Halcyon Calling, Episode 8: Going Underground

The other were doing what we were supposed to be doing, which was sneaking back into the Gull and Switchblade without being noticed. Well, they weren't, as it turned out, as they were getting caught by Splinters, but I didn't know that yet. I was thinking about the compound, and Carmilla. There was another person who actually understood what I'd been through. We could have been friends. But she'd chosen to hate me instead. I didn't even know what to think about that, and I was still kind of zoned out when Splinters came out and talked me me. I don't really remember what she said, but she gave me a machete, and I think that means she likes me.

She still herded me inside to see Castor and Pollux with the others though. They weren't happy about us sneaking out, but it wasn't as bad as I expected. And they did explain a few things. Like how they used to be in a superhero team with Abeni and Mrs Stodgely and Faustus and Harold Winfield! That slimy politician who spends all his time kissing up to the Asterians used to be a superhero! Except they all did something that changed reality to prevent the destruction of the world? Something like that, anyway. It was late, and I was confused. They changed reality so the bad stuff didn't happen, and instead of a superhero team they were a punk band.

Except Faustus somehow still had some of his superhero powers, and maybe Harold Winfield wasn't quite as useless as he normally acts, since it sounds like he must be Ariadne because he's the other person who knows about that warehouse where we met Ariadne and Faustus.

So I could see why they didn't want us to work for Faustus, and I don't really want to work for Faustus either, but at the same time he wanted us to destroy the factory in Elizabeth Park and I really did want to do that. And I trusted Ariadne even less than I did before finding out who was behind all the nonsense, even if his spider bots are really cute and make Balae happy.

Then they let us have some more of the expensive alcohol, although by now it was starting to taste a bit watery, which both of them seemed to notice but pretended not to so I have no idea what that was all about. Anyway, it seemed like we weren't in any more trouble and they let us go to sleep.

Balae went to school in the morning but Billy wanted to ditch and check out the Asterian factory, and I'd caught up on my online learning programme so I went with him. We took the tube out to Stratford. There were people singing on the tube and I recognised it as the same song from the start of that awful musical that Castor and Pollux were listening to because it had really boring words which were just big numbers of minutes and something about love.

Then we got on the central line and there was a woman with a whole bunch of animal carriers, so I tried to keep really still and not be threatening because sometimes it seems like I scare animals just by existing. And I must have done well because she had a little monkey on her shoulder and it climbed over to me. I had some peanuts in my pockets as usual so I gave one to the monkey and he seemed to like it, and that made the woman with the carriers like me too. She said the monkey was called Puck, and gave me a card that said she was called Artemis and that we could visit.

Then we pulled into Stratford station and there were Asterian peacekeepers everywhere and they were doing some kind of security check on the way out. They were scanning everyone with a jellyfish kind of thing, and I thought whatever it was was likely to pick up Nigel. Billy found a staff lift that he reckoned would get us out of there and he was all for using Artemis and her animals as a distraction, but I liked her and her monkey. Besides, I didn't think Balae would ever forgive us if we lost the chance for her to meet a monkey.

So I gave Artemis the heads up, and I caused a distraction. I ripped up one of the benches from the platform and threw it, and in the chaos Artemis got her animals out and we got into the lift. We did some proper action movie shit climbing up cables and dodging Asterians and then we were out.

We climbed up onto some rooftops to get a better view, using cables to crawl between buildings. At least, I crawled while Billy hung onto me. Nigel said something about how Billy should figure out how to use him to learn to fly. Which would be cool. Except I'd miss the two of us climbing together like this, and I didn't mean to say that part out loud so I hope he didn't hear.

The last building didn't have anything to crawl over, and I could make the jump but not while carrying Billy. But I remembered some really old movie Abeni told me about where they had a problem like this, so I picked up Billy and threw him across the gap and then jumped across myself. The factory was as awful in real life as it looked on the TV. Clouds of pink smoke rising up from the chimneys and people being herded inside wearing breathing masks the same as the one we'd had to put on Mr Stodgely.

This wasn't going to be easy. The security was bad enough, and we'd probably not even be able to breathe inside. But we were getting ideas. This was Faustus's idea, after all, so the least he could do was get us some breathing masks. And Carmilla's AV was just like the ones the Asterians used so perhaps that would help us get past security.

I was feeling quite happy as we headed back to the tube. We had a plan, and providing Faustus came through with the gear it might actually work. But it all went wrong when we got down onto the train and suddenly we were surrounded by peacekeepers.

It was thanks to Balae that we got out of there. I never would have thought of called Ariadne after what we'd learned about him, but she figured out straight away that he could help. So that's how we ended up taking down two massive Asterians, wiping all the information they had on us from their computers, and following one of those spider bots out of there all without the alarm being raised.

I was in a ton of pain when we got out and struggling to breathe from where they hit me in the chest. But we were both alive and Billy was OK and that was what mattered. I'd heal up pretty soon, and we had a plan, although I think we both realised we needed disguises before we came back here again.

And after that, all I had to worry about was making sure Balae had a good time at the school disco.

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