Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #229

The gargantuan figure loomed over us. We fell within its mile-long shadow, so it seemed to blot out the morning sun, a silhouette that defied comprehension. My brain kept telling me that it was a trick of the light, but the tremors in the ground at its every footstep told the truth of it.

It was hard to avoid seeing the hulking monstrosity as a referendum on Alurian’s mental state.

I reached out through the electromagnetic code, a gentle probe to test his control. I wound my awareness through the cloud, making my way to the core of the enormous figure. In the center, I found what remained of Alurian’s physical body, curled into a fetal position where the monster’s heart would be.

I tried to slip closer without attracting his attention, looking for his connection to the rest of the network, hoping to sever his control.

Then I felt a tingle at the back of my neck, and then a prickling all over my body. At first, I was confused by the sensation, wondering what it indicated. I sought out diagnostic reports from my own nanobots. After puzzling over the results, I realized to my horror that the feelings were coming from my own physical nerves.

I pulled my awareness out of the cloud, moving fast enough that my physiological reflexes attempted to compensate. I dropped back into my body just as my body dropped to the sidewalk. Thousands of Alurian’s nanobots had penetrated my flesh and begun worming their way to my brain. I ejected them with my own microscopic army, but the experience left me shaking.

Looking up at the towering golem, I could see a representation of Alurian’s face, and through the network, I could feel his contempt and his rage. He had detected my intrusion from the beginning and had lured me in.

The need for stealth removed, I reached out to the nanobots in the ground around me. They responded to my command until Alurian attempted to wrest control away from me. It was as though we held dueling remote controls, each struggling to change the channel of a shared television.

This complicated things. No doubt, it was down to the presence of his physical body, and with it, the Sorceress’s original protection charm. After all, that was what had mutated the nanobots in the first place.

I pulled back, focusing only on keeping Alurian’s control out of my body and a ten foot radius around myself, Henricks and Ms. Moon.

“We have a problem,” I said.

“Should I open a return portal?” asked Henricks.

“Not yet,” I said. “But maybe keep it on speed-dial.” I turned to Ms. Moon. “If I try to force this, it will be a fight.”

She nodded, chewing on her lower lip.

“If that happens,” I said, “either he’s going to kill me, maybe all of us, or he’s going to make me kill him. That’s not what we came here for. So as I see it, we’ve got two options: We can leave him here, like this.”

Her face broke into dismay. “No, please,” she said. “We can’t! Look at this place! He’s gone mad here!”

I nodded. “Okay. Then I’m going to need your help for the alternative.”

“Anything,” she said.

“Option two…” I gestured up to the monster that had swallowed her brother. “We try to talk him down.”

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