At Gioia Tauro a airborne ambulance arrived and took both Zack and Leanna away from the slower moving bus, Morgan left with them to help smooth things over while Dr. Kennedy continued by himself towards Florence far up north with the eight and also Jim who seemed disgruntled by the activities.
“Is he alright?” Dr. Kennedy asked Morgan when they arrived in a hospital in Rome.
“I’m not too sure, we’ve only just got here.” She said, leading Leanna down the halls to where they took Zack.
“Make sure he’s kept safe and healthy,”
“You don’t need to tell me that Dr. Kennedy. Might I just ask what we were doing there?”
“The book we have, its important.”
“Important for what exactly?” she asked, “I’ve never seen anything spring open like it did, or fill out with so many pages, it shouldn’t be able to close surely?”
“Exactly, its defied physics.” He said, “I’m going on ahead to find a mechanic whose working on a similar principal in Florence.”
“Florence? What are we supposed to do then?”
“When I’ve found him I’ll come back for you all and we’ll head home again.”
“Fine,” she said, “How long will that take.”
“Lets say a day at most. The green cards will work here so do not worry about funding Ms. Leblanc.”
“Zack!” screamed Leanna, as she ran on ahead seeing him surrounding by doctors and nurses frantically trying to help him out of his current catatonic state.
“It’s not that I’m worried about.” She replied, closing the phone and running after Leanna.
Dr. Kennedy slowly lowered the phone and took a deep breath.
“Are you alright boss?” asked Jim, glancing at him in the mirror.
“I’m fine,” he sighed, “It’s just a little stressful.”
“Sure, sure,” he nodded, “I can see. You mind telling me who those guys are back there?”
Dr. Kennedy looked over his shoulder at the eight, all grouped together on the seats, staring directly ahead without distraction.
“They’re governmental weapons.” He explained, “Good old England wants me to baby sit while they perfect them.”
“Weapons?” asked Jim, “Care to explicate?”
“Psychology is a peculiar thing Mr Saunders. These convicts lost their minds for the sake of understanding some time ago. I intend on keeping them near so that I will not follow the same path through my quest of understanding.”
“Fair enough, but for health and safety – you mind confiscating their guns on my bus? And maybe just telling them that I ain’t going to hurt them? You know what I mean?”
“They wouldn’t hurt you. Their first objective is to detain, if things go out of hand or if I give an order, then they’ll attack.”
“So the government just leant them to you.”
“MI5.” He explained, “We’re getting subsidies to protect them and help in research, provided we’re able to keep them safe and secure. They’re notorious in other countries, murderers, rapists and thugs. Just … made good, in a sense of the word.”
“I don’t like the idea of playing with peoples minds boss, it’s all too creepy.”
“I know,” he said, “Don’t worry.”
“Another thing, what was that book?” he asked, “How’d it short out two phones and my bus?”
“That, is something I’m going to look into when we get home. The boy said some things about the trees of the area, and about something that went after Leanna. I’ll have to talk to her when we’re home as well.”
“Is the boy going to be ok?” asked Jim, though his lack of reply did not give him much confidence.
The bus continued on through Italy, passing by Rome where they took an hour break and then continuing upwards to Florence, arriving by late night. The bus settled on the outskirts of the city and Dr. Kennedy, along with Jim and the eight all entered and Kennedy booked them a nice cosy room for them to stay in. He entered his own private quarters, a large on suite with marble flooring and atmospheric lights. Cream furniture and pale coloured walls with artistic décor. In the late afternoon as the city simmered down Jim entered the good doctors room and settled on the chairs.
“So, what’re you looking for here?” he asked, flicking on the television to watch some Italian cartoons.
“An inventor.” He replied, “Named Antonio Carlopoli. A Da Vinci fanatic whose thought to know some alchemy and also some peculiar inventions. Again the government are interested in him as well.”
“Oh, what’s he done then? anything Frankensteiny?”
“From what I gather, he builds robotics of sorts. For Britain and America’s space enterprise they’ve wanted to see some of his work, but he’s exclusive and avoids the lime light whenever he can.”
“Oh, why?” thought Jim, “You’d think most people would flock to it.”
“According to a newspaper article, he claims to suffers greatly when surrounded by attention.”
“Suffer greatly how? Like pain? Panic? All that stuff?”
