A few Kilometers later, Viktor stopped. His lung was burning. Again he wished for mechanical legs. Behind him, the former golden statue of the Goldelse was staring into the nothing, having lost her head a few years ago, when a madman had wanted to make love with her, flying his self-built balloon next to her face. The police had handled him. And the explosion had handled the statue. No one had cared afterwards. Berlin was already mad and dying.
Viktor looked up and stared at the ceiling of the old trainline. He wished, the train would still exist, only one station to the Zoologischer Garten, but now he had to walk. He had to take another way. The area around the Garten was different and there were stories about … well, stuff. The old TU was still a mad place. And the old Zoologischer Garten, the old zoo, no way. No one would go there if not in the semi-brightness of a grown day.
Reaching the Ernst-Reuter-Platz, he turned left, marching like a soldier, trying to ignore his burning legs, he saw the old station quite soon.
Checking the tablet, the Swabish crowd had already left the Regierungsviertel. They moved towards the station, but not like him, they were a crowd and a crowd was an army and therefore, they would walk through the Tiergarten and then through the zoo and maybe a few of them would be eaten, but in an army, no one was really important, outside of the boss and the hostage.
Viktor stopped. He had tried to enter the station, but now he wasn’t sure anymore. Who ever had used the girl to get Lasseter had also set up this place to meet and therefore, it was secure.
Two suits were walking the perimeter, almost invisible in the darkness. They moved slowly, checked around, their black guns ready to kill someone.
Viktor wished, he still had his knife. Again. And his gun was empty. And they would fire at him for just even showing them, that he was still alive.
A group of teenagers went bye, driving an old car, yelling obscenities, while an old radio blared sounds from ages ago. They stopped. Got out of the car. Having baseball bats and other melee-weapons in their hands, they were unaware of their first mistake: They had stopped. And brought melee-weapons to a gunfight.
It took less than 10 seconds for half of the group to leave the place in panic, the others were too hurt or too dead to run away.
A group of 5 suits were standing in the doorway, talking to each other in a weird military-business-lingo, when another man was walking out of the station. He ordered them to get rid of the bodies of the attackers to keep the place clean for the guests.
Then they disappeared.
Silence grew back. The car of the teenagers stood there, waiting for them never coming back.
Viktor ducked and ran for it. It was truly old, the brand was a forgotten one. He looked around, found a few broken bottles, a few new ones, a few clothes … a joint, still burning. No weapons. No electronics, smartphones etc.
The new bottles looked weird. When he lifted one of them, they smelled like gasoline. Tiny drops stuck to the fabric, patters from old thirts emerged here.
Cocktails. The evil ones.
Two of them exploded in the night, only a few steps away from the door, the others stayed in the car, already burning.
Viktor ran. He crossed the street under the bridge, turned left. Looked down the steps to the subway, but the way upwards would be too dangerous. So he checked the building. There were steps upwards, a few missing. In the background people screamed, when the car exploded. The flickering of the flames emanated the night. Shadows moved, disappeared. He looked around, trying to find … yes, the old tower from an forgotten exhibit from the late 2020s. It looked like a giant ice-cone or a forgotten statue of a non-existent god. He entered the tower, ripped the door out and went up the stairs. On the top of the tower was a bridge and the bridge was the way to the top of the trainstation.
Slowly but steadily he moved his body over the wiggly bridge, feeling every turn of rain, every gush of wind, every breath he took influencing the bridge, which was made from old wood, which was probably the reason, no one had thought of that. He was on his knees now, lay on the creaking boards and shoved himself forward, smelling the decay of the wood, the slime from thousands of hours of constant rain pouring from the planks when he touched them.
And yet, he made it to the edge of the building. He went up, looked around, looked down. The windows of this building were old and thick, but some of this stuff was missing and now he was alone. He climbed a few meters, checked the location, tried to find a spot to … found the spot.
When he found the top, he opened one of the old climate control windows, black from the rust and let himself down. The iron rods creaked slightly but thankfully, he was not fat enough to rip them.
Now he lay down on the top of an old food stall. It still smelled here like bread and sweets and cubicmeters of coffee.
He felt tired, as tired a human being can be. How long was he running around in Berlin? He should have left the town 10 years ago. Or longer ago. He should have gone to central Europe or to the sea, become a fisherman or working on an oil-rig or in a light house or so. But no, he had been too lazy and too scared to replace the madness of the city with the normality of a job while trying to survive the fucked up climate of the known world. Yes, there were better places. But most of the world tried to live with their mistakes and now, now one questioned the unholy weather patterns anymore. But the people who had destroyed weather were already dead, rotting in their graves, letting others suffer for their … well … wellness.
