This is a story (my first) of Daria and Quinn’s cousin Erin, and her adventures in Stadt, Switzerland – and beyond. Rated R for violence. (Viewer discretion is advised).
Daria (and associated characters and locations) is copyright © 1997-2000 MTV Networks. Cwicseolfor, Chainer, Braids, Gorthaur, TS, Chains, and others are mine.
This story is copyright © 2002 by Bacner () and has been written for personal enjoyment. No infringement of the above rights is intended.
And Now – Erin
“Memories can’t simply be washed away. The mind must be scrubbed clean.”
The morning broke once again in the mountains, illuminating the health resort in Stadt, Switzerland. However, it wasn't a fine, peaceful morning that is usually shown in the movies with slow, sensitive music and birds chirping; rather it was full of alarm. The mountain peaks stabbed sharply into the sky like lances, and a flocks of grackles busily cawed at each other. Something bad was coming. Something big.
Erin Danielson, nee Barksdale, was sleeping, even though it was already 8 A.M. She was sleeping, and dreaming.
… The back-alley of Burlington, Vermont, was dirty and dimly lit. Few things could be found here, other than some rats and really obnoxious insects. However, there were some people who didn't think so. “So Chains, what are you so gloomy about? We pulled-off the big one, didn’t we?” spoke one of them, sitting in a ramshackle armchair that had been obviously purloined from the city dump.
Chains – a girl wearing black lipstick and an eternally pissed-off facial expression – scowled from underneath her straw-coloured hair. “Nothing much, TS. It’s just that I've heard that old Mr. Rutherford has friends in the police – a cousin-in-law or something.” She shifted her position on the sofa, obviously a partner of the armchair.
The other girl laughed, swinging her own mop of dirty blond hair. “Well, we can always hide-out at Clickbeetle’s place, if it gets troublesome.”
“Wouldn't her grandma notice?” Chains shook her head. “She’s not that oblivious, is she?”
“Honey, our mansion is huge-like, and my grandma doesn't inspect it about at all, now that’s grandpa’s dead. You an’ TS can hide at it for days before she and the staff notices that something’s amiss,” spoke the third person, balancing on a rail on her butt. Her crazy haircut stuck in all the directions, like a hedgehog’s prickles.
“Don't you have aunts or something?” Chains was still not convinced.
“Like they would have to be there to notice them,” TS laughed. “I'm telling you, we don't have anything to worry about.”
Clickbeetle suddenly stiffened. “Chopper,” she abruptly spoke. “More than one.”
The trio scattered into the shadows, watching as a couple of choppers briefly flew overhead, overshadowing the sun. “That’s, like, the second time it happened today,” Chains pointed-out. “We’ve really done it this time, TS.”
“Well, we are the Uncatchables,” TS pointed out.
Clickbeetle nervously looked at the newspaper clipping that she held in her hand. One of the titles said: “3 men shot, 3 girls sought.” “I still think that by using firearms we’ve went over the edge. I mean, what will the cops do if they get their hands on us.”
“Yes, exactly. If they get their hands on us,” Chains hissed, flexing her hands. Several blades popped-out. “And if was always good enough for us.” The blades popped back in.
Clickbeetle rolled her eyes. Several large beetles scuttered off the wall. “Gross!” she exclaimed, and squashed a couple of them.
“You know,” Chains thoughtfully said, “it’s possible, that one day men will be squashed by bugs.”
“Silence!” TS suddenly hissed. “Something has caused them to run!”
The three girls stiffed, with Chains flexing her hands once again. “Careful,” Clickbeetle hissed. “There’s a propane pipe not too far away!”
Suddenly, a silhouette or six appeared in the alley’s entrance. “Freeze! This is the police! You are surrounded!”
Something snapped in Chains’ head. She grasped her knives by the tips of the blades and threw in a rapid succession in the right direction. Judging from yelling and cursing, she’s got somebody, and possibly for good.
The next moment, gunfire began to bark. “Chains, you idiot!” TS yelled. “Clickbeetle – duck!”
The next moment an explosion shook the alley.
Erin awoke with a gasp. Her dream returned. What did it mean? She didn't know. But ever since her marriage to Brian, the dream was pummelling at her conscience with the perseverance of a crow, who saw some ripe ash-tree’s berries. And it was about as irritating, for Erin didn't like crows. And so she liked to think of her dream as of a crow, who had flown into her head.
But… at the same time, Erin felt like she could sympathize with Chains and TS and Clickbeetle. For some reason – despite them obviously being trouble – she could really sympathize with them, and was more often than not irritated, as to not knowing what had happened to them after the explosion. She would really like to know.
As for Brian… Erin in the beginning decided to keep it quiet – her dreams were her dreams, her own business in other words, and Brian had no business knowing them. Her grandmother was too approving of Brian by far as it was. Her grandmother…
At that point Erin shook her head and got up. Her dreams half-forgotten and solely in the rapidly vanishing night, Erin Barksdale-Danielson got up and faced the new day.
While Erin Barksdale-Danielson was getting up to face the new day, as alarming as it was promising to be (but she didn't know that), other “players” were getting in position. A frontal door opened and closed. A waiting bell rang. Several members of the Stadt hotel staff snapped to attention. “Sir, have you registered?” the hotel’s registering clerk asked the man of the pair.
The man impassively folded his arms over his chest and looked the clerk right in the eyes. “Yes,” he said with an English accent. “We did.”
“And you are?”
“Mr. and Mrs. Gloucester.”
“Ah yes, Mr. and Mrs. Gloucester, the honeymoon suit, I believe?”
“Very well then. The suite 38-b. Your neighbours are Mr. and Mrs. Danielson, another newlywed couple.”
“How romantic,” spoke Mrs. Gloucester for the first time. She too had an accent, but a less distinguishable one. In other words, you couldn't determine her place of birth by her speech alone. “Let’s go, darling.”
Calmly and coolly, the couple left, their things carried by a couple of porters.
Brian Danielson looked respectfully and obediently at the seated man before him.
“Sorry to get you up so early, Brian, but the subjects have arrived, registered under the names of Mr. and Mrs. Gloucester.”
“Whom they are not.”
“No. They're Edmond Gorthaur, and his… apprentice, for the lack of a better word, Cobalt.”
“That’s an odd term, sir.”
“They're an odd pair, lad. The man, for example, has had his fingerprints on many an anti-American uprising in Central and South America and beyond, while the girl… the girl is reputed to be part German or something, and a rabid anti-democrat as well.”
“And what are they doing here?”
“Rumour has it that they are planning to condone an operation called “Sparksmith”, some sort a financial bug.”
“Ah yes, Switzerland, the financial capital of the world.”
“Exactly. We’ve got all types putting their money in. We’ve got our Arab sheiks who’re too close in their political tastes to Iraq on one hand, and we’ve got wives or lovers or simply female relatives of many politicians, who’re not above using governmental money to go shopping, to put it in abstract terms. And that’s not even covering the rest of ‘em. In short, Brian, if we’re not careful, we may have an Apocalypse on our hands, or something.”
