout room, louder this time, more ominous. The bed she lie across stopped spinning and her feet were once again facing him. “How many people do you think are connected to the matrix,” she asked him. Maybe it was a reflex but Blitz had momentarily taken the time to reflect on such a thing. He didn’t have long to ponder. “In the countless centuries of its existence, how many people, in total, do you think have been connected to the matrix?”
“I don’t know,” Blitz said just for the sake of offering her an answer. “A couple million? A few billion?”
He’d once again brought Muriel to chuckles. “All of those people…sleeping away their lives as they offer up countless watts of energy to their captive.” She pressed her hands down hard against the cushion of the bed and pushed her upper body upright, locking eyes with Blitz. “All those copper tops sleeping awake in the matrix. Did you ever wonder what a person who is dreaming they’re awake dreams about when they dream that they fall asleep to dream?” Blitz’s brow crinkled up in confusion. Muriel lifted her hand up and tossed the rose at him. “That’s right.” The red bud crowning the stem she had thrown melted into a cloud of smoke once it hit his scowling face and faded into nothing as it slowly evaporated. “Unfortunately it was I who had somehow acquired the responsibility of overseeing the realm of human dreams within the dream. Billions. Trillions of individual human fantasies. Multiplied a zillion times over.” She cocked her head to the side and flashed him a closed lipped smile. “But we’re all done with that. And a new dream is upon us. A dream that I’m inviting you to help shape. Whadoyasay?”
“More like ran into one,” Cable said. She immediately went to work pressing buttons and flipping switches, doing everything within her means to slow the ship down, ultimately bringing it to a complete stop.
Crackshot turned his eyes to the three dimensional hologram projection that lie between the two women. “What the hell is that?” he said, referring to the image of a long row of tortoise shell shaped objects. The projection instantly morphed into a close up and more detailed view of a small cluster of the mechanical sentries. Crackshot turned his eyes back to the scene outside of the front windows of the cockpit. Approximately a hundred or so kilometers in front of them was a small mountain range cordoned off by an endless row of red glowing orbs. The hair on the back of his neck began to stand at attention. “Hey, someone want to tell me where the hell we are. An answer that I’m assuming will be quickly followed up by an explanation about what the hell we’re doing here.”
“On the other side of that mountain range,” a voice said from behind the trio. Crackshot shuddered with surprise at the startle. Capt. Cruze lay a calming hand on his shoulder as he moved him aside to get a better look at the view in front of his ship, “is the only place that our dear friend Digital thinks we’ll find the answer to stopping Muriel.”
“And saving Blitz,” Digital added as she turned to look back over her shoulder at him.
Cruze let his eyes drop down to her face. “And save Blitz.”
“Bloody hell.” The thick Irish accent filled the cockpit and, shockingly enough, startled Crackshot once more. “Where in the blazes are we? And why’s that bell going off?”
“Not such a bad question as far as questions go,” Venus chimed in as she made her way into what was becoming a very crowded cockpit. Especially when Detrick, the ship’s operator closed in behind her. “What are we dong here?”
“You got the frequency yet?” Digital said to Cable, trying to ignore the commotion going on behind her as the rest of her shipmates stumbled over each other in order to get a better vantage point of the ship’s instrument settings along with the view outside of the windows.
“I’ve got a dial tone. You just better hope that they’re taking calls at this hour.”
Blitz slowly turned his head toward his right shoulder, taking in the layout of the extravagant domicile. He found a chandelier in the distance. It swayed with the breeze that swept through the room from parts unknown. It consisted of several gold rings, the outermost circle much larger than each one that filled the area inside of the outer ring. The smaller the circle, the closer it was to the floor. Each ring was ornamented with several lit light bulbs. Normally he wouldn’t have found anything strange about such a sight, except that this particular chandelier wasn’t suspended from the ceiling. The chains that extended away from it stretched toward the floor instead. Still, it reacted with the elements all around it just as it were hanging from the ceiling. Speaking of the ceiling, turning his eyes up he spotted a large fountain that contained two marble carved cherubs who’s bodies were fused together. They each shared a leg whose foot had no heel, just five toes protruding out of either side of it. Their bellies, chest, and even their faces were fused together. Each head was turned up, their eyes facing in the opposite direction of the small marble square platform that their infused foot was planted on. The other foot on each cherub had been pulled up in the air behind each structure. The two faces had no chin and shared a single open mouth. The florescent green water that escaped the opening streamed down towards the black marble floor but never had a chance of making it to the glossy surface. The flow of water bent back toward the ceiling in the shape of an umbrella and fell back to the green pool that blanketed the wings and arms of the two figures and filled the saucer embedded in the ceiling.
“It’s an interesting offer,” Blitz said to his captor. “But I have to ask…why me?”
An ominous smile took over the features of her face. Muriel pushed herself off of the heart shaped bed and maneuvered her bare feet across the black shiny marble beneath her until she was face to face with him. She placed a hand to the soft black material on either side of his shoulders and leaned in close to him. Blitz could feel her warm breath on his left cheek as she moved her lips closer to the opening of his ear. “Just between you and me,” she said sweetly. “I’m very seldom taken with you cotton candy types, but I have to say…” Blitz felt her wet, tepid tongue make a short, quick stroke across the skin just in front of his ear. He flinched and quickly jerked his head away from her. Muriel clasped her palm over his chin, her fingers pressing into the flesh surround his mouth, and slowly, forcefully turned his face back to her. Their eyes were mere millimeters away from each others now. The furious gasps of breaths he pulled in and pushed out through tightly clutched together teeth warmed her very nearby lips. She let her eyes erratically scan the features of his face as she slowly drew hers closer into his, her hand still clasped firmly over his chin. Their lips grazed his and he flinched again, this time pulling his head back away from her. Blitz didn’t have much room to maneuver. The night black heart behind him quickly put a stop to his retreat. Muriel’s face continued to close in on him. “You are just as cute as the dickens.” She pressed her lips against so forcefully that no movement of his head, regardless of how hard he jerked it from side to side, could be successful in breaking the bond that they now shared.
It didn’t take long.
The effects set in without haste. Blitz was suddenly consumed by a dizzying sensation that left his entire body numb and his lips paralyzed. He quickly found himself helpless to resist her advances and soon after that without a mind to want to do so. His lips reciprocated the desire that consumed hers and eventually he found himself lost in the enrapture of her embrace. It was like nothing he’d ever felt before. He felt free. Inexplicably liberated of every restraint that had ever consumed his mortal coil. He was free. Warm and alive with a single kiss in a new world that was of Muriel’s making and soon his were there no one to intervene. Please, he could still feel a small portion of his inner psyche pleading, even as their tongues feverishly explored the other party’s mouth with unbridled delight on both sides. Please, Blitz‘s inner, most deepests thoughts cried out. There has to be someone out there.
“Nothing!” Digital answered for him, letting her eyes fall on each stunned individual that accompanied them in the cockpit, one after the other. “We don’t do anything. As shaky as it is, we still have a standing peace agreement with the machines and we’re not going to violate it now.”
“But what if they…” Shamrock started to say but found herself instantly cut off by her shipmate.
