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First Contact-Part One-Chapter3

First Contact-Part One-Chapter3

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Published by: The Dr. on Sep 09, 2008
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‘… and you want me to go to the main Video Hosting sites to bring back links for you?’ He asked quizzically. ‘NOT FOR ME,’ Vatex’s voice replied casually. ‘THE PURPOSE OF ALLUC IS SO THAT ALL PEOPLE CAN HAVE ACCESS TO THE LINKS THEY DESIRE. AS I SAID, WE ARE ASSEMBLING A TEAM OF LINK HUNTERS AND WOULD LIKE YOU TO BE ONE OF THEM.’ ‘Alright,’ he nodded. ‘Sounds like a hoot, I’m in.’ ‘EXCELLENT,’ Vatex said happily. ‘I HAVE CONTACTED THE OTHERS AND YOUR HUNTING PARTNER IS BEING TRANSPORTED TO THIS LOCATION.’ ‘Nah, that’s okay,’ he said, waving his hands dismissively. ‘I work better solo.’ ‘I REALLY MUST INSIST,’ Vatex replied. ‘THERE ARE THOSE WHO WOULD PREVENT US FROM ACHIEVING OUR DREAM. BLOCKING OUR LINK HUNTERS WOULD BE SUCH A WAY OF ACHIEVING THAT.’ ‘I don’t work with partners,’ he replied sternly. ‘Not anymore. I’ll Link hunt for you, Vatex. For everybody that comes to ALLUC, but on the condition that I work alone.’ Vatex sighed as his commission turned to leave through an Exit Portal. ‘AS YOU WISH … MISTER-,’ ‘Red,’ the Link Hunter said suddenly. ‘Call me Red.’ ‘THEN I WISH YOU GOOD LUCK … RED,’ Vatex yielded as the Exit Portal closed around him. *** ‘So tell me this then,’ McCadden said, pointing a half-eaten Danish Pastry at his partner. ‘How is it that whenever you have a hunch about somethin’, we end up sat in this car at an ungodly hour, eating junk food, waiting for suchabody to show up or something-such to go down ‘cause of your say-so. But when I have a gut feeling about somethin’ and call you, we never actually do anythin’ about it.’ ‘Probably because …’ Stuart said thoughtfully. ‘The last time one of your gut feelings led us anywhere useful was … … … never.’ ‘Hey!’ McCadden said stiffly. ‘You might be some up-comin flatfoot with a keen eye and no limit to your prospects to the Captain, ‘kay, but if you ain’t got experience, then you’re nothin’.’ ‘Is that right?’ Stuart smiled wryly. ‘You’re damn right it’s right!’ McCadden said vehemently. ‘I’ve been on the force for thirtyeight years, how long you been on the case, egh?’ ‘Not nearly as long as that,’ Stuart replied with a grin. ‘Not nearly as long,’ McCadden repeated mockingly. ‘What are you, eight?’ ‘Yeah,’ Stuart nodded sarcastically. ‘Just got the training wheels off my tricycle … … … If it makes you feel any better, there’s no magic behind what I do Jim. I’m just … … …’ ‘Cocky? Arrogant? A god damn pain in my ass?’ McCadden offered. ‘Well, I was going to say talented,’ Stuart admitted. ‘But we can go with one of yours if it makes you feel better.’ ‘Thanks,’ McCadden nodded in over-exaggerated gratitude. ‘I might just do that.’ The two of them sat quietly as the rain pelted off the roof of the Delorian. Stuart liked to quip by repeatedly checking to see where the Flux Capacitor was, but McCadden maintained that it was a classic car through and through. “Despite what some crack pot Hollywood asshole might have done to one” McCadden would fume, this one was staying in the present even if it did make it all the way to eighty-eight miles per hour without exploding.