“Good. Now you, and two other agents, will be waiting for them at this point here. If you notice either of them, you’ll contact one another first, and then the main HQ, that’s us.”
“How will I recognize the other agent, sir?”
“Your call-sign will be BL. The other agents will be NB and PL. He has the seniority, under stood? The HQ’s call-sign is BO.”
“Good luck, lad.”
“Well, Edmond, what do we do now?”
The man gave his partner a sharp glance, and when he spoke, his voice was bereft of any accents. “First we sweep for hidden devices.”
“True. Then we mediate to once again in prayer to Chaos and Dissonance.”
“Did that too.”
“Now we wait till allotted time and go and scout the surroundings.”
“And the designated area is-?”
“It’s a secret, my young padawan.”
“You know, if you’re not going to tell me, just say so, and not start quoting Star Wars.”
“Why? You don't like them?”
Cobalt gave her partner a sharp look, showing her displeasure. She had removed her wide-brimmed hat she wore earlier, showing an almost empty head save for a small circle of hair on the very top, dyed silvery-white. “No, I don’t. And another thing – what makes you sure that your miracle is going to occur?”
“Allow me to explain it to you one more time…”
Erin walked cheerfully through the resort’s hallway, when she noticed that the door into the next suite was ajar, and human voices came from it. As it happened – on some blind chance – no other soul was in the corridor. And Erin didn't suffer from no lack of curiosity. Slow, tip-toeing step by step, she neared to the door and to the conversation coming from within the suite.
“As you know, Cobalt, the life of an average human is as orderly as possible; humans thrive on order. Even those who don't fit into the society, the so-called criminals, even they are most often exposed to order, even if in jail. As a result, it would take only a very thorough bastard to leave a properly-established penintenerary establishment remaining a societal outcast. However, such establishments are even rarer than thorough bastards, so the result doesn’t take long in coming. But I digress.
Barring criminals and their un-fit into the society, your average Joe or Jane Doe live neat orderly little lives, sometimes blown-up, sometimes wizened-down by the society itself as a whole. When a large event – like a natural cataclysm or a war – shake-up a country, both the rich and poor alike suffer along similar lines. And that’s when Dissonance, more commonly called Chaos, comes in.
Dissonance, my young padawan, is what makes a natural order different from conveyer line on a power plant. It what promotes natural selection and gives all those losers at chance at being winners, or at least – successors.”
There was a pause, and the speaker – a tall, solidly-built man turned to eavesdropping Erin. “Hello. And who are you?”
Erin had the decency to blush. “Sorry. I'm Erin. Me and my husband Brian are you next-door neighbours. And you are?”
“Call me Edmond Gorthaur. And this is my lovely assistant Cobalt, but you can call her Marilyn.”
“But don't try to pull any Marilyn Monroe jokes,” the near-bald woman gave a glare to Erin.
“Of course-of course,” Erin said in a pacifying tone. “It was a very interesting speech you were giving, Mr. Gorthaur. Are you preacher of some new religion?”
“No, I'm an amateur psychologist,” Gorthaur smiled. “I also dabble in hypnotism. You know, I could always show you?”
“Oh really?” Erin said, bubbling with enthusiasm. “Do so. I've always wanted to be hypnotized!” She didn't notice Marilyn-Cobalt, who was looking at her in a very odd fashion, as she closed the door and let down the curtains.
“All right then,” Edmond Gorthaur turned all professional and business-like. “Please, sit down. Right there on a chair.”
Erin complied, and Edmond began to swing a small whitish medallion in a pendulum fashion. “Watch the disk, Erin, watch the disk. Let it draw you out of your mould, out of whatever has limited yourself to your present persona, go out into the void outside, where both life and death have curled in a knot, and bite each other on the tail, like an perverse Ouroboros. Go out and play, go out and pay – it’ll be worth! Go out, Erin! Enjoy what you have been denied, Erin! Realize your full value to the dark side, Erin!”
The rhythmic swinging of the disk and the soft, somnolent words of Gorthaur had an effect upon Erin’s will in no time. Her eyes unfocused, her body slumped, and her conscience, no her memory… suddenly, something snapped within Erin’s mind and she remembered, she remembered:..
Darkness. Solid darkness. And silence. Near silence, pierced only by penetrating and prolonged beeps, booms, and buzzes of some machine, unseen in the darkness. Suddenly – voices. A pair of voices. One male, one female. Talking. Talking. About her. About her. Saying her name.
What is her name?
“Well, my dear Mrs. Barksdale, your granddaughter has indeed brought-in a low blow to your family.”
“Come now, colonel Morgendorffer. Surely my granddaughter did nothing wrong?”
“Did nothing wrong?! Did nothing wrong?!! Mrs. Barksdale, are you aware that your granddaughter is one of the three girls that have been robbing convenience stores and nocturnal travellers for last couple of years and has supposedly shot one of three men this week? Mrs. Barksdale, what kind of a grandmother is you?”
“This isn’t my granddaughter by blood, colonel. Her mother is my niece, adopted by me.”
“Whatever, blood’s blood. Mrs. Barksdale, your whole family will be notified about this without any further ado.”
“Colonel, what do you want from me to keep this quiet? Some extra funding for your psychotropic experiments, maybe?”
“Extra funding won’t cut it, your co-operation on your grand-daughter’s behalf on participating in your experiment will.”
“Impossible! My granddaughter’s will be no freak!”
“Suit yourself! I'm sure the public will love it, when the whole Tanglewood Tales of Barksdale Family will be shown to it in the whole intricate detail in court. Who’s who’s father, grandfather, boyfriend, who’s adopted, who’s disowned, who’s-“
“Enough! Fine! Do what you will! But remember – you will regret that you didn't take the money!”
Now spiralling, spiralling further in time, seeing things, things she had never remembered about, never learned. Things, flashes of things, things and events – mere flashes among the space of her mind.
“It’s the latest summary.”
“What does it say?”
“Nothing consoling, I’m afraid. My colonel, you’ve got us a dud.”
“Mm-hmm. She’s about as receptive as log. Those two others, whom you sent to Antananarivo may’ve had more promise than her. My colonel, we should’ve taken the money.”
“Gah! Dammit! Nobody fools colonel “Mad Dog” Morgendorffer and gets away with it!” A pause, more chilling after that shout of hate and fury. “Captain Edgar, things are not over yet. That old harpy thinks she can out-chill anyone with her bloody Confederate charm. Well, she can't. I think I’ll make sure that she never escapes, never forgets, her blonde little granddaughter’s little straying astray! Captain!!”
“Yes sir colonel Morgendorffer sir!!”
“Do you know of any promising young men who are not above taking-up a bride?”
“Platoon commander Danielson sir is single! But Dr. Kelner got her eyes on him-“
A laugh, deep and throaty. “Then he’ll do. Ol’ Susan Kelner has gotten too… gluttonous. It is time that we’ve informed this Danielson, that his life and career are in his hands.”