“Then we react accordingly,” Digital said to her, addressing Shamrock specifically but intending her words to be heeded by everyone present, including her own captain. “Beyond that we shouldn’t do anything to provoke any further action from them.”
Crackshot turned a scary eyed glance over at Cruze and knew within a matter of seconds that he was in complete compliance with Digital. His focus was once again directed back towards the area at the front of the ship. “This hunch of yours had better be encrusted in gold!” Crackshot said to Digital. “Or else it’s all our asses you’re putting on the line.”
“Our asses and Blitz’s,” Digital reminded him. She turned back around in her seat and in her mind she secretly crossed her fingers as her eyes once again absorbed the sight of the approaching threat.
The mechanical beasts closed in on them swiftly. Soon they were in a position to pounce on the hovering mechanism that was apparently threatening the border that guarded the Mecca of their civilization…yet they did nothing. The didn’t move in for the kill. They didn’t methodically go about dismantling the hulk of metal ornamented by a multitude of blue glowing electronic pads that kept it airborne. No. They did nothing. Nothing but hover around the ship at various positions, occasionally slithering their tentacle covered bodies to a better vantage point as the mechanical strike team examined the interloper. They never laid one clawed extremity on the hull of the Llorrac, but remained poised for a quick and immediate strike.
“What the hell are they doing?” Detrick, the ship’s operator said as he thought out loud.
“Well,” Digital said as calmly as she could under these circumstances. Her voice still managed to shake a bit. “Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I think that’s our welcoming committee.” She slowly turned her head towards her copilot. “I think they got your call, Cable. Welcome wagon’s ready. Go on in.”
The pilot, her shipmate, turned a scared and confused expression in her direction. All Digital could do to comfort her was hunch her shoulders and take up the controls in front of her. The hovercraft moved and slowly approached the mountain range in the distance with the crew of the Llorrac clinging tightly to their breath and the cadre of sentinels following closely, their mechanical bodies moving in a swarm of elliptical, non-threatening patterns around the vessel as it neared the machine city.
Muriel snatched her lips away from the pair that Blitz possessed and smacked his forehead with the palm of her hand at the same time, knocking it back against the cushioned material of the large black heart that he was bound to. “Your lips, they’re sweet,” Muriel said to him as she turned and headed off back towards her heart shaped bed. The intoxicating effects that had ensued within him at the touch of their lips dulled once they were separated and Blitz slowly slipped back into a state of coherency. He stared at the sheer black fabric covering her back, her black bra strap and thong panty set still exposed to him beneath the robe she wore. His visage grimaced in anger. “But I sense you’re still encumbered by an imbecilic hold on what you still think is reality.”
“Reality is what it is. What I think about it has no bearing on that fact.”
Muriel stopped just before she reached the bed and made a quick spin to face him. “Reality is as relative as anything else in this world of worlds!” she snapped at him. “Real? Real is the moment. Real isn’t what the mind feels. Real is what the mind believes at any given time. Something tells it one thing, something makes it believe another. One truth traded off for another, and another, and another. Reality…,” her steely eyed gaze held his and she took a step toward him, “…is tonight.” she took another bare footed step closer to him, her brow lowered and her red and black locks of hair dangled lower over her shoulders as she approached. “Right now. It’s whatever you want it to be. What’s so different about what your dreaming world offers you than the waking one, assuming the two were expanded out to the same length of time? I mean, really?”
Blitz pondered her query but offered up no answer, his furious eyes holding her stare.
“Trust me, little cotton candy.” Muriel brought her right hand up in front of her face. It let loose a small poof of pink smoke that eventually dissipated and revealed the red rose that she now held in her hand. She brought the bud up to her nose and sniffed it. “I can make a single moment…last for a lifetime. Dream a little dream. Spend an eternity in this life.” She puffed out a gust of air and the red rose petals instantaneously transformed into a small cluster of fluttering red butterflies that battered their wings against the air in front of her face and headed up toward the glass ceiling. She followed their path with her eyes, an adoring smile on her face. “Make your choice,” she said, her eyes turned up toward the ceiling.
The Llorrac cleared the mountain range that lie just beyond the hovering row of mechanics that served as its initial barrier of defense. The sentries remained as placid as any inanimate object as the ship full of rebels passed overhead every so calmly on it’s way to the machine world stronghold where it’s crew sought so many of the answers to the multitude of questions that plagued it.
“What in the bloody blue blazes do we do now, genius?” Shamrock said, pulling the skullcap down lower on her head and clutching her coat tighter around her. She alternated her glances between the view of the machine city that lay stretched out before them and the sentinels still swarming all about.
“They obviously know we’re here,” Digital said, knowing that her words wouldn’t bring any of them much comfort. “I guess there’s nothing left to do now but wait.”
Mere seconds after she was done speaking the crew of the Llorrac watched the hulking beast that swarmed all around them and the platform suddenly dart away from the platform and head back off into the dark recesses of the city. They didn’t have long to ponder this strange occurrence as the large collection of electrically charged spikes rising up beyond the edge of the platform stole their attention. Bright blue bolts of electricity rose up and emblazoned the pointed rods that were all protruding from everywhere around the large oval mass that they were connected to. Once it’s entirety had risen above the platform the large churning gears and wheels that made up the workings of this machine opened a panel that let loose a swarm of tiny mechanical objects that slithered and snaked their way through the air between the beast and the crew of the Llorrac. Finally the swarm came together and manipulated themselves into the form of a human face. “Speak,” the lips of this leviathan said to them as the tiny mechanics continued to swarm throughout the image of the face they created.
The sound of the thunderous storm above their heads coupled with the machine’s ominous interpretation of a human’s voice was enough to leave Digital’s entire crew shocked beyond words. In the end it was her who initially stepped forward and complied with the command given to them. “Yeah. Hi, big…floaty…head thing. We’re here because there’s something wrong with the matrix.”
“Incorrect,” the creature said to her.
“Incorrect? Are you kidding me? Do you guys ever look around in there from time to time or do you just sit back here soaking up all the benefits?”
“Digi,” Shamrock said, interrupting her, “maybe this isn’t the proper stage for you to be displaying your…color.”
Digital looked back at her with a huff and then turned back to her conversation. “That funny farm freak show Muriel has turned the matrix completely ass side up and we can’t seem to come up with anyway to stop her. Now you…,” She struggled for a moment to find the word. “…things may not be feeling any of the repercussions now, but I’m willing to bet that it won’t be long before you do.”
“What do you want?”
“Well, to be specific, we were kind of hoping you guys could come up with some suggestions, but since you’re asking, you wouldn’t happen to familiar with anyone named Neo by any chance, would you?” The face simply looked at her in silence. “We sort of had it on good faith that this place was his last known mailing address.”
There was a moment of silence until finally it spoke again. “All information pertaining to the systemic anomaly inherent to the programming of the matrix system is stored in the core database of the matrix system’s central network. The data will be transferred for the duration of this quagmire.”
Digital stared back at the face in utter confusion. She’d only managed to comprehend a small portion of what she had just been told. “Alright,” she said, agreeing to…something. “So we get the One back?”
