Priscilla’s phone rings. She picks up.
A distorted voice asks, “what about our deal? What happened to the Dream Machine?”
“By deal you mean your blackmail?” the demon replies sourly.
“It wasn’t all blackmail. Not for you.”
Accabish considers that. Sensing a loophole, she pours Aether into one of the hidden rules of reality. Laws bend then break as she extracts Infinity’s location from the call. An image of the angular woman sitting upright in front of a wall of screens floats within her mind. Infinity is in a wood cabin well set back from the road in an empty quarter of Eastern Oregon.
“You mean you have information on my daughter? Do you want to do a side deal on that?”
“Do you still have the item?”
“Yes,” she lies.
After a moment of silence, Infinity says, “my electronics say you are telling the truth but I don’t trust them.”
“It’s really too bad you don’t trust your machines.”
After another awkward silence, she says, “if you can deliver the device, I’ll give you the information on your daughter.”
“Well I’ll need to get it away from the rest of my team first. How about I drop it off tomorrow at 10?” she ask, thinking of a location with poor surveillance. ”Down at South Washington and 1st?”
Daemon pours through company memos and private emails, neck deep into hacking Keystone Pharmaceuticals. Ever since he saw the article linking the company to land buys in the former memory hole of Yesler Terrace, he knew he had found the connection between Verdant Technologies and the Dream Machine.
The strange forgetfulness that until recently had a hold on the neighborhood must be connected to the Memnovores. Verdant took possession of the Dream Machine shortly after the effect dissipated. And Verdant is tied to Keystone and the tortuous web of subsidiaries and joint projects that make up the Pentex-Cheiron Group conglomerate.
The other interesting thing about the Keystone purchase was that the property, Ashwood Heights, was the former home of Seattle’s latest serial killer. Jarett Costa murdered three women by slicing their eyelids open. The relevant point for Daemon was Jarett’s claims of prophetic dreams and God-Machine imagery in his rants. He was probably a stigmatic, likely exposed at Ashwood Heights.
Hacking Keystone had been easy enough. After a couple hours he found the shipping records for trucks in the vicinity of Ashwood Heights just before the Dream Machine arrived at Verdant Technologies.
As for the recent purchase of Ashwood Heights, the official line is that this is an example of giving back to the community. But Daemon discovers they bought three plots of land. Ashwood Heights encompasses two of those plots but the third doesn’t appear to exist.
Also surprising is the fact that Keystone has paid One of a Kind Investigations for several jobs over the years. The last one was shortly before the Dream Machine ended up in Verdant Technologies hands.
“So we should strike at Infinity,” Accabish concludes.
The team discusses how they will counter the defenses the hacker has in place, especially any data dumps her removal might trigger.
The Naturalist scries her, watching the hacker for a few hours. Though the demon cannot detect any direct angelic influence, it does notice some crude infrastructure. Several sets of wind chimes hang around the darkened rooms. They appear to be some sort of shielding device. The homemade PDA she keeps on her person definitely is running Infrastructure level code. Nat also detects something weird about her personally though it can’t pin down what.
More mundanely interior of the building appears to clad in modular kevlar and steel security walls. There are no windows though frequent monitors attest to a network of security cameras.
The most worrisome thing to the demon are the documents displayed on the screens. Neural scanning papers, details on brain-machine interfaces, speculative material on uploading minds, and a large number of reports and evidence on the God-Machine. She wants to join mentally with its old master.
They decide to bring in some backup. Accabish puts in the call to the Black Pyramid.
The van bounces along the darkening road. Fading light touches a few parched trees and dusty scrub.
Inside the ring crouches in their facades with the Black Pyramid team. An albino called Snow drives them to infinity’s hideout while Mr. King goes over the plan with them and Barb, a towering warrior woman.
Daemon will accompany the team to secure her tech and cut off any last minute transmissions. As they approach he will enter the system in dataform. Accabish and Hunter will aid King’s team in any fighting. Nat will hang back using its abilities to provide remote intelligence. They will approach by stealth if possible where King and his people will secure the doors before they can close. Weaver will help should the security doors inside the house hamper them. The demon’s shears can cut through almost anything.
King lets them in on some of his people abilities. They practice their world’s ancient blood magics and have been further enhanced by their corporate superiors. Somehow this grants them superhuman reflexes and speed.
Daemon reads their strange crimson auras. Hieroglyphs and stars twinkling within the bloody mess.
As the sun sets, the terrain becomes even bleaker. In the final hours, they pass only two cars and a delivery truck going in the opposite direction.
Hunter’s skins blends with bare earth as his eyes scan the perimeter in night vision mode. If he didn’t need to guide the others, he’d be able to slide past these cameras easily.
