Centurion Chronicles #9: Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire
The Story So Far…
With Jack Scaper still mysteriously absent and Mokgosi Ramotswe in the alleyway behind the rubble of the collapsed bar, Special Agent Allen Irons takes Dr. Joseph Kenrick, Dr. Wyrd, Danny O’Brian, and the unconscious Skinny Pete into custody by the London police force for the destruction of the Tavern and possible assault on Pete’s person. Agent Irons quickly recognizes Anthony Poe and personally detains him, as Poe is wanted by various government agencies in The U.S. for the research he stole. Irons has Poe get into a separate vehicle, leaving the rest of the Centurions to be transferred to a holding cell in downtown London. (Before he goes, he has Dr. Wyrd gagged with a leather strap and secured by a heavy lock behind his head, preventing Wyrd from speaking.)
Irons settles in the back seat and quickly begins to interrogate Poe about the actions of the Centurions. Poe attempts to dissuade Irons from this line of questioning, but Irons unsettling insistence and subtle threats of violence compels Poe to speak in greater detail. Irons learns that the Centurions were after Netherite and that Dr. Evelyn Kenrick’s Dimensional Particle Collider was stolen by members of The Russo Crime Syndicate. Irons quickly realizes the value Poe’s scientific ability and genius and directs the officers to go to his secret office in another part of London; separate from the other Centurions.
Meanwhile in the Alleyway, Mokgosi witnesses his allies being arrested; however the chunk of Netherite he is holding begins to interact strangely with Grayson’s Gauntlets. He feels a voice commanding him to take the netherite and a strange pull leading away from his companions. Mokgosi feels himself overwhelmed and walks further into the alleyway only to find a shimmering portal leading in a reflection of London, but basked in sickly purple hues. Mokgosi steps through the portal and ends up in the Shadow Dimension.
In the Shadow Dimension, Mokgosi feels himself drawn through twisted alleyways of London only to reach downtown proper. He finds himself feeling the pull of the netherite and whispers in his mind drawing him to a large clock tower; that he later learns is Big Ben. He notices shadow apparitions moving in and out of the tower and atop a floating, large, sickening ball of purple energy. The pull directs him inside and Mokgosi decides to follow. Inside he is greeted by a duo of shadow apparitions who reach out for the netherite. Mokgosi snaps out of the hypnotic allure, and pulls back. The apparitions respond with violence and Mokgosi is nearly struck as he struggles with a feeling of nausea. Instead he draws his knife and destroys both the apparitions, dissolving them into dust. He hears the sounds of more being drawn from outside Big Ben and begins to run up the winding staircase.
As Mokgosi begins his struggles in the Shadow Dimension, Irons has the police drive he and Poe to an isolated part of London. Poe realizes that nondescript black cars are flanking the police vehicle. As they reach a Warehouse, heavily armed men in dark suits jumped out of the suits and directed the police car inside. Inside is a single wooden desk, with a lamp, a phone, an easy chair, with a wooden chair before the desk One of the men opens the back door of the vehicle open and Irons requests that Poe take a seat on the wooden chair at gunpoint. Suddenly the driver slams on the accelerator and whips the car around driving back out of the warehouse. In the rear view mirror, Poe sees Jack, in a policeman’s uniform, looking back with a grin.
Mokgosi begins to run up the interior stairway with shadow apparitions fast on his heels; a small group catches them, but Mokgosi is able to quickly dispatch them. On the way up, Mokgosi sees bright rips into the fabric of reality and can see natural light that it appears to be from this dimension. He continues his run up the stairs, the unnatural light of the place tearing at the fabric of his being, slowly taking a toll on his body. At the top of the stairs, Mokgosi sees Dr. Evelyn Kenrick’s Dimensional Particle Collider appears to be wired and welded to the gears of Big Ben. Mokgosi sees some more netherite glowing inside the collider. Ignoring the furious, mad whispering in his head and the queasy light, he reaches in and takes the netherite releasing a powerful explosion of energy.
Jack swerves through the throng of black suited men as they unlimber their machine guns. He can hear the revving of engines as the other vehicles are started up to give chase. Irons turns his gun from Poe and puts it to the back of Jack’s head cocking the hammer back and demanding he pull over. Jack tightens his grip on the steering wheel, swerving suddenly as gunfire rips through the car, shredding his tires; with a gun to the back of his head he maintains control of the vehicle. Poe attempts to talk Irons down, but falters underneath his furious glare. Jack senses though that Poe may have presented an opening and is able to suggest to Irons about the possibility of a temporary alliance because of the events that have been occurring in London. Irons lowers his gun and suggests that Jack pull over, so that they can speak more comfortably.
Mokgosi finds himself being hurled through time and space until he finds himself back in his home plane of existence, free falling along the outer wall of Big Ben with the Netherite in hand. As Mokgosi twists about he sees Shadow Apparitions jumping out of a rift aside the giant tower and gliding down after them. He opens fire with his pistol, destroying a couple with some quick, accurate shots. The apparitions ignore his gunfire and reach for the netherite, trying to wrestle the otherworldly rock from his hands. Mokgosi grabs onto a small balcony with a doorway, pulling himself up. The netherite slips from his fingers, continuing to fall to the ground. The apparitions chase after and Mokgosi takes the opportunity to open fire, destroying the remaining ones. He breaks back into the tower and starts the head downstairs when he hears the sounds of soldiers responding to the loud gunfire from the tower.