“Incorrect. You will be granted the six integral anomalies with which to rectify your quandary.”
“Six?” Digital said, now just completely lost. She turned back to her crew but their faces held no comfort to lend her. “Okay,” she said, turning her head back around. “What do you need from us?”
Blitz stared across the room at his captor who lay splayed across her spinning bed. Time, for some reason, was starting to feel lost on him. He couldn’t rightly tell how long he had tolerated this woman’s lunacy, or, for that matter, how long he would have to put up with it. “Oh, what’s the matter, little cotton candy? You not felling very chatty anymore?”
“You might say I’ve grown weary of this conversation,” Blitz said to her.
The bed stopped spinning and Muriel rose to her feet again. “Well that’s okay,” she said, walking over to where she had him bound. “You’ve had a really long day. I can’t imagine what you must’ve been through. You need your rest and I need my beauty sleep. I’ve got a big day tomorrow and the last thing I need is a Mr. Sleepyhead moping around here. Night night,” she said, cupping his chin in her palm and jostling his head around a bit. “My sweet little cotton candy.”
And with that Muriel left him alone in the room after switching out the lights. Well…she hadn’t exactly left him alone. The three dimensional images of green glowing bunny rabbits, butterflies, kittens, and other various cute and fuzzy creatures that frolicked in midair throughout the bedroom to the low hum of a lullaby kept him company. Blitz turned his head toward the view of the city outside of the large window across the room. The firework show Muriel had ensued was still going on. The world outside of the window started to look like one he’d never seen before. Blitz was jacked into the matrix. He knew it, but now he was starting to wonder. Starting to wonder just where the hell was he, and if he’d ever find a way out.
“You actually expect me to subject six members of Zion’s military force to serve as guinea pigs for some cockamamie scheme cooked up a machine that I don’t even believe we can trust!?! You can’t be serious.”
“I’ve never been more serious,” Digital said to his back as they moved through the ship. “What other choice is there? And what would they have to gain by betraying us.? Sir, if we want to get Blitz back, the way I see it this is our best shot.”
“How, by placing our trust in the very machines that created the matrix to help us restore it back to the prison that it currently remains to be in the off chance that it gets us back one of our own?”
“No!” she said firmly. “By using what they alone can give us to save a friend and put a stop to something that could very well mean that not one single human will be freed from the power plant ever again.”
They reached the core and found Shamrock, Crackshot, and Detrick all hard at work. Cruze went straight for the operator’s terminal that Detrick was positioned behind and started tapping his fingers against the various screens present there. “Did you even once stop to consider the fact that this ship’s power isn’t going to last forever and that there is too little time left to be wasting it on pointless ventures?”
“With all do respect, sir, that’s exactly the reason why I wish you wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the only option we’ve been presented with that might get Blitz back.”
Cruze turned around to face her, a complacent look in his eyes. “Assuming I agreed to this course of action, whom might you suggest undertake this mission? You? All of us?”
“How about the crew from Auspice?” Shamrock chimed in with. “Those bloody dolts are always looking for some action. And it’s not like we have to fill ‘em in on every last detail. They’ll eat it up.”
“That’s real considerate of you, Sham,” Crackshot said. He never turned away from the chair he was detailing with a socket wrench as he spoke to her.
“Well it certainly gives us our volunteers and at the same time allows us to remain at a vantage point to oversee this op, now doesn’t?”
Shamefully being of the frame of mind to heed Shamrock’s suggestion, Digital looked away from her and turned her stare back to her captain. She eagerly awaited a sign that he was perhaps considering the proposal and not still outright rejecting it solely based on the unorthodox means by which it was to be carried out. She waited. Finally Cruze came through with an order to hail the Auspice and notify the crew of the situation being placed before them. Choosing to omit the portion of the advice suggested by Shamrock, Cruze demanded that their fellow fleet soldiers be fully apprised of every detail about the mission they’d be undertaking and to give them the choice of voluntary service. Digital breathed out a premature sigh of relief as she watched her captain turn his back to her and get back to work on the computer screens. She knew that even if they acquired the cooperation of the Auspice’s crew the task that lie before them was nothing if not arduous. And pulling it off was still going to require nothing short of a miracle.
Queen Muriel pushed open a ten foot high set of double doors and walked at a quick pace through the corridor that lay stretched out before her. The walls on either side of her were composed of silver concrete with long rectangular stretches of glass windows embedded in them at multiple breaks. The entire floor was composed of a transparent material that allowed anyone willing to take a look to have a view of the Megacity streets thirty stories below. Any pedestrians occupying the world beneath them would only be able to see a concrete skywalk had they been looking up. “Has everything been arrange according to the specific specifications that I specified?” she asked the two dark suit covered gentlemen that trailed after her. With the pitch black gown she wore shielding her feet from view, Muriel appeared to glide across the transparent matter beneath her.
“Most assuredly, your majesty,” one of the men said. “Your orders were followed to the letter. We’ve made sure of it.”
“You’d better hope so,” Muriel spoke. “Because if anything’s amiss it’ll be off with your heads.”
Both men turned a frightened sunglass covered gaze at one another before placing their eyes back on Muriel’s fleeing form. “Today’s my big day and I don’t want anything to go wrong.”
Digital turned her face up toward the electrical storm cloud covered sky and watched the electrically charged blue pads of the hovercraft known as the Auspice pass slowly over her and head to another one of the landing pads that adorned the jagged tower. After the ship touched down the crewmembers spilled out of it and immediately started up the staircase linking the two platforms that the hovercrafts rested on. Shamrock was right, she thought, never having placed much doubt in her friend’s assessment of the Auspice crew’s mentality. These guys were always up for some action. Watching them ascend the staircase, Digital just hoped that they would have what it was going to take to bring an end to this conflict once and for all.
“Calm down, Rascal,” Cruze addressed the overenthusiastic young soldier. “Trust me. This is all just routine.”
“Sounds to me like this is anything but, Captain.”
Cruze turned his eyes to the man who was now speaking to him. “Still and all. I’m glad you’re here to pull my ass out of yet another jam, Captain Rickshaw. All of you.”
“Enough of the formalities. This is your party. We’re just catering. Now what exactly do we need to be doing right now.
The crew members of both hovercrafts turned their heads and looked out at the mechanical city that stretched out before them. All of them found their view instantly blocked by the electrically charged rods that began to rise up just past the edge of the platform. The crew of the Llorrac, having been somewhat more familiar with this sight than their brethren who occupied the Auspice displayed significantly less surprise at the image.
“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” Rascal yelled out as the he, along with the rest of his crew, backed up in fear and astonishment as the large mechanical creation rose up above the platform.
“Take it easy!” Cruze commanded them, all the while staring ahead at the hovering mechanical mass as it once again used a multitude of tiny flying machinery to form a replica of a human face. “Just take it easy.”
“All data required to perform the neurological transfer has been compiled,” the mechanism uttered in it’s ominous dialect of the human language. “Are the subjects prepared?”
