Elix casually turns down a corner, as if she were programmed to. It was the alleyway behind the Raven’s Tongue; she made another turn and found herself to be completely alone.
The back of the pub is a beautiful structure, wrought iron balustrading contained the balconies, only to be separated every five metres with massive pillars of stacked stone bricks as wide as Elix’s torso, leading all the way up to a roof made of tin, which Elix though was painted red but could easily be rusted instead. There are weeds growing from the gutters and birds had turned them into nests for themselves.
No head around here, hmm… ‘Meet Davis where the crow’s head falls.’ I was expecting it to be in this alley somewhere or maybe a symbol on a wall giving another direction, but nothing.
You haven’t looked everywhere Elix. She told herself, looking up again at the rusted corrugations that arch into the gutters from above.
The roof! It has to be up there.
Elix rubs her hands together turning her sweated palms sticky, she steps up to one of the pillars with a gutter shooting down it and begins to climb. The gutter pipe is slightly rusted and aids her climb with its rough texture.
Elix couldn’t turn to look for anyone watching, it would be suicide to stop now. She climbs the pipe with great efficiency until she reaches the top and slides over the bull-nosed edge of the roof sheets.
Cool, I didn’t think there was going to be a rooftop garden up here.
The roofing appeared to cover the whole building but instead, it only covered a parapet wall. In the centre of the roof is a small stainless steel out house looking structure, in no way visible from the ground.
Strange, this seems to be newer than the rest of the building.
Elix approaches it curiously with caution.
This door has been used a lot. She thinks, assessing the scratches all over the front.
Could this be an elevator?
Something else catches her eye to the right of the structure, she steps around to view it; kneeling.
“There you are mister raven, I’ve been looking for you”
This must be where I need to go. With that thought the door to the steel building slides open with a buzzing whish of a sound.
Elix darts behind the small building’s wall in fear that someone was going to come rushing out to attack her. She’s motionless in wait; her senses are hungry for any fragment of noise or whiff of a scent to alert her as to what’s going to happen.
There’s… nothing? I can’t wait here all day. She tells herself, peering around the corner.
She creeps closer to the doorway.
It’s an empty room, but that doesn’t make any sense.
The room is dark and Elix would have missed it if she didn’t stick her head all the way in before she stepped.
The floor is missing… There’s got to be something I’m not getting, why would Artemis lead me here? Maybe it’s an illusion?
Elix reaches down with her foot like she would to test the waters of a bath. She swishes it around in the darkness feeling for anything, her foot contacts with something.
That’s not the wall… what is that?
She retracts her leg and kneels down to feel with her hands.
A ladder! Now we’re talking.
Elix begins her decent into the elevator shaft, that appears to go deeper than the pubs basement, but she couldn’t quite tell how far with her eyesight alone, she reaches into her pocket with her bionic arm, pulls out a safety pin and drops it, she waits for it to hit the bottom.
At least five floors down, maybe more. She estimates the distance, letting out a sigh.
Her arm felt tired from climbing the drainpipe to the roof and she slips, nearly losing her footing as well, Elix quickly grabs the ladder with her bionic arm saving herself in the nick of time. Her trembling arms hug the ladder.
As she rests for a moment gathering her strength her thoughts are taken to how she lost the arm; that just now, had saved her life.
I was twelve, and had been moving in and out of Artemis’ house for the past two years trying to make my own way. I figured I’d have to get used to being on my own sooner or later and I’d felt as though I was becoming a burden of Artemis.
He never had kids; he had a wife but not kids and I wanted a safe house of my own somewhere. I found this old factory during my night travels, I think it used to be some kind of manufacturing plant, there were piles of rusted steel and it smelt of various gasses. The air was thick with dust falling from the high ceiling with every bird that landed on the roof.
Maybe not here. I told myself. Too hazardous.
But before I could leave I was confronted by a group of four women, all of them wiry with malnutrition and crazed by the sight me. One of them hit me really hard, I must have lost consciousness.
I woke up hours later, groggy on the ground in the factory. The sun was coming up through the soot stained windows and I felt a lack of feeling in my right arm. Somehow, I made it back to Artemis.
The rest of Elix’s memory of that day is fogged. But she would always try to think of the day Artemis built her a new arm to combat her post-trauma.
It was a few weeks after I found my way back home. I was sleeping; it must have been just before dawn, it was cold and I was dreaming of my parents. He must have worked through the night to get it finished, even though he told me he was still a few days from having it done just the past night. But when he came to my near closed door, his shadow changed the mood in the room; alerting me to his entrance, I knew he was trying to surprise me.
The creaky door opened, sweeping the light from the hallway across my face. I wriggled into a ball of blankets and pillow.
“Elix?” He called out quietly.
I stayed still.
“Elix, I have something to show you” He said slightly louder than before.
I groaned and mumbled.
“leave it on the floor and turn the light off”
“But I need to help you put it on and show you how it works” He rebutted.