“No, he believes that when people press him to work he looses creativity, ingenuity, cunning and daring with what he does, therefore his inventions suffer greatly. He’s only managed to come up with the one so far because he’s barely known.”
“So he’s worried that if he’s taken out from here, he’ll loose his talent?”
“A lot of people fear for their abilities when under pressure. Talent is a rare and precious thing, a gift from the gods that can be taken for granted and lost for good. I don’t think he wants to loose his gift when it has so much potential.”
“So what’s the plan then?”
“We’ll visit him tomorrow at the Da Vinci gallery.”
“He works there aye? What’s he do, restore pictures and stuff? Manage the place?”
“From my understanding, he’s a care taker, and restores some of the pictures when they need him too.”
“Wow, that guy really does avoid all lime light,” laughed Jim, “Oh, what are we doing about that book by the by? You know we could have another look at it right?”
“Right,” thought Dr. Kennedy, staring down at the mythic book that exploded open when the latch was undone, “Perhaps it’s best we do that when we’re back at home. Rather than here.”
“Aw, but I’m curious.” He sighed.
“And we all know where that leads to.”
“Oh that’s, I’m not that bad so you know.” he said, flicking food into an open mouth while he stared blankly at a television screen taking in nothing of what they were saying. Soon after while, Dr. Kennedy was absorbed in some of the news paper clippings he’d taken before leaving , Jim went to leave and get some sleep to ward off a weary head through travelling so long.
“Jim, I apologise again for earlier.” Said Kennedy, “Sometime the eight get a little out of hand. Their emotions are still unstable.”
“S’alright boss, don’t stress, no damage done.” He smirked, “It beats ferrying university students about the place anyway.”
Only through bed rest did peace of mind come to Dr. Kennedy after seeing what happened to Zack and hearing his drugged ramblings. He could only hope they were safe and alright. Morning light broke over Florence and instantly Dr. Kennedy was ready for movement. With his notes at hand he made his way through the streets to the small museum tucked away and hidden in shadows, such a humble place for such a humble man.
In the darkness of the halls and walkways filled with pictures capturing the soul of the renaissance era stood one man amongst no one else. The darkness of these chambers seemed not to suit any of the public whose lives swept them off their feet and carried them from place to place without their will needed. Antonio, a tall, tanned man gracefully sculpted by age with his own share of wrinkles though a head of deep dark black hair and preserved through good health stood looking at a few of his polymathmatical heroes engineering designs, in complete silence it stood as him, his eyes taking in all the brilliance of such a thinker preserved in paper and ink, his brain taught to mimic and try to replicate some such ideas with a flare of imagination and passion, much like he imagined Leonardo Da Vinci to have possessed.
“Mr. Carlopoli?” said a voice from the shadows, lit orange by the colours of the light.
“Yes?” He nodded.
“Admiring the art I see.”
He smiled widely, a main characteristic of this man, his face having spent most of its life wearing this happy go lucky expression, “Can I help?”
“I’ve heard you’re a Da Vinci fanatic.” He said, stepping up to the aged man.
He nodded, “I am. His work is inspiring, so universal.”
“I apologise for not being able to speak Italian Mr. Carlopoli. If I could I’d learn before I come to you, but I have not got the time.”
“What is it you want?” he asked.
“Well I’ve been trying to track you down. Your inventive ingenuity is very astounding so I’ve heard.”
“It’s nothing you’ve not seen before.” He laughed while his cheeks flushed red, “I am sure.”
“Would you mind if I saw some of your work?” he asked, “Out of curiosity.”
“Well,” Mr. Carlopoli turned to the inventors images with a permanent smile stuck on his face, “Of course you shall be welcome in our home.”
“Our?” he asked.
“I live with my brothers and sister-in-law. My workshop is beneath by brother’s corner shop. I’ll give you the address if you wish to meet up later?”
“What time are you free Mr. Carlopoli?”
“Try mid day, if I’m not that Lisa will be.”
“My brothers wife, careful, she bites.” He laughed, leaving Dr. Kennedy standing in the darkness amongst Da Vinci’s work.
He stepped into the sketchy light of the ally the gallery settled in and his phone buzzed to life, now able to work in the open air.
“Boss!” cried Jim down the phone, “Listen, you were out see so I went to your room. Though you’d be there, but there were some guys outside. Don’t know what they were looking for but they looked very smartly dressed. Anyway, call me back when you can, I’ll give you all the details just be careful getting back.”