“Maybe he won't be too quick on the uptake, sir.”
“Captain Edgar Cwicseolfor, only a stubborn Welshman like you would sway between a choice of being one of many, many young men who caught the eye of our head of science department and made it to ensign or a non-commissioned officer, for a very strenuous price, and the choice of promoting his career higher, much higher – say to the first lieutenant’s spot?”
“Yes sir, Danielson will soon be here, sir!”
More flashes, more spiralling, more events, more stars, bigger clusters, bigger swirls, galaxies-style. Flashes of things, of a marriage, of swooning, but most importantly of something lying, underlying it all, lying frustrated, like a Kraken in Tennyson’s poems. And now, it is free at least. And now – it is surface.
No. It’s just me, the real me, finally coming to the surface.
Erin Barksdale awoke with a gasp, her eyes as round as saucers. She was gasping, like a woman who had dived for too long a time. “Whoa! I remember now – everything that I wasn’t reminded off, I remembered!”
“You remember what?” Edmond Gorthaur curiously asked. Obviously, she was the new card of chaos into this whole mix.
“My past life! I was in this gang, where there were three girls. There was Chains, and TS, and Clickbeetle!”
“Clickbeetle? Is that you?” Cobalt’s blue-grey bulged as well. “’Tis I, Chains!”
Erin’s mouth fell open. “Chains? That’s you? I thought you were sent to Atlanta-place somewhere.”
“That’s Antananarivo and it’s in Madagascar. Both me and TS were sent there to work in the Ankaratra mountains. Then Edmond here got us out.”
“And where’s TS now?”
“That’s in Turkey! Can we visit her? Oh wait, I got married.”
“Don't worry. I’m sure major Danielson can be persuaded to disavow you, especially since the great colonel “Mad Dog” Morgendorffer is no longer around.”
“But something tells me that captain Cwicseolfor is still alive. That’ll take some strategy still. And besides, why are you here, Chains? What’s the big score?”
Chains-Cobalt smile. “It is simple, my dear Beetle. Gorthaur and I are going to create a global financial crisis. Cool, hah?”
“Who’s the buyer?”
“None other but our God.”
“You know, I’m not much into religion, and neither was TS, as I remember. But – I owe Brian and others a great deal. Count me in.”
“If it didn’t hurt, how would I know it worked?”
Brian Danielson was not a happy FBI agent. Being stuck in a busy bank, acting as a security guard (basically a highly-glorified mall rent-a-cop) was not something he fancied. Brian Danielson was a highly educated commando, a commando, do you hear, and besides, Brian was just his common-use. His real name, under which he had been baptized, was Ron. But that was something neither here not there. And here and now was the grim reality. And the reality was that neither NB nor PL had given forth any contact.
Brian had wondered, once upon a time, if life has been fair to him. True, it took him out of the ranks of non-commissioned officers, conscripted to the Area 81 (Roswell) to Dr. Kelner’s science division, doomed to the life of a lab assistant of the aforementioned doctor, whose sexual appetites, despite her forty-something age, was a legend of its’ own. But – a lucky chance, sir-colonel Morgendorffer getting mad at some old woman, and – here he was, major Danielson, and quite possibly (in the near future), captain or even lieutenant-colonel, if this operation succeeds. And one of the biggest global anarchists, Edmond Gorthaur, is finally brought to justice. After many bungled attempts, this has got to be the one. And he, major Brian Danielson, agent BL, will have a part in it!
Currently, however, nothing was out of ordinary. Callers and clients of the Swiss bank just entered and went, all to various destinations – to the board, to the vending machines, to the tables with the blank forms, to see personal agents, into various offices, or just milled around. Boring and unexciting.
All of this boredom was taking its’ toll on his concentration.
Brian let his gaze wonder-off. Suddenly, he saw a flash of something red. What was that?
Nothing. Just another visitor to the bank walked demurely through the building, few strands of bright red hair flashing under a wide-rimmed hat, decorated with artificial flowers.
Brian shook his head. This waiting was getting to him. His mind wondered-off again, back to his wedding to Erin Barksdale. That wasn’t fun. Erin was an empty-headed – or nearly empty-headed – blonde, who, supposedly, once shot a policeman. Or something. Personally, Brian had his doubts at that. ‘Course, Dr. Kelner often was miserly with her info, and only colonel Morgendorffer could pry anything out of her. There were rumours and wonderments, if there wasn't something between them, despite their obvious incompatibility.
Still, the marriage had been done with amplitude, old Mrs. Barksdale knew at least how to make a joyous affair truly memorable. And Erin’s cousins weren't such a loss either, especially the younger one…
While agent “BL” Danielson was nodding at his post, the red-head under the wide-rimmed hat walked demurely past the deeply-peopled area into the nearly-empty one. There she cast-off her expensive looking hat and coat, revealing at outfit of a janitor, her face obscured by slightly dark glasses. Her hair was now cut short, and it was blond. A kerchief was wrapped around it, obscuring a small portative communicator, that reached-out to the woman’s mouth.
It was Erin Barksdale-(soon to be divorced) Danielson. Calmly she walked to a back-door of the bank, semi-nervously looking around. Some people walked past her, but nobody noticed a janitor of un-determined sex, pushing forwards a cart full of janitor’s usual supplies. A name-tag on her chest said: “Mignon Perelman”.
After a while, the female janitor stopped, standing right next to a solidly closed back-door of the bank. She then spoke into the near-invisible microphone. “All right, I’m in position. Now what?”
“Light it up. We’ve got the surprise #6 in position and awaiting their moment most readily.”
“Their? Should I get out of the way or what?”
“Don't worry. You still wear that black thing we gave you?”
“Then light it up!”
The conversation was over. Erin looked around, saw that no one was paying attention to her, and pulled-out a lighter and something that resembled a long, thin cigar, like the one from the 1950s’ movies. She lit it up on one end, smoked once, twice, thrice, and then stuck it into keyhole of the back-door. Then she continued to do what she was doing, i.e. pretending to wash the floor.
The walkie-talkie of the agent “BL” turned to life. “BL? This is NB? How’s reception?”
“Loud and clear.”
“How’s the situation?”
“Clean and clear.”
“Good. At PL’s station everything’s also clear.”
“And at yours?”
“No problem either!”
An explosion resonated through the building. “What’s that?” Brian yelled, although he knew.
“It’s the attack! Run!”
But the running went in the wrong direction. Minutes later after the explosion sounded, and the security guards (and the three FBI agents among them) ran to the back of the building, there came a lot of loud grunts, growls and snarls, and lot of creatures that looked like bear cubs but with tails, charged forth to meet them. And from the expressions on their muzzles and the foaming saliva dripping, the animals weren't in the best of health.
They were rabid wolverines!
Some time later, the ambulances came. The wounds and the people began to be counted and treated. And Brian and another agent – “PL” aka Jim Swenson were contacting the “BO” aka their HQ.
