Devizes - Season 1

The first serial from 'The Quantum Sweep' universe. This story is also released as a serial on Wordpress at ' https://quantumsweep.wordpress.com '. Found it anywhere else? It's been pirated. Please tell the author asap.

Listen to the five-track EP that goes with this story at https://thequantumsweep.bandcamp.com .


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2. Episode 2 - The Town

Hmm.

Now what?

For now, I have concealed the rotating chevrons. I suddenly think of something.

I do not yet understand what I am, and evidence undoubtedly remains of how I was created. Also, why do I want to destroy all the evidence of how I was created so badly? Is it some primal mechanical instinct given to me by my mysterious capacity to perform this unearthly ‘ultra-espionage’ that drives me on in this way?

The compound will have had an off-site backup. It will also have had support from the outside, most likely in this very town.

I am hungry.

I have stolen the Practitioner’s clothes and they do not fit very well. He was a larger man than I - my senior by over a decade with a waistline that highlighted to me precisely just how stressful those years could turn out to be.

As I wander along the main streets of the town, the early morning’s light fracturing over the roofs of the houses I ponder on how I will retrieve this off-site backup.

It will likely be in some building where computer servers may be found. Both the Practitioner and the Professor were very well-spoken, likely with contacts in the local elite.

The town hall will likely host all sorts of computer servers for the local council offices. Even if there’s nothing there it will be useful to grasp one’s bearings and such.

I locate a bench, sit down and take advantage of an opportunity to have a snooze.

When I wake up, there is something in my lap.

A piece of decorated Japanese paper folded to resemble a unicorn. On its flank is a message.

“The Mayor’s office, 10:30am”.

Intriguing.

I have no reason not to follow the instruction. I had not intended to bother the Mayor, but if the sender of this message understands my needs and motives then I will follow. I am well-armed after all.

I check my inside pocket.

The chevrons remain there, locked together, waiting for my next command.

It is currently 10:15.

I get up and navigate the now-populated streets in search of the town hall. The sandy-coloured stone so common in Wiltshire towns and villages surrounds me each step of the way.

Every person I pass has some sort of story - some motive or goal that they are currently following up. I can sense them, touch them, understand them with such little effort it almost pains me to restrain it.

Why do I restrain it?

It is a tool to be used, I would suppose. I must use it when I require its services and only then. There is an addictive quality to divulging knowledge of others and I can all too easily imagine my falling down a proverbial ‘rabbit hole’ from this weakness I sense in myself in the future.

I arrive at the town hall. The entrance is on a narrow street called ‘high street’. From this position, it does not seem particularly ‘high’ to me, though it would appear it widens out a little further along, or it would do if it weren’t for a clumsily parked police car a few metres from where I currently stand.

I enter the building.

A receptionist sits before me at a desk. She is young, possibly still in university, with shoulder-length straight brown hair. She notices my presence and with a quick dart of her eyes closes a number of browser tabs. It is irrelevant that I cannot see what she was looking at though it clearly disturbed her.

“Hello,” she says, “Can I help you?”

There is bruising across her right shoulder. From her posture, I can divulge that it extends down her back.

“Yes,” I reply, almost mechanically, “I would like to see the mayor.”

She looks uneasily at me.

“The mayor is in a meeting right now. Do you have an appointment?”

“I’m expected at ten thirty, about five minutes from now.”

“Ah right. Can I get a name, please?”

Oops. My current name, although suitable for me is not exactly one she will be all too impressed to hear.

“Aha, well, yes of course you can. One D. Vices here to see the mayor at 10:30am.”

“Devizes?”

“Yes. Convenient how I live here and everything, isn’t it? Haha-”
“Very amusing, yes.” She is sending some sort of email.

“I say-”

“Yes?”

“I was speaking to, umm, Mary? Is it Mary? From the neighbourhood watch -”

“Oh yes, Mary Hodges. I know Mary.”

She relaxes slightly.

The most popular girl’s name of the 1950s strikes again, Ladies and Gentlemen. How I know that little factoid is beyond me.

“She said something rather disturbing about your partner.”

“Daven? What about him?”

“Dreadful noises when she walked past the other day. If something is wrong-”

“Nothing is wrong.”

Something is wrong.

“Let me rephrase that. I’m from the domestic abuse services and I’d really appreciate it if you requested the assistance of my colleague who will arrive back in the police car just outside on the road in approximately two minutes. Your son-”

“Jamie?”

