Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tangled Web–Chapter 14

Chapter 14

As the three left the apartment, Bruce smiled and gave a final wave to Frank before Alfred closed the door.

"I'll get the arrangements for rooms for them, sir."

Bruce's smile disappeared and he gestured to Alfred as he walked back into the main part of the apartment.

"Good. I'm refreshed enough to go out and I'm not leaving Barbara, Erin and Dr. Gotham to chance," he said taking his robe off and handing it to Alfred as they walked.

"Is that wise, Master Bruce?" Alfred said adroitly taking the robe and draping it over his arm as he stepped up his pace to keep up with Bruce Wayne.

"I know those tunnels, Alfred. And there is the old basement tunnel system from before the subway that went to areas in the Shambles. If Dr. Gotham knows about those then he will take the service yards which I haven't been through so far. I just did a basic runthrough earlier, to make sure the main transit tunnels could be navigated, but didn't spend time on secondary systems. Now I'll do that and, if they are down there, I can at least get them here safely."

As they went into the main room, Bruce turned towards the book shelf units that hid the elevator to the sub-Vault regions. As he got there he palmed a space of wall and shifted a book out enough to trigger the release, and the case swung out to reveal the elevator door.

"Of course, sir. And what about Mr. Lewis?"

The elevator doors slid open and Bruce stepped inside, then turned to look back at Alfred.

"I don't know about him, Alfred. But he is willing to kill with extreme prejudice. I'll be taking the equipment I brought back and adding the acids, as well, since I may need to disable the Bora and may not have a chance for a thermite device."

Alfred inhaled as Bruce shifted in the elevator and reached up to palm the control surface.

"Be careful, sir. I'm starting to think that Mr. Lewis has more about him than what we can see or easily know."

Bruce raised an eyebrow and gave a qucik nod.

"If I'm needed, I'm asleep and not to be disturbed. If someone wants more than that, let them know I've taken to the streets because I can think better when I drive."

"That you can..." Alfred said as the doors snapped shut, "... under normal conditions."

As the elevator sped down its shaft Bruce began to let what he had heard from Selina sink in. Guthrie Lewis was an unknown and yet the circumstances surrounding his arrival in Gotham City pointed to a set of possible conclusions that were disturbing. In theory it was possible to control the weather, but only if one understood every single paramater of that weather from the amount of solar radiation impinging on the atmosphere to oceanic and land temperatures and humidity, all the way down to minor shifts in local air density which could play a large part in exactly what weather in any given locale would be. In gross attempts to seed clouds and otherwise attempt to change weather patterns mankind had failed because of the circumstances that were beyond control. To have an intimate knowledge of how to change the weather and control it, an individual would need something beyond the reach of human technology either in this present or in the future timespace of that the Project and Kyle Reese came from. Disrupting the weather was one thing, controlling it something totally different.

The elevator glided through the massive doors that opened and closed at the top of the Vault area and then went into the lowest Vault level where the corporate archives were located. Bruce stepped out into the damp air that always had a faint feel of dustiness to it and headed towards the alcove holding his personal equipment. With the knowledge that Guthrie Lewis could do things to circuitry, Bruce had made a number of internal disconnects in the suit's battery powered systems and distributed them across the entire suit. Alfred had taken over that task when Bruce was nearly asleep on his feet, and now the results were there for him. A simple switch arrangement with minor overload trip meant that if a set of charges came into the suit that were not through designated charge systems, then the entire suit would trip over to segregated battery systems separated by insulation. He would have to wear an inner suit of silk to help ensure that charges would not infiltrate past the outer barriers the suit posed to ionized plasma gas and its induced effects. The system most effected was the virtual sonar system that he had come to utilize as a way to navigate in pitch black conditions and 'see' around obstacles. That system started out as a unitary one but would break up into segments if there was an indication of charges feeding into the system.

After hanging his pajamas and putting on the under layers of the suit he thought about what Guthrie had done to Cathy Li. If controlling the weather was an impossibility, then utilizing plasma induced charges into the central nervous system was something akin to magic. He knew that there were some gross anatomical similarities between all humans, and that these could be understood to a degree so as to stimulate the body to do certain things with minor amounts of electricity. All from external sources, however, none utilizing some added charges and then induced charges within the body, itself. Galvanic responses or stimulating memories while doing brains surgery were relatively gross manipulations of the body. Using the nervous system to enhance pleasure and shorten breathing were things that he would have thought impossible just a few days ago.

"Two impossibilities. One man," Bruce whispered to himself, "And he is after the same thing that Dr. Gotham wants returned to him."

Utilizing the suit's modular feeds, Alfred had done yeoman's work with it and as Bruce adjusted it he could feel how some of the internal wiring was different, and the cloth and electrical tape utilized to make the hasty changes felt odd at first, but disappeared as he put the suit through a function run-through. The cape was its own system, of course, and couldn't be segregated beyond simple disconnects to the distributed battery system of the suit. Its own battery system at the neck and shoulders was enough to allow it to function for about a half-hour and that was longer than he had ever used it for its ducted air glide mode. He had to strap on side panels around his thighs to allow for the smaller batteries that needed to be in those positions, as well as ones at the upper arms. The ones on his boots replaced his boot position modular attachment points, which meant that he would be restricted to just his belt and positions on the upper legs and arms.