Irons steps out of the now destroyed vehicle with Jack and Poe warily following after him. His men in dark suits holster their weapons as Irons goes back to his desk in the warehouse and gestures for Jack and Poe to take a seat. Jack takes up the wooden chair and Poe pulls a collapsible one from his backpack, popping it open and taking a seat. The two Centurions and Irons discuss the chaos at the Ziggenheim Institute, the theft of the Dimensional Particle Collider, the connections it might have with netherite and shadow apparitions. Irons shares that this destruction has been a distraction to the interests he serves, Jack feels that there is more to it than what Irons is sharing, but the situation does not lend itself to him digging into it. He also shares that he can get Jack and Poe to Alcatraz Island where Dr. Garrison Grayson is being held in the hospital wing of the military prison. Irons makes the case that Jack and Poe might be able to better understand Grayson and get information about netherite and the involvement of the shadow apparitions. After some discussion, and significant reservations, the Centurions agree to trust Irons; allowing him to monitor the situation in London while they go to San Francisco.
Back at Big Ben, Mokgosi quickly turns invisible, the ever present whispering suddenly getting stronger, as British soldiers charge up the stairwell. He follows behind them, only to witness a group of them being subsumed and killed when they encounter the purple light in the gear room atop the tower. Mokgosi takes the opportunity to sneak back downstairs. At the base of the tower he sees that more soldiers have arrived and have cordoned off the area about the fallen netherite. Mokgosi witnesses a truck drive up to the troops and park by the netherite, with Evelyn and an unremarkable looking man in a grey suit with matching fedora (later identified as Silver) step out of the vehicle. Silver flashes some credentials to the officer, as two other soldiers, acting under Evelyn’s orders, get out of the truck and help her secure the netherite.
To Mokgosi’s surprise he sees the soldiers he though were dead walk out of the tower. He notices a purple glow in their eyes and realizes that they have been taken over by whatever power that controls the shadow apparitions and that they are possessed. The possessed soldiers report to their commander that they need help up in the gear room of the clock tower and that he should accompany more troops to the top. Mokgosi hears this and, while still cloaked, goes to the other side of the tower and fires off some gunshots. This draws the attention of some the soldiers and the officer orders a large number to search the area, however the office agrees to follow the possessed soldiers to the top of the tower and enters Big Ben. Mokgosi returns to the area and quickly reveals himself, startling Evelyn and Silver. He quickly distrusts Silver, but tells Evelyn about the issues atop the room. Silver reveals that The Shadow Consortium has fully infiltrated all levels of British government and that some of their agents will be here shortly. He and Evelyn share that they can take the netherite to a safe place; Mokgosi decides to climb to the top of Big Ben and see if he can do something about the device atop it. Silver lends him the aid of the two soldiers who accompanied him. Evelyn and Silver than drive off in the truck, while Mokgosi charges back into the tower with the plucky soldiers following along behind him.
Irons stands and signals for two of his men to drive Jack and Poe to the airport. He assures them that he has a quick method of transportation to get them where they need to go and that he will keep an “eye” on Joseph and Wyrd while they are in custody. As they leave Poe overhears Irons make a quick phone call to someone named Gold, assuring them that a problem has been dealt with and that matters will soon be in hand. Poe mentions this to Jack and Jack thinks the person Irons called was Arthur Gold, because of Irons’ association with Trueman International. They both get into the back of the car and drive out of the warehouse and down a side street; when all of a sudden a truck slams into the vehicle, pinning it against a wall.
Mokgosi starts to run up the tower, his body feeling fatigued from the amount of exertion he has made climbing these stairs multiple times. The soldiers fall in beside him and soon confront their brothers in arms, with rifles aiming in the firing position at them. Mokgosi realized they are possessed, the whispering in his head becomes more furious, and one of the guards states they must eliminate the traitor. Mokgosi reacts quickly and opens fire to the horror of his companions. They fire back with a quick bloodly gun battle in the narrow corridor. Mokgosi gets the upper hand quickly, but is rebuffed for a moment as the possessed officer returns downstairs with the rest of his men.
Silver jumps out the cab of the truck; Poe and Jack are unarmed but Irons’ men lie unconscious. Silver exclaims that Irons was going to have them killed to get them out of the way. He states that he has men going over to Big Ben to secure the netherite that was stolen. He and Evelyn have it sequestered at the Ziggenheim Institute. Jack shares what they were attempting to do and Silver says he has a way of getting them there if they can get the truck started again. Poe begins to work on the engine, quickly fixing it as Jack, remembering Mokgosi, uncaps his Golden Pen and jabs in into his arm, drawing blood. He then grabs a blank piece of paper and begins to make a note for Mokgosi.
