tagSci-Fi & FantasyDust to Dust Ch. 05

Dust to Dust Ch. 05

byEvil Alpaca©

This story is a bit wordy and fairly long, so if you are looking for immediate gratification, you might want to look elsewhere.

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The following story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance between actual persons, living or dead (or just confused) is entirely coincidental. Please do not copy/redistribute the story, in part or in total, without the author's permission.

This story takes place in the fictional city of Springfield, California several hundred years in the future, so don't go looking for it on a map. Over the course the series, I will borrow quite a bit from my "Dead Man's World" series, so it might help (but isn't a requirement) if you read those stories. And in my little fictional world, there are no unwanted pregnancies or STD's, except as plot driving devices. The author encourages the practice of safe-sex.

This story also contains lesbian sexual activity.

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"Dust to dust" Ch. 05

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[[ She seems awfully calm, ]] Eliza said, sitting at the dining room table and watching Ashley flit about the house with Mr. Fuzzy Butt hot on her heels.

[[ That's a good thing, isn't it? ]] her father replied. He and his daughter had actually gone an entire fifteen minutes without bickering and both were wondering how long it would last. Talking about something besides Eliza's job, Evlidone's job, politics . . . well, avoiding just about any hot topic issue seemed to be working. So far.

[[ It's a wonderful sign, ]] Alyidana added. She liked it when the two most important people in her life weren't screaming at the tops of their lungs. She and her husband, along with a sizeable contingent of royal guards, had picked up the young woman. Ash had obviously been distressed about leaving her best friend in creation, but a communication she received from Dusty as soon as she got back had calmed Ashley down. She looked at the sizeable table before them, laden with a catered meal. She doubted that anyone at Hybrid Security had ever used this table before, as her daughter wasn't much for formal occasions.

Veronica and Victoria, however, were thrilled to actually be hosting a real dinner party. Vicky had wanted to go Terran tribal while Veronica had wanted something more Earthly and traditional. The two had lovingly been jibing about it since they found out they would be hosting. Overall, it was a festive mood, which was something that Evlidone found interesting if a tad unusual. He looked at his daughter, realizing he had to risk "real" conversation.

[[ So . . . what do you think of this most recent development in regards to the Purity. ]]

It was a subject that had Eliza so preoccupied that she forgot that she was supposed to be argumentative. [[ I don't know yet. Something about this feels . . . different. They come out with this propaganda statement about the World Council reactivating Chimera and then . . . nothing. ]]

[[ I am surprised that there has not been a mirror movement on Terra like there was last time. ]]

[[ I've been thinking about that – ]]

[[ Could you two stop thinking about saving the world for a few minutes? ]] Alyidana intervened.

[[ I can't believe you asked that question, ]] Veronica said as she approached and sat next to her fiancée. [[ You know perfectly well that she can't. ]]

[[ You look lovely today, ]] Eliza's mother said. Veronica couldn't NOT look lovely if she tried, but it was Alyidana's job to level compliments on her daughter-in-law-to-be.

Eliza muttered something and then shot {{ Whose side are you on? }} mentally to her lover.

{{Yours as always. }}

Eliza looked over and noticed that Ash . . . Ashley was watching a replay of the last Purity transmission, staring and listening intently. She had a perplexed look on her young face. Eliza and her father got up to go over to the sofa, leaving Eliza's mother and Veronica to talk more "domestic" things.

"What's up?" Eliza said.

"This isn't right," Ashley muttered, picking up Mr. Fuzzy Butt and giving him nuzzles while her eyes remaining locked on the program. "I heard you say something was different. And I thought that you were right." She put the puppy down and activated a side-by-side holographic display, showing the last two Purity transmissions. "I don't know . . . maybe I'm crazy – "

"It is all right," Evlidone said. "My daughter thrives on 'crazy' ideas." This time, he said it with a certain amount of humor, causing his daughter to grin rather than argue for a change.

"What are you seeing?"

Ashley was nervous. She still wasn't used to being nervous. "Everyone has been looking so hard at the content of this last package, but look at the package itself."

"I don't get it," Evlidone said, feeling a bit confused.

