56 – Code Shyla

Ryan smiled as Vink’s warm hands slid onto his, and his smiled faded as he felt her trembling.

‘Vink?’

The Blank slid onto the lounge next to him, her form slipping back towards her natural state, details of her complexion slipping away, her eyes becoming even more prominent.

He scanned quickly for enemies, and saw only gala guests. ‘What happened?’

‘Code Shyla.’

‘I don’t understand.’

She reached weakly for a passing waiter, and pulled a full bottle of wine from the tray. She took a long drink, then turned back to him, her features appearing and disappearing at random. ‘Code Shyla, your girl’s Captain just told me-‘

He hurriedly ran a universal search – knowing he’d fine nothing, and watched as she took another long drink. ‘I don’t understand. What’s wrong?’ he asked her again.

‘Nothing is wrong,’ she said. ‘Wrong’s not- Code Shyla. It’s- I’m free.’

‘Free?’

‘Blanks don’t fall, Ryan. We live, we serve the Lost, then we fall apart. We- We can be sold though. It’s not very common, but it does happen. And I was bought, but- But my new owner is me. I was given to myself.’ She threw her arms around him and hugged him as she laughed. ‘I’m- I- I don’t know what to do!’ she laughed again, her features pulling themselves from her blank slate. She sobered for a moment. ‘Did you-?’

‘No,’ he said, ‘it wasn’t me. I wouldn’t presume to do something so life-altering without a conversation.’

‘If it wasn’t you-?’

‘Stef said she had a surprise for me.’ He stood and looked across the dance floor, and saw his proud little girl dancing with Curt, mask hanging in her hand, her head against his arm, barely moving with the music. Tired, content, and in love. The music changed, and Curt swayed her to the left. She seemed to wake up a little, and stood straighter. She moved to slide her mask back on, and caught his gaze as she looked up. He smiled, and she smiled back.

‘I think we know who we can thank.’

Confusion crossed Vink’s face. ‘She’s barely said a word to me all night.’

‘It’s hard for her to talk to new people,’ he said. ‘Give her time.’

‘Time?’ she asked, a coy smile on her lips. ‘So you think I’ll be spending more time with you?’

‘A friend’s ability to require will be useful whilst you decide what to do with your new life.’

‘I could consider working for the Agency,’ she said. ‘It’s getting late, do you want to head out?’

‘Let me say good-bye first.’

He walked across the dance floor, easily dodging all of the slow-moving couples and tapped her on the shoulder. ‘I’m heading out. And thank you.’

She gave him a sleepy smile. ‘That’s all anyone is saying to me tonight.’

Curt let her go. ‘I’ll get you some water, newbie.’

‘Thanks.’

‘It’s getting late,’ he said, ‘are you heading off soon?’

She shrugged. ‘Hook keeps telling me an ashreader might show up, so that would be nifty to see, even if they are nitpicky fanboys.’ She rolled her mask around in her hands. ‘Tonight wasn’t as bad as I thought, thanks for making me come.’ She hugged him. ‘Thank you.’

He kissed the top of her head. ‘I’ll see you in the morning?’

‘Lunchtime?’

‘Just be home before your blue runs out.’

‘Yessir.’

He smiled, and walked from the dance floor.

‘There’s a car waiting for us,’ Vink said, ‘did you have anything to collect?’

He shook his head, and bowed his arm for her to hold.

* * *

There was something wrong.

He required his uniform, and his gun as he stepped out of the limousine. There was something wrong with his Agency.

‘Stay back,’ he said as the driver gave Vink a hand out of the car.

‘What’s wrong?’

He stared at the darkened lobby of the Agency – even as late as it was, the lights should have been on. He opened his alerts, and saw nothing, no warnings, no alarms, every indication that things were as they should be.

Something was wrong with his Agency.

He unholstered his gun, but kept the safety on, and kept it pointed at the ground. ‘I’m going to shift you to a safe house,’ he said without turning, ‘there’ll be someone to-‘

‘The hell you are,’ he heard his own voice say.

He turned away from the Agency and saw himself. Himself with overly large green eyes, to be precise.

‘You’re not going in there alone,’ Vink’s eyes went to his gun. ‘And get me one of those.’

‘Do you have any training?’

‘Basic hand to hand defensive,’ she said, ‘it’s part of my programming, I’ve never used it, but I’m confident in my creators.’

‘I can’t-‘

‘You can,’ his voice insisted, ‘and you will.’

He required her a gun. ‘Stay behind me.’

He stared into his HUD and pulled up a listing of his people – aside from a few recruits, likely on patrol, everyone was in the Agency. He ran vitals, and they all appeared alive, healthy, asleep. [Jones?]

