True in Some Sense

Questions on the Long Road; Chapter 6

Thursday, July 29, 2010, around 7:00 AM and throughout the following two days

Gidget awakens and comes downstairs to find the Zirpolis already awake and preparing breakfast. While waiting, Gidget reads until breakfast is ready. Conversation is light, and Gidget asks if the Zirpolis have any recommendations about things to see in Manhattan. Dr. Zirpoli mentions some museums and such, and Gidget decides to go exploring. Dalia says she should be around the house at some point if she needs anything.

Gidget rides the subway into Manhattan, and starts walking to see some museums and libraries, with the eventual goal of seeing Central Park, admittedly trying to stay aware of the presence of other Prometheans.

Gidget feels the presence of another flaring Azoth in Central Park.

After searching to pinpoint the source, she notes movement in a nearby alley, shadowed by the looming high-rise apartments nearby. She sees three Caucasian men — preppy-looking frat boy types, as best she can tell — beating up a fourth in similar garb. Taller than the other three, he does not wear his outfit quite as well as they do. Beneath his somewhat awkward, ungainly facade, Gidget can see that he is marred with stitching scars. Metal bolts emerge at intervals from his skin, and they occasionally arc electricity. Oddly, he has bi-colored eyes.

She watches as he continues to ask that they stop. Finally, he asks very insistently and bodily throws one of his assailants. Grabbing a nearby beer bottle, he breaks it, grabs one of the others, and holds the jagged edge at his neck, keeping the other man at bay. He starts whispering something to the man he holds, and once he lets the man go, he starts attacking his other remaining companion. The Promethean then runs.

Gidget tries to run after him, but is stopped by the three who start to lash out at her. She holds one fast with her gaze, but the others continue to lash out at her, striking her across the stomach and in the arm. The groups finally part company, but not before Gidget notices that their anger is artificial, brought on by the Disquiet that affects humans who spend too long in the company of Prometheans. For whatever reason, this deeply disturbs her, and she suffers a strange event — she returns to her original programming, that of an information-gathering, research robot, and she makes her way back to the museums.

After mechanically looking at exhibits for an hour, she finally snaps out of her reverie. She returns to the alley, and seeing little evidence behind, she asks some of the nearby doormen if they’ve seen anything. One says that he’s seen somebody matching the description of the Promethean hanging around, disturbing the residents, but that he doesn’t know anything about him. Gidget then goes looking through the alleys in the hopes of finding the other.

She feels a presence as she walks, and emerges from the other side of the alley onto a sidewalk. Leaning against the alley is an attractive woman wearing a business suit. She has long, brown hair, and Gidget can see with her strange double-vision that the woman also appears “fake,” with somewhat plastic-looking skin. The woman also bears small, delicate stitching scars around her wrists and face.

The woman gives Gidget a look, huffs, and starts walking. Gidget tries to get her attention, but she ignores Gidget. Finally, she keeps pace and asks if the woman has seen a man matching the other Promethean’s description. The woman pauses and gives Gidget a moment’s consideration before explaining that she did not expect that question. She further explains she has not seen this fellow, but she knows him; his name is “Victor,” and he is someone to be avoided.

The woman further introduces herself as Sascha, and after greetings are exchanged, she invites Gidget to join her for lunch, as she is currently on her lunchbreak — much to Gidget’s surprise.

Over sushi, the two share a Ramble. After Gidget tells her tale, Sascha explains that she was created by Stairway to Heaven, and the two were companions and lovers for a time. Unfortunately, an unexplored corner of the Mojave held hidden Pandorans, and Stairway to Heaven was killed in the conflict. Sascha escaped. After her hermitage in the desert, Sascha was eager to learn more of people once she discovered them, and came to the largest city she could find. She is currently working a secretarial job, though as she explains, she does not know how long she will stay.

She also explains that she knew Victor, but hardly associates with him anymore as he is given over to Stannum, the path of Torment. Indeed, it was the Torment upon Gidget’s Azoth that initially prompted her to ignore Gidget, although she changed her mind when she determined that Gidget did not appear to be someone given over to Torment terribly often. As Sascha explains, Torment can be communicative, and it is best not to associate with those who are given to Torment too often.

Afterward, the two exchange contact information, Sascha pays for lunch, and the two part ways.

Gidget then returns to the Zirpolis’ house, and when everyone has returned, she describes the events of her day. She also asks Dr. Zirpoli if he can give her a more thorough examination as was mentioned in Las Vegas. He agrees, makes some calls, and says that they will go to a military hospital tomorrow, though he assures her that it will all be perfectly safe.

The next day, they do just that, but Dr. Zirpoli finds nothing terribly interesting: Gidget appears human in all respects, and so a physical reveals nothing out of the ordinary.

Afterward, Gidget decides that she will head West. She thanks the Zirpolis, who send food with her, and says she will keep in contact. Then, she gets into her car and heads out on the open road.