‘This guy we’re watchin’ then,’ McCadden said testily, drumming his fingers on the dashboard. ‘The one who, despite your clairvoyance, appears to be tucked up in bed, sound asleep, like where I should be.’ ‘He’s our guy,’ Stuart replied surely. ‘And your little birdie told you that?’ ‘In a manner of speaking.’ McCadden made a disbelieving noise deep in his throat. ‘Seriously,’ Stuart puffed. ‘Unlike you I actually spend time working on cases. I look at evidence, talk to grasses, follow up leads.’ ‘You sayin’ I don’t know how to do my job?’ McCadden asked angrily. ‘If so, say it now so we can take this outside.’ ‘What I’m saying,’ Stuart said evenly. ‘Is that I spot things that most people seem to disregard as trivial.’ ‘Usually ‘cause they are,’ McCadden scoffed. ‘Yeah, well, take a look at this,’ Stuart said, pulling a file from the back seat and opening it out. ‘Seven murders in the last month. None of the victims knew eachother, but they were all killed in the same way.’ Stuart pulled out several photographs of hideously withered bodies, the skin leathery and old as though they had been mummified. ‘All the fluids sucked right out of them, every last bit of moisture, every drop of blood, gone and the victims barely an hour dead, impossible, but that’s what we’re dealing with.’ ‘You ain’t told me nothing yet I don’t already know smart-ass,’ McCadden said, tapping his teeth with his thumb nail. ‘Right, well have a close look at this,’ he handed over an enlarged image of a small symbol set deep into the skin, surrounded by severe bruising and burn marks. ‘This symbol, this mark, is on all of the bodies. It’s tiny, miniscule, even the pathologists missed it at first. I stumbled across it by accident about two hours ago.’ ‘Yeah, by accident,’ McCadden said sarcastically. ‘How long you been sitting on this one? Wanting to leave it long enough to make a big enough impact?’ ‘No,’ Stuart frowned. ‘If you must know, I slipped on the wet floor and ended up facedown in corpse. It just so happened that I noticed a small black indent in the bruising and had the guys take a closer look. If you just glance, they look like moles, but, as you can see from this, they’re complex pictographs of … something … but it’s on them all.’ ‘Which only tells us that the same weapon killed them,’ McCadden sighed. ‘Yeah,’ Stuart nodded. ‘But look up there.’ He pointed to the large window of the antique shop they were sat outside. The glass was frosted with a large circle intersected with a series of hexagons and halfmoons. ‘That’s the same symbol isn’t it?’ McCadden said, gawping. ‘Yeah … That’s the same symbol,’ Stuart repeated with a smile. ‘And there’s somebody moving around on the top floor …’ McCadden said, looking up at the highest window. *** Red stepped through the portal and breathed in the air of Toudou. Okay, it was a strange site to start with, but Red had always been one to defy convention. You could experience more that way. Re-treading the beaten path now and then was all well and good but you would never learn anything new or see anything worth mentioning. Toudou was considered to be the lesser of the Great Video Sites because it took even more time than the others to load its sparse selection of Videos and interesting links were very difficult to find. That suited Red though; he had a knack for finding things. He stood outside the giant complex that was Toudou. The outside appeared in the shape of a massive Cinema Multiplex. The forecourt was almost deserted as nobody lingered outside for too long. The place was dismal and grey. The stone pavement that was dotted with large stone flowerbeds stretched out onto a giant, empty car park where litter rolled past like industrial tumbleweeds and pigeons plodded about in mass numbers, indifferent to the users passing by.

Red spared the artificial horizon a fleeting glance before he turned to go inside. ‘LOOK OUT!’ Red had the wind knocked out of him as he was tackled roughly to the stone floor behind one of the large, raised flowerbeds. He landed awkwardly, hurting his arm and scrambled around to look up at the person holding him against the ground. A white-haired, wild-eyed man in grey fatigues glared back at him as he held up a large hunting rifle and pressed himself against the stone flowerpots, making himself as flat against the surface as possible. ‘You’re lucky to be alive,’ the stranger said angrily. ‘What were you thinking?! Leaving yourself completely exposed! They could have killed you in an instant without thinking twice! BASTARDS!’ ‘What?!’ Red frowned back. ‘Who?’ ‘Typical,’ the man said as he pulled a hip flask from his vest pocket and took a heavy swig from it before bringing it down and pouring it into the mouth of a large dog he was carrying with him. ‘Nobody takes any kind of precautions these days, it’s a wonder more people don’t turn up eviscerated, gutted, and savagely buggered!’ The man tutted, looking off into space as the liquor from the flask flowed through the sides of the dog’s mouth and down onto the pavement. It made no attempt to drink it, nor in fact did it make any kind of movement at all. ‘Nobody has any clue what we’re up against,’ he continued, stowing away the hip flask and fixing Red with an intense stare. ‘What’s your name?’ The stranger demanded. ‘Red,’ he replied. ‘Red egh?’ the stranger nodded. ‘Nice name … short, easy to carve into a tomb stone.’ ‘Look, I’m sorry,’ Red exclaimed. ‘But who the hell are you, and who are we hiding from?’ ‘Me?’ The Stranger smirked. ‘I’m the one who’s here to save you.’ ‘Here to save me?’ ‘That’s right,’ the stranger nodded, thrusting his hand out and grabbing hold of Red’s to shake it. ‘The name’s Jeebus … Save-Me-Jeebus.’ *** ‘So what do we have on the owner then?’ McCadden asked with interest. Before he had been moody, picky and in a foul mood, but now he was alert and ready. This was the McCadden that made Stuart want to be his partner in the first place. The top-ranking officer who’d busted more than his fair share. Squeaky-clean, by the book, all heart … well … to an extent. ‘Wouldn’t you know it, he’s new in town,’ Stuart replied simply, taking out another folder he had compiled right before he had made the call to McCadden. ‘Guess when he showed up.’ ‘Coincides with the murders?’ ‘The very first one,’ Stuart nodded. ‘The morning we found Graeme Emerson’s body on the waste ground, this shop, which had been disused for years before opens its doors to the public selling antiques.’ ‘That’s not much of a coincidence Vasey,’ McCadden said evenly. ‘Lots of people did lots of things that morning.’ ‘Yeah, but did they open up a shop that had burned down three weeks beforehand, leaving an empty shell of a building?’ ‘What?’ McCadden frowned as Stuart handed over a picture of the building they were sat outside, except it was a charred mess, completely burned throughout. ‘That was taken by a surveyor on the nineteenth,’ Stuart went on. ‘On the twenty-first, Erikessel’s Antique Emporium opened its doors to the public. I’ve checked the records, there were no building permits issued, no registered company hired to do the job. It’s like it just … appeared out of nowhere, the same day as Emerson’s body appeared out of nowhere.’ McCadden looked at his partner with a quizzical expression. ‘This is X Files shit,’ he commented. Stuart laughed. ‘No, I’m serious, good god Vasey the links are tedious at best and I highly doubt any jury’s going to believe that all those people were killed by a man who magics up antique shops from thin air.’

‘… Worth asking him about it though,’ Stuart said with a bob of his head. ‘Oh without a doubt,’ McCadden said, licking his lips as he stuffed the last of his pastry into his mouth quickly and checked his watch. ‘It’s almost opening time.’ ‘And it looks like he’s already got a customer,’ Stuart said pointedly, squinting through the windscreen into the dim light of the dawn as a blonde man with curly hair in what looked like a red velvet coat was standing on the steps that led into the shop. The man looked around him briefly before extracting something from his pocket which he held against the lock of the door. He looked around again as he stepped inside and closed the door behind him. ‘Is that our boy?’ McCadden asked. ‘Dunno,’ Stuart shrugged. ‘If it is then he’s got an accomplice, we know there’s somebody in there already.’ ‘Makes more sense if there’s two of them up to it,’ McCadden said decisively. ‘That guy was acting pretty suspiciously, like he was breaking into the joint.’ The two of them exchanged similar looks. ‘Only one way to find out,’ Stuart replied brightly. The pair opened the seagull doors of the car and stepped out into the light drizzle that blanketed the morning. ‘So, how do you want to play it?’ Stuart asked as they strode across the road towards the shop. ‘Good cop-Bad cop? Or should we pretend to be Jehovah’s Witnesses again?’ McCadden did snicker briefly, but any mirth he expressed was quickly discarded as the man in the red velvet coat crashed violently through the shop’s front window as though he had been shot out of a cannon and landed, sprawled painfully in the middle of the street. ‘JESUS!’ McCadden cried, grabbing his gun from its holster. ‘That!’ The blonde man said, sitting up and wincing. ‘Was uncalled for!,’ he said, taking the bent cigarette that was smoking at his lips and stubbed it out on the asphalt. ‘SIR, ARE YOU ALRIGHT?’ Stuart asked as he took out his own gun, keeping a safe distance from both the man and the store. ‘You know,’ the man said, almost conversationally as he got to his feet and dusted himself down and lit up a fresh cigarette. ‘Can’t even pay somebody a compliment these days, what’s the world coming to?’ ‘WHAT HAPPENED?’ McCadden demanded. ‘At the end of the day, I’m not being funny, but,’ the man continued, ignoring McCadden’s question. ‘There’s no common courtesy left in this Universe! Everybody’s all take, take, take; me, me, me; destroy the cosmos, obliterate the galaxy, conquer the Universe!’ ‘SIR!’ McCadden said, raising his gun at the man. ‘I AM AN OFFICER WITH THE …’ ‘HEY!’ the man cried suddenly towards the shop, cutting McCadden off. ‘Look what you’ve done to my coat! I got this in France!’ He held up am arm to show a large tear down the sleeve. ‘This is irreplaceable.’ He turned to Stuart. ‘Can you believe that? This is one of King Louis’ state garments and now there’s a tear in it! LOOK AT IT!’ Without waiting for Stuart’s reply, the blonde man turned back to the shop. ‘Well, I hope you’re happy.’ ‘Oh don’t worry … I am.’ McCadden and Stuart turned and pointed their weapons towards a tall, elderly man wearing an emerald green suit. He stood, fists clenched, framed in the broken window, leering at the blonde man. ‘Been busy have you?’ The blonde man spat. ‘How many have you taken this time?’ The elderly gentleman didn’t answer. He simply widened his smile, scratched his thin goatee beard and bared his teeth in a grotesque smirk. ‘HOW MANY?!’ The blonde man demanded, reaching inside his coat and producing a chunky metal torch of some description, pointing it at the elderly man. He demanded again. ‘HOW MANY?!!’ The old man jumped gracefully down onto the pavement with more energy than a man of his advanced years should have been able to and advanced towards the edge of the sidewalk.

‘You know,’ he said, his voice strong and commanding, a true contrast to his thin, wasted face. ‘I do believe I’ve lost count.’ The blonde man’s eyes widened at this. ‘GENTLEMEN!’ McCadden said, advancing forward, gun at the ready. ‘I AM AN OFFICER OF THE LAW AND I’M TELLING YOU BOTH TO PUT YOUR HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM. YOU!’ He turned his attention to the blonde man. ‘DROP THE WEAPON AND PUT YOUR HANDS UP!’ ‘If I do that,’ the blonde man replied without taking his gaze from his opponent. ‘He’ll kill us all.’ *** Jeebus sat back against the wall and dragged the dog up into his lap. Its head fell forwards making a dull, crunching noise at the base of its skull. It didn’t seem to be moving of its own accord at all. ‘Err, that dog …’ Red began. ‘Waldo,’ Jeebus said hurriedly as he packed a fresh magazine of bullets into his giant gun. ‘Is … Waldo …’ Red asked unsurely. ‘Is … he … dead?’ ‘DEAD?!’ Jeebus shouted, appalled. He grabbed Waldo’s head and yanked it upwards so the dog was looking him directly in the face. The eyes were rolled back in the skull and the tongue was hanging uselessly out of the side of its mouth. Jeebus cracked the dog’s head violently to each side, causing a cornucopia of violent, cracking and crunching noises from inside the dog’s neck. ‘Can’t be,’ Jeebus aid surely, letting Waldo’s head fall with a dull thud to the pavement. ‘He’d have told me about it if he’d died.’ The mad stare in Jeebus’ eyes told Red to let the matter rest there. Readying himself with a series of quick breaths, Jeebus peeked his head over the stone flowerbed and brushed a few shrubs aside. ‘My god,’ he grimaced. ‘They’re everywhere.’ ‘Who are?’ Red implored venturing a glance at which Jeebus laid a heavy hand on his shoulder and pushed him hack to the floor. ‘Are you crazy?! They’ll see you!’ ‘They might see you too!’ Red retorted. ‘Yeah,’ Jeebus nodded sagely. ‘But I’m packing … you?’ Red, shook his head, but determidly poked his head up again to have a proper look. Jeebus smacked himself in the forehead and came up to join him. ‘You just won’t be told will you? This is war civilian!’ ‘War?’ Red frowned disbelievingly. ‘War with who?’ ‘With them,’ Jeebus said, thumbing through the bushes. Red squinted through the foliage to the vast empty car park. ‘There’s nothing there,’ Red said. ‘I can’t see anybody.’ ‘WHAT?!’ Jeebus exclaimed. ‘They’re everywhere!’ ‘Where?!’ Red asked, exasperated. ‘Are they hiding behind the pigeons?’ ‘That had better be a joke,’ Jeebus said angrily. ‘We’re at war with the pigeons!’ Red shot a glare at Jeebus and quickly got to his feet. ‘YOU TIT!’ Red exclaimed. ‘You had me all worked up and worried then!’ ‘So you should be!’ Jeebus aid, dragging Red back down by his jumper. ‘They’re evil I tell you! They’re the most foul, cruel and bad-tempered vermin you ever set eyes on!’ ‘Did Waldo tell you that?’ Red asked, half-smirking, this man was a clear-cut lunatic. ‘As a matter of fact, he did,’ Jeebus said in all seriousness. ‘Well,’ Red said, getting back to his feet. ‘You have fun slaying the local wildlife. I’m going to go find some links. I’ll see you around Jeebus.’ ‘Ah, there’s no point hunting links in there,’ Jeebus said. ‘What?’ Red frowned. ‘How come?’ ‘Cause,’ Jeebus shrugged opening the flap of a large rucksack he was carrying. ‘I already got the lot.’ ‘Egh?’ Red frowned. ‘I’m a Link Hunter!’ Jeebus said to clarify as though it was the simplest thing in the world before he unloaded the entire magazine into the car park, scattering startled pigeons in every direction.