Walking out of the alcove which shut behind him, he went to the central table that Lucious used to handle the easy to transport equipment. To his personal traction line he added the highest test 1500 lb. system which, while slow, would pull that mass up against gravity for nearly 45 seconds. The acid pack he found where Alfred had stowed it and he gave a quick check to make sure each of the three major acids he had tested were still sealed. With those nestled to his right rear on the belt, he put a canister thermite dispenser on the opposite side, which held three thin canisters of thermite, enough to do serious damage to a small engine block. Next to those was a glove dispenser to put over his gauntlets in case he did have to use the acids. A back-up breathing pack was on the other side in case those in the mask were eaten through by those same acids. While suitable against standard toxins, nerve agents and chemicals, the breathing pads in his mask would only give him seconds of use if he had to go through a cloud from any of the acids. A mask fit over the front of the helmet to complete the seal against such threats, and that replacement along with extra pads could be the difference between life and death in close quarters attacks.

Forward of the protective gear were the bat shaped shurikens and their dispensers. He could carry ten per side and that was often the difference between causing enough pain to bring a fleeing criminal down or going through a major pursuit without them. Less effective against winter wear, they were still quite effective against thin pants. On the right went a small dispenser of stick thermite charges, good for utilizing on locks or smaller objects that needed to be disabled. The left had a flashlight that was good in normal light or switchable to its IR mode, which would compliment the IR goggles he put in the helmet. A small notebook and mechanical pencil were always with him on the belt, and he just checked to make sure they were there. The upper right thigh position gained a net discharge system that would have some effects like a taser but be more widely distributed. It was a self-contained system unless he added a small discharge wire to it, and he decided against it due to the man he was after.

On the left leg went a set of pyrotechnic capsules and sheets. He would have been a bit surprised if he knew that Selina utilized similar items, but as she hadn't told him that set of details, he didn't spend time thinking of them beyond their functionality. On his upper left arm he put a dispenser that held a small can of tear gas, suitable for up to 10' by direct spray. Although at a much lower concentration than used by the police or military, it still served its purpose in close quaters work. Finally on the upper right arm position went a fixed blade knife with the handle pointing down and retained by snap fasteners. Firearms were things he avoided, but edged weapons of various sorts remained a part of his kit because of their utility, be it shuriken or a knife or such things as tire spikes, he made use of them as they served purposes that suited him far better than any firearm could.

Prepared he walked out of the archives area to the vehicle, and vowed to himself that he would not let it be destroyed this night. It lacked some of the pick-up of the finished vehicle, but had as much if not more torque than it, and this vehicle was prepared to deal with electrically based attacks by shunting them aside or isolating them via insulation. He assumed that Guthrie could still get past these obstacles, but that might take seconds of time and for such activities as he went through at night every second mattered, because it might be your last. He had been reminded of that on his last outing and did not forget that lesson for this one.

He stepped into the vehicle and started it up, and the door and step closed next to him. To the rear was open space and fold down seating beyond the engine and he had no back-up this time around, although it hadn't done him any good the last time, it was something he had to consider as he drove. There was no turning back, no easy ways out any more.


The right hand hit the timer button.

Left hand reached to the stand, pistol raised, shot on target 100' down range. The spent casing was in the air even as the pistol was going down on its stand.

Pistol laid down, two steps over, the rifle in hands but off-hand and then a short, sharp crack from it and the spent casing going flying out the ejection port and cycling to the next round and chambering it.

Again the rifle on its stand, the figure moved and picked up the old shotgun, left handed, steadied, fired, then shifted to the right as the spent shell was in the air and fired right handed down range, with two neat holes showing where the slugs went through it at 50'.

Shotgun down, stepping backward, rifle up on the right side, fired, down, steps, pistol up right handed, fired, down and then the right hand hit the timer.

"Just 18 seconds, Loren," the figure heard over the intercom as she turned around to look at the people looking in from the range master's position on the other side of the wall.

"Busted," she said out loud and then turned to look at the range master's booth. "Frank! What are you doing up so late?" Loren asked as she took out her earplugs that then dangled by a cord around her neck and picked up a towel at a side table next to the row of stands she had arranged in place of the normal firing lanes. She took off her goggles and laid them on the table.

"We had a date," Frank said, "and need your help."

Her eyes adjusted as she walked over towards the wall and could see that the Project was with Frank as well as a dark dressed woman who was trying to stand somewhat behind them in the shadows. What shadows there were of them in the range master's booth, that is, which stayed just a bit dimmer than the range to help cut down on interior glare.

"A date? You and..." Loren said as she walked over to the door next to the booth and pulled it open, "... wait a moment, I didn't think you looked like Vivian..."

"Selina Kyle," Rock said looking at Selina, "and this is Loren Seifert the range mistress and gal who tries to keep this joint running."

Loren did a double-take as Selina Kyle wasn't dressed in any sort of 'evening wear' that would have the addition of 'date' added to it. Loren raised her eyebrows as she saw the hood that was laying behind Selina's neck.

"Hello," Selina said looking at Loren.

"Howdyado?" Loren said and then looked at Tom and Frank. "OK, I give. That isn't a costume. I know what WMM puts out and that isn't anything close to a costume. So what have you two gotten yourselves into?"

"It's a long story, Loren," Rock said, "long story short is that Tom and I had a date with Selina and her mother, and we saw a man of interest at the restaurant. We hung around and followed him as he tried to kill Selina by running her car off a cliff into the Mid-Gotham River."

"And...?" Loren asked looking at Frank Rock.

"She needs a change of clothes and doesn't want to put it off until tomorrow."

Loren blinked as she looked at Selina.

"Well, yeah, I mean the entire Catwoman thing and all..." she said looking Selina up and down, "...puts a crimp in your style I'd think."

Pressing her lips together Selina said, "Yes."

Loren looked at the Project who was looking at her.

"Tom, this is on the level?"

