Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #228

I gave Henricks the coordinates for my not-so-safe-anymore safe house. Thankfully, it was one of the handful of locations that I had memorized, rather than trusting to my portal generator’s database. The whole point of a safe-house, after all, is being able to get to it when you’re in trouble.

I was ahead of myself, imagining what we might find on the other side, to the point that I almost forgot to have Henricks adjust the spatial coordinates to open the portal a little closer to the ground. My penthouse apartment had been demoted when Alurian pulled all the metal out of the building’s superstructure.

When the portal opened, a wave of digital information broke over me, flooding my awareness with data. Even before my biological eyes could absorb the view through the portal, I knew everything I needed to know about what lay on the other side.

Alurian had indeed survived his fall from the window. He survived the building’s collapse too. As Ms. Moon had predicted, the nanobots had kept him alive, even as his few remaining biological parts were subjected to injury after injury. They just kept fixing him up, but he lost a little more of his original body each time.

The bigger shock though, was being stranded alone on a dead world.

His nanobots provided me with records of his rage, his fear, his despair, and his madness. In the weeks since we had last seen him, he had infiltrated the entire city with his tiny machines, and in a horrifying spiral of creation and destruction, he had used them to build and then destroy the city, dozens of times over.

Even without my access to the nanobot software, you could see his handiwork in the city skyline. The view from my penthouse had once featured modern skyscrapers, now decaying, with a rubble-filled grid of city streets below.

Now, it was a nightmare ruin of spires, battlements, monoliths, domes and even strange abstract swirls like something out of an architect’s hallucinogenic drug trip. Some of them stood intact, but most had been beaten into crumbling shambles, as though struck by dozens of small meteorites.

I knew that the damage had not come from meteorites.

“Come on,” I said, leading Henricks and Ms. Moon through to see for themselves.

The portal zipped closed behind us as we eased our way down the sloped side of a ruined sidewalk. It had been pushed up from beneath by a twenty-foot tall metal sculpture of a bird.

Ms. Moon gasped at the sight of it. “It’s… It’s just like a wooden carving he made for me when we were children.”

I nodded. “He’s still here,” I confirmed. “But I would warn you not to read too much into that bird. From what I can tell, he—“

I was interrupted by what sounded like dinosaur’s roar of triumph crossed with an old air raid siren. The ground beneath our feet began to tremble at regular intervals.

The top of a nearby tower exploded into rubble, sending chunks of concrete and steel flying in all directions. I had the nanobots create a temporary wall around us, to shield us from the debris.

From behind the tower, a monstrous figure raised its fists. It was ill-defined, a child’s clay model of a man, but standing thirty stories tall.

Alurian had found us.

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