Four Deaths Four Killers 19-05 (Heretical Edge 2)

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Before I could even think of a reaction, Marina had turned to focus on the trio we had come up here with. She lunged that way, her weapon snapping up to summon a couple full-scale ethereal bears. Not just the paws, the entire ghost-like (yet solid) animal. Both lunged from the nearby wall to grab onto the two living bodyguards. They were still attached to the wall by one leg, which was probably the limitation of her weapon. The bears she summoned had to be linked to the spot where she had anchored them.  

“Who else is in here?!” she blurted. Her voice had risen in anger and disbelief. I had never seen her like this before. “What are you guys keeping from us? What are you lying about?!” 

Archibold’s head shook rapidly, the cyclops-orc insisting, “I assure you, we have not lied about anything since we met you.” He kept his voice even, yet insistent and firm. “The two of us may disagree on certain specifics. But there should be no one else in this vault. Unless one or more of the people you have up in the auditorium managed to sneak out?” 

That made me grimace. We couldn’t be absolutely certain, of course. Even though Sesh hadn’t sounded the alarm, it was like Archibold said, someone could have snuck away without her noticing. She was only one person, after all. Would one of the others up there have spoken up if–I had no idea. All I knew was that those two girls were missing, and the only guy who could’ve told us anything about what happened was already–

God damn it, Flick. 

Blurting for Marina to hold on, I spun back toward the body and whispered a quick prayer before holding my hands out. I focused on that dead form, forcing myself not to look away. I couldn’t ignore his death, I had to use it. I stretched my Necromancy, hoping that the ghost-absorbing walls hadn’t already done their dirty work. Come on, I’d gotten up here soon enough, hadn’t I? Ausesh had survived in those other rooms as a ghost for longer than this. Sure, the walls in here were closer and all, but still. Give me a break, huh? 

And then, wonder of wonders, I actually did get a break. I felt a trace of a ghost. It wasn’t much, but still. As soon as I caught that barest hint, I grabbed onto it as tightly as I could. No way did I want to let it vanish. Getting answers from Perrsnile was basically the only hope we had right now. 

Thankfully, he wasn’t exactly fighting it. I felt what seemed like his reassuring touch as I fed a bit more power into him. It was like coaxing a fire out of embers. I had to be careful not to shove too much power into him too quickly. It had to be just the right amount to allow him to coalesce properly. 

And then, he was there. Well, his ghost was. Rather than the blue-gray/green I was most accustomed to, or even the purple he had been in life, his ghost appeared as a dark red color. I had no idea what that meant, if anything. But he was there, all three feet of him.

“Well,” the small man managed while staring down at his own body, “that was unpleasant.” 

“Perrsnile!” I blurted, before the words caught in my throat. I’d intended to immediately ask where the girls were, but that felt… wrong in that exact moment. Instead, I managed a weak, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry we got you involved in this.”

The ghost paused briefly before turning to look at me with a soft expression. “No, dear, it is I who should apologize. I am so very sorry that I was unable to help those poor girls.” 

“What–what happened?” Marina quickly put in. “Did you see who attacked you? Sorry, I mean, did you see who murdered you? Or where they went with Dakota and Denny? Please, they have to be around here somewhere. It’s not like they could get out of the vault, and if they were going to…” She trailed off before making a fist. “If they were going to kill them, they would’ve already. The only reason to bother taking them out of this room is if they want them for some other reason. So where did they go?” 

“It must be about selling the children, just like the others,” Gliner piped up. “There must’ve been someone else on the inside who was part of it, someone we didn’t know about. They’re trying to make one last sale, maybe on their way out.” 

