BAR MEARMIE, SOHO, LONDON
“This is fun,” Trip drawled indulgently in response to the intimate attentions of the smoking-hot, naked megatrendy who lounged with him upon his unique, custom-made mercury waterbed.
“Do you love me?” the girl, who went by the name of Yesod, purred in his earhole.
Trip sighed. “Epic fail,” he
responded in a much louder voice, and clapped his hands together twice. Immediately,
two burly, bullet-headed security guards dragged a shocked Yesod off their boss
and shoved her gently but firmly through the thick velvet curtains to the side
of the Cour’room (as Trip liked to call it).
“Next,” he commanded airily, examining his fingernails.
A tall man entered the Cour’room, swishing aside the curtains with excessive theatricality. He was the spitting image of the man on the mercury waterbed; only clean-shaven and far more conservatively dressed.
Trip gazed at his doppelgänger coolly. “Halley,” he acknowledged the newcomer. “Homosexual incest is not my thang. Sorry.” He dismissed him with a wave of his hand.
“Don’t you ever work?” Halley sneered at his clone brother.
“I am working, bro,” Trip answered blandly. “You’re just jealous ‘cos you got the squarest gig of the whole outfit.”
Halley glared at his younger clone-brother with heavy contempt for a moment. “Harley reckons you’re taking the piss,” he said finally, a note of malevolent satisfaction entering his tone. “He demands better results from someone with your … privileges.”
“Oh, does he, now?” Trip said sweetly. “Well, he’d better start sucking my cock then, because I’ve got some very good news for him.” He stretched out indolently with a loud yawn.
“Nothing less than the location of Quad will appease him. You know that.”
Trip smiled coldly. “How about
the location of Quin?”
Halley’s eyes widened. “Quin? You know where Quin is?”
“I know where I can get hold of him,” Trip replied evasively.
“You’re full of bullshit, Trip. No-one’s seen or heard a thing about Quin for years.”
“Not true. I spoke to him just yesterday.”
Halley took a step closer to him.
Trip’s two bodyguards discreetly took a step closer to Halley.
“How? Where is he?” Halley demanded, ignoring them.
“If Daddy really wants to know, Daddy can come and visit me in person.”
“I want to know, Trip,” Halley growled ominously.
“I’m sure you do, and I’m sure you want to take the credit for it, too,” Trip sighed. “I know you academics. But this one’s for Daddy’s ears only. You can tell him that from me.”
Halley stared at his clone brother for a long moment. “I don’t know what sort of game you think you’re playing here, brother,” he said finally, “but you can be sure I will find out. Just because you’re one of us, does not mean that you are indispensable. Remember that.”
“Yeah, well, a brother in my position has a slightly different perspective. In any case, you have no reason to mistrust me – ”
“I have every reason, we all do. We share the same genes. I know how you think, what makes you tick. Don’t ever think you can outsmart us.”
“Ah, spare me the lofty technicalities, bro. I may not be the professor of our outfit, but I know about epigenetics. I’ve read about Clone Drift, too”
Now it was Halley’s turn to smile. “Bully for you. Everything you’ve read goes past my desk first. Bro.” He made an I’m watching you gesture, then strode out of the room.
Trip shook his head. “Dick,” he
murmured after his departing brother.
“We don’t have much time,” a soft but familiar voice said from the shadows. “Harley’s gonna want to see you quicker than you can say ‘come to daddy’.”
Trip chewed a fingernail nervously, showing a concern that had apparently been totally absent a moment before in Halley’s company. “I know,” he fretted. “I had to give them something, though. My position is very nearly as precarious as yours, you realise.”
“Thanks for not giving me away,” the voice said, and yet another version of Trip stepped out of the darkness, shaven-headed and dressed in a soft, tight-fitting black cloth costume like some kind of midnight assassin.
“Don’t think I’m doing you any favours, Quad. You’re the only ace left up my sleeve right now, and the time might well come when I’m forced to play you, you know. But you’d better get outta here, and fast. It’s pretty obvious I can’t hide you from our brothers no more.”
Quad swore softly. “Did you have to tell them about Quin? Turned the heat right up on you, that has. Who gives a shit about him, anyway? He’s just a goddamn singer!”
“He’s one of us,” Trip breathed. “More importantly, he’s learned how to remote view, just like me. Have you any idea how useful that could be to us?”
Quad acknowledged that point with
a slight inclination of his shaven head.
“Still can’t quite work out why Daddy is still so interested in Quin, though. With you, I get it. But Quin?” Trip shook his head in puzzlement.
“Like I said, it’s not so much Quin himself as what he represents, I think. The circumstances behind why he was abducted. Whoever’s meddling with Harley is using Quin as a pawn … and the Secret Ones who got abducted at the same time as him, who must be found. But like you said – the fact he’s learned to communicate with you is the mother of all curveballs. It’s put a whole new spin on things that we might be able to use to our advantage.”
