Michael awoke with a start as the craft set down on the tower. The crafts, thick, insectile legs gripped the surface tightly and when they were fully secured to the flat, metallic grills of the landing area the sphincter-like door of the craft opened. Michael, with barely an opportunity wake up properly, was spat out by his chair and escorted out onto the tower walkway.
It was raining in New York. The weather had followed him it seemed. He surveyed the scene. So this was Triad's tower. The tower stood higher that the tallest skyscraper and was topped with an observational deck very much similar to the Seattle Space needle, though with tinted glass so that from outside it was to appear as little more than a dark, obsidian block. The wind was strong up here, and the metal grills of the walkway slippery. There were no railings, obviously, Michael thought, Triad didn't put much stock in health and safety. You could see the whole city from here, or could do if not for the fogginess the rain had brought in with it. Below them flesh spread out like an organic carpet. New York was Mendelian territory and they had taken Triad's choice of home as an implicit approval of their faction and had thus taken their usual methodologies to an extreme. New York was just a city any more, it was a living organism. He could see the buildings moving below, giant woodlouse crawling on thousands of cilia-like legs, some of them attached the sides of forgotten building of the past rendered obsolete by their 'progress'. He hated it. Even in the moonlight he could make out the sick, glistening texture of the Mendelian building flesh. Why they had felt the need to make everything they made look like it wore the skin of a diseased burn victim he would never know.
He wasn't given much further opportunity to indulge in his revulsion at the scene below him. A Neutral exited from the building and escorted him to an entrance. Michael realised the joke then, Triad was a sick son-of-a. The tower, even it's doors it seemed, was built from Technomancer technology. An island of tech in a sea of bioengineering. Much like Triad used Mendelian tech in Technomancer areas. It was being contrary and antagonistic and no doubt, the sadistic freak enjoyed it immensely. He wasn't quite sure why he thought this would be the case but it seemed right, Triad was beyond human, why wouldn't it enjoy playing with all the toys that depended on it?
As the door opened, his was hit by the smell of decaying vomit and nearly retched.
“Triad is this way. Follow me.”
Michael held a hand to his mouth to stifle the smell and followed. The light was dim inside the tower and the floors felt sticky like a nasty nightclub, each step bringing with it the sharp scrick sound of walking on a sticky substance as his foot lifted followed by a slight squelch as his foot pressed down once more. As they progressed the smell got stronger until they stopped before a final door.
“Triad is in the next room. I will wait here.” The Neutral droned, standing further down the corridor.
Michael looked back apprehensively and gulped as he activated the door. He was blasted by a flow of warm, fetid air, the stench now so unbearable he puked, spitting bile onto the floor. More disturbing than the smell though, was Triad itself.
The room was circular and in the centre was a circle marked on the floor with Aetheric symbols, a 'magic' circle if you used the Aetheric's own brand of deluded mysticism to label it. The circle was divided into three and where each line of the divide began on the circumference, was something abhorrent. Fascinated and horrified, Michael took a step closer and almost slipped as he trod on a pink-grey tendril that snaked its way across the room, from the wall into one of the things in the circle. Closer, with his eyes having adjusted to the lowlight, he realised what the things were. They were the bodies of the original leaders of the parties. They were little more than mounds of flesh, as if they had been sat cross-legged and melted over time. Tubes of flesh and metal seemed to connect to and pass through them at random, clumps of hair and skin hung of. They were deformed, melted, like a child's attempt at moulding a person from clay, vaguely human, but only just. Occasionally viscous fluids would erupt from the skin, is if something horrible was about to be birthed. You could vaguely tell who had been who. The one he was stood my now had been been the woman, the new leader of the Aetherics after Johnathan Tetherson's death. The symbology was more concentrated around her than the others. On the other side of the circle, the rightmost must have been the Mendelian, the fleshy tendrils seeming to emanate from it as if it was the head of this macabre squid. Lastly on the left the Technomancer was most obvious, thick black cables emerging in thick bundles, random pieces of circuitry from the surface as if they had been tectonic plates colliding underneath.