The crew of the Auspice stepped forward and positioned themselves between the crew of the Llorrac and the mechanical face. They stood before this beast poised without fear or regret. All six of them. Capt. Rickshaw, Rascal, Jackknife, Ripcord, Sideswipe, and Millennia. Three males. Three females. All primed and ready to once again give their all for the sanctity of their mission and the honor of their corp. “Prepared for whatever it is that you’ve got up your sleeve.”
“Sir,” Jackknife said to the captain. “How can it have sleeves if it doesn’t even have arms? It’s just a big freakin’ head, sir.”
Rickshaw’s only response was a the shaking of his lowered head.
A large cluster of slithering cords snaked up through the spaces in the grates of the platform floor behind the six volunteers and caught most of them by surprise when they expelled thick metal needles and injected them into the open ports that covered each of their bodies. All the crewmembers of the Llorrac could do was look on in desperate anticipation as their fellow fleet members bravely subjected themselves to this highly irregular set of circumstances. The many cords that were injected into their bodies hoisted the six of them up off of their feet and positioned them all into a hovering seated position. Digital blinked and her body shuddered in panic as she watched a flash of energy surge up through the cords connected to the Auspice crewmember on the far right hand side in front of her. Rascal, to be precise. “The transfer of the necessary data regarding the six versions of the systemic anomaly has commenced,” the mechanical beast announced. “Malice,” it groaned once Rascal’s body stopped shuddering. Bolts of energy were now shooting up into Captain Rickshaw’s body. “Lao Ming.” This system of events continued on down the line to the sound of the behemoth’s narration until each crewmember of the Auspice had been subjected to the same upload. “Ice,” it continued to speak. “Leena. Solaris. Neo.” The cords were retracked back down into the floor of the platform and all six of the bodies were lowered to the ground. “It is done.” The slithering mechanisms that composed the mechanical creature’s face spread out and returned back into the ports of the clankering hulk from which they were originally expelled as the machine began to lower itself back into the depths of the city below.
The crew of the Llorrac looked on in utter and complete disbelief as the six bodies lying on the ground slow began to pick themselves up and get to their feet. Cruze cautiously stepped closer to them, moving in his old friend Capt. Rickshaw’s direction. “Rick…Rickshaw?” he said to him.
The body standing before him that wore his dear friend’s face and bore all his features looked at him with a set of eyes that couldn’t have possibly conveyed their unfamiliarity with the figure standing before them any more than they were already doing. “My name is not Rickshaw. I am Lao Ming. And from what I understand time is a luxury that we do not have. So let us not waste anymore of it than we absolutely have to.”
“You and me both,” Cruze said to him. “But as of now this appears to be our only option. So we proceed ahead as planned. You work the operator’s chair aboard the Auspice, keep your fingers and toes crossed, and hope these wonder boys live up to their reputation.”
Crackshot breathed out a long sigh as he dropped his head and shook it in frustration. “If you say so, sir. “I just hope this coup doesn’t wind up costing us more than we can afford.”
“You and me both.” Cruze turned around and continued on into the depths of the Llorrac.
Once both hovercrafts were loaded up with their respective crews and the control panels properly manned, both vessels lifted off and started on their way out of the machine city with the promise that the next time they passed across these borders into the machine stronghold the consciousness of the augmented Zionites would be swapped out for the uploaded information concerning the six integral anomalies.
The Auspice descended beneath the surface and streaked through the labyrinth of tunneling until it found a nice place to settle and broadcast a hack into the matrix. Crackshot hopped in the chair behind the array of monitors set up in the Auspice’s core and began hitting buttons and touching his fingers against the many screens present. “I hope you freaks are ready to rock and roll because it’s go time.”
“Freaks?” the entity known as Solaris who currently inhabited the physical form of the person Crackshot knew as Sideswipe said. She’d just finished inserting the jack into the back of the fifth skull on the bodies seated in the chairs all around her.
Crackshot got up from his seat and walked over to the chair that she had climbed into. He unhooked the jack from the fixture behind her and inserted it into the port in the back of her head. “Don’t worry about it. It’s just an expression.” He moved back over to his work station to the sound of a very disapproving cluster of inaudible chatter being emitted from all six plugged in individuals.
Her hand moved slowly at first as Digital brought her gloved fingers up towards her face. Once they made it up as far as her chin the five black leather clad digits shot up and snatched the sunglasses from her face. She had to see them with her own eyes, or rather the digitally created orbs that the matrix had embedded in her RSI, if she was even to consider accepting the images presented before her to be true. The crew of the Llorrac stood inside of the empty apartment with nothing between them and the crew of the Auspice except a small round table with a ringing telephone sitting on top of it. Only the crew of the Auspice didn’t resemble themselves at all. They had each taken on the digital form of the persona implanted into each of their heads. The one who had been designated as Neo stepped forward and picked up the ringing phone, placing it to the side of his head. “We’re in,” he spoke.
“From what I can see…” Detrick spoke into his headset as he worked on the keyboards and monitors in front of him aboard the Llorrac. He had Cruze on the other end of the line. He was jacked into the matrix along with Digital, Venus, and Shamrock. “…there’s some kind of huge gathering at the stadium on Jefferson, just west of Hapsburg street. It’s about a block over from the Ray Bradbury exit.” Detrick stared at the screens in front of him with a look consisting of both amusement and bewilderment. “I don’t understand it, sir,” he said into the mouthpiece next to his lips. “There must be at least thirty or…forty thousand of them gathered at the stadium. All programs. Blitz is practically home alone. Getting into their primary base of operations should be the least of your worries. You should have more trouble catching a cab back to your exit than securing our boy Blitz. The light’s green, sir. I say take it now.”
Neo hung up his cell phone and stuffed it in the pocket of his black ankle length trench coat. “Then it’s settled,” he said to Captain Cruze as he hung up his telephone in unison with him. Both crews were standing outside of the apartment building that they had been transported to, having moved out to the parking lot where they received their next set of logistics. “We’ll take the stadium while you secure the rescue at the Queen’s primary base of operations. Agreed?”
“You don’t have to tell me twice,” Captain Cruze replied.
“Glad to hear it.” Neo replied.
Immediately afterwards he crouched down low and brought his right fist up to his face while simultaneously pulling his left elbow up behind his back. With a forceful push of his bowed legs he shot off like a dart into the sky. The blonde haired woman going by the name of Ice extended both of her fists back behind her thighs as she crouched and gritted her gleaming teeth together before pushing off from the concrete floor of the parking lot and taking off after Neo. Lao Ming extended one fist toward the clouded sky and the other towards ground before his outstretched legs achieved liftoff from the ground beneath them. The other three went after them shortly.
Staring up at their fleeing bodies from where she stood, Shamrock finally lowered her head and turned her sunglass covered eyes to the members of her crew. “So it’s off after Blitz, I assume,” she said to them.
“You’d better believe it,” Digital responded back, her eyes angled up towards the flying silhouettes that streaked towards their encounter with the deranged Queen and her multitude of minions.