But Eliza clued into what the girl was saying. She stared at one transmission then the other, her eyes narrowing. Then she muted one transmission and listened intently to the other. She looked over her should at her hacker. "Wyrm, can you do full spectrum analyses on these video and frequency analyses on the audio for these two streams? Compare it to what we have in the archives?"

"But boss, I'm almost through the boss level on Doom 42! Can't – " He stopped. He could almost HEAR Eliza glaring at him. He paused his game and started the analyses.

"What are you thinking?" Veronica said, her curiosity getting the better of her. Slowly, everyone gather around the projections.

Eliza was staring. "Looks like Ashley has got some good eyes. Or fresh eyes at any rate. The picture quality on this last stream seems to be better than previous ones. Sound quality too."

"So maybe they just got a new camera," Boomer said.

"Nah," Eliza disagreed, "these guys are all about stagnation. Hell, they couldn't even think of a new name."

"They're different cameras boss," Wyrm shouted from his terminal. "They managed to mask their digital signature. I wouldn't have even thought to check it. But this stream is coming from a Pentax 450 Recorder. That's some hide end equipment. Usually the only people who have stuff like that are the major networks."

"Can we track who all owns them?"

"Yeah, but it'll take time unless we have a warrant to scour the purchase records of the company that produces them."

Eliza looked at her lover, who in turn just nodded and went to get her communicator. Veronica still held some stroke in high circles herself.

"I still don't see what this means – "

Ashley took a deep breath. "It isn't like a group like this to change their methodology so abruptly. I've dealt with fanatical organizations before. A big purchase, particularly something as rare as a new recorder, is an unusual move. And it's too . . . .is glitzy a word? You make something look shiny and people don't really fear it. What if this isn't really the Purity anymore?"

Eliza nodded. "That was one of the things bugging me. This last stream . . . they actually named someone. 'The Savior?' I mean, they've never named anyone before, even a handle like that. And it is kind of cheesy."

"Why would someone PRETEND to be the Purity?" Vicky asked.

Terillia was catching on. "Because," she murmured, "they're planning on doing something and wish for it to be attributed it to the Purity?"

Eliza smiled. Her confidence in the young succubus was proving increasingly well placed. "Could be. The question is 'What'?"

The new message came out right after we went to Chimera," Ashley said, still feeling a bitter taste in her mouth when she thought of the place. "What if it has something to do with that?"

"Or it could be about the Living Gems," Eliza counterd thoughtfully. "This was the first time they've come out of hiding in a while."

"Or it could be both," Veronica said grimly. She had gotten off the phone with a judge she had known and gotten permission to search the sales records for the company that produced the recorders and had given access codes to Wyrm. "Wyrm, put the information up on the projector. She waited for the intel to appear.

"There's only one purchase in the last month," Eliza muttered. "Anyone ever hear of Ramiche Explorations? Why would an exploration company need a recorder like that? Or a recorder at all?"

Ashley looked at the company's logo . . . it was the head of a roaring lion. "No . . . she muttered, then more loudly, "NO!"

Alyidana was concerned. The young woman who had made so much progress was beginning to dissolve again. She grabbed the girls' trembling shoulders as Ashley tried to clamber backwards over the sofa.

"What's wrong?" Eliza asked. She grabbed Ashley's face and made her meet Eliza's gaze. "I know you can be strong," she said confidently. "What are you seeing?"

"The letters," Ashley said, trying to keep her voice from breaking. "Change the order of the letters and . . . the head of the lion – " she whispered.

Eliza looked with chills at the company name and logo. Knowing Ashley . . . knowing what she had said . . . The leader of Hybrid Securities entered something into the projectors data feed, and the letters of the name started to shift.

"Chimera," Ashley whispered.

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Elsewhere . . .

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Tom McBride and Jon Trendenfall were sitting Dr. Trendenfall's office, going over some of the findings that had been made over the last several months. Then they heard gunshots in the hall and then the door to his office exploded. Tom was barely able to pull his pistol out before a gauss shell punctured his shoulder and sent him spiraling to the ground.

Dr. Trendenfall grabbed his communicator, but before he could hit the button –

"All transmissions are currently being jammed," a voice said as a figure emerged through the smoke, flanked by a number of men in full tactical regalia. Jon couldn't see the man's face. He was dressed completely in white, including a long white leather trenchcoat and a white hood. "I've been looking forward to speaking with you, Dr. Trendenfall. I think you will be a valuable asset to us," the man said. He pulled a pistol from beneath his jacket and fired.

