Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #230

Alurian’s giant nanobot construct roared again, that same combination of earthquake, giant cat and alarm klaxon. Then he slammed both fists against the nearby tower, shattering the façade. Under the onslaught of repeated blows, the building toppled, though thankfully it fell in the other direction.

“I get the feeling that your brother’s not in a talking mood,” I said.

Ms. Moon stared up at the rampaging giant. “Can he hear me?”

I nodded. “Technically, that thing isn’t him any more than that patch of sidewalk,” I said, pointing. “The nanobots are everywhere, and he can hear from all of them.”

“Alurian!” she cupped both hands to her mouth and shouted up at the giant. “Alurian, please! You’ve got to stop this!”

The thing’s speed was incredible for its size. Rather than stoop down, the whole lower half flowed like water, bringing the head and arms down to street-level faster than falling. It pounded both forearms on the ground to either side of us with an impact that shook us off our feet.

It was just as well. If we had tried to run, I have no doubt that Alurian would have smashed us flat.

The giant arms melted into a wall, then extended over our heads, encircling us in a shrinking bubble. It was all I could do to keep the nanobot flesh from smothering us. Once it had us surrounded, we were trapped, the darkness broken only by the glow of the briefcase portal generator’s display.

“We came back for you!” cried Ms. Moon. “Alurian, let us help you!”

The sphere around us snarled, and pressed in tighter, despite my best efforts.

“It’s not working!” called Henricks. “I’m opening a return portal.”

“Wait,” I grunted. “I don’t know if I can keep him from coming through with us. Let me try to push him back.”

I detected a flicker of motion, but before I could respond, a spike extruded from the side of the sphere, as thick as a baseball bat. It impaled my stomach and pinned me to the ground.

“Oof,” I said. “Ow.”

My own nanobots set to work repairing the damage, but I couldn’t keep this up much longer. It was now obvious that Alurian had spent the last couple of weeks perfecting his control.

“I’m opening the portal!” said Henricks.

“No!” I shouted. “We can’t let him out!”

“We’ll just have to take the risk!”

“Alurian!” shouted Ms. Moon. “I’m sorry! I never wanted this to happen! This is all my fault! Please, let them go, and I’ll stay!”

All at once, the pressure I had been fighting against relaxed all at once, and I gasped with relief. We were still surrounded in a pocket of air, but the walls were no longer closing in on us. They kept their distance, illuminated only by the sickly green glow from the portal controls.

From one side of the sphere, the wall bulged, and then separated, revealing Alurian’s real body. From almost every angle, he might as well have been one of Henricks’s robot suits. Half his face was gone. The only clues to his biological origins were one blue eye, a bit of pale skin, and a tuft of blonde hair.

“Dol,” he croaked, his voice emerging from a speaker. A tear trailed down his one fleshy cheek. “I’m sorry too.”

Ms. Moon dropped to her knees, with tears in her own eyes. “Alurian. I can’t do this anymore. Please let me try to fix this. Try to make things right. I love you, and it’s killing me to see you this way.”

His one eye blinked, and there were no more tears. “Fix… this?” he asked, and his voice was cold. “Dolerense, my dear sister… What did you mean when you said that this was all your fault?”

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