“Her imperial highness,” a voice called out over the loud speaker of the packed stadium. All fifty thousand seats were occupied with black suit covered bodies and sunglass adorned faces, all of which rose to their feet at the sound of this booming, echoing announcement and turned their complete attention to the parade formation currently occupying the baseball diamond. “Her grace,” the figure standing behind the podium and microphone on the erected stage just beyond the mat covering second base announced. “Her Excellency. Her royal majesty. The Queen of Hearts!”
The stadium erupted in elation and applause at the sight of the parade crowd parting and creating a single path for the scepter crowned with a black crystal heart carrying, red and black sequenced ball gown wearing figure who currently made her illustrious way to the awaiting podium just ahead. As she ascended the small row of steps the gentleman who had originally occupied the space behind the microphone gracefully bowed and turned the ceremony proceedings over to Muriel herself. With her image now plastered on every enormous viewing screen this facility possessed, Muriel took a moment to glance out at the crowd gathered before her as far to the left and right that her neck would allow. She stretched both of her arms out beside her. “Faithful subjects,” she spoke, her voice bellowing exploding out through the speaker systems; threatening violently to travel out to every corner of the matrix, had it at all been possible. “I stand here before you on the verge of a new era. An era of unimaginable sights, sounds, delights all abound. We stand at the precipice of the impossible. And I say to you all that from this day forth the confines of the universe who’s shackles we’ve all suffered under for far too long shall be shed. Now…and forever more!” With that she lowered her arms and twisted her torso before hurling her scepter into the air. Up. Up it went, until finally it exploded and released a flock of birds of various brilliant colors from the flash of light. Their number was too great to count and the cheering crowd stared up at the sight while letting loose with a tumultuous amount of glee and applause as the flying ornaments spread out in every direction.
Cruze stomped his foot down hard on the brakes of the automobile he steered, bringing it to a screeching halt right in front of the towering castle doors. The quartet exited the car and Digital instantly went for the cell phone in the pocket of her trench coat. “Tell me you’ve got us a way into this lockbox,” she said once she had Detrick on the line, her head cocked back and her eyes staring up at the mountain of gray concrete standing before her.
“Check the trunk,” the voice on the other end of the phone said to her.
Digital arched her chin up at Cruze and he tossed the car keys over the roof of the car. Catching them in her gloved palm, Digital walked back to the trunk and opened it. Pulling out the black crossbow armed with a thick coil of rope and a grappling hook that was one of a set of four, she couldn’t help but wince a sigh into the phone. “You’ve gotta be kidding me.”
“Afraid not, love.” Detrick said from behind the array of monitors, tapping at the scattering of keyboards as he examined the screens. “You want in…it’s up, up you go.”
With a look of anguish overtaking her face as she examined the tool she held, Digital managed to summon an image of Blitz in her mind and suddenly all thoughts of the inevitable toil they would all have to suffer through in order to gain entry into this citadel paled in comparison to the possibility of his rescue. “Fine,” she said into the phone. “We’ll call you…after we’ve scaled the wall of Castle Crazy.” She hung up the phone, stuffed it back into her coat pocket, and readied her crossbow.
Six human, half nonhuman figures streaked through the sky high above the vegetation engulfed city below as they hurried towards their impending destination. In a formation consisting of Leena and Neo out front, she on his right, and the rest of the squad splayed out behind them in a V shaped pattern; Ice and Loa Ming trailing behind Neo while Malice and Solaris kept pace on Leena’s heels. The stadium was in their sights and, as if they were all utilizing a singular frame of thought, the six of them all increased their rate of speed at the same time.
“Did you forget who you were talking to? Third pathway on your right just ahead of you. After that…second left, third left, first right, third right.”
Digital struck out ahead of the pack with her cell phone pressed to the side of her head as she continued to abide by Detrick’s instructions. He lead them through this leafy maze with considerable ease. It wasn’t until they reached the a set of gigantic doors imbedded in the side of the castle that Digital found it necessary to sever her connection with the operator. It was the parting of the doors in front of them that forced such a reaction from her. Dozens of black suits poured out through the opening that continued to grow ever more gaping with each passing second. The small squad of rebels wasted no time in engaging these flunkies of their devoted queen who at present was miles away consorting with the vast majority of her army of programs. Digital performed a jump back spinning heel kick, taking out the suit nearest her and followed it up with a jumping roundhouse kick in response to the next one that approached, leaving two bodies at her feet. There were many more in front of her waiting to join them on the grassy floor of this courtyard and she had no doubt that they would fulfill that destiny soon enough. If this rabble of henchmen were expecting to keep her away from Blitz, currently imprisoned within the halls of this stronghold, them they’d better have plans for making a better effort than this. Her only thoughts now concerned the efforts of the six augmented crewmembers of the Auspice. Their campaign to hold up their end of this mission to dethrone the reigning queen of the matrix was currently underway. Digital hoped they were faring equally as well as her four man crew.
“I hereby decree to you all,” Muriel’s voice bellowed out through the speakers of the stadium’s sound system, “that from this day forth we…” Her train of thought had suddenly slipped away from her as the sound of gasping voices and scattered standing bodies stole her attention away from the address she’d currently been in the process of conducting. Following the shifting line of sight of the vast multitude laid out before her, she spun quickly to get a look at the six individuals walking toward her stage across the section of the outfield at her back. “Who dares!?!” she hissed in a tone loud enough to be picked up by the microphone attached to the podium she stood in front of.
“This sideshow is over,” Leena spoke to the gathering on the field in front of her.
“This ends today,” Neo said in a voice that he hoped was loud enough to reach the ears of the ringleader of this fiasco, the figure standing behind the podium, the one known to him as the Queen.
“Insolence!” Muriel hissed loudly. “I swear by the Architect and the Oracle that you miserable little cotton candies will pay dearly for this pretentious display of insurrection. Kill them!” she screamed out. The sable attired men that cluttered the baseball diamond struck out after the intruders with zero haste. Neither of the six jacked in interlopers broke stride as they continued on their way to the blood and coal colored femme emceeing this event. Her warriors came and so began their dispatching, one dozen falling after the next as the anomalous crew of six went about cutting a swath through the meager show of resistance currently present on the field before them. No effort Muriel’s minions displayed did anything to so much as slow the battling sextuplets, thus further infuriating the reining monarch as she looked on in disgust. “I…SAID…KILL…THEM!!!” She turned her glance up to the surrounding multitudes still occupying the stadium seats all around her. “NOW!!!” she screamed out. After that call to arms it didn’t take long for the fifty thousand seat venue to begin to empty itself of the patrons occupying the stands, the current residents of which were now leaping out onto the baseball field in a never ending rain of black suits.
Cruze grabbed the sentry in front of him by the lapel of his suit coat and snatched the man’s body toward his. Before the effects of whiplash could set in, the captain of the Llorrac slammed his forehead into the one possessed by the gent in his custody, knocking the fellow unconscious with the force of the collision. Cruze let go of the jacket and let his captive drop down to the grass. “Come on,” he called out to the rest of his crew, turning his head back to look as they dispatched the remainder of this fortress’s initial response team. Venus, Shamrock, and Digital made quick work of them all and ran after their captain as he headed through the parted twin hulks of wood in front of them, penetrating this once impregnable entry point of this grand stone structure.
