Even as Skrimp stared out the window of the car, he couldn’t distract himself. The same emotions he’d felt years ago and gone running from had risen again with more intensity. At this point, there was nothing left but the drive to answer their call.

As the autopilot steered on, both of them were distant. Frode was laid out in the back seat, still as stone. He was empty as could be, and none of it made sense.

Their lives had been stopped in place, Skrimp realized. Though they both knew what they had to do, there was just one question left to ask.

“Where are we going?” he said.

Delilah looked over at the display embedded in the car’s dashboard, surrounded by a leather interior. Its map showed an end quickly approaching.

“Just watch,” she answered, voice weak.

Skrimp’s eyes were on the flow of traffic. The blackout zone was far behind them. It was the same familiar drone of urban inhumanity that, before this nightmare, he’d been trying to escape. Just to save his life or get room to think. But it all seemed like cowardice now.

And so this was it. The demon riding in Skrimp’s lap, gun pressed into its side, kept silently to itself. And every mile that passed felt like an eternity.

When he finally saw their destination ahead, his finger came off the trigger. Like the rest, the building towered off into the gloomy early morning sky. But this one’s architecture stood out. Significantly more glass lined the outside, with a twist running upward through the design, like DNA. “This is where y-you live?” Skrimp asked.

Delilah didn’t answer.

He remembered what it had been like to lose someone for the first time. He imagined what was going through her head. Deep down, it disturbed him that he could think straight. But he’d seen too much to shut down now. He could never get that weakness back.

As they got off the main road, their car pulled itself up into a narrow slot in the side of the building. Immediately, doors closed shut behind it, and the ground began to rise.

If he’d had any ability to, he would have laughed.

Can’t believe you’d be the one to find this girl, he thought, glimpsing Frode as he looked back at the cityscape going down around them. You were always the least interesting.

He missed those years so badly.

The ride wasn’t long. After just a minute, the wall in front of them opened up enough for the car to pull in, and the doors shut again. The automatic voice announced their arrival and the doors opened to let in warm air.

Stepping out into the garage, Skrimp took everything in. The high ceilings and sprawling floorspace, the giant pieces of robotics laying around, and the clear continuation of the house out of sight, beyond stairways and open thresholds. It was more than he could have imagined. The sight was almost nauseating.

“Why’re we here?”

“Come,” Delilah gestured. “We have to… sort the cat out.”

Ash hurried along before Skrimp could object. He cast a conflicted glance back at the car before actually deciding to follow along.

She led them through a messy and disorganized house. Her living room centered around a fireplace, with every piece of furniture slightly off-angle and buried in electronics. The glass which ran along the left wall went all the way up to a loft and balcony. But in the very back, around the corner, was a workstation. There, she motioned for Ash to come up and sit.

“You’ve g-got money,” Skrimp awkwardly stated. It was like everything around him was screaming it. And he wanted to know…

Delilah merely shook her head. “I’m nothing on the distribution scale.”

He saw monitors running stock charts in the corner. He had to bite his tongue. “I g-guess…”

She passed a scanner over the cat’s collar. As the computer deconstructed the design for her, Delilah dug through a nearby toolbox. By the time it was done, she’d already found the part she needed. A simple screwdriver was enough. After the casing was off, she plugged her computer into the system. And that was it. The deadman’s switch had been disabled. From there, it was easy enough to reprogram it to her own frequency. Then, the case restored.

She brushed Ashmedai off the workbench as he hissed. Delilah fell down into her desk chair and buried her head in her hands.

Skrimp stood over her, unsure of what to do. He didn’t know this girl.

No. I’m gonna need more than this if I want to finish what Frode started. He scratched at his neck. The odds were miserable.

Knowing that, if he was going to do this, it would take everything, Skrimp began to count his options.

Most the old connections are dead, he thought. They’d abandoned him when he refused their crap. Every retarded little mystic he’d met, all looking for the God in the very machinery he sought to burn, had turned their back when the hit had gone out. They knew the truth but accepted their slavery, opting to wait for miracles. He couldn’t stand it.

The cybercultists weren’t worth a damn.

Maybe Dahmer? The Puritans?

“Fuck that,” he muttered.

There was only one person in this city he could trust.

Skrimp made up his mind, reluctantly. “You can stay here if you w-want, but I gotta go see someone. We’re gonna need some help.”

“Dag?” Delilah looked up. “He’s in on this too?”

“We split at the first demon. Killed it together… but after? He wanted me to follow this… lost mission shit about restoring mankind. More faith. But I’m n-no utopian wingnut. I wanted fire… that’s all.” He sighed. “But I can’t do this alone.”

“…They have to be stopped,” Delilah said.

“Then it’s us against them.”

Not a battle, he thought. A war.


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