"Yes, Miss Seifert."

Loren shook her head and walked over to a hand wipes dispenser and slipped a flat pouch from it, opened it, took the enclosed single use wipe out and cleaned her hands off with it and then tossed it into the trash can that was under the dispenser. She looked at the lane set-up board and started hitting the switches to shut it down and as she did so the lights in the range area turned off.

"I'll clean up in the morning," she said whispering to herself and then turned back to the other three.

"How did a couple of nice guys like you end up like this?" she asked softly.

Frank shrugged.

"It seemed like a good deal at the time," he said softly, "and we don't really want to put this off until morning, or at least daylight, Loren. It's been a long day."

Loren took a deep breath and then nodded.

"Right," she said softly looking at Selina, "I don't think you would look that good in camo. And I don't want to open up the main storehouse for this. So that means the back office," she said nodding to Selina, "follow me and I'll see what I have here that will fit you."

Loren slid between Frank and Selina and went to the far end of the office area, followed by Selina. Loren looked back as Tom stood still and Frank raised an eyebrow and nodded at the sofa.

"Go ahead, Frank. I can't cat-nap like that..." she started saying and then closed her eyes and suppressed the sudden urge to giggle as she turned to the back office door and took out a key wallet from her pants pocket and slid a key from it into the door, turned it and opened the door.

"Much obliged, Loren," Frank said going over to the sofa and putting its single pillow under his head and lifted his feet up over the far end arm, with the leather material squeaking as he laid down.

Selina walked into the back office area which held a set of cabinets on the right wall with an office desk with a set of boxes on it on the left, along with four rollaround high back chairs.

"Just basics, OK, Selina? I think your light boots will be fine, but a normal set of pants, shirt and socks should give you enough to go with."

"That will be fine, thank you, Loren. I hate to impose like this, but..."

Loren shook her head as they got past the cabinets and to a set of four lockers. Loren opened the first one and waved Selina over.

"My casual work clothes in this locker. Mostly range gear in the second. Outdoor training stuff in the third and some of my camping stuff in the last. I'll be over by the desk, sorting through junk that came in with the last shipment."

Selina nodded and turned to eye the clothing as Loren stepped away. Once she was at the desk she started to unpack boxes in bubble wrap and set them on the desk.

"I've got to know, Selina, you understand, right?"

"Know? Ah, know what, Loren?"

"You aren't romantically involved with Frank, I can tell that right off," Loren said, "at least I hope there isn't anything like that... but that is none of my business."

Selina was looking through the clothes in the locker and checking out items that were still in their packaging. Obviously duplicates of what was already hanging on hangers or on hooks.

"Ah, no... I'm not looking..." Selina started and caught herself up short. She had been in a couple of short affairs over the summer, but that was just business to her, not real emotional attachment. She remembered, vividly, her feeling of seeing the black Z28 and having her life drop out from under her and then the sudden appearance of Frank Rock moving in a blur, with Old Reliable pointing up over her head and his hand grabbing onto her climbing harness, pulling her off her feet and into the Z28 as Tom put the vehicle into motion. That is the definition of being 'swept off your feet' if there ever was one and Selina remembered the feeling of warmth next to Frank after the frigid night air and the even colder man looking to kill her.

"He wanted to kill me," she whispered softly and shivered, "crash my car over the cliff... no one would have... found me..."

Loren turned as she heard Selina's voice tremble and walked over behind her.


Selina wheeled around not having heard Loren move and looked at her with wide eyes.

"Loren I... people have wanted to kill me, you know? I mean all of this," she said gesturing to her clothes, "can get me killed. I've had close scrapes but nothing... usually once I'm out of sight, or where they can't catch up, I'm fine. But what he did to Cathy..." Selina shivered, "...I knew he would follow beyond that."

Reaching her hands out to Selina's shoulders, Loren leaned forward.

"Selina, close your eyes for a moment, and tell me what you see."

Selina did that and started shivering.

"Cathy... oh god, Cathy..." Selina's eyes flew open.

"Loren I need a phone! I've got to call the club so that they can get someone to check on her!"

Loren slid her hands down and gestured over to the desk and walked over with Selina to it, and then took the phone out from under a pile of small boxes.

"Press 9 for an outside line. 30 seconds, Selina, nothing funny."

Selina slid the phone over on the desk and then did her best to rember the number to the Golden Tiger Club's front desk.

"Phone book?" she asked softly.

Loren nodded and shifted a chair around the desk and sat down to open a lower drawer and pulled out the Gotham City phone directory from it. She handed it over and Selina opened it to the yellow section under restaurants and let her finger slide down to the entry for the Golden Tiger Club. She dialed an outside line and waited.

"Hello? There's a problem in Cathy Li's room, could you go check on her?" there was a moment of Selina listening, "Its urgent. Just... please... check on her. I... thank you, good-bye."

Selina put the phone down on the cradle.

Loren looked up at her and nodded.

"Got that off your mind, I hope?"

Selina took a deep breath and then breathed out slowly.

"Yes... I feel... well... better at least..."

"Good! Now lets get you dressed. And, Selina, as long as you never cross me or go after those I'm emplyed by, you won't be in danger from me. Plus I've got to hear this story from you, then Frank and Tom's side. I do like them, both of them, Selina, just as friends. And if they are tied up with you and you are in over your head, then I have to make sure they aren't in over their heads... although that is hard to believe... still, you need my clothes and that has a price to it."

Selina shook her head in agreement.

"Good. I'll take you to my more personal locker, which is cabinet 106. Most of this is just duty stuff, and you will need better than that if you are involved in any way with Frank and Tom. Believe me, OK?"