“They took Sitter too,” I quickly pointed out. “So maybe they need him, or it’s about–I don’t know. But either way, they have to get out first. And we’re not gonna let that happen. Perrsnile?” I grimaced while turning back to him. “Please, I know this isn’t fair after we couldn’t protect you from… from what happened. But we have to find Dakota and Denny. So if you can remember anything useful…” 

His hand reached out, going right through mine before he winced in realization. “Ah, yes, well I’m afraid I did not see precisely who attacked me. There wasn’t time to do much of anything. I was there on the far side of the room, attempting to understand what I should do next to bring Sitter back online. The girls were… there.” He pointed near the elevator. “They would have been taken first. I heard a sound, but as I began to turn, something caught hold of me from behind. There was… pain in my chest as I was lifted up, and I’m afraid I began to black out immediately. I remember hitting the floor there, where my body is, and then… nothing. Until I felt you call for me.” 

I started to sigh, before the man added, “Wait, there is one thing. As I was fading, I distinctly heard someone near the elevator there say, ‘Take them to the Beta Cargo.’” 

As soon as he said that, Ausesh blurted, “That’s impossible, no one knows about Beta Cargo.” 

“I ahh, I’m sorry, who are you?” Perrsnile sounded awkward while he looked that way. 

“Oh, right.” Gesturing back and forth between them, I absently informed him, “This is Ausesh, she helped build the vault. That’s Gliner and Archibold. They’re… it’s a long story.”

“Ah, good day to you, sirs and lady,” Perrsnile greeted the three of them before he hesitated while looking down at himself. “Though, not so good after all, I suppose.” 

“Flick,” Marina insisted while her hand grabbed my shoulder. “We have to find them, right now. We can’t let anything happen to those two. Not again.” 

“We will,” I promised, already turning back toward the others. “We’re going to Beta Cargo. And you are going to tell us what that is.” My gaze snapped toward the ghost woman. “Whoever took the girls went there. So what is it? And why shouldn’t anyone else know about it?” 

She hesitated slightly before giving a visible and audible sigh. “Beta Cargo is the first room we built of this place. It had the initial connection to the outside world. A direct pipeline, before we put in the rest of the rooms and established the proper way in and out. And before you ask, no, it is not a way to escape. At least, it shouldn’t be.”

“They obviously think it is,” I managed while stepping onto the elevator. Marina was right behind me, with the others trailing behind. “Whoever they are. And why can’t it be used to get out?” 

“Because–” Ausesh started before moving to one side as Perrsnile waved her out of the way so Archibold could go to his preferred spot in the middle of the elevator. “Ahem, because we closed it off. We erased that pipeline. There shouldn’t be any way to open it again. And yet, I cannot think of any other reason to go there. Beyond that, the only things in that room are a few spare parts, emergency rations we won’t need, tools… the exit would be the only reason to go there. But as I said, we turned that off when we created the more stable methods of getting in and out. To put it in terms you can understand, it was a tunnel between universes and we collapsed it. We closed both ends of the tunnel, which should have made the tunnel itself collapse as well. Even if you turn it back on by opening this side, if that’s even possible, you wouldn’t know for certain whether you could open the door on the other side. And beyond all of that, it would take years for the tunnel itself to grow wide enough for people your size to use it. At best you would have something as small as a ballpoint pen.” 

She paused then. “I am likely doing a poor job of explaining this.” 

“Intentionally, no doubt,” Gliner snarled. “It’s not as though you actually want us to catch your associates.” 

“Don’t start with that again,” I found myself snapping before focusing on the woman. “What buttons am I pressing to get down there?” Even as I asked that, something was poking at the back of my brain. But I had no idea what it could be. I was anxious about the situation, terrified for Denny and Dakota, guilty about what had happened to Perrsnile when he’d only been trying to help, confused about why they had also taken Sitter and what they might need him for, and… and a lot of other things. There was so much bouncing around in my head that it was hard to focus. All I knew was that we had to get there and stop these people before they left with those girls. 

We couldn’t let Denny and Dakota down. No, we wouldn’t let them down. That much I silently promised myself. Whatever we had to do, whoever these people were and whatever they wanted, they were going to regret grabbing those two. 