And colonel Cwicseolfor was not having any happy news for them, either.
“Fools!” the man yelled at them, outloud. “What were you doing?”
“Fighting rabid wolverines, sir! Agent NB is down, sir!” the agents BL and PL barked as one.
“Say what? What wolverines?!”
“Rabid ones, sir. 15 of them, sir! Lot’s of people are dead and wounded, sir! Agent NB is one of them sir!”
Edgar Cwicseolfor exhaled. “It’s that damn Gorthaur and his apprentice… what’s that? What?” He turned away from his communicator, looking even more heat-up. “We're in trouble. It seems that Gorthaur’s “delayed-action mine” has been established at some bank computer, and we’ve got less than 10 hours to de-activate it.”
“How we do that, sir?”
“Go and talk to Gorthaur, BL. After all, you are his next-door neighbour.”
A short time later – 15-20 minutes – several dark-coloured cars squealed-in into the resort’s parking lot. Colonel Cwicseolfor, followed by Brian and Jim, approached the registering clerk. “Are Mr. and Mrs. Gloucester at their suite?” he asked gruffly.
“Who are you, sir?” the man replied, pointedly ignoring the question.
“I'm a colonel of the FBI, and I’m asking you a question, man. Do you want to be the newest member of local union of street-cleaners? I can arrange that!”
“Well, Mr. Colonel-of-the-FBI, Mr. and Mrs. Gorthaur have left, together with Mrs. Danielson, to take some Alpinism! They’ll be no earlier than dinner, too.”
“When did they leave?” Edgar Cwicseolfor asked the clerk, worry and anger now clear in his silvery-white eyes.
“About ten o’clock in the morning. They left separately,” the clerk added, seeing the scarlet face of the other man. “Ladies first, then the man. Apparently, they’ve had their own little expedition all planed out. So romantic.”
“Do you know in which direction did they go?” Cwicseolfor finally managed to say after a long pause.
“In the direction of the Inn river. The view there is really wonderful!”
“Go, go, go!” Cwicseolfor yelled to his men. “Get two – no, three, no, six chopper teams and fly all the way to Inn river and the border with Austria! Go, go, go!”
It helps to have an extra direction in which to run.
“You know, every plan has a weak spot, and I happen to think that we’ve just found ours,” Erin exhaled, as she, Chains-Cobalt and Gorthaur cheerfully went-up another level. “When I was inside the bloody fat suit, poising first as a customer, then as a female janitor, I was too bloody warm. Now, I’m not warm enough.”
“Simmer down, Kobold. This temperature is nothing yet compared to the ones in Alaska Range,” Gorthaur shook his head. “Between the explosions, the wolverines, and our own quick yet stalwart actions, the counter-team didn't know what hit ‘em.”
“What did hit them?” Erin asked. “Unlike Chains over here, I’m was never the one to risk all for an idea of which I knew next to nothing about.”
Gorthaur shrugged. “It’s easy. The great lord of Dissonance, Morgoth Bauglir, made it to me known his will. Since Cobalt there felt like she would like to more about my modus operandi, she joined me. Now all we have to do is put as much as distance as possible between Stadt & Davos and us, and shorten the distance as possible between Sankt Moritz and us.”
“What is in Sankt Moritz?” Chains-Cobalt asked.
“Our reservations as a boating team on Inn river. Overpowering rapids and all the other jollies.”
“Still lost,” the two women looked at each other.
“We’ll go from Sankt Moritz via Inn river to Passau, Germany. From there, we’ll go down ol’ Danube river till, say, Ruse, Bulgaria. From there we turn south, and go through the whole Bulgaria on foot, till we reach the sunny lands of Turkey.”
“Won't the feds be onto our plan?” Chains said sceptically.
“Never fear – I've got fire power! And – faith in Chaos and Dissonance, for do not forget – I am Gorthaur!” the man said calmly, yet cockily. “Now – let’s go!”
“Don't you hate it when he does that?” Cobalt muttered, as she and Erin followed their leader.
“I see what you mean,” the other woman replied.
“You sent for us, mister?”
“Yes, Mr. Chainer, I did. Ditto goes for you, Ms. Braids.”
Brian and Jim, on the quiet, examined the other two people present. “Chainer” was a large, brown-skinned man in bright purplish-blue-and-red clothes. “Braids” was smaller than her consort, and her clothes were much less colourful, but her skin was as black as fur of Bagheera-the-panther in Richard Kipling’s “Jungle Book”. And there was something in her gaze that told others to expect no mercy.
Chainer’s gaze, on the other hand, was calm and even a bit sorrowful. Still, it wasn’t particularly warm, either. “What do you want?” he asked.
“Mr. Chainer. Do you know the Stadt resort?”
“Ah yes. Located in the suburbs of Davos. Why do you ask?”
“Where would you go from there if you were in trouble with a capital T? And, you, supposedly, had a plan of some sorts?”
“That’s a mighty complicated question,” Chainer spoke. “For a relatively small country (15,941 sq mi), Switzerland has certainly a lot directions in which to run. So let’s think logically. If your subject would have no plan, he would most likely hare it north, to Austrian border. But if he has a plan, he would go either east, to Inn river, or south, to Sankt Moritz, and beyond, into Italy.”
“And if the subject has two companions? Female companions?”
“What, an agent of yours has fled to Como on AWOL?” Braids spoke for the first time.
“We're talking about a man called Gorthaur,” colonel Cwicseolfor spoke harshly. “What option would he chose, Mr. Chainer?”
Chainer and Braids looked at each other for the first time, then Braids began to speak. “Once upon a time, three centuries ago, the Devil himself once opened a door into this world. And through this world came demons. And one of those demons was-“
“Enough!” Cwicseolfor’s eyes bulged. “I don’t have times to hear all of your Haitian native tales. I want to know, Mr. Chainer, in which direction would he go?”
“East. Northeast. To Austria,” the brown-skinned man cleaved each word one-by-one. “He’s a native of EE.”
“Good. We’ve got helicopters there, he’ll be caught. Now. Will you two be interested in capturing him – for a price, of course,” the colonel quickly added, forewarning the immediate question.
The Berber looked at the Haitian. “Can't say that we aren’t,” Chainer finally said. “But Braids in it isn't for the cash – she’s purely for private reasons.”
The FBI-st from Wales frowned. He didn't like private reasons, and he didn't like Braids much period. There was too large a possibility that this panther-turned-woman would break loose from whatever tenuous control her partner had on her and would start slaughtering everyone in her path just so she could get a shot at Gorthaur. But he didn't have any other choice – not if he wanted to prevent all financial information in Switzerland (and figuratively speaking – the world) to turn into a game of luck, where you never knew how much money your account would hold next. “All right, it’s a deal.”
“Explain to me again – what do we have in the back packs?” Chains asked Gorthaur, as they and Erin overpowered yet another mountain-pass. “Besides some clothing and documents, that is?”
