Curveball Issue 36: The Titan’s Shadow

Part Twenty Seven: Metamorphosis

It begins with a tremor, then a sound.

The tremor is brief, noticed only by the very few people on the grounds within the police perimeter and those still in the building itself. It’s strong enough to shake the ground and rattle windows, but it doesn’t carry beyond the police barricades and goes mostly unnoticed. The sound, on the other hand, is hard to overlook: low and rumbling, like the very beginnings of a fog horn just before it opens up, then rising slightly as the sound expands into a baritone thummm that feels like it fills every bit of empty space. Shortly after the sound, the tremors return.

A wind rises, racing through the corridors of downtown New York, strong enough to blow hats off heads, and cause the ends of jackets and scarves to flap. As the wind rises, so does the sound, the thummm growing louder, and behind it a second sound. An echo of a sound, really, the kind of thing a person thinks they hear until they focus on it, and then it disappears. The second sound, the sound that is only barely there, is the sound of inhuman voices chanting.

And then the wind dies off. The tremors stop. The sound stops, abruptly, and for a moment the city is unnaturally silent.

Silence, interrupted by bursts of static and garbled messages sent over police radios. Sirens in the distance, sounding in short, urgent bursts. Car horns honking, even further off.

And again, it begins with a sound: the echo of metal tearing away from metal.

The massive shell surrounding the Haruspex Analytics building—the armored covering that had only recently appeared—starts to peel away from the building like flakes of dried skin. It starts at the very top of the building, thirteen plates from thirteen sides all toppling back and away from the building. As the topmost pieces of the shell break free, the next pieces begin to tear away in turn, and so it goes as each floor sheds the armor surrounding it.

The building is fifty stories tall. The last pieces to fall away—the ones attached to the first ten stories of the building—all land within the area the police have cordoned off. That leaves 520 pieces of ultra-dense metal, deadly petals falling from a steel and concrete flower, that catch the air and fall beyond the emptied area and into the rest of the city.

The oversized shrapnel sails through the air, almost graceful as they slice into buildings or rain down on the streets. The effect they have on buildings varies, depending on the angle of impact: some hit lengthwise, doing little more than shaking the building and shattering its windows, but the ones that strike the buildings edge first have enough force to pierce the walls. Some stop, wedged in the building, slowly wobbling in place until it works itself out, often taking a piece of the building with it as it finally falls away. Others pierce the building completely, tumbling and crashing into other buildings or into the street below. One building a block and a half away from the perimeter has an entire corner sheared off, clipped by a passing flake. The corner falls fifteen stories into the street below, sounding like a bomb as it hits.

The ones that don’t hit the buildings straight on are potentially worse. They glance off the buildings, ricocheting from one to another until finally they hit the street. They tumble, the edges tearing up asphalt, ripping into cars and trucks, cutting through traffic lights, cutting through power lines… cutting through people.

This assault doesn’t go uncontested: Flashes of yellow, red, orange, and green light up the sky; sounds of crackling energy and the booom of hypersonic flight cut through the air, and some of the flakes swerve, slow, miss their targets. One wobbles to a halt just before it pierces through a skyrise apartment building, gently lowering to the ground encased in a shimmering multicolored field, settling to rest at the feet of a masked woman in a red-and-gold uniform. A few flakes are knocked out of the sky by flying figures that smash them to the ground. More costumed figures work the streets, keeping men and women out of the way of the flakes as they fall, pulling people from cars, evacuating them from buildings. New York City is not without its heroes. But for each flake of metal they manage to keep under control, there are at least three beyond their reach.

When the last of the armored shell flakes away, even as those pieces carve paths of destruction through the city, the sound starts up again. The thummm, the chanting—clearer now, a discernible subtext within the sound—and with it come more, stronger tremors, strong enough to make windows rattle.

Thunder crashes. A dark line shoots out of one of the mid-level floors, streaking across the sky, burrowing into the ground with such force that showers of dirt erupt from the impact. It is a series of cables, braided together into a cord thicker than a man’s shoulders, running from the ground to the building, drawing itself taut. Another crash of thunder, and a second cord shoots out of the building, end burying itself into the beside the first. Again and again, thirteen times in all—one for each side—and by the end of it thirteen cables run from the ground to the building, all drawn taut, making the building look like a deranged maypole in the pre-dawn light.

The baritone thummm grows louder, the vibrations in the ground grow stronger, and the building… shifts, leaning to one side as if buffeted by wind. The cables on the far side strain, but hold, and the ground shudders.

The building begins to tilt in the other direction. It cracks and groans, swaying left and right, until finally the first twenty floors of the building split into two columns. Streams of broken concrete, steel and glass fall to the ground as the fissure in the building widens, and then one half shifts forward, as if it were an unwieldy leg. The cables all tighten, pulling the building forward, and then the other half shifts forward. The last bits of loose concrete and steel fall away, and suddenly the lower half of the building can move freely. What were legs in appearance are now legs for all practical purposes.

