Beyond the Darkside 33-6 to 15


Madness

The silence left in Isaac’s wake filled the expansive office like water filling a reservoir, and like water, it threatened to drown Aldric where he sat. Thoughts rushed about like currents in a great sea, pulling him with them, spinning him about in little eddies that went nowhere, crushing him under their weight before threatening to pull him apart.

How was it possible? How had he survived? Were they talking to him too? Were they protecting him? Why had they not told Aldric? Was there more to this than his plan? Was Margaret behind this? Why couldn’t the stupid fucker die?

The constant hum of voices in the back of his mind grew louder as Aldric stood and paced the room. Each of them answered his questions, but he did not understand. Yes. He’s immortal. No. We didn’t know. Of course not. Why not? Try harder. Kill yourself instead. He’s a wizard. She looked good. Yes. He can’t do anything to us. Forty-two. Air pockets. It must be air pockets. You’re sick. Maybe you need a nap. He’s not hard to look at. Have you tried high explosives? She makes me feel funny inside. Give me a crowbar, a stick of gum, and eleven feet of thread and I can end him permanently. Kill Isaac. He suspects something. We would never talk to the likes of him. Forget him. He will die with all of the rest.

“Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.” Aldric grabbed his head in his hands and stopped walking. “You’re not helping if you all talk at once.”

“If who is talking, sir?”

Aldric looked up and saw a woman standing just inside the door of his office. Marcy, Martha, Mary? It was something like that. She was one of the faceless drones that filled his company’s ranks, yet she managed to get into his office without being buzzed in.

“What are you doing in here?” Aldric asked as he strode toward her. “How did you get in here?”

“I was told to bring you this,” she said as she held out a data slate.

Aldric snatched the slate from the woman and waved her away. He opened it and skimmed the contents of the message on the screen while the accompanying video played in the corner of the screen. It showed two people talking in the shadows of a restaurant booth. There was no audio, and he could not see their faces, but what he could see widened his eyes. “Stop,” he shouted and the woman stopped in the doorway of his office. “Where did this come from? Who gave this to you?”

“It was on my desk,” she said without turning around. “There was a paper note stuck to the slate that said I was to deliver it to you immediately.”

“And you didn’t think to run it past security? What if it were a bomb?” Aldric asked.

“I went to security first, but they were uninterested in looking at it. They waved me through,” she said.

“Fine. Leave me.”

She turned and walked out of Aldric’s office. He was too busy focusing on the data slate to appreciate the well-rounded curve of her rear-end or the thin trickle of blood dripping from her ear.

“What is she up to?” he whispered as he turned and walked back to his desk, his eyes never leaving the slate. He set it on a reading stand and manipulated the image so that he could get a closer look at the image. Of particular interest was the blur about the head of the woman. At first he thought it a trick of the lighting, or perhaps some sort of distortion field, but as he focused in on it, he found that it was not an irregularity in the image; it was hundreds of additional diaphanous images stacked atop one another upon the woman’s head.

Aldric did not want to focus on it too much. There were answers in the picture; confronting them was a distraction he was not ready for. He zoomed out and looked at the woman. Her face remained hidden, but the shadows did not conceal all of her features. A clear look at her leg below the hem of her skirt showed an intricate tattoo of a Chinese dragon wrapped around an ancient Egyptian Ankh. There was only one person with a tattoo like that and he only knew about it because he spent many hours between those very legs. The tattoo was not in her personnel profile, so not many people knew about it. The question was who knew enough to recognize it and what it might mean to Aldric.

Zooming out further he tried to ascertain whom she spoke with. His back was to the camera and the high back of the booth concealed most of his features. He knew enough to keep his hands out of view and the curly black hair that peeked out from beneath the archaic fedora looked like a wig. Did he know he was being videoed? Was he the one controlling the camera?

Aldric paused the video as the man slid a data drive across the table. The drive looked like the thousands of others found around Dark Side Experimental and other locations across the moon. It did not pique his interest in the slightest. The gap between the man’s glove and his sleeve on the other hand did. The narrow space afforded Aldric the first real glimpse at the man’s identity. His pale skin shown like moonshine in the black and white image. It narrowed the possibilities only slightly, but it gave him something to work with.

Setting aside the tablet, Aldric returned to the image of Murray and the radical working with him. What was he up to? Robbing a warehouse was not like him at all. Did he even know the warehouse was Aldric’s? Probably not. Someone must be pulling his strings. The man was spineless and incapable of original thought. No, there was a new master in Murray’s life, and that was who Aldric really needed to find, but that need would not save Murray. Murray would die, if not by Aldric’s hand, then by his direction.

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