“Three handguns, and an assembling automatic rifle,” Gorthaur replied cheerfully. “Plus the ammo to them.”
“I don't suppose you’ve got a sword-bayonet in there too,” Erin piped-up.
“I don't believe in the whole concept of bayonets, period,” Gorthaur replied solemnly. “Besides, they’re useless in the mountains.”
“What isn't useless in the mountains, besides a ladder?” Chains grumbled.
Erin frowned. There was a steadily though softly growing sense of alarm in her stomach. “Say, is there a possibility that they’ll be able to figure where are we headed to, exactly?”
Gorthaur shrugged. “Sure thing. West is out of the running. There’s nothing there but more Alps and alpine rivers. To north is Austria, to east – Inn river, to south – Sankt Moritz and Italy. In short, the enemy forces must just surround everything west of Seez river, and they’ll be all set.”
“Then why aren't we haring west?” Chains grumbled.
“Because we're fleeing with the calculation not-to-get caught. That’s the tricky part in making an escape, you know?”
“You don't say,” the other two women exchanged glances. “And what makes you think that once we reach Sankt Moritz all will be set?”
“Because then we’ll go canoeing the Inn river in my very own, very special vessel – Pristis-pectinata,” Gorthaur said proudly. “It cane make it through any custom-house, sloop, lowering bridge, and canal lock without slowing-down at all.”
“Am not!.. But we must hurry anyways. Our pursuers have means of transportation of their own, while we still have only our two feet. Let’s go.”
“Remind to me again – where does our budget talk about a cross-country vehicle?” agent PL – Jim Swenson – asked agent BL – Brian Danielson.
“I don't know – but let’s not count the blessings that we’ve got.”
At this point in time, the pair of agents, plus the driver of the vehicle, were haring through the twisting and turning alpine road, scattering rocks and ploughing through snow. The driver – an older, gnarly-faced man of an agent with call-sign SZ – was keeping quiet.
“What you should be reminded-off instead,” Brian turned to Jim, “is that we’ve got no solid plan of what to do, when we do catch-up to them. Do we have any firearms or something?”
Agent SZ just sighed and point-out several machine guns stuck in the overhead compartment. “Hey, I know these guns!” Jim cheerfully turned to Brian. “They're Danish, and can take a man down from 100 paces!”
“Good,” nodded Brian, looking-out via binoculars. “This just may be enough.”
“Do we’ve got any binoculars, or is the optical scope of the rifle the only thing we’ve got?”
“It’s a good one,” Gorthaur took the time to get hurt now. “It got a 30/20 visual range! Given that most binoculars of our pursuers are 20/10 or even 20/20, we’ve got ourselves a hell of an advantage!”
“The pursuers also got helicopters, and cross-country vehicles, and I don't know what else. Dags trained for pursue, maybe.”
Gorthaur shook his head. “These are mountains. Dogs don’t fare too good in snow, and besides, dogs aren't allowed in Stadt in the first place.”
“Neither were wolverines in Davos, but how well did that work-out, hmm?”
“Ah, but I planned on using them; the enemy didn’t plan on using dogs.”
“I certainly hope so, ‘cause otherwise, it’ll be our bones that’ll get buried in these mountains,” Erin grumbled.
“You know Jim, I'm pretty sure that you’re just fooling around, or something,” Brian spoke-up.
“Now why would you say that?”
“You're looking through the binoculars into the sky.”
“What? They may have hand-gliders, or something similar to that stashed-away somewhere.”
“Jim, gliding in the Alps in winter is impossible. No thermals, you know? And I’m pretty sure that even Gorthaur wouldn't be able to hide a helicopter in here. Or a real plane.”
“Speak for yourself! Hey, here are some of our helicopters!”
“Must be the Skywing team,” Brian grumbled. “I wonder, just how are they doing?”
“I told you that I've heard choppers!” Erin told half-angrily to Gorthaur. “And now here we are, caught on an open mountain-slope!”
“Don't worry, we’ve got a hidden weapon – Cobalt!”
Meanwhile, the newly-proclaimed hidden weapon was looking at the sky through the optical scope of the rifle, muttering something, calculating something-or-other. After a while, she angled the rifle out to her liking, and squeezed the trigger. Then shifted the rifle’s muzzle and fired again.
“Hey! Hey! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” Jim yelled. “Partner, watch!”
Brian did watch indeed. Before his very eyes, the pair of helicopters merrily patrolling moments before the montane slopes and ridges, now fell.
Rocks that were trailing black smoke from their struts.
“Let’s go there now!” Brian yelled to the driver – agent SZ. “Gorthaur is probably there!”
“Nice shot!” Gorthaur chortled, slapping Cobalt on the back. “Right in the rotors! Good job!”
“You always were good at calculating such things, Chains,” Erin added her share.
“But you were always better on hearing.”
“Yes… and now I hear something coming over that ridge!”
Within moments, that something came into view: a cross-country vehicle, built almost as solidly as an armoured troop-carrier, big enough for three-four people. And it was going on his speed – slush and steam were splashing out of its’ caterpillar tracks.
“Can't you shoot the driver?” Erin asked.
Chains looked in the scope and shook her head. “Armoured glass. Will absorb the shots long enough to come too close. The men inside got Danish weapons – good enough from 100 paces.”
“Nova Scotian. Four times the range.”
“Wicked, but time’s a-wasting!”
Cobalt looked pensive, the ran off to the right.
“What’s she doing?” Erin turned to Gorthaur.
“Buggered be if I know.”
“Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry!” Brian chanted that word like a mantra. “Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry!”
“He’s going as fast as he can,” Jim exhaled, lowering the window down slightly, and poking out his gun. “Just let him cover the needed distance and we’ve got them – shot or surrendered!”
“Hey, they’re seemingly splitting-up!”
Cobalt ran-off to the right side, and looked once again at the scope in her rifle. Perfect. The right caterpillar track of the vehicle was in plain sight. Smiling, Cobalt quickly found her targets, then let it rip.
Before the astonished eyes of Gorthaur and Erin, the cross-country vehicle, going on full-pelt, turned upside down, and began to roll down the mountain doing summersaults. The reason for that was simple. The rifle bullets, travelling at high speed and at just the right angle, had struck the cogs in the caterpillar track, doing what the proverbial wrench did to the proverbial machine work. And as the vehicle went tumbling down the slope at very high velocity, blind chance gave-in its’ input: beforehand, Jim “agent PL” was holding a machine gun, and didn't let go off it soon; he squeezed the trigger instead. The weapon started to discharge bullets at also very high velocity, turning the vehicle into a sieve of death.
“Good job, eh?” Cobalt rejoined Gorthaur and Erin. The next moment the vehicle exploded, together with the two helicopters who had been shot-down few moments before, also by Cobalt.
The smirking expression on Gorthaur’s face suddenly vanished, replaced by near fear – for the first time since Erin met him. “Avalanche! Run!”