The cables release from the ground and whip into the air, flailing wildly. Some of them swing out in a wide arc, smashing into nearby buildings and nearly cutting one in half. Others hang in the air, more like tentacles than cables, moving of their own accord, coiling and uncoiling as needed. The building moves, stepping out over the green park that surrounded it and stepping squarely into the now-abandoned street.

Light flickers along its sides, an ugly purple light that gathers and resolves into strange symbols.

One symbol per floor. One symbol per side. 650 runes, all identical to the ones embedded in a certain golem CB and his companion had fought earlier that evening.

The Haruspex Golem towers over the rest of the city, and the rain of destruction begins in earnest.

45 comments

  1. At last! Muchas gracias. Read the whole thing, mind is thoroughly blown.

    You may wish to fix the typo at paragraph 6, first line. The “f” is missing from Red Shift’s name.

  2. Typo immune to spell check, part 6, paragraph 91, sentence 3. Did you mean, “The small one jumps to his feet” rather than “his feat”?

  3. Re-reading part two, section where the scene shifts to Jenny: second paragraph refers to Liberty as Toby’s grandfather, third paragraph refers to Liberty as “his great-grandfather.” In context, the intent of the second reference could have been “his grandfather” again or “her (Jenny’s) great-grandfather”.

  4. Great to have you back in the harness – so to speak.
    Minor typo: Part Two, Para 5: a ‘d’ is missing in: one arm hangs limply by his sie as the empty sleeve…

  5. Part two, second section (Jenny), second paragraph, last sentence, linguistic quibble: “At the moment he’s laying down” should be “At the moment he’s lying down”. It may be said that in the previous episode when David moved Toby after casting his protective spell, he laid Toby down, but now Toby is lying down. For edification and amusement, you may wish to go to dictionary.com, enter the word “lay” in the definition blank and hit enter, then scroll down to the “Lay vs. Lie” video and enjoy.

  6. Part 9, paragraph beginning “He can see the Chairman”, last sentence: Richter is misspelled “Reichter”. Possibly Freudian slip?

  7. Part 10, first paragraph, second sentence, first word should not contain the apostrophe. (Autocorrect does that to me sometimes, substituting the contraction for the possessive pronoun. Bad autocorrect!)

  8. Part 22:
    – second paragraph, first sentence speaks of “dimly lit florescent lights” but I think you meant “fluorescent” since the dictionary says “florescent” means “flourishing”.
    – fourth paragraph from the end, beginning “There is a low hum”, another “it’s” that should be “its”.

  9. APOLOGIES FOR THE FORMATTING:
    I just finished reading an excellent and enthralling tale (obviously shaving your head did nothing to kerb your style – I was worried a la Samson and Delilah that you might lose your talent).
    Anyhow, the following typos, misspelling(s), and possible misunderstandings, by me, of your choice of words/phrases to this left-pondian, who only lived in the US for 21 years, triggered my antenna – but the story demanded that I keep reading. This resulted in a quick copy and paste (without commentary) and then a quick insert of the Part Number (so that you have a vague clue where to look).

    Part Seven: Haruspex Analytics, Jason Klein’s Suite

    He wouldn’t be the first to abandon a good team in favor of a promising promotion. To become “a suit,” as Billy would to say.

    Part Eight: New York City, Downtown

    David grins in spite of himself. “Because it’s better ‘Doctor Weird, Warlock Supreme.’”

    Part Fourteen: Haruspex Analytics

    Shewatches, calm and remote, and waits.

    She at Justin. Without hesitation, he bolts toward the still glowing tear.

    Part Eighteen: Haruspex Analytics, Ground Floor Lobby

    The torso comes together in a rough outline, and in a matter of seconds he can the pieces of rock fuse together as the golem begins to reform.

    Blue light flares up again, but it’s different this time. It flickers erratically, like a fluorescent light just before it does.

    Part Nineteen: Haruspex Analytics, Upper Floors

    Street Ronin crouches on the landing tile, his rifle trained on the closed door

    Part Twenty Two: Manhattan, Alpha Checkpoint MCV

    “That’s right,” the Senator’s image says. “Remember when I said the first virus—the that didn’t kill

    It’s bad, Captain. Bad in way that, historically, cuts across old boundaries. . . . .. We’re talking genetic plague, Captian.”

    Part Twenty Seven: Metamorphosis

    As the wind rises, so dow the sound, the thummm growing louder, and behind it a second sound.

    Part Twenty Nine: Downtown Manhattan

    Para 2: It can’t move beyond this spot because the buildings surrounding it are too fall.

    Alishia flies closer to the golem, keying up a volley of anti-vehicle missles

    Part Thirty One: Ingress

    No games, Sky Commando. We have a way to take out thegolem.