Ice, cloaked in an all white, tailor cut men’s suit and tie, ran at a vicious pace through the sea of black suits, her long blonde locks of hair being picked up by he wind. A wave of programs took to the air in front of her and she leaped from the ground to meet them. A flying roundhouse took down the first. A spinning back kick handled the next. Suddenly her body morphed into a rapidly spinning, frozen in midair, gyroscope of punches and kicks that fended off every single show of resistance that neared this contorting body. Stabilizing her motions once the present threat had been diminished, a very vertical, head up; feet down, Ice lowered herself back down to the grass floor. “Tell me this isn’t the resistance I was summoned to put down.”
“Desolating, miniscule, insignificant little nymph!” Muriel spat out venomously at the sight of this pale figures disruptions. “I’ll show you the folly of the path you have chosen!” The regal persona hopped down from the stage and eagerly began to make her way through the mayhem that had consumed the ball field. She shoved an ever increasing number of droves out of the way of the path she made for herself. It would eventually lead her to the intruder she so fiercefully sought out. Soon no one stood between her and her fair haired, fair complexioned, colorlessly dressed quarry. Ice swung at her. Muriel caught her right arm by the wrist and gave her a closed fisted backhand to the right side of her face. The blow sent the rebel’s body soaring backwards, causing it to collide with a small rabble of her royal highness’ own forces, sending the whole lot of them tumbling to the ground. “You were saying?” Muriel spoke through clenched teeth.
The four of them ran at top speed as they moved through the maze like corridors of the castle, following Detrick’s orders to the letter as he directed them towards Blitz’s signal. They turned corners, crossed bridge covered bottomless abysses, and occasionally scaled vine covered walls as the quartet continued on their journey. It would take a room whose floor was composed of an depthless pit filled to the brim with water to bring Digital’s heels, along with the three crewmembers of the Llorrac who trailed behind her, to a screeching halt. She looked out across the room and saw a small cadre of black suits make the corner of the corridor across the way and slow to a walk as they approached the small lake separating the two opposing factions. “Just tell me you’ve located an alternate route to get to Blitz,” Digital said into the cell phone held against the side of her head.
“Sorry, love,” Detrick responded from his seat in the core of the Llorrac as he punched buttons behind the operator‘s station. “I wish I had better news for you, but if you want to get to Blitz you’re gonna have to get a little wet.”
“Doubt it’ll be as bad as all that,” she said, staring out at the liquid barrier rippling softly with waves that moved across the surface, “but I’ll keep you posted.” Digital hung up the phone and stuffed it back into the pocket of her trench coat. To the surprise of her compatriots, she struck out across the water filled obstruction, stomping hard against the wet surface as she sprinted, drawing up small splashes of water with every step instead of falling through the liquid floor as the laws of physics would have predicted. Digital didn’t know whether she should be afraid of the fact that she was growing so predictably aware of the laws that governed the insanity of this reality or if she should be thankful for such an instinct. The similar approach of a singular black suit covered body across the top of the watery expanse quelled all thoughts of reason in Digital’s head and her mind instantly morphed into a combative state. She pushed off of the watery surface that she ran across and maneuvered her body into position to deliver a flying sidekick into the chest of her opponent. It landed home, dead on, and stopped her opposition mid-stride, causing the suit to land on his back and slide across the water’s surface in the opposite direction of his attacker. Digital landed on her feet and took on a defensive posture as her opponent rose to his feet. The two of them stood atop a wavy transparency that was solid enough to support the two combatants who prepared themselves to engage in combat with one another.
Watching Digital once again fall back into a defensive posture as the other members of the opposition began to close in on her Shamrock let the top of her trench coat drop down from her shoulders and slip away from her body before starting out over the liquid laced, reflective surface in a series of cartwheels that quickly morphed into a rapid succession of back flips. When she neared Digital’s side her rotations reverted back to a single cartwheel that allowed Shamrock to drop both of her feet down, one after the other, on the face of one of her shipmate’s assailants. Coming back down to her feet, she answered the call of her next two assaulters with a leg extended back flip that clipped them both beneath the chin. Her hands splashed down in the water beneath her and Shamrock’s body continued it’s arc until she was on her feet again. With her two opponents disoriented by the sudden blow it was easy for her to quickly leap into the air, curl her body into a ball as she flipped forward, and come down on the watery surface between them both. Swiftly twisting her body and lowering it at the same time, Shamrock stretched her right leg out in front of her and her left leg behind her, sweeping both gentlemen off of their feet as she fell into the splits. By the time Shamrock made it back up to her feet Digital had already successfully dispatched of the remainder of the personnel blocking their path. “Not a bad piece of work there, Digi,” Shamrock said to her.
Digital looked back over her left shoulder. “You’re pretty handy yourself.”
Venus strolled out across the rippling surface with Cruze at her back. “Enough with the warm and fuzzies,” she said, tossing Shamrock her black leather trench. “I believe we’ve still got one of our own to pull out of this funhouse.”
The two of them came after her with a lethal dose of their own systemically enhanced, astronomically destructive bout of fury that proved to be nothing less than futile against the repellent efforts of the self proclaimed reigning monarch of the matrix. Malice and Solaris did what they could to make an attempt at breaching the barrier of extremely well timed blocks, ducks, and dodges that Muriel was using to defend herself from their coupled assault but her majesty was proving to be as slippery as she was accurate with the blows that she herself delivered. It wasn’t enough that the two anomalies had to avoid the onslaught of her surrounding subjects as they went about this coup. They also had to contend with the fact that, unlike the rest of her rabble of followers, Muriel herself seemed to be immune to their otherwise impressive abilities. It was with a single back flip, Muriel’s feet connecting hard, one after the other, against Malice’s chin as they came up in front of her and then landing solidly against Solaris’ face as they came down behind her, that the queen was able to knock them both simultaneously to the ground. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done!?!” Muriel said, alternating her glances between the two fallen soldiers she’d just downed. “What I had to go through to put this together!?!” Muriel huffed in and breathed out ferocious puffs of air as her neck swiveled from left to right. “You’re ruining everything!!!”
Feeling a hand come down firmly on her left shoulder, Muriel turned around with the definite intentions of severely thrashing the individual who had dared interrupted her tirade; be it friend or foe. Finding Ace’s nervous glare staring her in the face behind a pair of glossy lens covered, pitch black shades, she immediately quelled the urge to unleash the mountainous fury swelling inside of her. “Your majesty, please,” her faithful subject begged. “We must flee. We must usher you to safety; away from this calamitous event.”
“I’m not going anywhere until I’ve personally disemboweled every rotten little cotton candy nuisance here!”
“But, your worship,” Ace continued to plead with her, “I highly doubt that the possibility of your damage here today his hardly worth the trouncing of a handful of brainless, foolish mortals, assuming such a likelihood could even existed. The future awaits you, my queen. Let us not dally.”
The facial expression that she held crinkled into a snarl soon relaxed into something that appeared to be slightly more docile yet retained it’s menacing composure. “Very well,” she said. “I grow tired of this wasteful exchange of pugnaciousness anyhow. Escort me back to my chariot at once.”