He moves and the others follow.
Daemon trails behind, scanning the air for signals. As they get within a few meters of a camera, he turns into a stream of ones and zeroes, disappearing into the system.
The front door opens easily but the entrance hall soon splits forcing a choice: right or left.
“Straight,” Accabish says.
Weaver pulls a pair of giant shears from its shoulder and begins slicing.
Nearby Daemon traces the buildings power to a large lithium power cell . As it struggles to disable it a short signal escapes the structure.
The team makes its way through the newly darkened structure, their path illuminated by a ball of red energy in Mr. King’s hand.
“You understand, I couldn’t be sure I could trust any of you,” the woman says. “Especially not members of the Black Pyramid.”
As Mr. King steps into the room, Daemon shifts into his true form. With a sickening lurch, his facade stretches and then shreds. The metallic being glows with electrical energy.
“We’ve got incoming,” he says.
As King and the others move in, Infinity’s fingers move with increasing slowness toward the PDA. Everyone grinds to a halt and stops except Accabish.
The demon slips forward in that instant of time, snatching the device from Infinity’s hands. As she hurries back into the pack, she slips the PDA into her pocket and tosses a curse upon the hacker.
Time speeds up as Accabish takes on her demonic form. The shining blue metallic woman stands ready to strike.
Hunter lunges forward ahead of the sorcerers. One moment he is a man falling to all fours and the next he is a metallic gold lion bearing down on Infinity.
The hacker stumbles back, her hands grasping the air where her device was a moment ago. Then he wrakes her leg with one claw. The other warriors tries to crowd in on her but end up interfering with each other.
Infinity retreats to a corner before regaining her balance. She lashes out with one hand. Electricity races up her body and down her arm. In the blue glow, her skin looks withered and leathery with stitching along every joint.
The blast strikes Hunter dead on and he tumbles back, his circuits momentary overloaded.
Outside the Naturalist hears the thunder rumble out of the house. Then he hears another crack answering from a few miles to the southwest.
“Two can play at that game,” Accabish shouts as electricity arcs around her body.
She grabs the hacker grounding the charge in her. Again the electricity arcs around Infinity revealing her true corpse-like features. As the sparks subside, the hacker’s wounds close up.
On the ground, Hunter’s own scorch marks fade. The lion snaps at Infinity from the ground but she skips past him.
And right into the middle of the Black Pyramid operatives.
Mr. King clips her shoulder with a sudden punch sending her into Snow who smashes her into a wall. As she staggers away, Barb topples the wall of monitor displays on top of her.
As she struggles to rise, Daemon brings his sword arm down swiftly twice. Her newly severed arms twitch for a few seconds as she glares up at him, critically wounded yet somehow defiant.
Daemon notices a signal emitting from her searching for a device in the area. As he readies his arm blade again, Accabish rushes forward and smashes her metallic fists into Infinity’s leg, shattering it..
Daemon swings but his sword sticks into a monitor.
Hunter rises to his feet and sinks his fangs into the crippled monster. She gasps, shudders and dies.
The next clap of thunder is much much closer.
As the van starts down the road, the thunder gets nearer and nearer. Daemon tosses a burner phone out the window. A moment later he disappears into it as mix of ones and zeroes.
A moment later the thunder stops right behind them.
Then they are alone on the long road to Seattle.
Daemon begins bouncing from cell tower to cell tower. an ominous booming chasing him through cyberspace.
He pings off a few satellites until the angel almost corners him high above Canada. Circuits pop and melt as the servant of the God-Machine attempts to overload the system and trap him.
At the last moment, he slips away, disappearing in networks across the Pacific.
Weaver runs over the events in Oregon as it looks over the dismembered body of Infinity. She might be a promethean, a reanimated corpse with strange alchemical powers, such as manipulating and healing from electricity. For some reason they are universally despised.
The Black Pyramid offer to take the corpse to analyze with their magics.
”We have techniques for interrogating the dead,” Mr. King says.
The Weaver gives its okay. “Share anything you learn please.”
Accabish takes King aside. “Since we provided Infinity’s location I think you still owe us something. I need your help investigating a personal matter.”
“It is private. I’ll stop by later to give you the details.”
After the corpse and their allies leave, Accabish produces the PDA. Weaver scrutinizes the code within it. It is an incredibly potent gadget, perhaps a high level lambda. Its primary ability is to tap into the control codes behind the God-Machine’s minions, overriding their free will temporarily. It can also identify what the purpose an object or person serves in the Machine’s plans.
“I want to use it on myself,” the Naturalist declares.
“This was also made by Lilith,” Weaver says.