A voice-only response. [Sir?]

[Is there a situation?]

[No, sir.]

He stared at the empty lobby.

[Are you sure?]

[As far as I know. I’m recoding some of the lighting programs, trying to clear some of the bugs.]

Everyone was asleep. Even the techs. He double-checked the time – before midnight. It had taken bribes and stories read with the voices to get Stef to sleep before midnight, whether or not it was a night they were predicting nightmares. There was no natural way everyone in his Agency would be asleep.

He felt possibilities start to form.

He put a hand behind him, and slowly stepped back, pushing Vink back towards the street.

[Darren?]

There was far too long of a delay before the agent’s face appeared in his HUD. [What’s up?]

[I think my Agency’s been breached.]

[Breached by what? By who?]

[I don’t know. I”m going in, give me five minutes, then declare an emergency.]

[Sure, of course.]

The lights in the lobby came up, and the door slid open to reveal Jones – his lab coat ruffled and his shirt dirty. The tech smirked. ‘Are you- Are you going to try Parker-style, sir?’

He looked to Vink, and the meaning clicked home. He kept his gun lowered, but required another one into his holster, just in case.

‘You should come inside,’ Jones said.

He stared at the tech, and slowly nodded, feeling silly for suspecting Jones of anything.

They followed the tech into the Agency, and the smell of fresh dirt hit him like a warm wave. Rich earth, turned on a summer’s day, the same smell that was there in his garden, Reynold’s favourite smell.

The reception area was empty, and everything seemed normal. The elevators, the same boring plants that were always there, giving the appearance of being just another corporate lobby, the trunk of a massive tree form, the emergency map and- His mind buckled in on itself as he took stock of the lobby again.

Plants. Elevators. Art. Emergency map. Tree.

He felt a slowness in his mind as he ran every self-check and scan that he could.

The tree was inconceivably large, a redwood, a world tree, Yggdrassil. A world tree, in his Agency. In his lobby.

‘I expected some reaction,’ Jones said.

He looked to the tech, then to the tree, and back. ‘I presume that’s Merlin,’ he said, his voice flat and emotionless.

Jones nodded.

‘So this is your definition of nothing wrong, Jones? Your ward turned has- Merlin’s- How did this even happen? Is he all right? Can he- Could it not be in the lobby?’

‘He’s dormant for now,’ Jones said. ‘He’s safe. He’s safe and that’s all that matters.”

‘Jones,’ he said, keeping his voice low and level, ‘why is he a tree?’

A branch pushed its way from the trunk, reaching like a bony hand, flowers blooming as it stopped moving.

‘Jones-‘

The tech smiled at him and the question fled his mind. It was a silly question. Merlin had always-

New knowledge warred with old. Memories of-

‘What are you doing?’

Merlin was a tree. There was nothing out of place.

‘I’m not doing anything, sir.’

He convulsed, and threw up on the pristine floor.

He tried to focus on shifting, but the blackness at the edge of his vision-

Sleeping suddenly seemed like a very good idea.

Posted in Book 05 - Oubliette 2.0 Tagged with: , , ,
38 comments on “56 – Code Shyla
  1. meeks meeks says:

    Merlin…became a tree? This is going to be an interesting eight hours…o.0

    • Stormy says:

      …is the end result of the stuff at the slave pens – why they needed the nymph, so his death wasn’t all for naught.

  2. edorfaus says:

    … interesting… or should I say unexpected? Both work, on several levels…

    It also made me think of a seemingly plausible, and far less horrible, explanation for what we’ve so far seen in the help chapters (running out of color) – and TBH, it seems obvious enough that I feel like I should have thought of it sooner, but frankly, the presentation pretty much blocked that…

    • Wraith Wraith says:

      . . . if I ask what explanation has come to your head?

      but frankly, the presentation pretty much blocked that…

      Good, that’s largely the effect I was pushing Stormy towards.

      • Stormy says:

        . . . if I ask what explanation has come to your head?
        *raises hand* Also curious here.

        Good, that’s largely the effect I was pushing Stormy towards.
        I enjoy being evil, but I’m still a little skittish about big cliffhangers, because of the people who’ve given up on the series, convinced that X, Y or Z was going to happen. -_- Or that Stef was going to stay dead.

        • the leaking pen says:

          screw’em. It’s YOUR story Stormy. we’re just along for the ride. be evil to me, I like the abuse!

          • Stormy says:

            …last weekend and analysed a whole bunch of stuff in Google Analytics. I’ve basically worked out that if I can keep people to the end of MH, then I keep them forever (sure, there’s a margin of drop-off and a margin of error), but for the most part, the major spikes of drop-offs stop.