I threw the blanket off of my body casting it into the air, and before it hit the ground I was out of bed and hopping with joy, like I was galloping on an invisible horse. I knew exactly what he had
“There’s no surprising you, is there?” He asked rhetorically
“You finished it! Sneaky old man”
He put his hand through his hair and scratched the back of his neck with a smirk.
“The second you went to sleep I had a breakthrough with the Nano-interface and I just pushed on through the night”
By this time, I was trying to peer around his waist at my new arm.
“Now, now, no peeking, take a step back and cover your eyes”
I leapt back in an instant and my hand shot up to my eyes to block them. Artemis reached out with the arm in his hand and its index finger pointing forward, he poked me in the belly with it. I could feel the cold finger’s tip through my shirt and giggled with excitement. I split my fingers to see it.
“It’s bigger than I thought”
The skin was a soft pink closer to that of a pig’s colour than my own skin.
“The finger tips are titanium with receptive silicon pads where the prints would be, and at the shoulder; in this grey bit, is where your arm goes”
Even though Artemis was tired from working all night his face was alive with enthusiasm telling me all the specifications, most of which I had no Idea about, but I waited there patiently until he finished, basking in the transference of knowledge.
“This button will turn it on and off and this lid; you must never take this lid off, because all of the Nano-cultures will escape if you do.
“Now give me your, umm”
He never knew how to address:
“Yes, your… Nub”
I wiggled it in his direction. He eased my Nub into it.
“This may feel a bit weird, or it might hurt, I couldn’t find any rats big enough to do a preliminary testing”
I looked at him with raised eyebrows to let him know his poor humour was poor. I didn’t care about the potential pain; my endorphins were dancing.
He pressed the on button. It whirred into life and tiny tendrils that looked like hair sprung out of the grey socket part and dove into my arm. It tickled at first and then it must have gripped at my nerves, I flinched and laughed through the initial hurt, but it persisted, I closed my eyes and clenched my fists.
It took me a few seconds before I realised I could feel myself squeezing with both hands. I opened my eyes and there it was, my new arm, MY brand-new arm and if I wasn’t so preoccupied by it I might have noticed the mood in the room change once again, to something new, something hopeful to something that would stay with me forever.
Elix inhales deeply, her exhalation quivers with sorrow, her eyes pinch closed sending tears down her cheek, then gravity took them from her and with them any ill feelings about Artemis’ intentions and why he didn’t tell her about Davis sooner.
A feint tapping disturbs Elix’s morose mindset.
The bottom! I must be near it. She thinks.
Motivation swells within her and she descends, to her surprise only about five metres. She steps off the ladder and onto what feels to be a steel floor. It shuddered as it took her weight and Elix wasn’t sure if its noise reverberated above her or beneath the floor, but she looks around the base of the shaft as best she can, feeling the walls for anything resembling a door or latch or handle or button.
“Nothing! There’s fucking nothing down here?!”
Elix loses her temper and thrashes wildly at the shadows surrounding her. Her bionic arm connects with the wall, she feels it dent at her knuckles, it shoots an odd sense through her nerves, not pain, not quite, more like a squeeze, her arm tightened as if it were one solid muscle. This strange sensation led her to think she was acting foolishly. She sighed, realising she was going to have to climb the ladder in a sore state if she kept acting out.
Before she could get a handle on the ladder a click sounds.
“Click?” She repeats confused and on edge; listening.
The next sound was the floor beneath her slipping into an unseen slot in the wall, followed by the squeak of Elix’s surprise. She falls only a few metres before her buttocks are caught by a slope, which carries her down a few more levels.
A square of light emerges before her; growing. The ride has changed Elix’s mood from the shock to glee as she glides down into a white room with a mirrored wall confronting her as she enters.
Elix stands and looks around the empty room, assessing its purpose and pondering what could be on the other side of the mirror. She presses her nose to the mirror and tries to look through her own reflection when the crackle of a speaker startles her focus.
“Password?” the male voice asks.
He must be young, I wonder if he’s Davis. Elix thinks, at the fruity tone of the voice.
Wait, what password? Artemis didn’t say anything about a password.
“Artemis sent me” She claims.
For Elix, a long silence was her reply.
The man behind the speaker turns to his companion.
“Davis, she knows Artemis, should we let her in?”
Davis steps closer to the mirror observing Elix’s mannerisms as she patiently waits for a response.
Artemis never mentioned a girl. He thought.
“If she knows Artemis, she’ll know the password, ask her again Blister”
Blister pushes the button to his speaker and asks:
Elix is puzzled.
Davis and Blister watch her process closely. She begins to pace within the white room, mumbling almost inaudibly
“Artemis didn’t give me any password. I didn’t even know about this place until I found the note…”
A little louder she says:
Back to murmuring.