If we let them live long enough to do any regretting. Personally, I wasn’t really feeling like that was likely. 

Clutching my staff tightly in one hand while tapping my foot anxiously as the elevator began its torturously slow movement, I glanced over to Marina first. She looked just as upset as I was, if not more so. Her gaze was fixed angrily on the elevator door, clearly silently willing it to move faster. She was even rocking back and forth a bit, as though that would push it onward. She had her spear in one hand, tapping it repeatedly against the other. If I was ready to stab whoever had taken Denny and Dakota, I was pretty sure she was ready to disembowel them. Which meant a lot, coming from someone like Marina. 

From there, I looked to the others. Two ghosts, a cyclops-orc, and a blue-scaled guy with six eyes. These were the people I was going with to confront whoever was behind all this. I barely knew anything about them, and still didn’t know if we could trust Ausesh. It was possible that Gliner was right about her. Maybe she was working with the people who had taken the girls after all. Or maybe–

Fuck. I had no idea. At least she was a ghost, so if she tried anything, I could stop her. Right now, I wanted her close so I knew exactly what she was doing. I just–fuck, none of this made sense. The bad guy was either Ausesh or Valdean, right? They built the vault together and then she hid out while he was the face of things. One of them started selling the children in the vault to bad people. Gliner thought it was Ausesh, while Archibold thought it was Valdean. Archibold asked Mophse about missing supplies, and then either Ausesh or Valdean killed Mophse for investigating. Which led to Archibold killing Valdean, because he believed that guy was the one who killed Mophse. Then the time-lock happened, and when it ended, Gliner killed Ausesh because he thought she was responsible for killing Mophse. 

All of that left questions, and we weren’t sure which of the two was the real bad guy. But it made sense. Whichever of those two was responsible for the whole situation, it still worked. I could follow the course of events logically, for the most part. So where the hell had this come from? Who were these new people who had just shown up, killed Perrsnile, and then took off with Sitter, Denny, and Dakota? It felt as though we had been starting to get a hold of what was going on around here, until this whole wrench got thrown into it. Come to think of it, I might’ve been almost as angry about that as I was about whoever this was taking the girls. 

No, no, I was still a hell of a lot angrier about that last part. 

And yet, my brain wouldn’t stop picking at the whole thing. I was turning it around and around in my head, struggling to make sense of it. These people had come off one of the other elevators and abducted the girls while grabbing and killing the man. Then they took Dakota and Denny, as well as Sitter, and went down to some closed off back door area that they couldn’t even get through? Did they have a way to get out that our new friends here didn’t know about? 

With that in mind, I looked at Ausesh. “Tell me the truth, is there any way that you know of for these guys to use that closed tunnel thing to get out of here? Any way at all?” Yeah, I couldn’t be absolutely sure that she was telling the truth, but it was all I had. I was wishing my dad was here right now. He would’ve been able to tell if she was lying, I was sure of it. 

Ausesh, for her part, met my gaze evenly. She didn’t answer right away, seeming to consider the question intently. Or maybe she was thinking up a convincing lie. I had no idea which. Either way, she finally replied, “It is not entirely impossible. But, any way I look at it, they would need much more time to do so. This is something that would take weeks for them to do safely. This area would have been monitored by Sitter before the time-lock, and he would have noticed, investigated, and undoubtedly brought it up to you. Which he clearly did not do. Obviously it could not have been done while the time-lock was in effect, and given it has only been a few hours since that was turned off, there is no reasonable way for them to have gotten very far. If this is their escape plan, they cannot be very far with it. I assure you, there is absolutely no way for any living creature to travel through that tunnel until much more preparation is done.” 

While I was taking that in and thinking about her words, the elevator came to a stop. We were here. Immediately, Marina and I glanced at one another before stepping to either side as the doors opened. We were both ready with our weapons up, just in time to see a wide open room. It looks like a warehouse floor with absolutely nothing in it. We could see all four walls and the ceiling from here, and there wasn’t a stitch of furniture or anyone in view. But that didn’t mean much. Not with all the invisibility powers and spells they could be using. 

