(In NANO Archive 03: The Fate of Bliss (Part II), Chapter 1 is a brief, 4-page recap of the events leading up to and through NANO Archive 03: The Fate of Bliss (Part II). As such, I have decided to post Chapter 2 as this book’s excerpt! Enjoy!)
File 02: Rock Bottom
“I’ll need a few more months, my friend. This energy doesn’t make itself, ha-ha!” A loud voice bellowed in the distance. Richter and I crept out of the elevator onto a steel grating that overlooked a large room. Several black steel pipes ran the length of the grating before splitting off where the individual pipes delivered whatever cargo they carried.
Though I often forgot that Richter used to serve America’s enemies as a spy during the Global Conflict, it was during such times that his actions reminded me. Richter matched my silent movements step for step; before long, the two of us pressed our backs against the rails in the shadows. While he noiselessly readied one of his stakes, I willed my daggers from their scabbards.
Bradich responded to the loud voice. “Your words are quite confusing; this energy source quite literally does make itself, Chronicle.”
I snatched my daggers from their floating positions; I nearly roared and leapt from the grating in that very instant, but I caught sight of Richter in my peripherals; he threw up a hand signal to stop me. My hands shook with fury; how could Richter remain calm while Elsa remained in the clutches of Bradich and his cronies?!
Chronicle responded. “Ha-ha! I see your sense of humor is as stale as ever! The energy may make itself, but it requires time and resources to create the matrix responsible for it. I need at least three more months. In its incomplete form, it won’t provide you with the same energy output as even half the matrix used to power Bliss.” Chronicle’s voice seemed human, but a mechanical quality saturated it.
“Ah, forgive me, Chronicle. It has been a long time since I’ve felt a connection to ‘humor,’ as it were.” Bradich forced a chuckle, seemingly for Chronicle’s sake. “Unfortunately, I’ll not be able to wait the three months. You see, an important group of guests are forcing my hand. I’ll need the completed matrix immediately.”
“Hmm…” Chronicle’s voice droned. “Anything worth doing is worth doing right, Bradich. I cannot give you what I do not have. Speaking of guests, where is Nil? New visitors have come to Bliss! I spoke to them once and granted them access, but I’ve yet to meet them! Nil promised he would bring them right away, but I’m sure all the delegation above is demanding much of his time.” Chronicle sounded just as excited at the prospect of meeting us in person as he did over the portable holocom on the city’s outskirts. I slowly pieced the puzzle together.
Bradich maintained his calm. “Oh, I’m sure we’ll be able to work something out, Chronicle. As for Nil…. Yes, I believe he may be a bit busy figuring things out. I’d have brought him myself, but he had a trial he needed to take care of. He may be a bit late in joining us. Have you thought, perhaps, about getting rid of your new guests? The information we have accrued together could be quite dangerous in the wrong hands.” Bradich’s deceptive tongue boiled my blood. If there was one thing Bradich did well, it was twisting words.
Chronicle replied without a moment’s hesitation. “Now, Bradich, you will make me angry. You know I detest nothing more than the censorship of information. Had I a body of my own, I would venture into the world to spread the knowledge I have acquired, myself, but I can only do so much from here. What of you? Have you made any strides in the technology I showed you? The one for transferring minds and personalities to new vessels? If it can occur one way… I’m sure it must be possible to do it the other.” Chronicle sounded hopeful.
Bradich paused for a long moment. “No, I’m afraid I haven’t.”
“I understand. Well, unless you intend to snatch out the matrix that sustains Bliss, you’ll have no choice but waiting the three months. We’re doing our best here, my friend,” Chronicle said with no small measure of disappointment. I could hear it in Chronicle’s voice without even truly knowing him. I arched a brow at Richter in hopes he could offer me some kind of reassuring glance that what I heard regarding Chronicle’s lack of a body was not as strange as I thought, but he seemed just as confused as I was.
Bradich chuckled again, but it was a genuine chuckle. “What a splendid idea, Chronicle. Regrettably, it would seem that is the only course of action I can take. You understand.”
Chronicle forced a chuckle. “Oh… it would seem you are capable of humor, after all. That is a splendid joke. Why, then, are your friends not laughing? Surely your new friend should be laughing at the very least. Was his joke as terrible as I thought, little Elsa?” Chronicle spoke the magic word. I snapped; no longer able to contain myself, I vaulted over the side of the grated catwalk despite Richter’s repeated hand signal to wait.
Bradich continued. “It is no joke, I’m afraid. Those guests are already here, you see. They necessitate that I… expedite the process.”
After a few seconds maneuvering around pipes and tubes, I saw Bradich’s face. He stared up at a giant computer monitor in the center of a large room. Several fluorescent lights, reminiscent of old-world lights, illuminated its dusty interior. Along each of the four walls and in each of the four right-angled corners, old-world computers beeped. Thin glowing strips ran up and down the length of the cases, and with the exception of the giant monitor to which Bradich spoke, none of the computers possessed a monitor.
As I locked my gaze onto Bradich’s face, his lips curled up into a gnarled smile. In response to Chronicle’s directed question, Bradich glanced down at Elsa who stood next to him beneath the crook of his arm. That was all the confirmation I needed. I dashed toward him with the silence of a feline stalker; I drew my daggers back toward my sides at the ready. There was no way for Bradich to escape. The only exit was behind me, and I would die before I allowed the bastard to get past me. At the last moment before I stepped from the dark web of pipes into the light cast by the fluorescent bulbs and bright screen, the sound of Richter drawing his bow taut tickled my enhanced hearing.
“… You mean they’re in the city?” Chronicle asked. The weight of Bradich’s words must have sunk in, because he abandoned his lighthearted tone.
When Richter fired his stake, the twang echoed off the pipes; it shot straight through the gaps between the pipes and grates and whizzed by the side of my head. It blew a few strands of my hair in front of my face as it whistled straight toward Bradich.
Without even glancing in our direction, Bradich’s hand shot up to the side of his face. His fingers closed around Richter’s stake effortlessly, and the force of the impact created by the makeshift arrow’s sudden stop sent a quick pulse of air across the room that tousled Bradich’s and Elsa’s hair. Bradich smiled and glanced toward the darkness where I still raced toward him.
“No,” Bradich said to Chronicle. “I mean they’re here.”
Even with my inhuman hearing, there was no way I would have detected our approach if I’d been in Bradich’s position. How? How could his abilities have been so far beyond mine that I couldn’t even comprehend them? I possessed a plethora of nanites so vast that any normal human would have fallen into madness long ago, yet at every turn, Bradich displayed an ever higher level of physical, sensory, and even mental power the likes of which shook me to my core with both fear and frustration.
Still, I charged Bradich. Still, I ran headlong into the light and brought my daggers to bear on the object of my hate, but as my daggers drew close, Nomeiko’s blade appeared out of nowhere and caught my knives in a well-executed parry. My daggers’ points hovered mere inches from Bradich’s face. I growled at him, but he only offered me a venomous, sarcastic smile.
“Chronicle, I’d like you to meet Ihlia,” he said with a laugh.
NANO Archive 03: The Fate of Bliss (Part II)