Dr. Trendenfall felt something pierce his neck. Then the world began to spin, followed by . . . nothing.

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An hour later . . .

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Hybrid Security's compound was in a state of quiet tension. Word had just gotten back from authorities on the attack on Dr. Trendenfall's offices. Eight members of his staff had been killed, including guards and his secretary. Security chief Thomas McBride was in critical condition at a local area hospital.

Eliza watched the news stream with a combination of apprehension and rage. Part of her knew that Dr. Trendenfall wasn't her client and this wasn't her fault. The rest of her didn't care.

"Everyone, pay attention!" she shouted. The room turned to her, even her father. Evlidone was still not used to seeing his daughter in action, but she had an air not to be disputed. "The news and police all seem to be doing just what we would've been doing. They're blaming the Purity and chasing them to ground. They're looking for the wrong guys, or the right guys for the wrong reasons. We don't have time to clear this up. We need to find Chimera now."

"They . . . they've been hiding all this time," Ashley muttered. Then her eyes shot open. "We need to protect Dusty!"

Eliza cursed, then looked at her father. [[ Dad, I need your help, ]] she said. It was odd: she had never asked him for help before.

[[ Whatever you need, ]] he replied.

[[ Take Mom and your guards and get back to Terra. Talk to whoever you need to in order to lock down the Academy. Take Dusty Trendenfall, Professor VanHouten and Katrina into protective custody. They were all there at Chimera, so they could all be targets. Tell Valar too. ]]

Evlidone nodded and pulled out his communication orb out of his robes, activating it and beginning to issue orders like a man on a mission. Alyidana would've smiled if things hadn't been so serious. Her husband and daughter were far more alike than either would admit.

"Boss," Wyrm said, "I think I know where to start the search. That initial recording that they leaked . . . there's no way people would be causally out near that facility. So I ran the property records for Ramiche Explorations, and they've got a warehouse half a mile from the Chimera building. They've been keeping an eye on that place for forty friggin' years!"

"Troops, get ready to mount up! I want to be prepped and ready to go within an hour. We've got to find this warehouse, scout it and make sure not to blow up the local civilian population." She looked at Thug. "It's okay, you don't have to – "

|| The trolling has been sedated, || Thug said. || Vicky has a tranquilizer gun in case he wakes up. I will not let you go into battle without me again, || the big creature assured her.

She smiled and patted one massive arm. Picking a fight without her oldest friend there just never felt right.

"It's your turn to watch the baby," Allyson told her husband, and then took off to find her gun.

Dennis sighed, but accepted the ruling. They had agreed to take turns.

"Wyrm, start monitoring all traffic and info streams going through that sector . . . give me some eyes there. Everyone else –" Eliza was cut off when Ashley stepped in front of her.

"I need a weapon," she said, her voice cracking but still determined.

"You're not ready."

"He was MY responsibility!"

"No, Dusty was, and your contract is over. And you aren't in a good frame of mind when it comes to these people."

"But – "

"No 'buts.' If you want to help, go back to Terra with my father. You can guard Dusty from there."

Eliza had meant to say that in such a way as to make Ashley feel included. But Ashley saw it for what it was . . . a dismissal. She wasn't good enough or strong enough anymore. Even as she nodded, she remembered one of the things about being human that she would rather not: being helpless.

{{ You were too harsh on her, }} Veronica sent, chastising her lover as they geared up.

{{ I don't have time – }} Eliza started to respond as she watched Ashley walk towards her father's party.

{{ She has a fighter's spirit, }} Veronica interrupted telepathically. {{ You should understand that. }}

{{ I do. But she's just got her life back. I'm not going to be responsible for ending it. }}

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In a hidden location . . .

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Jon Trendenfall was as terrified as he could imagine someone being. He was handcuffed to a heavy chair in the center of a large room. He couldn't even see the walls, as they were shrouded in darkness. The only light was a single bulb dangling from overhead. He had been groggy when he had come around, but hadn't seen anyone. Then the voice came –

"Hello," it said soothingly. "I was beginning to wonder if we'd gotten the dosage wrong. Can't have that fascinating mind of yours getting befuddled, can we?" The man . . . or A man . . . in the white trenchcoat and hood appeared out of the darkness.