I switched on my infrared vision and scanned the room intently while stepping off the elevator and quickly moving to one side. Marina was right behind me and moved to the other side. Behind us, the two bodyguards stepped off as well. They brought their weapons up, Archibold holding a heavy curved sword in one hand and what looked like a fancy sawed-off shotgun in the other, while Gliner had two laser pistols. With the two ghosts bringing up the rear, we all spread out and scanned the room, searching for any sign of these people. But there was nothing. I reached out with my item-sense, my Necromancy, everything I could think of. I just could not see any sign that they were down here. 

“It’s possible that they went somewhere else,” Gliner noted, his gaze shifting from one side of the room to the other while he kept moving his pistols, clearly hoping we were wrong and our enemies would reveal themselves in the next second. But they didn’t. Everything remained quiet and the place was still eerily empty. 

“Fuck,” I managed, “I should’ve had one of you teach me how to check the system to see where more people were when they shouldn’t be. I was just so intent on getting down here and–fuck.” 

“I can still show you how to do that,” Ausesh offered. I could tell that Gliner wanted to snap something at that, but he held his tongue, while she continued. “We would have to return to the server room once more.” 

I didn’t like it, but I didn’t have a better idea either. We had to track down where these people were. So, I nodded slowly. But not all of us. Whoever these people are, they might come down here while we’re gone. I don’t want to keep chasing them back-and-forth.

“I am, ahh, apparently a ghost now,” Perrsnile noted. “Which you have some control over. I can stay here, if you like, and warn you directly if anyone returns to this place.” 

Archibold agreed to stay behind as well, as Marina and I went back to the elevator with Ausesh. Gliner came too, refusing to take his eyes off the ghost woman. Soon, the four of us were heading back to the place we had just left, as I sighed and shook my head while my eyes closed. “We’re running around like chickens with our heads cut off, while Denny and Dakota are out there being–god, who knows what? They’ve gotta be so freaked out right now. They set off that alert and we didn’t even…” 

As I trailed off, Marina looked at me. “We didn’t even get to them in time, yeah. We didn’t–” 

“No,” I interrupted. My eyes opened, and I reached out, hitting the button to stop the elevator in mid-transit. 

“Flick?” Marina quickly looked from my hand to my gaze. “What’re you doing? We need to get back to the server room to track these guys down.” 

“No, we don’t,” I replied. “Because I know what happened.” My eyes glanced from Marina, over to Gliner, then to Ausesh. “Not all of it, but I know who’s behind it. I know who the real killer is, the one who’s responsible for everything. I know what’s really going on.” My hand tightened on the staff.  

“It’s–” 

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20 comments

  1. Well hey, at least you guys have another chance to figure out the mystery about what’s going on and who the real villain here is before Flick blurts out the answer? Good luck with that! And while you’re thinking about it, it would be incredible if you could boost this story on Top Web Fiction right here! Thanks to all of you, as always, and your tags are: Archibold, Ausesh, Felicity Chambers, Flick, Gliner, Marina Dupont, Marina Really Embraces That Whole Mama Bear Aesthetic Doesn’t She?, Oh Shit I Seem To Have Posted The Chapter Without Finishing The Last Sentence. Whoops., Perrsnile

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sadly, the Evil Cliffhanger Gods whom Cerulean *obviously* serves will now cause the downfall of human civilization before the next chapter is posted, meaning most of us will never know whodunnit.

    A few hardy survivors scrabbling in the rubble will make it their Mission In Life to track down Cerulean, by hook or crook, leading to a Tolkien-style quest spanning decades before the Fellowsh–, er questors, *finally* track down the author, on their deathbed. Cerulean will raise one shaking hand, and begin “It… was…” and then expire before passing on the answer.