‘YOU MANIAC!’ Red shouted, taking his hands off his ears, hoping the ringing would soon stop. ‘Maniac?’ Jeebus laughed, deciding the area was sufficiently clear of enemy pigeon troops and getting to his feet. He jovially clipped Red on the shoulder. ‘That’s a funny way to talk to your new partner.’ *** ‘Well, you heard the officer,’ the elderly man smiled to the blonde man in the red velvet coat. ‘Lower your weapon.’ ‘SIR!’ McCadden said, turning his gun on the blonde man. ‘I WILL NOT ASK YOU AGAIN! PUT THE WEAPON DOWN!’ ‘It’s alright officer,’ the elderly man said, still smirking. ‘I’ll come quietly.’ He held up his balled fists together as though they were tied and presented them to McCadden who took a pair of handcuffs from his belt with his free hand. ‘Vasey, cover blondie,’ he said as he edged towards the older man. ‘DON’T!’ The blonde man cried, but it was too late, as McCadden got close enough, the old man outstretched his hands and shot blinding strands of crackling green energy at him. It took only an instant, but McCadden flew backwards several yards before falling limply to the ground, his body sapped of its moisture and blood, his skin leathery and ravaged. ‘JIM!’ Stuart exclaimed, training his weapon on the old man who was laughing madly. He had produced a weapon similar to the one the blonde man was holding and spread his arms wide as the green lightning cracked about his body. Stuart blinked disbelievingly as the old man’s features twitched and distorted of their own accord. His grey hair and beard turned to black, the colour returned to his cheeks and the liver spots on his forehead disappeared as new hair spontaneously sprouted from his bald patches. ‘Ooh,’ the man who had been old laughed. ‘He was full of life. Now, that is the taste of experience!’ ‘What the hell are you?’ Stuart demanded of him. ‘BORED!’ The man in emerald declared. ‘So utterly bored of seeing you everywhere I go,’ he was talking to the blonde man now, ignoring Stuart completely despite the fact he was pointing a gun at them both. ‘It’s like you’re stalking me, boy. I can’t get a moment’s peace!’ ‘You must be joking,’ the blonde man puffed. ‘You expect me to turn a blind eye to this?!’ ‘See, even now, you think yourself fit to judge me, ME! I’ve commanded legions! I’ve devastated empires, conquered whole star systems, what have you accomplished in your lives? Hmm? NOTHING!’ Stuart listened as intently as he could, he was in shock, he was panicking. McCadden was dead. His partner, was dead and he hadn’t lifted a finger to stop it. He grasped his gun tighter, realizing that he was trembling a little. This was way out his league. McCadden had been right; this was X-Files shit. McCadden … what was Stuart going to tell his wife, Alice? What would he say to the kids? ‘WHAT-THE-HELL-IS-GOING-ON?’ Stuart suddenly found himself shouting loudly. ‘SHUT UP!’ Both men shouted back, but it seemed to be a momentary distraction that the once-older man in emerald needed. The same green energy shot from his hands again, sending the blonde man hurtling across the street into Stuart, knocking them both to the floor. Stuart’s gun fired, smashing one of the headlights of the Delorian and causing his ears to ring violently. ‘FOR!’ The blonde man said, seemingly unhurt as he quickly righted himself and gave chase after the other man who had disappeared back into the shop. ‘FUCK!’ he shouted louder as he barged through the front door. The ringing in Stuart’s ears must have been getting worse, because it suddenly intensified. It became a groaning, wheezing, droning noise, an indescribable sound. It was horrible. But just as soon as it had started and escalated in waves, it suddenly declined again and disappeared.