“Ah yes, little Jamie”

“He’s thirteen-”

“My mistake. Jamie will be picked up from school this lunchtime by one of our chaps. I can cover for you here for now until I’ve seen the Mayor. We believe that your partner Daven is a serious threat to your wellbeing and may be involved in some sort of illegal enterprise-”

“What like?”

“I’m not at liberty to divulge information regarding an ongoing investigation.”

She puts her head in her hands.

“I’ll just be clear though that you are not suspected of anything-”

At that very moment, a police officer sticks her head around the door.

“I’m just off now Monica - I’ll see you on Tuesday -”

Darn.

I look around for clues.

“Officer…officer Jones?”

“That’s me.”

Oooh lovely, the slightest hint of a Welsh accent. I do love the Welsh accent. It’s so musical. Anyway-

“Monica would like to accompany you to the station. She has information regarding the ongoing investigation -”

“Which one?”

Darn. Ummm….

“The one in which her partner Daven is suspect of course.”

Officer Jones looks uneasy. That statement went directly against a myriad of different protocols, all of which I am somehow aware. Fortunately, I am saved when Monica shifts in her chair. For a moment, the pale skin on her right shoulder catches the light, and with it the bruising becomes visible.

Officer Jones notices.

Officer Jones attempts to look like she is not staring, even though she was not staring in the first place.

“Monica, is this true?”

Monica begins to cry.

“I will cover for her here, officer Jones. I believe you will need to send someone to pick up her son from school.”

She nods.

“Monica, would you like to accompany me to the police station?”

Monica gets up, sobbing gently.

Officer Jones leads her away.

She stops in the door.

What is it now?

“Nice coat.”

“Thank you! I’m rather fond of it.”

She leaves.

Yess.

Now with that out the way I can get on with my visit to the Mayor.

Such shall be my relationship with the human race, I have decided.

 

On the way up the stairs to the Mayor’s office, I notice some interesting images from a recent sporting event between the local primary schools.

The expressions on the children’s faces, especially the young female ones stood directly next to their sports coaches disturb me.

I can be disturbed by human affairs.

Interesting.

Outside the Mayor’s office, there is a secretary.

“Hello,” he says. “Can I help you?”

His feet are twitching rather unusually but I ignore it and walk forwards. His face is so calm, collected and welcoming.

“Mr-”

“Jameson.”

“Ah yes, that’s it. Your son plays football in the year above mine.”

“Oh, so he’ll be going into Mr-”

“Fredrick’s class. Yes. Monica who works on the desk downstairs told me your son had just left his class.”

“Correct.”

“What can you tell me about Mr Fredrick’s style of sports coaching?”

Mr Jameson’s face changes rather suddenly.

“What have you heard?”

“Rumours, I imagine. Nothing more.”

Mr Jameson is searching through his files. I continue.

“I saw the photographs on the wall downstairs from all their sporting fixtures. Even in those, there’s something “off” about how the children stand next to him.”

“You’ve noticed too?”

He looks up at me with a sense of urgency.

“I have a folder downstairs. No solid evidence yet, but I too suspect Mr Fredrick’s involvement in certain unspeakable deeds and I wonder if you might take a look-”

He gets up.

“I’ll go and get it. Don’t go anywhere-”

He leaves. I have two minutes alone with the Mayor. There is still something that unsettles me about his feet. Still, I ignore it.

I take the three metal chevrons from my inside pocket and drop them. They do not fall. Instead they unlock from each other and begin to orbit my wrist.

I knock before entering the Mayor’s office. I hear the words “Come in” - received pronunciation, seventies, Caucasian, previously nurtured a cocaine habit roughly fifty years ago - and I obey, for now.

The Mayor turns around.

He sees my coat. He sees the chevrons. He looks at my face.

Instantly, he is terrified.

It will be a good day, the day when no one knows who I am and has no reason to fear me.

“How-”

“The Practitioner is dead. The Professor is dead. The entire staff of the compound are dead. The compound itself has been destroyed and you will shortly be dead, unless you give me the location of the offsite backup.”

“Never!”

He is visibly shivering.

I look at him despairingly.

“You don’t really mean that, do you?”

He flinches.

“N-n-no?”

“Jolly good. Where’s the offsite backup?”

“You won’t make me.”

“You are a very silly man, Mr Mayor. Tell me or I’ll see what these chevron thingies can really do-”

“Eris-”

“Eris. Greek goddess of chaos. Interesting.”

“It’s an MQI -”

“Macroquantum Interface. How. Do. I. Know. That. ?”

“You’re bonded to it, of course - somehow - “

“See I didn’t know that. Can’t anyone control it like I can?”