    The Evil Cliffhanger Gods are kind of dicks that way.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Oh Shit I Seem To Have Posted The Chapter Without Finishing The Last Sentence. Whoops.

    Um… Cerulean? Hey, uh….. So um…. screw you, yeah?
    That’s about the response you were hoping for right? We ride at dawn? Had to be, had to be.

    All jokes aside, that is eeeeevil.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Alright, too much. I’m out. Bye. The cliffhanger addiction has gone too far, at the very least you could have put what caused her to be interrupted instead of just ending it there but as it is this is just gratious cliffhanger baiting. A shame too, because you’re a good writer other than this one thing but you’ve pushed my limit so I’m out.

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    1. Dude, I did that intentionally not to serve a meaningless cliffhanger but because I wanted to give readers a chance to guess the answer themselves first.

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      1. As a truck driver I have a lot of time to think about things and the more I’ve thought about the ending to this chapter to more pissed off I get and it all boils down to that “”It’s-“” at the very end. Now that I’m stopped for the day and can use my laptop instead of my phone I can make a full reply.

        Without that little bit it’s just another cliffhanger, a short pause to end the chapter and give the readers the chance you are talking about. With that last bit you are blatantly calling out that it is in fact a cliffhanger and it isn’t so much a short break and an invitation to think than it is slapping me in the face and saying “Not today, you have to wait sucker.”. It feels insulting in a way a more normal cliffhanger doesn’t. There is no reason for the chapter to end like that other than you, the author, wanting to rub our noses in holding out on the information. Just have Flick say she knows who it is and show her agitation with the hand clench and end it there. Why does she need to start giving the answer only to be interrupted by something we don’t even get to see. What is preventing her from saying who it is? Is it just the <chapter ending that cuts off what she says? Is the next chapter going to open with her finishing her sentence uninterrupted and it was only done that wait to create false suspense? It just feels insulting and egregious to me to have her start giving out the answer only for it to be cut off because her doing so gives no new information and only highlights the fact we’re not getting told the answer now and will have to wait.

        Without that “”It’s-“” I’d still be annoyed at Yet Another Cliffhanger, like this was an 80s show with a “Tune In Next Time!” bit at the end. You don’t need as many cliffhangers as you use, you have a consistent update schedule so people know when to come back for the next chapter and in the odd times things change, for better or worse, you give us clear heads up on things. I understand that by the nature of a chaptered story there will be cliffhangers at the ends of chapters but the ratio in your works gets a bit high at times. It is just your style of writing and something I’ve accepted as price of entry into reading your stories, but having accepted it won’t stop me from making fun about it when you do it.
        But this cliffhanger was just too much, and it’s down to those seven blasted characters. They push it over the edge for me and set a dangerous precedent that you will do so again in the future. This is not a fun cliffhanger, it’s not even just an annoying on, it is a very blatant withholding of information for no real payoff. Those seven characters give us no more information on who did what to help solve the mystery, they are only there to tease use that Flick has worked it out but isn’t telling us yet and we’ll have to wait. So yes I find it very insulting and infuriating. It feels to me that you’re not respecting me as a reader.

        And that is why this one pisses me off so much more than the others. Having Flick start to give the answer but it cutting out is just insulting. We’ve already got the set-up with her saying she knows what’s going on, cut it there if you’re not going to give us more information to work things out ourselves.

        I’m not sure if I can explain myself any better. This just feels very insulting to me because it doesn’t add anything.

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      2. Dude, I get what you’re saying, but you’re making a mountain out of a mole-hill. It’s not an insult. I told you why I cut off there. And yeah, it was meant as a little bit of a teasing ‘not yet.’ But seriously, insulting? Come on, man. You’re turning it into some huge thing, and fuming about it for so long? Seriously, chill out. It’s not like you have to wait a long time to get the answer. And if you’re letting something like, ‘He cut her off in mid-sentence when she was about to give the answer’ piss you off that much, maybe you should take a breath. It’s just a story.