“Hello Michael.” The voice, heavily synthesised, emanated from out of nowhere.
Michael looked around though he knew it was pointless, Triad obviously had speakers of some sort embedded in the room. He looked at the melted bodies that seemed to have merged into each other and grimaced – Triad was certainly not going to be using those mouths any more.
“I suppose you what to know why you are here?”
“The thought had crossed my mind” Michael asked, surprised at the defiance in his own voice.
There was a soft chuckle.
“Well, well. That's something isn't it? Well Michael, let me explain. I'm not entirely sure. You have, shall we say, piqued my interest. You have a strange presence about you I find intriguing, something you are no doubt aware of yourself, with your little excursions.”
“You took me out of my home for a whim?”
“Not just a whim Michael. You're in the eye of a very powerful storm that's brewing. Do you feel it?”
“What do you mean? I don't understand.”
“Motions, events, wheels are turning. A shallow scarab with a yellow eye, the four clocks wind down sunwards, the demon machine is coming on an arid breeze.” The voice said, shakily and strained.
“You're talking nonsense!”
One of the lumps shuddered suddenly and a quiver rippled out to the rest then shortly subsided.
“You had best leave now, I find myself suddenly very busy. We will meet again in time.”
Michael said nothing, furious. He'd been dragged here and for what? The random ramblings of an insane abomination. He wanted to kick the head from one of those lumps but he knew it would do no good, nor any harm. Triad's physical components were more like artefacts of what it was but none were essential any longer. The fusion had completed a long time ago and the lumps were more akin to the appendix, a useless organ that used to have a purpose but was now obsolete. Instead, Michael just swallowed his rage.
A Neutral entered and escorted him from the room. It took a moment for him to realise this wasn't the way he had come.
“Where are we going? This isn't the way we came in.”
“I am taking you to the elevator.”
“Will there be a craft waiting for me at ground level?”
Michael stopped, his fists clenched. “Then how the hell am I meant to get home?!”
“I do not know.” The Neutral answered impassively. “Come with me, do not cause trouble.”
“Screw you, and screw Triad! You can't just grab me on a whim and dump me in another country, what the hell is wrong with you!”
“Do not cause trouble Michael.” The Neutral said again. It's voice hadn't changed from it's usual impassive, monotone drone but the warning was clear. “Come with me.”
Michael remembered the stories he had scanned during the trip. The son had never been seen after the meeting. Maybe he had caused trouble. Or maybe he should have.
“Fine.” Michael grunted. He followed the Neutral grudgingly until they reach an elevator. He was gently pushed inside and then the lift doors closed and he was sinking down towards the ground.
Alone, he vented his anger on the walls of the elevator with several sharp kicks. Unfortunately, with the walls being of Technocracy manufacture, he left no mark at all. There was a soft hiss as the elevator came to rest and then the doors opened silently on to the streets of New York. Huge fireflys hovered through the streets, lighting up the night with an eerie glow. He batted one away as it came near and it skittered away, circling high above him instead.
“You shouldn't do that you know, you wont make many friends here killing public property.”
Michael turned towards the sound of the voice to see a man, no, an Adonis. He was chiselled, muscled perfection personified. Even his voice had a honey-like quality to it. He couldn't help but believe the words his inner cynic whispered in his ear. Of course, he's obviously bio-engineered. Nature isn't that perfect, only a human being can be that vain. It was bitterly cold and the rain was still pouring but the man didn't seemed phased. As the the firefly flew it shone light down upon him and Michael realised the man was naked. Not unusual in Mendelian regions, but Michael wasn't exactly immune to the shock of being confronted by a naked man in the middle of the night.
“And who are you? A friend, perhaps?”
“I'll forgive you for being so confrontational, you are after all, a stranger in a strange land. We don't get many of your kind around these parts.”