"You're that . . . that Savior person . . . from the Purity." Dr. Trendenfall's mouth felt dry.

"You're on the right track," the man replied. "Well, at least that's what we're letting people think. Who I am really isn't important. Who YOU are is very important, as is what you know. The leading most human expert on the causes of magic, sneaking around Chimera with Hybrid Security and a bunch of army folks. Makes a man curious. I thought we might have a chat about what went on there."

Dr. Trendenfall shut his mouth.

"I thought you might take that approach." The man pulled a needle out from his jackets and injected it into Jon's neck. "There, we'll give that a minute to kick in. I just gave you a shot of Petelpheroyl.

Jon's eyes shot open. It was a truth serum of sorts: it stopped a person from accessing the imaginative portion of his or her brain. Anything Jon said would be the truth. So he decided to –

"And don't try clamming up," the "Savior" said. "You'll tell me everything that happened in that facility, and you'll do it quickly."

"And if I don't?"

The man's previously almost jovial nature vanished and he slapped Dr. Trendenfall so hard that his lip began to bleed. "Don't try to be brave . . . don't try to be a hero. The authorities . . . let's just say that they're looking for the wrong people. We aren't the Purity. Those dolts fear their own shadows. We are much more enlightened. We want to know the secrets of magic and to embrace them. And if you stand in our way," he said coldly, "we will find your daughter. We will rape her over and over, right in front of your eyes. Then we will cut the flesh from her bones one limb at a time, keeping her alive. And we won't kill her until YOU beg us to."

Dr. Trendenfall wanted to cry. He wanted to scream. He wanted to slit his own throat rather than tell them what they wanted to know. But he couldn't risk it. He had to protect his daughter. He prayed briefly for forgiveness, then began to talk.

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A while later . . .

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Dusty was in a blind panic. She had heard about her father's kidnapping just moments before the guards had arrived. The damn Purity had him. She had been taken to the offices of Chancellor Valar where she found Katrina and professor VanHouten waiting alongside Security Director Evlidone and his wife Alyidana.

"Why aren't you looking for him?!" she screamed.

"My daughter is doing everything she can," Alyidana said, trying to calm the frantic girl.

"Fuck your daughter! What about the police and the government and – "

"They're looking for the wrong people," Evlidone snapped. He didn't want to be harsh on the girl, because he knew what it was like to be separated from a loved one. But he also knew that she needed to be brought back under control and fast. "The Purity doesn't have your father. Chimera does."

Dusty stopped, stunned. She listed as he explained everything that had happened.

"Why would they . . . how – "

"I don't know. But an organization bent on mastering the secrets of magic at any cost . . . living Gems . . . the foremost expert on biological causes of magic." Valar was sighing. "This can't be good."

Alyidana nodded. "And if Ashley hadn't noticed the discrepancy in the videos – "

"Ashley?" Dusty's face went blank, and then began to sneer. The girl, who had been hovering nearby, was aghast when that normally angelic face snarled, "This is your fault! We never would've gone there if it weren't for you! My dad is in danger because of you!"

Ashley stepped back, tears welling up in her eyes. She tripped and fell backwards, landing on her ass as she tried to crawl away. Katrina and Alyidana were restraining young lady Trendenfall.

"He's all I have left!" the girl screamed before she was ushered into a safe room.

Ashley was crying as she slowly regained her feet. She didn't meet anyone's eyes: she was ashamed. Dusty had been right . . . this was all Ashley's fault. And now, Ashley was too weak and worthless to save the man who had tried to help her.

Then the idea came to her. Dr. Trendenfall was in danger because of the power that she had wanted to give up. In order to help him, she needed that power back. She took a deep breath and fled the room. There was only one way –

Valar saw the girl run and quickly followed after her through the halls of his offices. He had seen almost maniacal desperation in her eyes, and that rarely led to good things.

Ashley found what she needed in a study. At one end was a fireplace with a low blaze emanating from under the hearth. She knelt before it, looking at her old adversary and the cause of so many of her fears. It crackled and cackled and mocked her pain with flamboyant merriment. Then, she thrust one hand into the flames.

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