    Part Thirty Three: Haruspex Analytics Golem, The Labyrinth

    he knocks a new hole in the side dof the building and jumps.

    Part Thirty Four: Aftermath

    David starts looking through the crowd. “Now we round everyone up and go back to the Nautillus.

    HTH

  10. Back again. Just checked the amendment that you made re. Part Nineteen (which is the deja vu all over again and again) and “on the landing tile” appears at least 5 more times – thanks be to Ctrl-F.

  11. Sorry, my misunderstanding, my septuagenarian vocabulary didn’t extend to ‘landing tile’ as a thing, but google.com showed me the error of my ways – since multiple peoples being advertizing them are.

  12. part ten

    not fighting against the other awareness, but fusing to cede what remains of his own identity.

    refusing to cede?

  13. part seventeen

    She twists his arm, and the he cries out in pain as the carbine clatters to the floor.

    then he tries?

  14. part 24 “Where are these thingscoming from?” Jenny keeps

    not sure if missing a space?

  15. And now to see where Regiment was during all this kerfuffle…
    Thanks for coming back!

  16. Part 22, paragraph 43: “Sky Commander” should probably be “Sky Commando” unless the point is that Captain Banks (understandably) is so badly shaken he isn’t even using Sgt. Webb’s proper title. He gets it right two paragraphs later.

    Part 22, paragraphs 39 and 41: not sure about this. 39 refers to “the worst of the group” as a tossup between Crossfire and Overmind. In 41, Sky Commando tells Captain Banks that Haruspex is “much worse than either of those groups could hope to be”, where “either of those groups” seems to be a reference back to Crossfire and Overmind. Am I misreading this, or is she calling Overmind a group?

  17. One of those typos that spellcheck will never catch: Part 26, paragraph 1, last sentence: “standing father back”: s/father/farther.

  18. Part 27, paragraph 15, sentence 4: the word “shifts” is missing an “f”.

  19. Part 29:
    Paragraph 33:
    – sentence 5: need a space here: durabilityconverging. “durability” is in italics in the actual text.
    – next to last sentence: “it’s attention” should be “its attention”.
    Paragraph 44, next to last sentence: “one a little to low” “to” needs another “o”.
    Paragraph 48, last sentence: “She adjusts her position, putting as much of the base of her cable between herself and the ones closing in.” “as much” seems to want another “as” but I’m not sure exactly what you want here.

  20. Part 30:
    Paragraph 11, first sentence, after the second dash: “is throws it”: s/is/it
    Paragraph 31: last sentence: “keeping out of site” out of “sight”?

  21. Beautiful, beautiful work. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Partway through Part Seventeen there appears to be some paragraph-level cleanup needed at the point where the Chairman nearly comes in to check on Artemis, but then changes his mind. Two versions of the same passage? –>

    “Our guest…” Suddenly the Chairman sounds weary. He sighs. “The resources we will need to expend to keep him in check will be… prohibitive. I fear we will be forced to leave him behind.” Phyllis is surprised by the amount of regret in the Chairman’s voice. Who is he talking about?

    “I should, at least, say farewell…”

    Footsteps close in on the door, and when the door handle begins to turn her heart nearly stops. But it stops, then returns to its original position as the hand on the other side lets go.

    “No,” the Chairman says. “We don’t have the time. It galls me to leave him behind

    Ah. Yes.” The Chairman hmmms thoughtfully. “I fear we won’t be able to take him with us. The resources we’d need to expend to keep him in check are best used on other things. Come, the door is here.”

    The group comes to a stop, and for a terror-filled moment Phyllis is convinced they’ve stopped in front of her door. Seconds pass, then something clicks on the other side of the hall, and the footsteps move off carpet, onto stone. The door clicks a second time as it swings shut. The hallway is silent once again.

  22. @cuatroojos: thanks for the extra updates. They’re all fixed. Sidenote: the issue with the two words being crammed together without a space between them is an oddity because it never shows up in my original text — it’s a result of dumping the text into WordPress. So far I haven’t figured out what it is that’s making WordPress remove the spaces. I assume it isn’t random, though it looks that way to me.

    @Christopher Krebs: aaaaaAAAAAAaaaaaAAAaaaaaaaaAAAAaaaaaa fixed now. 😀

  23. You’ve done a terrific job keeping so many different narrative strands going without getting all tangled. Bravo.

    Part Twenty-Eight, paragraph 4, another sentence-level blip: “He grimaces, thrusting his right hand left arm and his side.”

  24. Part 17, third-to-last paragraph, last sentence: “careless” needs to be in its adverbial form, “carelessly”.

  25. Part 6:
    – Paragraph 73 begins “Int he”; “In the”?
    – Paragraph 93, beginning “David doesn’t reply”: in the second sentence, “exends” looks like it wants to be “extends”.
    – Paragraph 11, first sentence, “more than match”, maybe “more than a match”?

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