The Alps shuddered, as dry, loose snow came thundering down the mountains. A silvery, snow cloud wafted upwards, and before it went an air wave, acting as a battering-ram. And the whole thing, the whole massive thing was headed towards the trio of people. “Death from asphyxia – here we come!” Cobalt quipped, cheerful to the end.
“No!” Gorthaur shouted, his black eyes literally glowing with something dark. “This is just another trial! We will not fail!” He stretched his arms forwards, as if establishing a barrier.
“No!” Erin snarled. “I'm too young to die! Oh, whatever it is that colonel Morgendorffer and his Welsh sidekick had installed in me – kick-in now!”
The avalanche struck.
Several miles away to northwest, in the town of Davos, the Haitian called Braids shuddered. “What’s wrong?” asked her partner, Chainer.
“Dambollah! He had shown himself again. Gorthaur is at large, in charge, and is getting bigger and stronger!”
“Where is he?” colonel Cwicseolfor yelled, ignoring the means he had received the information.
“Miles away from Davos, even further from Sankt Moritz. But he doesn't need it anymore. His strength has grown more – or is there someone else besides him? I can’t tell.”
“Where is he?” the colonel roared.
“You’ll find him at the border with Austria, not sooner, not later,” Braids spoke.
“We’ll find him, you mean,” colonel Cwicseolfor smiled nastily. “Summon the helicopter teams – we're going international!”
“We’ve survived starvation, dwarf attacks and heatstroke. Why should a little sandstorm bother us?”
The avalanche struck forwards like a mighty battering ram. By every logical conclusion, the trio of humans should’ve been buried alive by airbound snow and then slow suffocated on it. Instead, the literally flew forwards, as if propelled by some unseen force. Erin looked around her with wide eyes, as if unbelieving what she was seeing, and saw that Chains was looking at her with a matching expression. Gorthaur’s expression, however, showed nothing but extreme, extreme concentration and mental strain.
From what? Erin briefly wondered, and then their air-trip ended, as the trio landed on a broken-off side of the FBI cross-country vehicle. The trio landed… and the resulted momentum caused the rectangular piece of metal to go steadily downward, down, down the mountain, like a snowboard.
“Wah-hah-ho!” one of the three yelled, as they maintained their balance and tried to steer the thing without falling off it. “Wah-hah-ho!”
“Sir, we have a problem. Several of them, in fact.”
The colonel turned around and fixed the senior non-commissioned officer with a glare. “What are you talking about?”
“The Skywing team. They're not responding. And agents BL, PL, and SZ had taken a fully loaded, fully functional cross-country vehicle. They're not responding too.”
“And they won't be,” Braids spoke-up once again in that cold, emotionless, flat tone. “Gorthaur and his apprentices has delivered them straight to Dambollah’s cold black coils. They won't come back from it, unless Dambollah wills it. And if Dambollah wills it… let your God take pity on you!”
“You're talking nonsense!” the colonel erupted. “We're talking two helicopters and a cross-country vehicle! We're talking seven men with battle experience!”
“And we are talking Gorthaur, who the impossible, the improvable, the insane and unstoppable,” Chainer replied calmly. “Have you forgotten Ankaratra and Antananarivo?”
Cwicseolfor’s face went pale, then red. “Shit!” he exclaimed. “I bet that old Morgendorffer never would’ve troubles similar to this one! And he had a family to take care of, too!” He turned to his aides. “Send the remaining two helicopter teams plus two bomber planes to cover the area around Swiss-Austrian border and beyond, plus sent a fully loaded troop-carrier to the nearest place located on that river, Inn.”
“You mean Innsbruck, sir?”
“We’ll go too,” Chainer spoke up suddenly.
“Three Wisemen, sitting in a basin, chose once to brave the sea. Amazing! Ah, but if basin was stronger, then – well, perhaps the song be longer!” Cobalt sang-out. “Boy, I bet this wasn't what you meant in mind, Gorthaur, when you were talking about the Inn river! I mean, surfing on it via floating ice?”
“Don't complain, woman!” Erin spoke-up instead. “I still can't comprehend how did we make it down there?”
“And you’ll never will,” Gorthaur spoke up, serious for once. “That was something your mind couldn’t grasp, couldn’t comprehend. Somehow, great Chaos itself had been briefly unleashed in the mountains, and took us along for a ride.”
“Gee, I wonder why,” Chains snorted. “All I did was take down a couple of choppers and a cross-country vehicle. In all, seven men.”
Gorthaur shrugged. “Don't look at me – I’m not his keeper.”
“You guys, stop arguing, or we’ll go the way our snow board went once we’ve hit the river,” Erin warned loudly. “Down to the bottom of the river.”
“We don’t know that – just look at the ice flow!” Chains shook her head.
And indeed – the spectacle was something to be admired. An uncountable number of ice-blocks, big and small, clean and smirched, table-smooth or bumpier than hedgehogs, were swimming by. Furthermore, the ice blocks were going so close to each other, that there was almost no empty space between them, the ice flow was so dense. The blocks rubbed against one another, grasped each other, broke apart under each other’s pressure with crackling noise… “I would really enjoy this more have we been ashore,” Chains concluded her point of view. “If we fall down form our block, we’ll be crashed-up better then in a gravel machine.”
“Don't worry,” Gorthaur shook his head. “The important thing is not to lose confidence. Compared to that avalanche, ‘tis nothing, ‘tis only beneficial.”
“For one thing – no river traffic. Agreed?”
“For another thing, that means that canal locks and various sloops will be opened to prevent the heaping of ice. An ice flow this big can bring-down anything short of the Hoover Dam in the US.”
“Agreeable, but grudgingly,” Erin spoke-up. “Besides, the feds will probably have more helicopters.”
“Yes,” Gorthaur said, completely serious once again. “And this is why we’re going to prepare for them.”
“What? Here and now?”
“You have any better choice?”
“What are you so quiet about, Braids?”
“I’m worried, Chainer.”
“Worried about whom? Gorthaur?”
“I'm always worried about Gorthaur, Chainer. The further the more. But right now – it’s something else.”
“What, then? And the colonel Crackerjack can't hear us either.”
“Dombollah was here, Chainer. Dombollah himself. Seven men have died because of Gorthaur, in the mountains in winter – a good place for Dombollah and his ilk. And Gorthaur has grown dark enough to communicate with Dombollah without any further ado – or there’s somebody else, almost as strong.”
“Talk about your bad choice!”
“It gets worse. Seven men have died, but seven is an inconvenient number. Six of the men Dombollah took back in his kingdom, but the seventh – he had released.”
“Why? What has happened to the seventh?”
“He’s now something else. Not like Gorthaur, but something else. Less and more than human. And I'm fearing that we’ll meet with it, too. And that is something I'm not looking forwards to, at all.”
“Don't worry, baby,” Chainer sighed. “We’ll get them yet. All of them.”
Braids just sighed. After their failure in Quelimane, Mozambique, her hopes waned by the day.