‘SAKE!’ The blonde man cried as he reappeared in the doorway and stormed down the steps. ‘I could have had him! I was this close!’ He held up his thumb and forefinger to indicate exactly how close he had been. ‘Thanks for butting in!’ He shot at Stuart. ‘Who are you?’ Stuart asked sternly as he eyed McCadden’s lifeless body. ‘Ha!’ The blonde man scoffed as he began to march off down the street. ‘If there were a simple answer to that, I’d tell you.’ ‘Where are you going?’ Stuart demanded after the man. ‘Where do you think?’ The blonde man retorted. ‘I’m off to catch the bad guy!’ ‘You’re taking me with you to find him!’ Stuart said. ‘You, stay right here.’ He ran over to the Delorian and pulled out the police radio. ‘Dispatch,’ he said into the small microphone, realizing that he was trembling even more now, there was a tear forming in the corner of his eye. ‘This is car Red one-five-seven; I need backup at the corner of Maple Drive and Eighth Street. Officer down needs urgent assistance, over.’ ‘Ten-four car Red-one-five-seven, back-up is on its way, over,’ Marie at the station’s voice crackled out of the radio. Stuart slumped into the passenger’s seat and turned to confront the blonde man. He was gone. Stuart slammed his head on the dashboard and punched out at the seat next to him. It was his fault they were there; it was his stupid hunch that had brought Jim out here, out to his death. They should have been more careful! He was so stupid! Always wanting to impress his partner! Good job, Vasey! He told himself. Wonder how impressed he is now! He tossed his badge into the back seat and stumbled out of the car, over to the emaciated corpse of his partner as the sound of sirens drew closer. ‘I’m sorry,’ Stuart said simply. ‘I’m sorry Jim.’ Never again, he told himself. He would never be in this position ever again. A lot of good that would do Jimmy McCadden, but it would make sure nobody else ever came to harm because of a mistake that he made. Trying to show of, trying to impress. It would never happen again. He’d never have another partner to put in harm’s way. Never again. *** ‘I don’t want or need a partner,’ Red said angrily as he stepped through the portal back into the Mercury Rooms. ‘Of course not,’ Jeebus said with Waldo in one hand and the bag of links in the other. ‘Look how fast you got to all these on your lonesome,’ he winked, jiggling the large bag at him. ‘It’s not about the result,’ Red snapped. ‘I don’t do partners … too much can go wrong. It’s much better if I only have to look out for myself.’ ‘Well,’ Jeebus grinned. ‘I don’t do partners either … otherwise Waldo here would be a lot worse for wear.’ He let that thought permeate for a moment. ‘But don’t think of this as a partnership then. Think of it as merely a friendship. Friends in the work place. Chatting by the cooler, going out for the occasional beer after work. KILLING THE SCUM OF THE SKY AS THE BEAT THEIR DIRTY, DISGUSTING WINGS OVER THE METROPOLIS! … Whadda ya say?’ He held out his hand to Red who shook his head and marched onwards. ‘Alright then,’ Jeebus nodded. ‘I’ll settle for an acquaintance for now and work my way up from there.’ ‘You’re not listening,’ Red said, stopping in his tracks and glaring at Jeebus. ‘And neither are you,’ Jeebus retorted. ‘You’re stuck with me Red, whether you like it or not.’ ‘I can’t,’ Red said, shaking his head. ‘If something happened to you, and it was my fault … I … I can’t go through that again … and I won’t, not for you, not for anybody.’ ‘Nobody’s asking you to,’ Jeebus puffed. ‘This,’ he said, waving around at the Index courtyard of The Mercury Rooms. ‘This is the future, I’ve tasted it! We’re here to make

this place great and we can do it better, working together. I’m not asking for loyalty, hell, I don’t even want to know your real name … just a hand and some company.’ Red heaved a sigh. ‘Just helping eachother out?’ he asked ruefully. ‘Nothing more than that,’ Jeebus nodded. ‘Well, maybe a hand with the bags too.’ ‘And Waldo?’ Red asked, allowing a thin smile to play at his lips. Jeebus’ face hardened. ‘Nobody … touches … Waldo … but me.’ ‘Okay,’ Red said, shrinking slightly. ‘Wouldn’t be right,’ Jeebus said, hitching up the large dog and proceeding towards the Black Hole Room. ‘I keep my knives in him, you could hurt yourself.’

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