"I do, Loren! I don't think I've ever met anyone like them."

"Now, that's a mouthful, right there. Come on, lets get you done up right."


It had slept deep in a cavern unknown to man for so many generations that only its name could be known from some visions and truly inspired texts. Ancient was its start back before there was this planet with beings and the swarming of Others that came here to concentrate power amongst them. It pre-dated them, even going as far back as the other Formless Ones, it was there when they were made. The name it had been given through the ages was Nyog'Sothep, and it was mostly a being of formless black clouds that could become substantial, yet never becoming like the other and true Formless Ones who were made with much more physical substance. Others came after their making, of course, beings of more capability, capacity and mental structure who would do much, much more than these somewhat less capable first beings. Unlike the Shuggoth and its kin, Nyog'Sothep was singular not of a race or species, but just the one thing. Knowing this meant that it could not look forward to having direct lineage as it was also not given any real means to continue its kind via interaction with others. Later beings could mate or exchange parts of themselves or admix themselves to gain descendents. Nyog'Sothep had none of that ability and was thus alone for all time until it died.

In times past it did have those that worshipped it, and with that power it was able to roam through places and leave small pools in case disaster struck. Over long eras its power had waxed and waned, giving it an understanding that while it could generate only scant power on its own, that it had capacity to take in power that was unknown amongst later creatures and beings. Back in the early times, when all was in upheaval and it could barely understand what was happening, it sought refuge from the confrontations of those Primal Things. With the destruction and scattering of its maker and universes brought into being from that, it settled and waited out while others prospered in those days before days. They fought amongst themselves for eons unknown and only once space and energy had settled did it think to find a hidden home nearest to where it had been formed. Others, too, had this idea and at that confluence of space and matter, with great stars living and dying in instants, finally came a place closer to what they had known. Only once the place had settled after much tumult did it dare venture out with its stored power to look at the old battlefields amongst what was now space and stars. Bodies had turned to dust, gas and soon were no longer of anything but clouds slowly taken and pulled apart by greater forces of this newborn place. Yet, still, there amongst their dark hearts was energy to be found and power to be felt and it took part in as much of that as possible. Sadly those bodies and powers no longer housed anything but what was there, and it retreated to its new home newly powered.

A miser of expenditure it became and learned how the cycle of life could garner it power from far lesser beings. It mourned not the end of the great feasts upon the dead and dreaming Ancients, for they were dead and dreaming and it was neither. Although the threat of their return was always imminent if all the right things happened, it cared not in those earliest of times as it knew it had the power to overwhelm each and any if they came after it. Misers, too, understand that there must be outgo for sustenance and by this newer life, always arising and dying on this planet, it had to foster small and dedicated groups and reward them for finding it mere specks of true power. From premier Being it sunk slowly, surely, into lesser status and began to understand the fear of imminent returns. Yet it also understood how to woo and undermine those that worked towards such ends for vast spans and epochs. Yet with so many junctions of life ending, followers dwindled and now it understood that preparation for a day awaiting a return was also its lot. Without the power to be dead and dreaming it had to scatter resources for any who could find them and husband fewer and fewer that would worship it and seek to expand them. Alas Greater Beings from Primal Orders also played and frolicked and in their playing brought those that worshipped it to an end quite by accident. It was beneath them, hiding from them, eking out a scant life in places they didn't care much about. Yet the day that the last of those that followed it died along with the collapse of its old cavern complex, it knew that it must be as still as the dead in order to live.

Now, in uncounted centuries later, its pools so distant and snuffing out, it feared that none would ever find out about it and give it the life power it required. Even getting to such a place with a minor sacrifice would be difficult, manifesting sap its strength and actually being able to reward others limited. It knew despair.

Today it came to this place, not because its pool of power called worshippers to it, no that was not the case and the power here was so old as to be only in the slightest of traces and now in a place inhospitable because Another inhabited it. It would not have come here, ever, as it knew that such that lived here, once rested and stong again, would snuff out its meager life without hesitation, perhaps without thought as a mere nuisance to be removed. This was not a summoning by sacrifice to it, no that luck was not with it either. Here was one who had the Primal Orders behind it and who just happened to find power pool traces and understand what and who had made them in ages so distant ago that only rocks retained any memory of it. He did not exactly call it to him, no this one understood the order of things and what it did was to compel its presence with a mere shrug of thought. Nyog'Sothep was not something to be feared or even respected, just used as a servant or perhaps even less as just a toy. With just a few puffs from a cigarette Nyog'Sothep was given substance and a burning ember focus to allow it to manifest more fully. A few puffs on the next one and it could solidify its body, become resistant to movement and entrap others. Yet all of this raw power, granting it a place and time to manifest, exist with a body like it had known came with the price of knowing that it had such scant resources here that it existed merely because of foul water in a pool and its old traces now exhausted by the summoner of it.

It had not the time to connect to its other pools which were still quite distant to it.

It had not the time to woo and punish worshippers.

It only had time enough to feast and seek out any source of power that might, just might, allow it to exist in fullness and then free itself of the affinity of that which summoned it. This situation would be lethal to it if there was nothing to feast upon. Yet, for the cruelty of the situation there was food, there were thinking beings and from them it knew in its most ancient of ways of how to suck every last vital energy from them before they perished and, perhaps, leave one as understanding that it was to worship it and bring more to do so, and then hold proper sacrifices so it could harvest power.

The one that brought it left, in apparent disgust with those it had discoursed with.