Back in the Alps, between Davos and the Inn river, a newly-formed snow bank stirred. And out of the snow, rose a charred, blackened and bloodied corpse.
Only it was alive, or at least – capable of independent movement.
Yes, though it was blackened, bleeding, and pierced in several places with blackened metal, and though its’ face was a mask of blood and flesh, it moved. And it looked around. It looked around the mountains, saw the jammed-up river, and whispered. “Gorthaur…”
Then it began to follow the river’s flow.
Towards the Austrian border.
“What is it now, man? What is your rank, anyways?”
“Senior non-commissioned officer Drakensberg, sir!”
“Very well then, senior non-commissioned officer Drakensberg. What do you want to inform me about?”
“The Inn river is jammed by an ice flow, sir! Result of the avalanche, sir!”
“Reports came-in from Swiss-Austrian border. The ice flow is so intense, that they won't dare dam the river all the way till Innsbruck – and beyond! Maybe when it reaches Munich, Germany – then yes. But in Austria proper – no way.”
“Contact both of the dive bombers and the troops in Innsbruck. Tell them to scout the river from the sky and from the right shore. Ice flow or no, Gorthaur and his aides will not escape!”
“So, care to tell us about our new firearms?” Cobalt smirked at Gorthaur.
The man raised his eyebrows. “Yours and hers are standard issue. Have about 30-35 rounds, attainability 100 paces or so.”
“It’s a flare gun. It’s for specialities.”
Neither of the girls dared to ask to specify what did he mean.
Several hours later, the shores have finally changes. No longer montane wilderness, signs of human visitation were everywhere. But no signs of the military. Yet Erin couldn't shake the feeling that somebody was following them. Someone or something – she couldn't determine. When she asked Gorthaur, he just smiled and said: “The wild card.” Erin decided not to press him for anymore answers. And then – it happened.
A plane roared down from the sky. “A bomber,” Gorthaur sighed his voice is heavy with weariness. “How mundane?”
“What are we going to do?” Chains’ voice jumped-up several octaves higher. “We can't shoot it – it’ll blow up the river!”
Gorthaur smiled. “Girls, hold me. In a few moments, we're going to run!”
He raised his flare gun and aimed it at the cabin of the bomber’s pilot.
“This is Bomber-2 speaking. Bomber-1 is taking a swoop at the river, I'm going for the mountains. Repeat: Bomber-1 is taking a swoop at the river, I'm going for the mountains. River – all clear, mountains –“
The report ended abruptly, as a series of explosion going-up in a crescendo shuddered from the river. Bomber-2’s head jerked abruptly in that direction, and he didn't notice a human-sized black shape launch at him from a mountaintop, as if wearing a parachute.
Only it wasn’t.
“Run!” Gorthaur yelled as the trio ran, or rather – jumped from an ice block onto an ice block, heading towards the eastern shore. Behind them, a bomber-plane, slowly consumed by a fire started by a flare, fell into the Inn river, causing a lot of ice-barring waves as it sunk.
“What the-?” the pilot didn't have time to think. A zombie-like monster, its’ skin and flesh partially charred, partially ripped, partially destroyed, with odd metal bits sticking out of it, smashed through the cabin’s glass. Before the pilot could react, the monster ripped him out of his seat and threw him out of it. Then he climbed inside and grabbed the plane controls. It wasn't easy, as its’ right hand was pierced by a metal rod, and its’ left wrist – by several, but it managed.
The second bomber plane flew on, despite the change in the management.
“Well, that was interesting,” Erin grasped her knees and tried to catch her breath. “Avalanche-riding, ice-block-riding, plane-dodging – I hate to see what you guys do for fun.”
“You’ve forgotten to add babysitting for several rabid wolverines,” Chains’ added, looking none-too-good herself. “Gorthaur, where are we? I'm pretty positive that we’ve passed the border, but are we near Innsbruck or what?”
Gorthaur paused, looking thoughtful. “Actually, we're non-too-far from the Innsbruck’s suburbs, yes.”
“And aren't we awaited for there?” Erin said. “That plane didn't come for us here alone.”
“No,” Gorthaur nodded his head in agreement. “You're right. But – we’re going to Innsbruck. I've just had a revelation. Trust me.”
“We don't have any choice,” Chains sighed. “Come on, Clickbeetle, let’s go.”
“Sir? Sir? We’ve just lost contact with both bomber planes.”
“What? What? This is ridiculous! What does Gorthaur has – antiaircraft weapons?”
“Why not?” Chainer appeared next to Cwicseolfor. “You never know what he has. When we first confronted him, in Mozambique and Madagascar, he managed to get most of us, but Braids and me, and we had advantage of the numbers, and he was nowhere as good as he is now. Although, it may not be him exactly. Maybe a bird got sucked-up the propeller engine or something. It doesn't matter anyways.”
“Oh why, pray tell.”
“Innsbruck is the only place around here – as in civilized, I mean. Gorthaur may be changing plans on a whimsy, but he always follows his main idea. Right now, he wants to ditch the Alps. To do that, he has to come to Innsbruck. And here, we’ll be waiting.”
Both the Berber and the Welshman smiled.
The smiles were both frightening.
“You know, they’ll be waiting,” Erin said.
“The enemy? Of course. The question here is isn't who’s the dumbest, but who’s the smartest, and right now let’s see, what’s our advantages?”
“They don't know if we’re off the river or on the river or whatever?”
“Exactly!” If a smirk could be described as loud, it would fit perfectly Gorthaur’s current facial expression. “They also don't know that we’ve never been to Sankt-Moritz, and don't have a boat. So, we have the advantage of being less boggled down than they think, we’re… more mobile.”
“And it’ll aid us how?”
“Just follow my lead. What we are going to do, will probably make all that that we have done today look as preliminaries.”
Both girls gulped.
“Something is wrong here, man,” Chainer turned to the colonel. “I've just been thinking. It’s the whole natural disaster thing, see?”
“No, I don't,” Cwicseolfor replied. “Elaborate please, and keep your prophetic female friend out of it.”
Chainer nodded in agreement. “Fare enough. All right. According to our data, Gorthaur was overtaken, however, briefly, here.”
“That’s the area where the avalanche occurred,” Cwicseolfor said dryly.
“Precisely, and it resulted in the ice flow in the Inn river. Consequently, if Gorthaur had planned to use a boat to go up the river, it was rendered impossible for him by now.”
“So you’re saying that he’s dead or in Como, Italy, by now?” the colonel jumped-up.
“No man no. For some reason he wants to go north, and besides, the Inn river – it doesn't go to Italy, no freaking way. So he still comes to Austria, the question is when and how.”
“I believe that the vanished bomber planes answer the question of when,” Cwicseolfor pointed-out.
“Hmm, true. So mister colonel, you’ve got still a couple of helicopters, and a whole lot of troops with their own troop-carrier plane. The objective: how do you use them to capture a man whose position in comparison to yours’ you do not know? Oh, and the time is only rough estimates, really.”