Kennedy walked towards the hotel and passed a tall man, almost a perfect example of a cowboy with a cocky stride and smile over his face with brazen looks. He wore a beanie to hold down his hair while wearing some very casual clothing.
Dr. Kennedy caught site, alerted as the man seemed to stare at him as they crossed paths in the foyer. With a nod of the head they both went their separate ways though both seemed suspicious of each other.
“God boss it was weird as!” Jim said, pacing around his flat with two of the eight standing at the balcony, and another two by the door.
“Well, I got up late you see. Though you’d still be here, but like always you were gone-”
Dr. Kennedy went to talk, “To find that bloke Monopoly or whatever, yeah I know.” he filled in, “Anyways, I walk past your door and think, ‘hmm that’s peculiar,’ the door was unlocked. I leaned against it and some men talking in your room didn’t know what was going on so I thought I’d leave it you know.”
“So you just left?” Dr. Kennedy asked.
“Well by my thinking your mute bodyguards aren’t social even when you’re gone. So it wasn’t them, and it wasn’t me cause I was outside listening. And it wasn’t a maid cause I ain’t seen male maids in Europe, only women as far as I know.”
“Very perceptive,” thought Kennedy, “Right, lets go see what they were in there doing shall we.”
With the other four bodyguards and Jim covering his back Dr. Kennedy returned to his room before mid day. Just as Jim had predicted the door was still open, but didn’t seem to be forced. They entered the darkness, all light cut off by closed curtains. Kennedy went to switch on the light which started to flicker on and off curiously. He entered the room apprehensively, keeping quiet with a weather eye on anything suspicious, though nothing appeared to be displaced; it was all as he’d left it. He entered the main room two bodyguards charged to the balcony armed with their handguns. Dr. Kennedy stopped at the table, the book Leanna had found was wide open, its pages out completing the full circle.
“Did they steal anything?” Jim asked, quick to turn on the television to catch up on the cartoons.
“I don’t think anything is missing,” he thought, quickly noticing that the files he’d brought had been shuffled around, “Wait,” he opened one and saw Antonio’s profile at the top and out of order – not where he’d left it.
“Can we look at that book now?” Jim asked.
“Four of you guards come with me, Jim stay here with the others and guard the flats.”
“What, why?” he asked.
“When I call you I want you to be ready to drive us back to Rome to pick up the other three.”
“You ok boss?” he asked.
“A little concerned,” he said, leading the four to the end of the room he took his jacket and led them through the hotel.
“Righto, I’ll pack your stuff then.” he thought.
The streets of Florence had started to liven up at this time of day, many people going about their business. Bikes crossed paths down the streets while traffic could be heard over the rooftops. Dr. Kennedy approached the street with the address and came to a small corner shop at the end in the sunlight. The street was alive with people walking along, all curiously watching Kennedy and his four bodyguards as they rushed to the building. He burst in and startled an old Italian woman whom jumped forwards with a yelp.
“Antonio Carlopoli?” he asked.
A man and woman at the front desk pointed down.
“How do I get there?”
“Back door.” Said the man, struggling with his English.
Dr. Kennedy left with the four and went down a narrow ally to a set of steps below a large brass boiler that pumped out steam. Pipes ran into it form the room below which they quickly entered finding the inventor sitting on a stool after making his uniform a little more comfortable by removing the jacket.
The workshop was small, with a few wooden benches at the sides and a large stone table in the centre covered in spare parts and oil with two large robots on them. To easily describe these inventions they were simply arachnid in form, with one small cylindrical body wearing a sturdy brass cap bolted down. Three eye pieces acted as cameras combined with sophisticated fibre optics that relayed to a small computer that the base of the cylinder. In total there were eight large claw-like appendages. The two forelimbs were the largest and acted to steady the whole construction while six others fanned out around the central cylinder and acted to manoeuvre the machine.
“You again!” cried Carlopoli with a welcoming smile, not something you’d expect after Dr. Kennedy technically broke in.
“Mr. Carlopoli, I will have to be brief I’m afraid.”
“Of course,” he nodded, “Busy day too I presume?”
“Indeed, I’m off to Rome within the hour, I hope.” He said, sending his bodyguards to cover the doors and windows from the shadows.
“Is everything alright?” he asked.