“Yeah … I wish you’d tell me more about that Secret Ones business … ”
“’Fraid I can’t, Trip. That’s all I’ve managed to find out myself. All I can tell you is there are some ‘Secret Ones’ who Harley doesn’t want any of us – his own clones – or anyone else to know about, who went missing at the same time as Quin. That’s all I know. That and the fact that they must be recovered at all costs. But he doesn’t want the Lizzies to find out, so he’s making out that it’s Quin he’s interested in.”
Trip regarded his younger clone-brother suspiciously, then sighed. “I guess we all have our secrets, don’t we? What are you gonna do now, then?”
“I’m in such deep shit if I can’t hide with you anymore,” Quad replied grimly. “Literally everyone is after me. Everyone involved thinks I’ve betrayed them or am about to. And what’s more, they’re right.”
Trip regarded his clone-brother gravely with something approaching empathy, mingled with resignation and profoundest respect. “You’ll come out of this the hero of ages, bro,” he said quietly.
Quad grinned and shook his head. “I’m in too deep to ever come out again,” he said, and melted back into the shadows.
“If you can’t hide, what are you gonna do?” Trip called after him.
“There’s only one other thing I can do. Run,” Quad answered. And then he was gone.
Trip sat still for a moment, lost in thought. Then he looked at his two bodyguards and beckoned them over.
“Nothing personal, fellas. Please understand that this is the nicest possible thing that could happen to you now, considering what you’ve just seen and heard. If there was some other way, I swear I would take it. But…” he shook his head.
“What do you mean, boss?” one of the men asked.
“I have to kill you both now.
Sorry.” With blurring speed, Trip whipped a gun with a silencer out of the
folds of his loose-fitting tunic and pulled the trigger twice.
He did not need to pull it a third time.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
As soon as he was out of earshot,
Halley fished out his phone and called his eldest clone-brother, Hal.
“You were right,” he said emotionlessly. “Trip has been hiding Quad. The biolocator on my phone just told me there were three of us at our little meeting. Recommend you get your spooks onto following him.”
“Oh, I will,” came the bleak response. “Did you tell him you knew Quad was there?”
“Of course not. I gave him a chance to come clean and admit it, but he didn’t.”
“So Trip is betraying us. Why do you think that is?”
“He’s up to something all right. He did say something that threw me a bit, though.”
“He told me he’d been in touch with Quin.”
There was a slight pause. “Quin?” Hal said finally. “Not possible. Quin is nowhere on Earth. None of the Black Science Technologies have been able to locate him. He’s probably long dead.”
Halley strode out of the labyrinthine Soho bar and into his waiting limousine parked outside. “That’s what I said. I told Trip I thought he was full of shit. But what if it’s true? Trip knows we’re all over him like a rash. We still don’t know what he’s protecting Quad for. I reckon he might have been telling us a token nugget of truth. We’ve got him boxed into a corner after all.” He leaned forward to his driver. “Whitehall,” he commanded. The car cruised away slowly.
Hal swore softly on the other end of the line. “Father is going to go loony over this. You’re the academic. Do you really think it’s possible?”
“It’s theoretically possible, though the chances are astronomically small. If Quin is alive, and beyond the Quarantine, he would still have had to somehow learn remote viewing. If he has…well, I have to admit, Trip is the most plausible candidate for contact. Almost identical conscious frequencies, you see. And Trip is by far the most skilled of us with this particular ability. I oversaw the development of his skillset myself, remember?”
“Okay, point taken. Listen, there are plenty of beings beyond the Quarantine easily capable of doing just that. I’m starting to think the whole game plan behind Quin’s abduction has just kicked into another gear. I don’t like it at all. If Trip is telling the truth, he may now have an ally who is as untouchable as a fucking ghost. Quin could be listening to us right at this moment, wherever we are, above ground or below. If that’s the case, this is a security leak that’s about as fucking serious as it gets.”
“Relax, brother,” Halley said soothingly. “What you’ve just described is an absolute worst case scenario. IF Quin is alive, and IF he has indeed learned remote viewing, and IF he has indeed contacted Trip, and IF he is inclined to support our druggy, degenerate weasel of a clone-brother, Quin would still have to project his conscious awareness right through the Quarantine, which I don’t think is possible.”
“You’re overlooking something important,” Hal snapped.
“Oh? And what might that be, brother?” Halley said sceptically.
“The very news you gave me the other day, which I have just come back from briefing the lizzies on. That fucking hole your naïve CERN chimps have just unwittingly punched into the Quarantine field.”
Halley’s phone suddenly slipped from nerveless fingers and onto the plush leather car seat. A cold sweat broke out over his wide forehead as he scrabbled to pick it back up. “Shit,” he said into the speaker once he had finally done so. “That obviously…” – he swallowed – “increases the chances somewhat.”