“Nope. It took the Professor four years to figure out how to even get it off the ground.”

“Remarkable. I digress. As you can probably see, there are some things I do know, and many things I do not. If you do not tell me where this offsite backup is in the next ten seconds I will acquire for myself a representative picture of the things I do not know, carved into your face.”

“It- It’s downstairs, in the server room.”

“Fantastic, thank you.”

There is a noise behind me.

A gunshot and the Mayor crumples from his seat, dead.

I do not need to turn around.

Mr Jameson.”

“’Devizes’ ‘underscore’ ‘one’.” His voice is laced with a patronising drawl that reminds me distinctly of the Practitioner shortly (but not so shortly as to contain fear of impending death) before he died.

I turn around. He is pointing a gun at me. Could such a weapon even hurt me? I’m not especially keen to find out.

“I knew there was something off with your feet.”

“Never trust the face, Devizes. Surely you must know that?”

“I could see and understand everything you placed before me. I just failed to notice I had done.”

“Very good. Now tell me. How many bullets will it take me to pierce your skull and destroy whatever it is that lies within?”

“Indefinite. You are not accounting for Eris.”

“Eris?”

I gesture to my wrist. He is surprised.

“You two have bonded? My my, that is unusual.”

He steps back. He is aware he is going to die. Roughly a metre behind him is a telephone. No doubt he has some sort of code such that if he can dial just three digits and leave it off the hook, his superiors will learn of my existence.

In the space of a split heartbeat, Eris has closed the door and destroyed the telephone.

I lunge forwards, grabbing him by the collar and ramming him against the wall.

Jameson’s head hits the oak panelling with a resounding ‘thud’.

“I will never tell you anything.”

“I am aware.”

The League will find you, and they will kill you, even if you do have Eris on your side.”

“I do not doubt that either.”

“And you will kill me now?”

“Yes.”

He smiles. A Leaguesman does not fear death.

“Just one last question.”

“Yes?” His face crumples slightly. “I shan’t tell you anything of value.”

“That’s not a problem. I can only expect you’ll enjoy explaining this one to me. What was that business with the sports coaches? I mean, obviously Mr Fredrick is a serial paedophile, but he’s clearly protected by someone-”

I can see the answer in his face.

“There are advantages to working below your rank,” he smiles. “My status affords me certain… privileges in regard to my patience.”

“You sick bastard.”

His head falls to the floor.

I let go of his collar and the rest of him follows.

In silence, I locate the offsite backup in the server room. I grab the glowing hard drive and simply tear. There is no point to care or formalities.

The League knows I exist.

Jameson had a bug embedded in his chest that I doubt even he knew about.

In fifteen minutes, the only safe place in the radius of a mile and a half will be inside the disused tokamak beneath the burnt-out compound where I was created.

The second-floor window crumples into a glowing dust that quickly vanishes.

I step up into the empty frame and crouch half in, half out of the window.

Eris hovers in front of my nose. A glowing mass forms between the three chevron points.

From the glowing mass emerges three clip-like shapes that fit themselves around each chevron.

Just so you can begin to understand the extent of the connection between me and these mysterious objects, I know for a fact that if I jump from this window right now I will not come to any harm, nor would I have come to any harm five minutes ago, or twenty seconds ago, or at all.

I’m not invincible though, you understand. Eris has its limits. I can feel them taunting me. No, I am not invincible. Just well-prepared.

I leap from the window.

The pins fly from the chevrons, remaining perfectly in line with each unit as they spiral after my descending form.

I feel a tugging force around my waist and shoulders, though I cannot detect anything new touching my person. I am carried up over the town, towards the compound outside the town limits to the south.

 

Already on the horizon I can see the wide, flat shape of an aircraft, suspended as if part of the sky itself.

 

I land in the field, where the vents from the compound are still smoking.

Eris creates for me an entrance, and goes about its work emptying the compound of everything that was once there.

I descend into the darkness.

Eris creates for me a light.

I locate the tokamak generator core, with its magnetic shielding. Eris whizzes from side to side, disabling its core functions and cooling it to an inhabitable level.

A hatch forms. I step inside.

I have oxygen sufficient for approximately six hours, or eight if I sleep.

Eris provides me with a computer terminal, hastily reconstructed from a burnt wreck.

I draw the hard drive from my inside pocket.

As the hard drive fans begins to whir, I find myself a vaguely comfortable position. Eris is nestled in its locked-up state firmly in my pocket.  I fall into near silence bred from the meeting of concentration, a sleep-like meditation and horrified awe as the bombs begin to fall on the world above me.

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