“As you wish,” Ace called out over the combative clamor that cluttered the air all around them.
Digital kicked open a pair of double doors and moved forward into a most bizarrely decorated bedroom. A bedroom where she just so happened to find a very valuable parcel strapped to a large black heart shaped object embedded into the marble down the wall to her left. It was Blitz. Digital hurried over to him and snatched away the restraints that held him in place. “I can’t believe you actually came for me,” he said as his body dropped exhaustedly down to the ground a couple of feet beneath it. He raised himself achingly upright. “What are the odds that I wouldn’t get my balls handed back to me right now if I kissed you?”
“Promise you’ll never let this happen again and I can guarantee you that that’ll never be a problem you’ll ever have to worry about again.”
The two of them collapsed against each other into an intimate, if not utterly inappropriate, embrace. “As appreciative as I am to have the opportunity to bear witness to such a sublime moment of passion,” Capt. Cruze said to them, “I have yet to be convinced of the fact that it isn’t imperative that we Get The Hell Out Of Here As Soon As Humanly Possible!!!”
Their lips smacked apart and Digital turned to look at her senior officer, her arms still, embarrassingly so, wrapped around Blitz’s neck. She quickly snatched them down and placed them at her side. “Of course, sir,” she said, attempting to compose herself. “Right away. Let’s go.” Snatching up Blitz by the arm, she broke out into a jogging stride, dragging him along.
Blitz placed his hands on both of her shoulders, ceasing her motions. Digital lifted her eyes up to peer into his. “As much as I’m enjoying the attention, sadly enough there’s nothing wrong with me.”
Digital bit in her bottom lip as she grinned seductively at him. “All the better,” she said to him.
Capt. Cruze cleared his throat and distracted the two soldiers from each other. “If you two could refrain from groping each other for the next five minutes then perhaps somebody could get me a heads up on what’s going on with Crackshot and the crew of the Auspice. This thing isn’t over with yet people.”
Malice jumped back and performed a three hundred and sixty degree spinning round kick, taking down the man leaping toward him. The phone in his coat pocket began ringing. He brought the phone out, answered it, and continued to combat the many opponents that approached. “Make it fast,” he spoke.
“Gather up the troops, big boy,” Crackshot said into his headset. “Can’t say I haven’t been enjoying the show, but the primary target is making a beeline for Castle Crazy Town.”
“Consider it done.” He hung up the phone and stuffed it back into his pocket. Drawing back both of his fist and raising them up beside both of his shoulders, Malice jutted both of his arms forward hard and took off along a flight path that sent, his body fists first, straight through the crowd in front of him. Barreling through the bodies in his path, Malice eventually arced his body upward and took off into the air above the stadium; the many bodies that he had collected upon impact and carried with him as he rose up toward the billowy clouds falling back down to the baseball diamond beneath him. Soon five more bodies took off into the air above them like rockets.
“Okay kiddies, here’s the deal,” Crackshot said from behind the Auspice’s operator’s station. “Thanks to our newly acquired insane in the membrane ally Mr. Matt Hadder inside of the front left hand pants pocket of the lovely Ms. Solaris is a small red pill.”
“Go on,” Leena said, holding the phone to the side of her head as she streaked though the sky just above the cloud cover.
“This is where it gets tricky. Our studies indicate that you have to get her to ingest it to have whatever effect that it’s supposed to have on her majesty. Hopefully it’ll be successful in folding the tents on this three ring circus and putting it on a fast train out of here. You think you can handle that?”
Leena simply hung up the phone and punched her other fist out in front of her, violently speeding up her momentum.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE’S GONE!?!” Muriel fumed. She snatched up the black suit delivering the message to her of Blitz’s disappearance and lifted him off of his feet as she pulled him into her. “I WANT MY COTTON CANDY!!!” She threw his body back into the cube shaped marble floor to ceiling pillar. The warehouse sized room that Muriel and three of her subjects occupied was filled with many such black and white swirled marble structures. She started out for the program she had just chastised and without warning the large bay window across the room to her left exploded and six bodies came streaking though the air in her direction. “You,” Muriel said under her breath.
Six pairs of feet touched down on the marble floor and began walking towards her. Muriel’s three subjects took this opportunity to make themselves scarce. “I think it’s about time we finished this,” Solaris said.
“FINISH THIS?” Muriel grabbed the lower half of her black ball gown and ripped it away, revealing the pair of black slacks that covered her legs. “Honey, believe me, that’s an understatement for what’s about to happen here.” She tossed the stripped away material to the ground and started toward them.
The six of them came at her quickly. She continued to walk. Neo swung a punch. Muriel slapped it away. Leena through a roundhouse kick that the both of them ducked. Malice opened with a front kick and she grabbed him by the ankle. She spun a quick one eighty and threw his body into Ice, knocking them both to the ground. Muriel turned to give Neo a hard hitting punch to his chest. The blow sent his body careening back into one of the pillars, his back shattering the marble upon collision. Lao Ming at least had the opportunity to attempt a combination consisting of four moves before he found himself being floored by a well timed front kick from Muriel that caused his body to do a back flip before falling down. All six anomalies were quickly back on their feet rushing toward her. Muriel dropped down into a spinning sweep that once again took them all off of their feet. She rose back up and walked over in Ice’s direction. “Rotten little cotton candy freak,” she said softly as she lifted her right leg up into the air, the sole of the foot attire she wore pointing directly towards the ceiling. Muriel brought her leg down forcefully and Ice barely managed to roll out of the way as the queen’s foot slammed down on the space the augmented rebel once occupied, caving in the marble.
Leena rushed her from the left. Malice came at her from the right. Muriel spun around to the sight of Solaris coming straight at her. Muriel leaped into the air and her legs split apart, knocking both Leena and Malice in the face. Still airborne, she maneuvered her body and performed a front kick that sent Solaris traveling back in the other direction before touching back down to the ground again. Instinctively, all six anomalies dispersed out into the hidden recourses of the room, each one taking shelter behind a pillar. Muriel moved slowly as she went about her search for the interlopers. “What?” she bellowed out as she turned her head from side to side peaking around each row of pillars that she passed. “We’re playing hide and seek now?” She move forward slowly, snaking her way around the pillars as she continued on. “Come on then. Come out, come out wherever you are. Promise I won’t bite.”
“Anybody got a plan B?” Ice called out from her hiding spot behind one of the pillars. Her voice echoed throughout the room and caused her to peak around the corner at her back to check and see if Muriel had zeroed her. The queen spun around frantically but as far as Ice could see she was safe for now.
Neo spun his head sharply to the right and caught a glimpse of Solaris slowly moving around the pillar she took cover behind, bringing her directly into his line of sight. “Solaris,” he whispered loudly. Once he had her attention he motioned her over to him with a tilt of his head. Fearing being spotted had she not used enough discretion, Solaris slowly put some distance between the floor and her feet as her body gradually slid up the marble structure until her hands were pressed firmly against the ceiling. Solaris did a couple of hurried, silent cartwheels across the ceiling in the direction of Neo as Muriel scanned the grounds below.
