Curveball Issue 36: The Titan’s Shadow

Part Thirty Three: Haruspex Analytics Golem, The Labyrinth

CB follows the trail of cable down a long, doorless hallway. Faint red light surrounds him—it’s not much, but it’s strong enough to allow him to follow the cables.

He forces himself to keep walking, to keep alert. He takes another drag of his cigarette—his third so far—and lets the feel of the world spinning around him continue unimpeded. Right now there’s nothing to do but follow the trail and see where it leads. He notes the hallway always turns right, and is doing so with with ever-increasing frequency. It’s a spiral: he started from the outside and it’s leading him ever closer to the center. When he sees a much brighter red, flickering light emanating from the turn up ahead, he suspects he might finally have arrived.

CB keeps close to the wall as he approaches. The air is filled with the sound of clicking. At first he thinks it might be some kind of bug, but he quickly realizes the sound is too regular to be natural. This is mechanical clicking, like a series of relays opening and closing in complex patterns.

The clicking is interrupted briefly when a massive explosion booms below him, carrying enough force to shake the floor. It comes from the general location where he senses Jenny and Street Ronin—that must be Jenny’s “distraction.” As if in response, the clicking grows louder, faster, almost frantic.

Somewhere below him, someone is firing an automatic rifle in short, controlled bursts. That would be Street Ronin. The short bursts turn into longer, more sustained bursts—Street Ronin becoming concerned.

“They were not happy about that!” Jenny shouts through the link. “Very unhappy cables!”

Pressing close to the wall, CB peers around the corner.

The room reminds him of one of the server rooms Robert had at the old Guardians base, just before he moved everything in. It’s a big rectangle, a raised floor with panels covering the entire floor. Some panels are open, and each open panel radiates that red blinking light. Ethernet cable is everywhere: falling from the ceiling, creeping out of the panels, coming out of the walls… and all of it converges on something at the very center of the room.

There, suspended from the ceiling, is a… man? Woman? A human, or something human-shaped. It’s difficult to tell, precisely, because cables appear to burrow into every inch of it. Each cable blinks red at the point where it touches flesh; each time it blinks, it makes a clicking sound. That’s where the sound comes from. Right now it’s blinking and clicking like crazy.

CB has to take a moment to remember not to talk out loud.

“Found the target.”

“You sure?” Brother Judgment asks.

CB takes in all the cables—every cable in the room—as they snake across the floor and inevitably wind up somehow attached to the figure dangling in the center.

“Pretty sure.” He scans the room slowly, judging distances. “I’m going to need to get closer. Blink, start with the extractions. Do Street Ronin and Zero first—I think they made some uncomfortable friendships in the last few.”

“We did!” Jenny confirms. “I think we would like to leave now!”

“On it.” Blink’s presence disappears from his mind for an instant, appears somewhere below, then disappears with Jenny and reappears at the Alpha site. The automatic fire is replaced with the deep boom of a shotgun, followed by two small explosions.

Very cautiously, CB takes a step into the room. Nothing happens.

He senses Blink move again, this time extracting Street Ronin. The sound of gunfire and explosions stop.

CB takes another step forward. Nothing happens.

“Now?” Blink asks.

CB gauges his distance from the figure. “No. I need to get closer, and it’s going to notice. Not yet. I need to get closer. Everybody clear the building. Brother Judgment, tell Sky Commando to call the retreat. I’ll yell when I’m ready.”

In a matter of seconds LaFleur and Agent Grant disappear from the building and reappear at the Alpha site. Jack takes a little more time, but doesn’t seem to be any more inconvenienced: he knocks a new hole in the side of the building and jumps. He can sense Sister Sentinel, still fighting on the building’s exterior, doing the same. And then he senses Red Shift moving, for the first time in a while. It takes CB a second to figure it out, but he finally realizes the man is using his speed to help the ground forces get out of range.

My turn, then.

CB takes a long pull on his cigarette, notes the world spinning around him, and very deliberately tells it to stop.

“Hey!” he shouts. He winks.

Somewhere in the distance, there is a very faint pop.

Nearly half of the cables attached to the figure in the room detach themselves and streak toward CB, moving at speeds that very clearly indicate they don’t intend to do anything less than rip through him and then tear him apart. CB starts running, ducking and twisting as the cables brush past him by inches. They try to wrap around him, and he rolls to the side. They try to skewer him again and he twists, then drops prone as one tries to wrap itself around his neck. He rolls again as more try to pin him to the floor, and manages to make it to his feet and dart forward as cables rush toward him from both sides of the room, trying to catch him in a crossfire.

None of the cables hit their mark. He glances over his shoulder to find them all tangled together, frantically trying to work themselves lose. He turns back to the figure, noting that more cables have detached—but instead of rushing toward him, they whip around the figure in a blur of motion. CB’s pretty sure if he gets any closer those cables will cut him to pieces. Fortunately, he doesn’t need to get any closer. He just needed to get this close.

He smiles as the world, frozen in place, waits.

“Now!”

Instantly Blink and Hu are there. Hu takes an involuntary step back from the whirling cables of death.

CB puts a hand on her shoulder. “Ready?”

She blinks, focuses, and nods.

He moves his hand to Blink’s shoulder. An instant later they’re both at the Alpha site.

He looks up just in time to watch the entire top of the building get blown to bits.

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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