        That all said, no, the next chapter will not immediately finish her sentence. Even if the chapter continued from that point, I would still cut it off with the ***** time passing divider and move to the next scene because the way the next chapter presents the answer is in action, not just with Flick finishing her sentence.

        Seriously, insulting? Because I went as far as to have her start to say what was going on and cut out? I’m insulting you and infuriating you because I very slightly tease by cutting Flick off in mid-sentence in order to maintain the secret a bit longer so the entire opening of the next chapter makes sense? I see very little if any difference between ending it with Flick saying she figured it out and Flick starting to say the answer and then getting cut off. I’m not respecting you as a reader because I teased a little bit? Come on.

        The point is, you don’t have to enjoy it, but I think you’re overreacting a good bit. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it, but I’m not sorry for how I prefer to write. You get at least a chapter of this story every week (and two chapters every other week). You’ll get the answer on Wednesday, and I deliberately held off on saying it for a reason. I wasn’t ‘insulting the readers’ just because I put an abrupt cut away into the chapter ending. Take it easy, take a breath. If you don’t want to read anymore because of a silly cliffhanger, I certainly can’t stop you. Nor would I want to. Reading should be enjoyable. Read what you like.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. And I forgot to close out my one bold tag messing up my whole post..

    I really hate WordPress at times. There are so many better sites to host stories on.

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  6. Firstly thanks for the chapter! I gotto say I can’t agree that the chapter ending an insult or anything like that, it’s just a bit of playful teasing at most.

    I find it fun we can still make our comments & guesses as to what Flick just figured out, though I do agree that this chapter was a little short on additional clues/information that could help us try to work it out.

    I did only just realise now something from the previous chapter – a) they were already on their way back to the server when they got the emergency message, and b) there was no buzzing noise in the elevator to say that the spot in front of the serve room was blocked/occupied. This means that there was no elevator used by the killer, and either the girls are still in the room somehow, or in a place accessed from the room, or the killer can move without using the elevators.

    So, my guess now is still either the butler did it, but perhaps they are under the influence of a virus or other malign entity who was hiding out in the computer? They could have infected/took over Sitter when they plugged in & has taken this long to take control. However, it seems highly suspicious that Sitter had detailed knowledge of the server but claimed not to recognise the note in Mophse shoe – so on balance, for me Sitter is still the prime suspect, what we don’t know is why.

    My other thought is that maybe there is a Seosten infiltrator who was originally possessing Mophse, but whoever killed them didn’t get the Seosten who then possessed the killer. They might have technological powers like Puriel/Gaia to allow them to possess robots to possess Sitter (from memory I don’t think Seosten can normally possess mechanical beings?), and only need a small window from the Beta Cargo to the real world to send data/hard drive through it to escape that way. Or perhaps they can possess an item like Flick can, send it to the outside world then pop out again. But there is less evidence for this & is more speculative.

    On a tangent, was the elevator inspired by Charlie & the Chocolate Factory/Great Glass Elevator? If so, the killer must be a Vicious Knid!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry for double post, I thought of this just after posting. So Sitter is described as human shaped, “clearly made of metal”, with “eyes on his metal head looked like glowing rubies, and he had no nose”. So does he basically look like this?

      Or perhaps he looks like this?

      So it wouldn’t really be a plot twist if the killer is actually an AI robot with a grudge & has already helpfully signaled his intentions towards humanity/meat life with his glowing red eyes!

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    2. Hey thanks, glad you enjoyed that. It was a lot of fun trying to leave clues and include mystery tropes without making it too obvious. By now you know how your theories went, and either way you raise some good thoughts. Thanks for thinking so much about it!

      And yes, the elevator was at least partially inspired by Wonka. So gasp, you may be right!

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  7. I’m torn between a third architect who was erased from memories who has been secretly taking control of Sitter to do the sales, and Sitter being solely responsible somehow.

    Liked by 2 people

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