Nyog'Sothep would need to learn how to do that, of course, and for that it needed a first victim to gain access to its body and what little mind it had. It's terror would give it power, of course, and the ability to then understand these new thinking meals properly so it could extract the most from them. There was strange power here not unlike it but it was formless and shapeless in ways it was not and needed simple ordering by it to grant it more and yet more power. To do that it needed to make a start. If it could gain enough, fast enough, and deep enough, it might even contest the inhabitant now slumbering for this place.

Or, if very lucky, extinguish its life by trapping it and draining it.

Then it might even be able to broker a proper deal with those Primal Ones or at least their representative, their avatar, their wonderworker.

But first things first.

Time for dinner.


He slid the Bora into gear and pulled it out from the barred tunnel entrance, went over the crossing and back to the access road and started retracing his path. Taking a left towards downtown Gotham City he saw, ahead, a few of the small billboards and signs that indicated that the way to the Hotel and Theater Districts was down the road some miles. At the intersection for the Interconnector he paused and slid a tape into the cassette player, to finish Bach's organ works or at least the first tape of them. Of the strangest tunes made for an organ was a jig and that now played out from the speakers in stark contrast to the driver's current moods.

"I know that the North Island holds nothing for me, now. Perhaps it is time to change venue and if things go further wrong, to get a good view of the crypt city to come."

He slid north through the intersection and heading towards Downtown Gotham City on the South Island. He slowed as he passed the Gotham City Public Library and nodded.

"Maybe, if all goes wrong, I'll find other treasures there protected by this Dr. Gotham," he said softly to himself.

His eyes danced looking from the street ahead to the colors that flowed and then shook his head.

"A nexus, yes, they spoke of that. She is manifesting... something... there."

As he drove he became aware of a blueness appearing in the passenger's seat, a drifting of frost crystals that were forming into the outline of a being. An old being with some rotundness in the midsection, long beard and plump cheeked face, with white hair flowing from its crown to its shoulders. It was looking at him.

"I'm doing what only I can do," Guthrie said, "there are forces and powers here far more than I or you suspected. Or any of your kin. You didn't think this would be easy, did you?"

He got no reply save for the figure still looking at him.

"Of course you could have tried to do it on your own! And then you would have problems with a few things I can't even pronounce, one from the sea that lives in the twisted island, at least one of the wyrms and you know they never come alone, and that is not to speak of the Spider, of all things to show up here, and Celestial things, and the Directions that your kind so thoughtfully gave by being around and pestering things. That has all gotten quite out of hand, you know? Coming in and knocking down buildings, freeze drying half a continent and so on wouldn't have helped you any and, really, you would have just made things harder to find and get than they already are because all the living presence would be gone."

Guthrie shivered as the figure turned to look ahead and Guthrie saw a vast panoply of colors twisting and gyrating down the street and coming from all over and heading towards the Downtown of Gotham City.

"I never..." he whispered, "Boreas, forgive me, I don't see the all of it. And, please, I can't take it all and remain as I am."

The colors he saw died down to those that he normally saw, but the vividness of the twisting and binding of lights was a thing that had left him some understanding of the impatience of those he served.

"I am no guarantor of events," he whispered, "I must tread as you cannot to do the bidding of your Kind. You may not like the results and see them go awry as they did the last time with poor Odyssius. That did not end well for any of us and I had warned against him as carrier to places you could not go. It is possible to succeed, Boreas, but I know that these Others have their own designs as well."

He drove as the blue figure in the seat next to him began looking up as they went into Downtown proper. At a signal Guthrie stopped and gasped.

"The Spider," he whispered, "just over the nexus? Yet that is..."

As the signal turned he saw all the traces start to be pulled across the street and then, as the sign for Wayne Tower Complex appeared he knew that the nexus point was under that structure.

"Wayne? But what has he to do with..."

The blue figure smiled softly and then the crystals of frost fell into the air each going as the winds commanded them.

Guthrie smiled, slowly, as he signaled to take a left hand turn into the public parking area of the complex.

"Spider once lost, found and this time there will be payments to be meted out. Yes, most appropriate for such a lithe one to feel a taste of life that even its own body denies it."

As he parked the Bora a shiver went through the air and frost started to cling to the tower and then slowly gyrate around it.

"Soon will be an end to games."


"Goodnight..." she said and the door closed as she saw the figures walk away and turned to the man in the room. She smiled and moved up to him and kissed him deeply and the memory of kiss returned anew. She took his hand and led him back to the bedroom, threw back the sheets and slipped into bed as the sheets came billowing down around her and darkness transformed from soft warmth to deep chill. The hand on her harness pulling her in, her feet dragging, the car moving and she had her arms flung forward to grab him pulling towards him. The small, square blue steel cage with front sight at its end pointed above her head and she grabbed him desperately feeling how cold the street was.

"Pull your legs in..." he said trying to pull her in as her legs caught on the cobblestones of the street and yanked her back and she felt the firm grip slipping on her harness.

"Noooo..." she said trying to hold on to him, grabbing at his arm and then as his hand slipped from her harness, his hand, and yet it was too much and she rolled on the cold street and heard a furious sound coming from behind her.

A sleek silver predator was crawling up the street with eyes glowing in white hot intensity and a long, flat mouth full of sharp teeth. Talons at the end of its four legs chewed up the street as it came up to her slowly at first and then faster still. With a growl that grew deeper and more satisfied as it approached it came at her as the building around it shivered and wavered in the night air going black behind it.