“…Find Davis where the Crow’s head falls, but it wasn’t a crow it was a Raven, huh, maybe that’s the password”
Elix stops, turns to the mirror with her hands at ease behind her back and without realising; staring into Davis’ eyes, and just as the raven quoth:
Davis smiles and nods at Blister to let her in.
Elix stands in front of the mirror exuding confidence in her answer.
The mirror makes a sort of buzz noise and slides open from one end to reveal four Hûms. The one in front is a bit taller than Elix, with broad shoulders and black hair atop a rectangular head holding shiny emerald eyes. He steps forward into the room leaving his party slightly behind him.
“Artemis sent me a communique last night, his final one to be exact, I’m sorry, this whole situation is out of character for Artemis, and he made no mention of you”
The man stops his sentence and appears to rearrange his thoughts. He composes himself.
“I’m sorry, I should have started with; I’m Davis, and these Hûms behind me are The Uprising”
Each of them wearing standard issue coats and clothes just as the Assimilated would.
Davis walks back to his line of companions.
“This is Blister”
“Yo!” The stout one says.
“I’m your muscle, your oddball, your little brother with a big mouth, I’m the one you can count on” He states, aiming his thumb to his face.
Elix can’t help but smile as his beady blue eyes squint to the mercy of his cheesy grin.
“You’re the fruity voice I heard over the intercom”
Blister looks to Davis. His grin disappears but his squint remains.
“Do I sound fruity to you?”
Davis doesn’t answer, he contains his laughter; barely.
To Blister’s left is a woman with golden hair shrouding her small face, making her grey-blue eyes pop.
“This Trace, no one knows machines like this one, if it ticks, zaps or booms, she’s the girl to make it happen”
“Welcome to the team… uhh?” Her petite voice asks.
“Ooh shit Davis you didn’t even ask her name” Blister states mockingly.
“Right, right, it’s been a while since we’ve met another Hûm” Davis blushes, scratching the back of his head.
“Yeah, same here… Well I’m Elix”
“Welcome Elix” the group, minus the unintroduced last member collectively say.
Elix looks to the last man, inquisitively studying his dark brown hair and long face, but for only a moment, before Davis says:
“And lastly, we’ve got Malcom, anything Trace can make, he can make a program to control it”
“Yes, yes, now that that’s out of the way…” Malcom snarls in a matter-of-fact tone.
“…Why don’t you tell us exactly how you knew Artemis, and what you are doing here!”
Malcom’s face swells with blood and Elix could have sworn she seen his glasses fog over his black brown eyes.
“Enough Malcom!” Davis blasts, shooting a scowl in his direction.
Malcom reverts back to his natural state of function and wipes his glasses nervously with his handkerchief.
Davis continues quieter but just as stern, talking to all in the room.
“If Artemis trusts her, then I trust her, and so should you.”
Silence grips them.
“Well it’s nice to meet all of you. Artemis rescued me when I was young, he took care of me. When I found him, I found his latest invention and a note ‘Find Davis where the crow’s head falls’ I knew I had to get here no matter what”
The group before her are riled with curiosity.
“Latest invention? The communique didn’t mention that either” Davis states, as he thinks over the possibilities of why Artemis would do that.
“Well? What is it then? Come on show us, we need proof” Malcom impatiently demands.
“Jesus Malcom, give her a break she just lost her friend” Says Blister with an exhausted disappointment.
“Come on Elix I’ll show you around the base”
He wraps his burly arm around her shoulders and leads her through the mirrored door way.
“Don’t listen to Malcom, he’s got trust issues, and lots of other issues. Here, this way, you can bunk next to me”
“Blister!” Davis calls out in a dissuading tone.
“Bunk her with Trace”
“He’s got trust issues too” Blister whisperingly quips.
Elix and Blister walk into the main room of The Uprising’s base.
“This is the bunk room to our right…” Blister begins, pointing through a darkened doorway.
“…Toilet’s on the right as you go through…”
He coerces her forward, his arm still wrapped around her.
“…The kitchen is up next, I will literally give you anything you want if you do my dishes…” He pleads desperately.
Elix spots the mountain of dishes as they step past the view through the door. Quickly she thinks of an excuse.
“I’m, umm, mysophobic, sorry”
“…Your loss, I get the best candy, just saying. Anyway, straight ahead is the lab and to the left of that is the training room. We’ll probably get you in their as soon as we can to assess your skills, we all have skills here Elix, you won’t survive without skills in this day and age.”
“Where does that door lead?” Elix asks, pointing to a large round door like that of a bank’s safe.
“That’s our sewer access; you’ll get to go through there soon enough.” Says Blister, nodding his head and squinting his eyes.
“And umm, where’s, the shower?”
“Yeah, I wasn’t going to say anything, but now that you’ve mentioned it Elix, you do stink. There’s the shower at the end of the kitchen, but I recommend using the contamination showers in the lab, cos that stank is a biohazard. Don’t worry we can still be friends though” Blister rambles.