“Do you really want me to announce it to the world? I think you know as well as I do as to what I am referring. I hold no grudges towards your people, if I need would I be walking about this tower now? It stands as a testament against everything the Mendelians believe in. No, I'm just a friendly local willing to offer my hand in friendship if you are willing to take it.” The man spoke smoothly as he walked closer to Michael, into the light.
Michael frowned, he was in no mood for more games but it was clear he needed somewhere to stay, to get his bearings. He could inform his peers back home, tell them of the meeting. That news alone would be worth sending a ship to retrieve him immediately but something didn't feel right about that. For some reason he felt that it was important he kept what he had heard to himself.
Michael extended his hand. “Then I thank you. My name is Michael.”
“Arthur. Pleased to meet you Michael.” The man said, shaking hands. “My home is nearby, come.”
Michael followed Arthur down a few short streets, the fireflies flying warily above him to light his way though the man showed no need of light, his stride filled with confidence. Eventually they reached a particular woodlouse, though to Michaels eyes they all seemed the same this man seemed to recognise it. He touch one of the hard segments of the wall and it slid back to reveal a tunnel into the interior. The both entered and the segment slid back into place. Almost immediately Michael was set upon by thousands of tiny white insects. They swarmed out of the walls and along the ground, climbing into him and eating away his clothing, he looked in shock at Arthur, who mirrored it, though with an obvious hint of amusement.
“Max! Stop that!” Arthur yelled and the bugs ceased their feasting, retreating back into the walls. It was too late for Michaels clothes though, which now hung in tatters. “I am sorry about that, I completely forgot about the cleaners. They're not used to seeing clothing, especially synthetics, they were only trying to help.”
Michael sighed. “Now I'm stranded here and naked. So far this day isn't going very well at all.”
“Don't worry about that, I'll have Max grow you some new clothes. In the meanwhile, make yourself at home. Max, do what our guest asks, within reason of course. Be right back, I have a call to make.”
Michael shrugged, not feeling in much of a position to do anything and followed Arthur into the main room. Arthur carried on into a further room whose door sealed behind him with a tight, puckering sound. The room he was left in was bare, walls, floor and ceiling all the colour and texture of the burn victim skin the Mendelians seemed to love so much.
He felt stupid, but he had to ask. “Max, could I, er, have a chair?”
As soon as ask the floor deformed, a lump grew out of the ground and slowly began growing hair until a suitably sized, furred chair was left next to him. He sat down in it and found it surprisingly comfortable, the short light fur feeling pleasant under his hands. Now seated, he decided it was probably best to phone home, try and arrange some transport. He activated his implanted AT but got nothing. No error codes, no connection. It was more shocking than anything else that had happened to him today. The ATs always worked, if not, it was a problem interfacing with them and not any fault of the AT itself. He ran a diagnostic and was shocked by the discovery. His body had absorbed the implant, just digested it, eaten it away spontaneously. Considering he didn't even have those kind of abilities it was a shocking revelation indeed. There could only be two possible options. Either Arthur's cleaners had removed far more than his clothes or Triad had done something. Either way, he was stranded for feel now. He had no way of contacting anyone, no access to the Aethernet. He was truly alone except for these strange man Arthur and his living house.
His day was just getting better and better.
* * * * *
“I found him, what do I do now?” Arthur said to the wall.
“Bring him in, Triad wanted him for some reason, we need to learn why.”
“Did you ever think that Triad might have known this and is manipulating us into bringing him in?”
“It did, among several other possibilities but the numbers come out the same, it makes more sense to bring him in regardless then not.”
“No doubt Triad knows that too.”
“No doubt. We can only continue with the plan, there are things even Triad is powerless to stop, no matter what machinations it gets up to. There are other powers at work that rival even Triad's abilities. Enough of this. Tell us about him.”
“His name is Michael, he is tall, shoulder-length black hair and green eyes, no facial hair. Caucasian, no obvious deformities or alterations, despite being a Technocrat. Seems mildly annoyed, quick to anger, confrontational.