The dank tunnel had been blocked by irregular chunks of concrete for years. Boulders of varying sizes now parted way to allow four shapes, one large, two medium and one, slight. The foremost and largest was a massive humanoid who shared the fur, horns and face of a goat. One of the smaller figures advanced quickly past. It was a rough hewn man dressed in rippling gray clothes and goggles. As he vanished, literally out of sight, the remaining two figures passed through the levitating blocks, an older man and shadowing his steps a slender woman. As they passed near the exit of the tunnel, the older man looked back; his lone arm to wave the boulders concrete back into place.
The younger man reappeared as his companions emerged from the tunnel. High tech cloaking devices switched off as he gestured that all appeared safe. He had short cropped hair, mussed by an intricate goggle set on his eyes. Pockets, tool belts and other equipment adorned his every available surface. Even his thin lipped mouth was buried under a complex breather mask. He was called Mamba by preference. His journey here had begun by sneaking on a Graves Electronic flight to Australia bearing his mentor. He'd learned much under the old man and now repaid him in whatever way he could, even if Floyd would rather he didn't.
Billy 327 led the way out. He placed the duffle bags back on his shoulders and dusted off his hakima. At seven foot three, he was an imposing and unmistakable sight. Part Ovis Canadensis, big horned sheep, part human; artificials like him were made for labor and war. They excelled at only the latter, their appearance hard to market and their combat prowess uncertain they'd sold poorly. Billy was probably the last example of his type. Professionally he was a drummer in an Australian rock band. Now he followed the first human to treat him like an equal, Dr. Richard Floyd.
The Doctor himself was an old man. He appeared somewhere in his forties, possibly fifties. In reality he was almost twice that. Esper powers had allowed him to reopen and reclose the barrier in the tunnel and they seemed to retard his age as well. Normally he traveled alone, Nassau was unavoidable, and Billy a necessity for her. Mamba had invited himself along for the ride. Wearing a simple robe , travel boots and mirrorshades Doc was physically unremarkable. Apart from the absence of the lower two thirds of his right arm he might even pass for ordinary. His remaining hand scratched his beard as they left the hole.
Lastly was a woman who could have easily been mistaken for a supermodel past her prime. Nassau was a synthetic human, unlike Billy she was nearly perfect in form and figure as a female ideal. Resort class escorts were designed for a different role - pleasure and defense. Designed with an expiration date, she'd passed it and lived in defiance of rough odds. The price was high, she looked forty despite being designed to look seventeen and only actually being eight physical years old. She instinctively guarded the 'Guru' as she called him, her gun skills still as sharp as ever. Her gear was worn over a washed out gray army jacket, stained denim jeans and knee high biker boots. Weapons were holstered everywhere.
"Matilda's?" Nassau asked. It'd been her home away from the Corporation. Until her sisters died, then it was a way station of sorts. Now she was back, 'Home is where hell is' she whispered to herself.
"Yes." Doc agreed, They'd walked some hours in that direction anyway. Matilda's Home for Wayward Women was a whorehouse. Nassau had been a guard there last time he'd been here. He'd taken her with him on his way out. She'd lived through the death-timer but...
Billy noticed Floyd's demeanor grow gray at the mention of Matilda's. He knew why but also that Mamba had not been told. Nassau was psychologically damaged and couldn't be trusted alone. She didn't know it but he was here to guard her, not the Doctor. That situation was like his current surroundings. The Zero Zone was strange, rotten and overgrown like Nassau's hate. The occasional urge to sample the local flora was suppressed by the knowledge pressed by Doc that all was not well with the soil here.
Suddenly Doc stopped.
"What?" Both Mamba and Nassau jerked to a halt, Billy merely paced a bit. Their mentor knew, saw and sensed things. It wasn't usually a good sign and as usual they had to wait to find out. A raised hand signaling for silence was all they got in reply.
"Someone.. no several someones.." Floyd felt, for just a flicker on a chance wind. Power was being used. Espers. A few, as many as three. perhaps more; using the power, clumsily, haltingly. Then, a flare of true power, trained and sure. Minutes passed as he focused, searched for the source.
"Change of plans, I think." There was a real chance Matilda had fled the recent 'war' or been killed. It'd be a gamble really, even if all was well she couldn't hide them from Jinsei. These feelings, these powers on the other hand were a sure thing. Mamba came up to him. The two held a whispered conversation for a few moments.
"Yes, go ahead." The young man wanted to look into the Jinsei control zone for Matilda in any case. Doc Floyd owed her that much at least. Mamba was well schooled in the arts of stealth and a minor esper trained by Doc. Suppressing his low level esper power was simple enough these days. Doc trusted that he'd be cautious enough to not get caught. As the sneak disappeared once more under his cloak Doc gestured a bit to the left.
"He's going to try and contact her anyway." He smiled at Nassau's quizzical look. "There's something interesting out there I can't let pass."
"What?" She pursed her lips in anticipation of something unusual.
"Clark Street." Doc said with finality as he turned to the road again.
Return to Kazei 5 PBEM Stories