“Where are you,” Muriel sang as she continued to move through the pillars. “Come on, little cotton candies. Muriel’s not gonna hurt you. I’ll make it quick.”
Neo stepped out into the open and she jerked her body around instantaneously, finding him standing down the aisle from her. “I’m here,” he said.
“Ready to die, are you?”
“No,” he said. “But I am prepared to accept the inevitable.” He began to walked towards her with his hands behind his back.
“And what’s that supposed to mean,” Muriel said, standing in place and watching his approach.
“Your strength, your prowess, your insurmountable abilities. I can grant you nothing less,” Neo said as he continued to close the distance between the two of them.
“The first bout of wisdom to ever slip from your lips,” Muriel hissed at him.
“All I ask…” Neo grew ever closer to her. “Is that before you enact your retribution upon us all…” he stopped walking and stood face to face in front of this fetching monarch, “…is that I be allowed one dance…with such a radiant image of regality…before all is said and done.”
Muriel’s chest heaved in time with his rate of breathing and her eyes crawled all over the slender form beneath the hallowed wardrobe draped over him. She found his eyes again and her insides melted. “How could I deny such a just request?” she said to him.
Neo brought his hands up from behind his back and raised them in the air. Muriel placed her left hand inside of his right palm. Neo moved his left hand around behind her and pressed it gently against the small of her back. Muriel embraced him with all that she had to give. Their bodies moved in unison; stepping and gently twirling across the marble floor, the left side of her face laying down on his shoulder, his left cheek pressed into the ridiculously soft red and black strands of hair that she was crowned with. The two of them moved gracefully, passionately; their feet tenderly gliding across the floor as if they both danced atop the firm, smooth layer of a cloud that could give way at any moment and send them both plummeting to the depths below. “There’s something I have to say to you,” Neo spoke.
Muriel lifted her head from his shoulder and cast dreamy eyes upon the ones belonging to him. “Please,” she whispered, her voice overburdened with relaxation. “Speak.”
“I was instructed to tell you…”
Muriel raised her right hand up and stroked her fingers down the side of his face. “Go ahead. Say anything.”
“To remind you that whenever one tastes of the tea one must never forget that the tea also tastes of them.”
“Truer words,” Muriel quietly breathed out as she moved her lips ever closer to his, “were never…” She kissed him. He kissed back. Their visages crushed into one another’s in an embrace that couldn’t be described as anything less than amatory. Eight seconds. They were apart again. The dance came to a halt. Muriel’s eyelids parted in sync with Neo’s. Staring into his brown irises, she swallowed deep and let the small red pill slide gently down her throat. “Live,” she whispered, “and you’ll live for me. Sleep…and I’ll dream of you always.” Her eyelids shut closed and Muriel collapsed in his arms. Neo’s reflexes were quick enough to catch her and hold her up in his arms before she could hit the ground. Staring into the docile, angelic face of the monarch he held cradled in his arms, Neo knew from that moment on that his work here, as well as the rest of the anomalies that slowly emerged from their cover, was done.
Detrick pulled off the headset that he wore and spun his chair around to face Capt. Cruze. “Well, sir. From what I can see the matrix appears to be reverting back to the electronic travesty that we’ve all come to know and loath in our very short time on this planet. Crackshot has got the anomalies jacked out and is, as of current, on his way back to the machine city to swap out their essences for those of the original crewmembers of the Auspice.” He leaned back in the chair and cocked a sly grin. “Any orders that you’d like to apprise me of?”
“As a matter of fact there is,” he said folding his arms in front of him. “Head out for the machine city. I want to pick up Crackshot as soon as humanly possible before we head back to Zion; whereupon I intend on personally putting in a recommendation for the Medal of Valor for the entire crew of the Auspice.”
“Yes, sir,” Detrick said, turning back around to his operating equipment.
Cruze spun his body around. “Shamrock, go check on the electro-pulse output on the aft pads. They’ve been giving me the heebie-jeebies here lately.”
“Come one,” Sham responded. “Gimme a break.”
“One more outburst like that and you’ll be on latrine duty.” Cruze turned his head. “Venus. Go and get me an update on the telecom relay system. Stat.” She turned and headed off on her way, leaving nothing but an inaudible mumbling in her wake. “Digital,” Cruze said turning his body around once more. “You and Blitz…” he twisted his head from side to side but found no sign of either one of the soldiers he so desperately sought out. “Digital? Blitz?” He said, looking around everywhere. Where had they gotten off to?
The whistling Orderly continued to hum out a tune as he pushed a hospital bed carrying a comatose patient with strands of hair as black as raven wings along with a numerous portion of red shaded locks. It was a patient that dreamed a dream within a dream. A patient that was, for the time being, exactly where she had so desired to be. Alone with her most intimate of delightful thoughts far away from a world that had made a practice of stifling such energies and forcing them deep into the background of the most simplistic of truths. Truths that had laid down the fundamental foundation that composed the background of the concept of this system as a whole. A dream within a dream within a perpetual dream. The moniker above the pair of double doors that the foot of the bed pushed open was labeled Psychiatric Ward. The Orderly continued on through the barrier, pushing the bed that was adorned with a medical chart warning that under no circumstance was any one to ever place a kiss to the lips of this patient, less they are prepared to bear the consequences.
Digital’s naked body rested on top of Blitz’s under the covers of the bed in her quarters onboard of the Llorrac. Her lips were pressed firmly against his and broke apart in tune with their writhing bodies. “Sing for me,” he gently asked of her.
“Of course I will,” she whispered. “T’was brillig,” she uttered in a singsong voice, wrapping both of her arms around the back of his neck. “And the slythy tothes. Did the gyle and gimbel in the wabe.” Their lips met and parted again. “All a mimsy were the borogoves. And the momeraths out grabe.”
“Digital,” Blitz whispered into her mouth.
“Yes,” she breathed back through his lips.
“Digital,” he said again.
Her body writhe and squirmed above his. “Oh yes,” she breathed so sweet and quietly.
“Digital!!” a very unmistakably masculine voice screamed loudly at her. She lifted her head up quickly off of the desktop and turned her eyes to get a gander at every piece of furniture that filled her bedroom. Finally turning to take a look at her open bedroom door, Digital caught a blurry glimpse of the two images standing in her open bedroom doorway. “Digital, wake up!”
She closed her eyes and shook her head a little. When she opened them again she was able to take in the clear image of Blitz and Shamrock standing in her bedroom doorway. “What do you want?” she asked with a groggy voice.
“What do you mean, what do we want?’ Blitz said to her. “You were supposed to be ready a half hour ago. There’s a show playing at the theater that we had all agreed to go to see. You said you were coming back here to change. What’d you do, fall asleep?”
Digital rubbed her wrinkled right cheek and closed the open book that was resting on top of the desktop in front her. “I must have dozed off,” she said as she stood. “C’mon. I’d hate to make us any later than we already are.” Digital shut out her apartment lights, leaving the book entitled Alice In Wonderland shut closed on her bedroom desktop as she exited the domicile with her friends.