In stark terror she scrambled up to her feet and tore her eyes from the creature gaining on her and up the street. She took two steps forward and her left foot twisted on an errant cobble and fell. Fell to a flat stone that stretched around her and darkness went gray with a chill wind no longer at her back but above her. On her right were the bloody remnants of someone or something, that definitely had a foot and lower leg, even if it did have some gray-green scales on it. She dared look left and there was blood spattered on rock that then fell off just a few feet away. The wind rustled around her, cold and barren, and she heard no other sounds. Turning as she stood up she looked back and there was the jutting of a rock out into the air and, far below, the desert with floating things that moved on their own that were not clouds nor creatures nor anything she could dare name.

Standing up fully she turned to look ahead and there, on a post, hung a cloak with hood that was black on the outside and deepest warm red on the inside. She had been here, before, and so had someone else since then, and that persons fate was one that was, to her, written in the stone itself in that person's remains. To leave properly she knew the cloak would save her and took one step and then stumbled as the cold air bit into her body and caused her to shiver uncontrollably. Her clothes now gone, left her freezing slowly on this rock overlooking the desert and she scrambled forward, crawling towards the cloak. The wind down her back chilled her and her arms gave way to have her hit the rock. Her legs she could no longer feel and her arms were going deeply numb. Desperately she tried to shift and managed to inch her right hand to the bottom of the cloak and to touch it with her fingers.

Falling from its support it came down on her and she was in redness, warm redness, pleasant redness and her body remained numb but the pleasure of the warmth spread into her, through her.

Again she was on the ground, this time on a sidewalk in front of a candy store and she felt the shaking earth through her body which was now giving her sensations that were beyond warm and pleasant, even though all she could feel beyond that was cold and numb. With willpower she got her elbows shifted and pulled with all her strength to move an inch forward. She could feel that her upper legs apart and how the concrete slid over her stomach, which caused her to shiver in delight and confusion. Again forward and, once more forward, with pleasure now aching through her from within.

She saw the tower, recognized it, and saw a myriad of colors in lines extending towards it and into the ground under it. Crawling forward she saw a place where all the lines were starting and there were shadows on either side of that place. Where lines had curved they now straightened and took precise turns heading to that one place where they all came from. As she looked at the lines they firmed up and some crossed each other and at each point they crossed was a small circle. There was an order amongst them but not the order of anything she could recognize as the lines flew out in all directions and dimensions forming some sort of web that pulsed and even shifted on its own.

A spasm of pure pleasure ran through her as she neared that starting place with the two shadows of figures next to it.

The one on her right turned from looking to her right and then she saw the Thompson Submachine Gun in his hand, lifted to his shoulder and he smiled as he looked down at her. He then looked at the other figure who turned from looking at her left to look at her. As he did all the lines started to shift as they radiated out from that starting point, intensities changed throughout it cascading far into the distance. His body was fit, but it obstructed light more as a circle atop a square as seen from the brilliant light shifting through the traces and designs between him and the other man.

Now she understood and whispered just once as spasms of pleasure went through her.

"Ptah, please help me..."

Her eyes flew open and the bedside light was on. She felt the pillow shift under her as a hand reached to take out the Faberge case.

Her body was numb and she couldn't move, but not due to restraints but paralysis. She lay nude, the covers off of her and she saw the face of Guthrie Lewis leaning over her.

"Ah, the cat awakens, but late we are. Sadly I must leave you like this," he said as she saw him lift his right hand up to lift fingers to his mouth and then move back down to her. Pleasure arced through her body which trembled and writhed and she felt passion and fear. His left hand took out the box from under her pillow and he smiled. She looked at him and started to see crystals in the air shift and move behind him, forming into a man with slightly rotund form, but still tall and energetic looking. A white beard was on his face and long flowing hair coming down from his head to his shoulders.

Guthrie leaned down to her and she tried to move her head aside but was stopped by his right hand and a jolt of pleasure stirred through her body. He kissed her and as she tried to inhale, tried to do anything, she felt her lungs spasm. His head lifted from her and then he stood up next to the tall figure next to him.

"Why, dear woman, you are about to be blessed by Boreas," he said smiling as he stepped out of sight to retrieve his jacket and then stepped next to the figure, "and, truly, it has been ages since he has been with any woman. He is picky, you know? So I will leave him to you, now, as I have other things to attend to. Good-bye, dear woman. And know that you are blessed to be alive."

Selina could only gasp as she felt how pleasure was soaking into her, causing her body to writhe.

"Oh..." she said and closed her eyes, feeling tears rolling down her cheeks.

The sound of a million tiny pieces of ice shifted next to her and she felt deep cold air sliding over her body. And then came the deep voice, like a sound of the wind crossing a deep canyon.

"Do not fear, Selina Kyle. We may have many nights together."


A tug of affinity had saved it.

It knew that the rest of the universe it was in, and it was one amongst many just in this greater universal envelope, dealt with another kind of affinity that left fewer traces and manifested powers in strange and mysterious ways. Even when there had been some touch affinity and even a minor relationship affinity with something physical, those traces tended to be so weak when done for only a short time that they could not be easily discerned.

There were other strange and mysterious forms of affinity that it knew about, most certainly, but that left no traces of their actions for it to find and worked mysteriously at such distances as defied its understanding of the way things worked. During its time bound to this physical structure it had to utilize this strange set of powers it little understood via those who carried it who knew that formulation much, much better than it ever could. To name them was to at once both identify things it knew and things it didn't, as the forms of the thing it knew were not those that were practiced here. Thus the power of contract and contractual inter-party agreement via conduct was something that it was only aware of from the most brutal of sides: that of the 'do this now or be eaten' form. Even performing as wanted was no guarantee of survival as contracts amongst those level of Beings and lesser ones was not binding to them, although very binding to the lesser sort. It could even begin to fathom mutual agreements on certain items, but not how the power and affinity of contracts worked when it was done at the same or relatively similar power structure.