The colonel smiled coldly. “I think I know the solution, mister Chainer, I think I know it.”
“Well, obviously colonel Edgar Cwicseolfor decided to catch you no matter what. Street-wide patrols and the whole nine yards too,” said Chains, after observing the nearest streets through the optical scope. “Question: what do we do now?”
“Do you see the airfield?”
“Yeah, I see it. Got that troop-carrier plane too.”
“What does it look like?”
“About as big as that bomber plane, but half as light again, I'll wager.”
“Got any troops around it?”
“Only about four or so of sentries. But they all got really big weapons?”
“Let me see them. Hmm… German. Range – 300 paces. Oh goody, a challenge!”
“Uh, Edmond? What are we going to do?” Erin said meekly.
“We're going to steal the plane!” Gorthaur beamed brightly. “We’ll steal it, and fly it south-east as much as possible. Considering that it had only used a small amount of fuel between Berne and here, it’ll probably have enough fuel to carry us through Austria, Hungary, and part of Romania – over Transylvania, most likely.”
The girls’ mouths fell open.
“Explain to me something,” Erin hissed to Chains. “Why can't we fly the damn thing to Turkey proper once we’ll steal it?”
“If Gorthaur says we can't then we can’t,” Chains whispered back. “Don't worry, Clickbeetle, Gorthaur’s schemes may be crazy – but they always work.”
Erin just shook her head. “Something always goes different with his plans, I think.” Suddenly she stiffened. “And I think I just hit the nail on the head in this instance… Chains!”
Chains fired two shots. Two guards toppled onto the back. The other two opened fire… or they would’ve, if one of their helicopters didn't appear behind the two women.
Only Erin was prepared for that Remembering how Chains back in the mountains downed a pair of planes, she whirled around, cocked her firearm, and fired.
“Almost got them, baby, almost got ‘em!” the helicopter’s pilot whistled excitedly. “Almost got them, man – you’re going to fire at them-“
There was a crack, and the pilot slumped forwards onto the steering lever, his brains blown-out by Erin’s lucky shot. His co-pilot, abandoning the control for the guns, frantically grasped the steering lever instead and began to frantically wrestle it around.
The helicopter began to dance.
“What’s the Hell is going-on down there? He overdid it on glitterberries, or something?” the pair in the other helicopter looked at each other.
“Nah, they probably just lost it or something,” they finally decided.
The zombie-like creature who was once the agent SZ was angry. He was almost dead and he was full of hatred. He wanted to kill the bastard who killed him, no matter who else got in the way, and now that bastard was right beneath him – or so he supposed.
The ex-agent SZ abandoned his stolen bomber plane and jumped once again, without any parachute.
The last two sentries who weren't shot down by Chains, were blasted into oblivion by the first helicopter’s now un-manned machine guns. The second helicopter didn't have any time to feel anything themselves, as the bomber plane, put on autopilot by ex-PZ smashed into them, sending it all down the earth in the massive fireball.
And the ex-agent PZ himself, or itself, didn't succeed either: he fell straight into the rotor of the rotating first helicopter, and caused it to crush down on the ground in a big ka-boom too.
“See girls,” Gorthaur said, smiling from the pilot’s cabin in the trooper-carrier plane, “everything always works-out in the end – just put your faith in Dissonance.”
“Belief in the Ancestor is admirable, but our enemies often demand something more … tangible.”
--Pianna, nomad captain
“Yes, aunt Rita?”
“Erin has sent me this letter a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, it’s written in Swiss or something and I can’t read it.”
“Aunt Rita. There’s no such language as Swiss. The languages native there are French, Germany, and some Italian.”
“Yes, well, I can’t read any of them, either.”
“Well, what makes you think that I can?”
Rita paused. “Well, Daria, your mother claimed that it was so. She isn't wrong, is she?”
“Well, let’s see what is writteneth here,” Daria sighed. At her first sight of Erin’s letter her eyebrows crawled-up. The language in which the letter was written, was Turkish. Not sharing that information with her aunt, Daria began to read, silently, to herself, just what her oldest cousin was up to.
“Dear mom. Sorry about writing to you in a foreign language, but TS and others insisted. Mom, I've divorced Brian, though it is most probably post-mortem. Mom, I’m not coming home any time soon – I've regressed back to my pre-Brian days. Mom, I love you. Mom, I’m in Istanbul, Turkey, and plan to go next to Ankara or something. Mom, I love you. Mom, I'll say you said hi to TS and Chains. Mom, if men in uniform ask about me, you know nothing.
“Well, Daria? What does her letter say?”
Daria wavered a bit, thought some more, and then spoke. “Uh, Erin met some old friends in Stadt, and I think she’s going to divorce Brian once and for all. However, she decided not to involve aunt Helen in it this time. Also, despite her soon-to-be-single status, she’s not lacking for male attention, so she won't be coming home soon. Finally, she tells you not to worry and such. Look, I’m not a professional translator, I've probably made mistakes. Ask mom – maybe she knows somebody who is.”
Rita Barksdale smiled. “Thanks Daria, but no thanks. You're good enough for me. Now if you excuse me, it’s time that your dad drove all of us shopping.”
Daria grimaced. “Do I have to come, aunt Rita? I'm sure that between you, mom and Quinn you can come-up with something.”
Rita sniffed. “You're so much like Amy!”
“Does she know that?”
“She too doesn't like to shop. But both of you can keep each other company. Let’s go.”
Shrugging, Daria went. As she reached to turn-off the TV, she noticed the news announcer saying something about a global financial crises…
Daria smiled. Perhaps the shopping trip will be more interesting than she thought.
Endnotes. The decision to write about Erin Barksdale-Danielson in my nest fic of “SLA”-series came by accident. I didn't really plan to use her at all. But as inspiration in other in channels stopped to a crawl, I turned to her.
Now, you may be surprised about the sudden “James Bond or something” format. Well, in Daria episode “Aunt Nauseum”, we learn that Erin is in Stadt, Switzerland, in a yet-previous episode, “I Don't”, Erin tells her relatives that Brian is in some secret governmental force. Given my current inclement to go detective/action story with Daria-characters in my series, the rest just came automatically.
Now, I'll remind you about the chronology of my series.
1. “A chain reaction begins.”
2. “Murder on Monday”
3. “(More) Trouble on Tuesday”
4. “Le Soiree”
5. “And Now – Erin” (this story)
I'm not sure what’ll follow this story, but I’m positive I'll turn back to Lawndale – after all, they now got a financial crises to take care of, thanks to Gorthaur, Chains-Cobalt and Erin-Clickbeetle. Also, I've left a few loose ends there, I believe. So, I think I'll do another three stories and another intermission – in this order. But, who knows?
Last comment. Gorthaur means “terror of terrors”, and is from Tolkien. This is my homage to “Fellowship of the Ring” and “Two Towers”. (I really advise you to go and see “Two Towers” - it is played now). Gorthaur was another name for Sauron. Will there be a ring involved in Erin’s future too? Who knows.