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It Defends Itself -another view- (Dark Aether)

Private Journal (and all that entails)
2 Nov NByr5

 I managed to walk home, and sitting here in the apartment I can still hear that thing ringing in my head.  I’m really surprised at how well my handwriting looks as badly as my hands are shaking now.  I moved down to the sitting room with my writing box, lights lowered, and I almost had to laugh as it reminded me of being back in school staying up past curfew.  Unlike those days, I have my back pressed to the corner, pistol at my side, eyes darting to the doorways with every tenuous word written.

 The night had started off well enough, with a quick visit to Cuffs to see how the Melniks were faring.  We talked for a bit about the current goings-on around town, and Scottie mentioned that he was going to try something in respect to the pod that was underneath Loner Lane.  Kane flew in, and I was getting ready to follow them to the sewer, when one of the Clockhaven runners sprinted by jabbering at the top of his lungs.  I managed to catch him, and after a short bit of breath-catching was told that Kristos Sonnerstein was running around Clockhaven raving like a lunatic.  I told the runner to sit down for a bit, get a glass of Sky’s cider and relax before going back to work. He gave me a look, and I smiled and said I’d take care of it.  He giggled and smiled broadly.  

I headed back to City Hall for a second and picked up a tranquilizer gun from the emergency stores locker, then headed back towards Clockhaven.  Walking up the stairs just past the Militia Building, I heard him talking.  He was standing next to the fountain, babbling about something or another.  Figuring that given his current state he’d need a little more help, I dialed up the ‘macho man’ serum setting and potted him with a dart.  He kept on talking and said something about the basement.  He pointed down towards the fencing salon of Dr Cyberfaustus, and then returned to the nonsensical sing song chatter he was spewing before.  I corked him with another dart at that point, and apparently 2 doses was enough to take the edge off of whatever had ginned him up.  He walked off towards the Gangplank, and I decided to see what was down the stairs.

It was another one of those podworms, that huge eye staring at me out of the slimy tube, mouth writhing.  This time, something happened. Unbeknownst to me at the same time I walked up to the pod to take a look at it the same time the Melniks were using Kane to dislodge the one on Loner Lane.  It screamed, screamed like nothing I had ever heard before.  I fell back to the wall and tried to invoke the Iron Keep, but that scream burnt through my head like a hot poker.  My legs did manage to keep working and somehow the unconscious part of my mind kept my feet moving and I was able to get more clearheaded the further I got away from it.

I wasn’t really sure how long it took me to walk across to Cuffs from Clockhaven, or how long it took me to walk to the circle of folks gathered around that manhole cover.  Everyone looked exceptionally shaken.  Both Scottie and Sky seemed particularly upset by what had happened.  Sky didn’t talk much as I walked up, and Scottie seemed unusually jittery.  Kane was lying on the sidewalk, steam leaking from rent spots on his glossy metallic hide.  Whatever had hit the humans there, it also whacked the automata as well.  I tried to talk to Kane and figure out what they had experienced, and based on what had happened to me, I came to the conclusion that the pods are like bamboo shoots or certain varieties of cottonwoods, many plants connected to a single taproot.  

Everyone seemed dazed, in shock.  Poor Kane was nearly shut down, to the point he repeated what seemed to be a blackcylinder recording stating that he should be delivered to the Europan Consulate for repairs.  I volunteered to go get the steam gurney at the shop to drag the poor thing off.

I returned to Cuffs and sat with the Melniks a while.  I finally asked them what happened, and Scottie explained what had triggered the scream.  He started to explain what he felt, but in actuality I was getting ready to see for myself.  While I had managed to protect my mind in the moment the scream began, I had no way of knowing that once I relaxed, once I felt comfortable with my friends that whatever had been stopped in Clockhaven would still be waiting to come out like shorting out a charged capacitor.  Scottie kept talking, but all I felt was anxiety.  Fear, dark and primal.  Long repressed emotion. Heartbreak.  Abandonment.  Death.  I saw Father leaving for the frontier, Mother’s funeral, Grandfather putting me on the train, dark basements, the smell of blood…. The Melniks looked at me oddly as I staggered to the doors and vomited on the sidewalk.  Just as it came, it left.  All of us looked spent, so we went our ways to our own homes.

I walked into our bedroom, and sat there in dark for some time. Kimika stirred in her sleep, restively turning.  I sat, too shaken to sleep, listening to the slow rhythm of her breathing.

It was going to take a lot to stop these things, and I hope we can figure out how.

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