Between Order and Chaos in their primal manifestations was something that was neither, and it was known here as Law. Again it was not unknown outside of this realm, as there was a certain type of binding Law that the living had, although those that were ngah ftagn didn't have to abide by, which was one of the greatest mysteries and sources of power that those class of beings had. They were beyond Order and Chaos, dead but dreaming and out of the reach of any compulsion of any form of Law by any being whatsoever. Law did not get you to total Order because it had to deal with Chaos and, in so doing, had a Chaotic side to it as well. Contracts were within that nebulous formulation of Law that existed here and it was at once one of the weakest of all possible affinities and one of the strongest as well. Understanding that others in this realm would seek to work mysterious changes to transmute strength to weakness and weakness to strength showed the Chaotic side of Law that meant it was an untrustworthy means to organize affairs. Yet it was one person with the tiniest of physical passing affinities to the shop keeper who had the Ring it had been with that just touched lightly on her. It's Cat affinity was not the strong of its sort and couldn't be played on one way or another, thus its actual form beyond whatever material value it had here, was its only attraction source. Once in contact it understood that the material form was not even a consideration and that it was an object, only, but one caught up in a nebulous form of contract that existed outside the most formal of legal systems, but was one known amongst those at a level who dealt with each other and the takings of things that were not properly granted affinity to be taken. It had pulled on that piece for so long that it thought that no results would be forthcoming, but that was not the case it now knew.

An instant with that Other, that one who wielded power in the stead of Others, was enough to give it a bleak coldness to its core. Here was a being that could force it to retain its physical binding while destroying the material portion it was bound to, and kill it. A normal destruction of the material portion would be a simple unbinding and it would return to its former state that none could see directly unless they knew how to look. Binding to the object had taken mere days. Simple destruction of that object would be traumatic, yes, and leave it with trauma to get over, but that was all it would be and it would recover. Destruction with enforced binding was death. It escaped that and, in pure desperation, pulled at any nearby bindings of its new carrier to try and get some response. Yet the response was already coming via a series of contracts, obligations, contacts, affinities, and power that even it, with its strange mind of building webs, could not fathom. It had pulled itself into a greater structure and now knew that its fate was within that larger casting of powers that was far stranger, far weirder than anything it had ever crossed before. Being blind to these types of things it could not use them and now it was in stark terror knowing that something was moving it around to fit in a larger setting that it could never understand.

In rescue the two who had done so for its carrier were strange as a pair and one was not just strange but nearly something it could understand, to a point, and then fell away into some of the deepest mysteries it had ever encountered. The one who did direct saving was something it could understand and the attraction of rescued to rescuer was a form of affinity all its own. That other one was a thing much like the object it was bound to and was crafted of even stranger sorts of metals that held crystals and degenerating matter, all in ways that pointed to it being a made thing but so finely crafted, so well made that it outshone the crude thing of beauty it was attached to. And it could move on its own! What it was bound to had affinities of sort and type, more than of association and power, but those were rather mundane affinities and so pervasive that they were easy to ignore. While a great crafter it was no engineer, yet that it was bound to crossed some unfathomable line between craftsmanship and engineering that it rightly didn't understand. The affinity of form to what it was, that was easy to understand and the source of the binding of it to the item. This material item had an affinity of sort that now allowed it to understand or at least glimpse at a vast array of understanding, that was the basis for this much less compelling affinity. Here was a thing of steel with, yes, gold, platinum, rubies of a sort, even forms of onyx buried deep inside it, but the mere materials also had overwhelming sorts that didn't occur naturally and some it would have thought could not occur at all. Just as a made object it was the most impressive thing it had ever come near or witnessed in its pre-binding time seeking a universal refuge.

Yet mystery was housed within it as it was self-mobile, contained places where power of a different but related sort could be stored and shifted by an internal process it couldn't understand. Power that had only affinity of kind or type, but no other contact affinity was something it had to deal with from its earliest moments, of course, and that others sought to utilize these sorts of power was something of an ongoing affair by many. Here was something that pointed to more than common mastery of such power, as was evident in the world around it, and to a refinement that it could not even guess at. There was an affinity with it other than that which was fading, and fading quickly. It tried to pluck at that, find out where it went, and only found that it disappeared amongst the universes and when it tried to assert common structure affinity to see if it had a host it could go to, found the Void. That it let go of so quickly as trying to investigate the Void meant death and the Void, itself, might just slip along some affinity trace back to you and make you disappear without warning. Of all things it did its best to avoid, the Void tended to top even such Old and Ancient Ones and even Outer Ones as they, too, recognized the power of the Void. If one knew of the Void it went to the top of the list of things that one wanted to stay away from and by such be avoiding it.

In its own way it was distracted, dazzled, dizzied, perplexed, intrigued and had lost concentration on staying alive. It wanted ever so much to find a way to use affinity between what it was bound to and this other finely crafted thing and make that jump, but it was not to be. There was a form of Order within that object which made the jump impossible and out of Order as it enforced. It could not even intrude into that space to see if there was any thought present, and in spending fruitless minutes attempting that it now realized its mistake. With its carrier it had wound up in a room so far above the ground that any who knew how to look could see its affinity web draping away from it. Being up so high it had gone from something that could skulk in obscurity to becoming a beacon of its presence. And such beacons with such affinities drew attention, oh yes it did!