“Far too much for my liking. Now listen carefully, Halley. Father has enough on his plate already to be concerning himself with this bullshit. We only brief him as a last resort, understand? He and I have to ramp up the War on Terra to a new level over the coming days; the Arcons are getting insatiable for global human misery and trepidation. Political agendas and religious prophecies millennia in the preparation are coming to fruition. I want you to use this hole in the Quarantine to locate the fuck out of Quin. I’m giving you clearance to communicate with all known Earthbound extra-terrestrial entities, above and below ground.”
“Sure, Hal. I understand. So what about Quad, then?”
“Let me deal with brother Quad,” Hal replied bleakly. Then the line went dead.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Twenty-four hours later, Quad was still running.
Against all the odds, he had
managed to call in on a few favours from his contacts in the murky espionage
underworld that had been the only world he had ever known since his unlikely and
unnatural birth twelve years ago, fully grown in the first flush of physical
maturity and with the mind and experiences of a very disturbed thirty-one-year-old
These contacts had managed to get him safely on a plane to southern Chile, where he had careened like a maniac in a hire car to a secret military base which flew light aircraft on request to Antarctica.
Now, after having just landed at another highly secret location in Antarctica, Quad stood shivering violently at a hatch in the rock a little distance away from the airstrip in the perpetual twilight of the late Antarctican winter, frantically keying in a twenty-two digit code that would access an elevator shaft not dissimilar to that which his pseudo-father used, thousands of miles away in the depths of his sumptuous, English castle. (Quad did not know it, but this one lacked the extra perks, such as finest malt scotch in the arm of the seat and an up-to-date newspaper to read during descent). The outside temperature was somewhere in the region of minus fifty degrees celsius. Although his gloved fingers, like the rest of him clad in what would be adequate winter clothes for most places on Earth, trembled unsteadily, he pressed every digit with extreme care and deliberation, fully aware that his body would not allow him the luxury of too many mistakes in such conditions.
But when he finally finished and pressed "enter", nothing happened.
Swearing, Quad fished out a small hip flask of brandy, took a brief swig, and tried again.
Again, his only reward was that infuriating negative electronic double-tone, barely audible in the howling gale, and the flash of a protesting red diode.
Sending out a quick mental prayer to any being who might hear him in this isolated, hostile outpost at the very foot of the world, Quad keyed in his access code a third time.
And was denied a third time.
He heard a noise behind him. A noise he had not expected to hear. Desperately, he swung around and started running back towards the curiously ice-free landing strip, where his light plane had started up its engines and was slowly, cruelly gathering speed, moving away from him into the swirling, icy darkness.
Quad sprinted like he had never sprinted before, yelling until his voice gave out and waving manically at the receding plane, but it was no use. Gingerly at first, then with gathering power, the plane launched itself unsteadily into the inky night, taking the last of Quad's strength with it.
Too cold now to even feel it, he staggered feebly back to the panel with the keypad; but his hands would no longer obey his feverish brain. He was no longer even able to type three digits before making a mistake. He was no longer even able to pull the hip flask of brandy from his pocket and take one last, comforting sip. Quad swayed for a moment, fighting his inevitable collapse with every last shred of his will. But it was not enough. Like a floundering ship, he finally keeled over and went down heavily onto his side.
Time seemed to spin uncontrollably away from him, recede from the stage of his consciousness until his final thoughts stretched out like a long dream between his final, faltering heartbeats. In the freezing clouds of his terminal, laborious breath, the darkness once again became flooded with light.
It was bathed in this light that Quad's dying mind somehow saw him.
"Let me help you! There must be something I can do!" said Quin frantically.
No longer able to speak with his voice, Quad's departing awareness reached out instinctively the other way.
"Use ... my body ... take ... "
"I don't understand!" Quin protested. "I'm not really here. Damn! I'm ... I don't know where I am."
The frozen thews of Quad's mortal life slid open in their final release. For one glorious moment, he was sharp and lucid again. "I'm done. It's yours now. Same DNA. Use it. There are people down there who know how to thaw it without damaging it. Find a way. Use me, brother. Put an end to the sickness."
Quin stared at his clone-brother's corpse in consternation. "I don't know how."
"You're gonna have to get me thaw..." Quad's departing consciousness shouted at him, but Quin, and soon everything else Quad could have recognised, had lost coherence.
Quad fell out of time, and was no more.
Several hours later, the panel that had refused to open to him slid silently aside, and an inhumanly tall figure stepped out, apparently totally unaffected by the searing cold. The figure grabbed the feet of Quad's frozen corpse, and dragged him inside, before the door swished shut once again.
Outside, the pale Antarctic sun began to rise.
END OF PART II – THE FROZEN REVENANT
Part III - Power Trip, will be the following chapter.