“Yes, we’re in need of your assistance a.s.a.p”
“Well of course, what is wrong?”
“We’ll need you to come with us I’m afraid.”
“Where to?” he asked, becoming a little more anxious at the suspicious behaviour.
“England,” he suggested.
“England? Why England, what’s there I need to see?”
“It’s safer there for a man with your talents. I have reason to believe I’m not the only one after your help here Mr. Carlopoli.”
“Well, why are you so panicked sir? And why have you these men?”
“These are my bodyguards,” Dr. Kennedy explained taking a short walk around the workshop to admire some of the machines. Laid out on one of the desks was a large gun with multiple shafts, a rapid fire invention.
“Will you come back to England with us?” he asked.
“I can’t, this is my workshop, my life and soul belong here.”
“That’s all understandable,” he agreed, “However I’m going to need you to join us sooner rather than later.”
A feminine scream erupted form upstairs, “Lisa?” thought Carlopoli, he rushed to the door.
Dr. Kennedy held him back, “Wait,” he sent two of the bodyguards up first, one went up the indoor stairway, the other went outside to scout ahead.
The old lady curled up in the corner of the shop while the man and woman at the front desk were faced with a gun held to them by the same man Kennedy passed in the hotel foyer.
“Where’s Carlopoli?” he asked with a stern look on his face, his cocky smile eradicated by a short fuse.
“We are the Carlopoli’s!” cried his brother, holding his wife close.
“Antonio,” Kennedy asked, looking at the two robots, “Are these things operational?”
“Slightly,” he said, “They can move short distances,”
“Can you program them to move?”
“Not really,” he sighed.
“Very well,” he thought.
“I can make them follow me,”
“Then gather your things post haste, we must move now.”
Gunfire upstairs startled them both. Antonio’s brother and sister in law struck the floor when the man in black burst from the door and shot the assailant in the arm.
“Will they be alright?”
“If you leave now,” he said, “They’ll be safe.”
“Will I see them again?”
“Of course,” said Dr. Kennedy, “But not until we know whose there.”
Antonio gathered together some blueprints and pushed them into a tool box. With a control panel in his hand he held it to his mouth, “Seguire.” He ordered. The two robots sparked and kicked into life, their eight legs tapping lightly against the cold rock table.
“This way,” Dr. Kennedy led them to the street, covered by the other three. The assailant fell through the door onto the street scaring back the crowds. However the appearance of the two walking robots that crawled across the floor fast and mobile like large spiders put everyone into motion in the opposite direction.
The cowboy curled up under the claws of one robot, while the other leapt clear over him and scuttled on after the others. The man in black ran after them leaving him alone on the street, he pulled out a gun and groaned, climbing to his feet and charging after the others down the streets.
“Is there anything else your robots can do?” asked Dr. Kennedy while they ran down the streets leaving the bodyguards to fire at they man who chased behind, hiding behind statues, trees and benches along the avenue to avoid gunfire. People ran indoors and took cover.
“What do you want to know?” he asked, trying to keep up with Kennedy.
“We need to find a black bus.”
“A city bus?”
“A shuttle, a bit coach.” He explained, “Can they find it.”
“Sure,” said Antonio with a smile, he darted into the alley, Kennedy quickly followed.
He looked back but only saw his four at a stand off with this one man.
“They’re not going to kill him are they?”
“No, just stop him. I hope.” He thought, watching the battle from afar, “Where are your robots?”
Antonio pointed upwards, the two were safely in the shadows, their claws so thin and delicate they could hold onto the cracks in the walls of the adjacent buildings. He ordered them to hunt out the bus in Italian, the two scuttled onwards as if they understood completely, he then turned back to Dr. Kennedy, “What exactly is going on? Is my brother safe?”
“He should be fine,” he answered, “The time has come to put your gift to use Mr Carlopoli.” He explained, “Alchemy is not a natural ability, as I’m sure you’re aware.”
“I don’t toy with alchemy anymore.”
“No, but you do make some marvellous inventions.” He said, watching one of the spiders return and use its hind claw to point the direction of the bus as it travelled down the end of their street.
Dr. Kennedy leaned out and watched the bus make its way down the street towards the avenue, he picked up his phone and called Jim at the driving seat, “Isn’t it illegal to answer the phone while driving?” he asked when Kennedy began to talk.