Strangely, Gidget feels the sensation of a nearby Promethean as she is driving, and passes a sedan to see a stooped, pale figure within. He has long brown hair, and appears to be wearing a cloak of some sort. However, underneath this visage, he bears robotic features, looking less human-like as Gidget and “M” do, and more robot-like — Gidget considers that he strongly resembles the skeletal forms of Star Wars droids. She turns the car around and starts to follow.

The car eventually drives into a quiet, run-down Bronx neighborhood. Nobody is around despite it being the early afternoon. The man parks the car and exits, revealing that he is actually wearing a cloak despite the July heat. Gidget also parks and crosses the street to meet him, as he seems to be standing expectantly. She starts to ask a question when three Hispanic males in the alleyway emerge and draw knives. Their mugging attempt quickly goes awry when the man throws aside his cloak, revealing three katanas strapped to him. He gestures and electricity arcs and strikes at the feet of one of the gangsters. Gidget holds one of the gangsters fast with her gaze, while the other two run. The robot man’s arms split into two, and he grabs a katana with each hand — his right arm actually sprouts a hidden katana blade — and he brutally kills the gangster, much to Gidget’s surprise.

The man then asks if Gidget wishes to challenge him, and she disagrees. This seems to disappoint him, but after asking some questions, he says he has answers, and would she like to know more? She agrees and steps into his car. He starts driving.

Despite being somewhat abrupt and rude, he answers her questions, indicating that he was built by a “Fonyi” (“Fon-ni?” “Fonnee?” “Fon’Ni?” Gidget never managed to get the proper spelling), who is now dead by this man’s hand. When she asks if he has heard of a Dr. Frye, he initially says that he has not, but after a moment of thought, he says he recalls the name from some of the notes Fonyi used.

They decide to talk more. The man says he will drop Gidget off at her car, and that she should meet him in a couple hours’ time in a place known to her. She decides on Central Park.

By the time they arrive at her car, police have already arrived. She sneaks into her car and makes her way over to Central Park, calling Paul first to inform him of the situation. He says that this sounds unwise, but he wishes her well and she says she will keep him informed.

After a bit, she starts wandering around Central Park, eventually spotting her robotic friend, who has ditched the cloak and the swords. She catches his attention and the two sit on a bench. He explains that he has located a safe place to meet, in the basement of a tenement, and will she accompany him? She says she will. He asks to see where her car is, and says he will pull around. She will follow.

While waiting for him to come around, she informs Paul of the development. He doesn’t approve, but they agree to communicate later in the day.

The robot-man pulls around and Gidget follows. He leads her to Harlem, and finds an old, crumbling tenement. They park, and she follows him as he accesses a side door, apparently one that was kicked open at some point. He takes her into a boiler room in the basement, and the two speak briefly before he asks if she trusts him, and wishes to be initiated into his traditions. He will give her answers. She agrees.

He reaches into the duffel bag he brought into the building and tears off a piece of cloth. He asks if he may blindfold her, and she agrees. She feels herself being led around the room, and then she feels metal clamp over her wrist. A moment later, several arms are upon her and a gag goes into her mouth.

He removes the blindfold to reveal that she has been handcuffed to a handle in the wall. He then explains that she will be left here until she is ready to begin her training. He walks upstairs and the door closes.

Left to her own devices, Gidget notes blood on the handcuffs, and that they are relatively new police handcuffs, likely recently stolen from a now-dead police officer. With a hand free, she removes the gag, but is unable to slip out of the handcuffs. She debates several courses of action, and after waiting, she decides to call for help.

Unfortunately, the robot-man reappears and says she has failed the test. He stabs at her with a katana blade, stabbing her in the shoulder. She fixes his gaze and holds him fast, but realizing she cannot do anything other than buy time, she decides to play dead. He stabs her again in the heart and she slips into unconsciousness.

She is first aware of the hard ground. She awakens to find herself in a dimly-lit cavern, with twisty passages in all directions. A slowly-bubbling river flows before her. She becomes aware of another figure nearby, a young man with white hair and a gaping headwound. They talk a little — he introduces himself as Johnny, and informs her that this is the land of the dead. She curses herself for her own foolishness, but he says that he thinks she’ll get another chance, and she learned something, right? She agrees, and as they talk a little more, she learns that he is from Terra Lake, of all places. He also indicates that he is not entirely certain what happens here, as he is not usually here — he is usually in a wooded place that he cannot name, and only found himself here recently, perhaps to meet Gidget? After a while, they part company, and Gidget starts walking along the river. As she walks, everything fades to white.

Gidget awakens again on the cold concrete floor. The man is gone and she is no longer handcuffed. Her personal effects appear as though they have been searched, but otherwise unmolested. Her clothes are bloody and torn, but she is currently unharmed.

Satisfied that she is well enough to continue, Gidget checks her phone and finds that it is only about two in the morning on Saturday, meaning that she was “dead” less than twelve hours. She also finds two text messages from Paul asking if all is well, and she replies that she is back on the road. She then starts driving toward Los Angeles.

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