          • the leaking pen says:

            and hey, once they are ebooks, even those drop offs, you’ll have sold them two books! actually, you’ll probably see more repeat business on the books than the free content for a few reasons.

          • Stormy says:

            …and I don’t know if it’s just me, but with ebooks I tend to be more forgiving, and I’ve bought 2-3 books of a series that a) I usually would have given up on or b) I’m reading just because I like ranting about it. >_<

        • edorfaus says:

          . . . if I ask what explanation has come to your head?
          *raises hand* Also curious here.

          I was afraid of potentially spoiling it for others (since there’s no spoiler tag to hide it afaik), so just in case I was right, tried to be a bit vague while still saying what I thought it was, so that those in the know would get what I meant (assuming it was right)…

          And here I was worrying whether I was vague enough to avoid spoiling it, but if neither of you two got what I meant, I guess I was, and then some – or just so wrong that it doesn’t work. :P

          Here’s a hint: my theory is in the parenthesis.

          If that’s not enough, and potential spoilers are OK, I can explain further…

    • Stormy says:

      …that everyone seems to be digging this, I was worried that it would work well, as it seems to come out of left field a bit, but it’s hard as there’s a lot Jonesy does in the background that doesn’t have much to do with the main plot. -_-

  3. Abeo says:

    “He stared at the tech, and slowly nodded, feeling silly for suspecting Jones of anything”

    Pfft…hahahahaha. Oh Ryan, you so silly.

    In other news, hopefully this means one less individual nomming on Stef’s heart… at least for a little while.

    • Stormy says:

      …Jonesy is the reason to be scared of the quiet ones. :D

      In other news, hopefully this means one less individual nomming on Stef’s heart… at least for a little while.
      Hopefully at least, I couldn’t tell you for certain, cause even I don’t know at this point.

  4. the leaking pen says:

    he became a WORLD tree? VERY interesting. I look forward to the fruit he bears.

    Also, jones just manipulated the memory and code of his director. Screwing with mimosa, understandable. This? This would get him recycled.

    • Anonymous says:

      …if that were Jones.

      • Stormy says:

        …would you have reason to think otherwise?

        • the leaking pen says:

          well, you saying that makes me wonder, but honestly, while I’m shocked, this is completely in character for Jonesy.

        • edorfaus says:

          … the branch sprouting just before, and that Jonesy said he didn’t do it, at least that would be my guess – and why I wasn’t sure myself. I figured it might have been Merlin sort of unconciously protecting himself, or something like that.

          • Stormy says:

            …what I can say without spoiling but…

            Jones is in control here – this had to happen to Merlin, but everything that is happening because of it is in line with Jonesy’s plans.

            And now I feel like I’ve said too much.

    • Stormy says:

      …going to be interesting how this plays out (3/4 of my brain is just screaming I HOPE I DON’T FUCK THIS UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!! over and over). -_-

      Also, jones just manipulated the memory and code of his director. Screwing with mimosa, understandable. This? This would get him recycled.
      Well, honestly, screwing with Stef should have gotten him at least severely punished, not because the Agency cares about her, but because it’s a big breach of procedure – and that’s without questioning what he was using the mirror for…which would be the recyclable offence…

  5. Fantasy_Lover says:

    0.0……. *speachless*

  6. Anonymous says:

    So… If Jones has nothing to do with Stef’s situation in the next 8 hours, what ELSE is going to happen? O.o

    Also:
    “Your ward turned has- Merlin’s- How did this even happen?”;
    Should this be
    “Your ward has turned- Merlin’s- How did this even happen?”

  7. Anayilea says:

    While I enjoy being a part of your writing process, and getting to see characters develop, a part of me wishes I came in right at the end so I wouldn’t have to wait! I am so impatient… Keep the good sh*t rolling Stormy! Loving the ride!

    • Stormy says:

      I wish I could come in at the end of the writing process and see it all done! :P

      • the leaking pen says:

        God, tell me about it. I just finished plotting out a novel that I want to not write, just read. lol. work work work.

        • Stormy says:

          …plotting. -_- I gave up on the idea of plotting when my characters stopped cooperating. -_-

          I swear Jonesy plans stuff behind my back sometimes. >_>

          • the leaking pen says:

            ohh, it never STAYS on track, but it starts that way.

            The one I just plotted out is actually a sci fi romance novel taking place in space, with the main romance happening between a pilot and a gunner in the earth ET navy, fighting against unknown alien drones. From the dude’s perspective.

            Sigh. its going to go SO off the rails, I know it.

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