“Just drive straight down the avenue and stop before the fountain Jim.” He said, closing the phone.
“Alright,” he thought, driving the bus down the main road under tree formed shade and past some eloquent statues.
The other four remained in their seats watching their comrades ahead. They gave a curious sneer at how their friends could not stop this gunner. The bus pulled up before the fountain and the doors opened.
“Oh no your don’t.” said the man, pulling out a second gun, much more ornate and archaic looking. He held the two beside each other and started to fire in the open. With one shot the new gun took down one of the bodyguards, one of the females taking cover behind a statue noticed him fall. She twisted back and kept firing at the gunner while the others slowly retreated towards the buss, Jim sat in the driver’s seat with a horrified face, caught in the panic of the moment.
Dr. Kennedy and Antonio ran for the bus. With one carefully placed shot a bullet form the second fun sped towards Antonio’s hand. The female bodyguard dived past to reach her friend. The bullet curved under her and shot into the sky, diving back down as if guided and struck the tool kit from his hands, spilling the contents across the floor. He went to take a few of the bits again but one of the bodyguards pushed him onto the bus before he could retrieve them. The others returned safely and the door closed. The gunner watched the bus drive by and tilted his head with a smug look to Dr. Kennedy and Antonio. Two heavy bangs form the roof above, and the spiders were onboard safe and sound. They watched the man walk along the pavement towards the blueprints left on the floor amongst some tools, he picked the sheets up and took a look at what archaic manner of inventions were drawn across them before he disappeared into the shadows to avoid the police.
“Who was that man?” cried Jim, “Why’d he have a gun?”
“That is a good question.”
“Question? Question?” he raged, “I want answers not more questions! I almost crapped myself facing him down then!”
“Mr Carlopoli, meet Jim Saunders,” he introduced.
“Hi,” said Jim, looking in the mirrors, “You look as terrified as I do. There’s some beers in the fridge at the back if you’re interested.”
“Did you get everything together Jim?”
“Yeah, it took ten minutes to get that book sealed up again though.”
“Was everything accounted for?” he asked, leaving Antonio to walk down the isle and check out the plush seat lining, he stared through the back window and watched people gather around where they shooting had taken place as soon as the police arrived.
“I didn’t have time to do an inventory check boss,” said Jim, “Just so you know.”
“Thank you for turning up in such good time,”
“My Jim sense was tingling,” he said, steering them down the streets.
“What blue prints did you take with you?” asked Kennedy while Carlopoli stared blankly out the window.
“Some things I was working on for a friend.” He said.
“What things? And for who?”
“An American company.” He said, “It was a teleporter.”
“A teleporter?” he asked.
“Yes, amongst some other bits and bobs,”
“Do you recognise that man?”
“No,” he said, “I was approached by a woman named Amy.”
“Right,” thought Dr. Kennedy, “the important thing is that we’re all safe.”
“I must call my brother to see if he is alright.”
“Of course,” Dr. Kennedy went to hand him his phone just as it started to ring, “One moment sorry.”
He answered the call while Antonio stared out the back window.
“Dr.” she said calmly, “Where are you?”
“Just leaving Florence.” He said, “We’ve had a slight hitch.”
“A hitch? How bad?” she asked.
“Someone else was after Antonio’s inventions.”
“Naturally,” she said, “There’s always someone else.”
“Well put,” he said, “Is everything alright?”
“…” she went silent, “We will need you to pick us up soon Dr.”
“How’s the boy?”
“…He’s dead.” She stated calmly, “Leanna isn’t in a good state herself. I don’t think she’ll be wanting to return to your ‘business’, and to be frank. Neither shall I.”
Harold went silent, his face drained of blood and stunned with a deathly cold, “Miss Leblanc.”
“Hurry,” she said, “Or we’ll make our own way back.”
She put the phone down and left him standing silently.
“Can I use your phone?” Antonio asked.
Dr. Kennedy handed it over while he stared through the glass at a passing church and the symbols it brought to mind. He gave Antonio the phone and went to walk on ahead.
“Is everything alright?” he asked.
Kennedy nodded, then forced a smile “Apologise to your brother and sister-in-law for me. I’ll make sure they’re stress is properly compensated for when we return.”
“I will,” Antonio nodded, catching some glint in Kennedy’s eyes that made his stomach knot, some sign of guilt possibly.