Mokgosi is able to overwhelm the soldiers on the stairwell with well placed shots. He stiffens the resolve of his companions with a quick threat. Before he can go back downstairs he sees a fleet of black cars pull up and a horde of black suited men begin to flood the area. Mokgosi realizes that there is little chance that he can get through Irons’ thugs, he and his companions run up the stairs and dive into the rift in the gear room. Mokgosi’s gloves and his will protects him and his allies from the harsh, pulsating unnaturalness of the Shadow Dimension. He attempts to pull the Dimensional Particle Collider through the rift, but the psychic energy begins to sap at his will. One of his companions turns to dusts as they are overwhelmed by shadows. When he realizes he can’t remove it, he begins to tear at the machine ripping it apart. Each piece he breaks stabs into his mind, eating away at his resolve. His other companion breaks under the pressure and tries to run away, but does not get far before the shadows choke the life from him. Mokgosi tears away the last piece, shattering the device and causing another explosion. As he his flung from the machine, he sees a part fly past his vision; the warning label changing to the phrase, “We will meet you atop Big Ben – Jack.”
Silver parks the truck by a little airstrip outside of London as Jack bandages his arms. They are confronted by the sight of the Areo Nautillus anchored to the ground and Jeeves Cutler awaiting them. Silver states that Lady Laura Bancroft has loaned them their aircraft and Jeeves signals for them to get aboard. Poe makes an off colored remark, earning the ire of the prim butler. Jack, knowing that time is of the essence, distracts Jeeves with pleasant conversation as Poe engages of power of the Curie Drive and gives the Areo Nautillus extra speed.
Mokgosi finds himself hurling high into the air above Big Ben. He looks around trying to angle his body, to find some place to land. Seeing death rushing up towards him he attempts to veer his way towards the river, when suddenly his salvation swoops in on the form of a swiftly moving Areo Nautillus. Jack points out Mokgosi to Jeeves and he angles the airship towards Mokgosi’s falling body. Mokgosi is able to angle himself towards the blimp and catches onto a side hatch, only to be pulled inside by Silver.
Inside the airship, the companions recuperate from their injuries. Mokgosi, distrusting Silver, is only willing to share what they learn if Evelyn is there. Jeeves lands by the Ziggenheim Institute and picks up Evelyn along with the netherite. Inside the Centurions review the events and they decide to fly to Alcatraz Island to interview the insane Dr. Grayson. Evelyn also reveals that she thinks the bright light that Mokgosi saw from the Shadow Dimension is the Soul of Hakkar. Poe’s modifications causes the Areo Nautillus to make the trip in a mere three days.
They land outside the prison, with Evelyn and Jeeves opting to stay with the airship and guard the netherite. The rest of the Centurions enter the visiting area of the prison. Mokgosi overhears a radio news report about an odd coma sweeping through London and the medical center that was set-up by the Westminster Abby and Big Ben. He realizes that more and more people back in London are being possessed. He shares his observations, but doing so draws his attention of one of the security guards from Black Coat Securities, who states that their negro will have to wait outside. Poe engages in brief banter about social injustice and earns the same fate of Mokgosi, leaving Jack and Silver to enter the prison alone to speak with Dr. Grayson.
Mokgosi and Poe take a seat and listen to a radio as a Janitor mops the floor. Poe notices an odd smell as the mop passes by the guard station and where they are sitting. He begins to identify the chemical composition of a highly flammable substance. He points this out to Mokgosi who grabs the Janitor by the wrist. The security guards draw their pistols, demanding that Mokgosi release the janitor. Mokgosi pulls up the sleeve of the janitor’s shirt and sees the symbol marking him as a member of The Brotherhood of Set. Before anyone can react the room suddenly erupts in flame.
Silver and Jack follow the Warden towards the Medical Wing of the prison. The Warden mentions in passing that they have The Whirlwind locked in solitary. They find Grayson sitting alone in a solitary cell deep in the medical wing. It becomes obvious that his mind is broken as he begins to babble incoherently about setbacks and repairs, but that he is almost done. He then begins to laugh, muttering something about a fire starting.
Poe and Mokgosi dive towards the main entrance as fire engulfs the room, burning the janitor and one of the prison guards alive. They struggle through the smoke as the fire continues to spread and the heat continues to rise. Mokgosi attempts to break the entryway open only find it tightly secured. Poe is able to use a modification on the Curie Drive to make a torch and quickly burns through the metal doorway. The remaining guard succumbs to the smoke and passes out. Poe convinces Mokgosi to drag him to safety as they run deeper into the prison. They quickly get the bearings and find the area strangely deserted. Mokgosi and Poe decide to find Jack and Silver, and Mokgosi is able to find their trail and makes way towards the medical wing.
Jack pretends to be as excited as Grayson for the promise day and learns that it will be happening soon before Grayson says he has to go. He suddenly disappears in a flash of purple light and smoke. The Warden sends for the guards to sound the alarm as Silver and Jack enter the prison and make a quick search. Silver notices that Grayson has been reading about the architecture of Augustus Pugin and that his final construction was Big Ben. They hear a guard shouting for the Warden stating that the main entryway is on fire. Before the Warden can give additional instructions, an assassin from the Brotherhood of Set appears behind him, slitting his throat.