This time that Other being in service to Old Others was not using the trickery of persuasion and deftness to find it. No, this time, it came with power untold behind it, and yet applied with such assurance that it knew that this time there was no rescue, no escape, nothing it could do. As it felt the power build in the structure around it, it now knew that it had but escaped to a more sure trap. It would tremble in fear, if it could, but a simple jewel did not tremble. Yet within the head that held such thoughts there was the knowing of despair. It was used to tricking others, finding ways to distract them that it had thought itself immune to those same effects. Now it knew differently and it now had no time to mend its ways. Unable to remove the binding quickly it was trapped with a body in a space and time where one who sought to undo its weavings was coming for it. That one did not have to storm gates, just use its power to convince these made things to do as it wished, and simple cameras and locks were as nothing to it. Not even obstacles. Pulling at the closest affinities to which it had no real power over them, was its last, vain hope. For those who are about to die will cast about for any way to survive.


Using its volume sensing ability it honed in on those trapped within it, who were now up for slow dissolution and digestion, at least of their energies if not their actual forms, although it needed some from those as well. Of that one vital essence they exuded was one of the strongest and that was horror, fear, terror and all the other sorts of things that those desperate on survival felt when they knew their lives were close to being extinguished. Nyog'Sothep had black clouds of self that obscured the merely artificial lights to a large degree, and refiltered them along its edges where it was still incorporating mere mist into itself, thus casting a formless yellow-red glow throughout itself. By extending its reach it had gotten the first of them and it was female by type and delicious by taste, and already it was giving off energy that it happily took in. As it did so it realized that amongst the flavors was a fiery one from within it.

It paused as it trapped another, a being that was a Changeling and female as well. In fact the next Changeling also was trapped because of the needs of their bodies for humidity, they could not stop mere touch leading to full entrapment. Oh they did flail around with their undersea weapons! Cutting with Deep Knives that, sadly, found the mists opening and closing behind them, and with a shift-spear that likewise had little it could actually contact with.

Now that shifting male, he was keeping it at bay and had even gotten a steel knife to the first female who was actually getting somewhere in scraping it away from her clothing. By now, of course, it had contact with her skin, but best to not let her know that for just a bit. A quite inventive female had brought out some fire packets! Placed on the ground around her they actually kept it at bay at that level and made a temporary barrier for her. Oh these primitives! Always so inventive!

The other female, however, it was trying to deal with it as it just stood and looked at its central structure that it used for sensing and organization. It was trying to get ahold of her as she did make no move to stop encroachment, and yet, for all it could do, it could not actually touch even her clothes. Yes, these ones of pure willpower did become a trouble. She would just have to be solidly enveloped and then wait until she succumbed to fear. They all did. No one ever walked out of one of its digesting sacs alive.

Back to that male who was, well, just troublesome! His walking stick actually caused it some discomfort, although no real pain because it couldn't feel pain, and by moving and the tap of the stick it was having trouble actually getting to him. He was trying to walk around the two who were trapped closer together, the Changelings, and handed each a steel knive, as well. It was painful for them to actually need to maintain their current form and scrape their skin, and it did get some energy from that, yes, but it was just not what it should be. Even that first one was doing that, now, obviously being informed by that male. As he walked it started to form up more solidly around him, soon he would find himself like that female of willpower, trapped in a sac he couldn't get out of.

They all would be trapped like that, of course.

But that first one, that fiery taste to her, what was that? It really did need to know as it knew of something like it once vast ages ago, and it really was quite promising! A bit more rising of forming mist around her and, finally, getting that knife wielding arm entangled, and then sliding towards that thinking nerve center. Now it was coming to feel that affinity.


Yes it was plain to sense now!

This was one who was going to be reborn. Or at least that was the possibility. So few actually were that it knew that those with the potential for rebirth far outnumbered those who actually had this happen to them. But having that potential was such a good thing to have for something just dropped into itself that it knew this was not just mere chance. It needed someone to go out amongst its kind to bring more in to worship and then more to sacrifice so it could gain power anew! And what better way than to take a Phoenix Child and push it over the edge with its affinity so that it would become a full-fledged Avatar of it? It had never had a Phoenix-Child within its grasp before, and it was just the thing to organize a wide spread movement for worship of it.

Oh joyous event!

Power was now in its grasp like it had never been before!

Then its volume was violently intruded upon by a thing of metal and strangely formulated materials which rammed through its thickened side covering a tunnel entrance and broke into its misty thickness and disturbed that thickness in a wave. It stopped before hitting those that were being entrapped and disgorged another of its kind. Desperately it closed the entrance, again, and then tried to work its way into this massive thing and find out its origin. It was frustrated by how well sealed the thing was against even the intrusion of air in so much of it's volume.

As it came from the front it felt those tendrils being sucked in and...

Nyog'Sothep had never expected to feel such fear from something like this.

It was eating its very mass and exhausting a hot, undifferentiated and quite sooty stuff in return.

Nyog'Sothep had always expected that it would be its power that would be eaten by some Old One or Ancient One. It had never encountered an air eater.

Then, again, it didn't know about internal combustion engines, either, nor vehicles created to go through chem/bio/nuclear battlegrounds and have its occupants survive the ordeal. And this vehicle, left at high idle to power its array of equipment, did need a lot of air to run and take in through its scoops. And that volume was something which Nyog'Sothep was trying to cut off from itself which was incontact with that vehicle. It was finding that the very thickness it could give to air was now being pulled into this thing most rapidly. In trying to thin itself out it was forced to retreat from those that were its prey. To advance on them close to that vehicle, meant a strange form of death from air being drawn into it and digested by it. Even if it could do that, the vehicle still took air in from in front of it which was near enough to the edge of the open volume to start drawing Nyog'Sothep into it. And with so little power, it could not move from this place.

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