People moved. People talked. Light crashed in from all directions. The old monitors from ages ago woke up to life, showing nothing but blue. Then old shows went on, old advertisements from decades ago. The old harddrives were running, showing off.
Suits appeared from all directions, cleaning the plattforms, checking the corners – not checking the top of the food stall. Because they were cut short by commands in their lingo, which told them to get the fuck out.
When they left, a few suits stayed. The clicks told Viktor, that they checked their guns.
“No guns needed”, one of them said. “And here we are, armed and ready to die.”
“Shut up, the boss is coming”, another one whispered. The echoes of this old hall went wild.
Not only the boss was arriving. The Swabes were coming too.
They looked like angry kids in their flowery suits. In front of the crowd of maybe 20 the boss walked. She still wore her porcelain-face, her eyes blinked semi-interested in her environment. Behind her, in the middle of the gang, Maria. She looked almost like before, a little angry, a little sad. But she lived.
And she lived, because one had a plan and a plan was to get her.
“Good evening!” A suit came up the steps behind the food stall, a large suit. Holding out his hands in the old way of telling “I am not armed” he showed his palms to his guests.
The Swabes stopped and after a short whistling of the boss, they jumped from the train tracks to the plattform. Two of them shoved Maria up to their new level.
“You are the suit, I have talked to.”
“You are the Swabe, you are the new boss. The old boss was not happy with the plan.”
“The old boss is dead.”
“And you have her.”
“I have her.”
“Good. Can I see her from nearby?”
The suit laughed. “No tricks.”
Two of the suits went forwards, Maria between them. The suit walked to them. Looked up and down the girl, turned around.
Static noise crashed through the silence. A shadow flickered. A body moved.
“Who is this?”, the boss asked.
“He is the suit, who gave the order.”
“Hello. I am Max. And you are now my guests.”
Max. Viktor felt his fist, felt his fingernails cutting the skin of his palm. Max. Why … or why not? Questions appeared and faded away.
“Max. You sent this man to find the girl.”
“I believe, he survived. You should check the perimeter.”
“My dear girl”, Max said, corrected himself after the boss stepped forward, anger in her eyes, “I mean, dear woman. Boss. Lady. Goddess, whatever they call you. I apologize for the words. The person you are talking of, was supposed to be on a spot where the pod would have never landed. But you know the weather and its mad patters. You should have gotten the pod. But I know, what he did and now he is dead.”
“Dead?”, the boss laughed.
“Dead. Killed by some entity in the Spree.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because I tracked him.”
The lights went out. Darkness crashed into the building from all sides, slowly followed by echoes of neonlights and the rest of the streetlights, as nicotine-yellow as possible.
Shadows moved, people yelled. A dozen monitors woke up, crashed, woke up again.
A face appeared.
The video seemed to stutter, frames went missing and never came back. The sound clashed over the crowd like the memories of a storm on a sandy beach.
“Max. Annea. Welcome.”
No one answered. Lassiter continued to speak after a few shakes, as if the videocamera was cheap and the stream unreliable.
“This is my daughter. And I want you to kill her.”
“Wow, wow, wow”, the woman said. Her name was Annea. A rare name. A name from a world outside this realm. Or just a fan of some forgotten book from the last 50 years or so.
“Kill her.” Lassiter repeated.
“Thats not the deal”, the boss of the Swabes said. “You said: Bring her to me. We will save the world. Or something.”
“The deal has changed. The genetical structure of this girl is a danger to me. This information was withheld from me from my doctors and Max. Yes, Max, you didn’t tell me. And now, kill the girl.”
Guns appeared. Knives and screams blinked in the dawn.
Then there were shots. People scrambled, jumped away, tried to get out of the way.
And Maria still stood there. Alone. Her face white.
Viktor jumped down from his spot, rolled. His legs hurt. He got up. Shots ripped holes in the air left and right.
“Maria”, he yelled. “Come!”
He stepped forward, got her hand, pulled her down. “We have to run.”
She just reacted, followed him like a calf in the slaughterhouse. The gangs still fired at each other, unaware of anyone else.
They went down the stairs to the main part of the station. Old shops grinned empty smiled. An old döner-shop showed the heap of meat, rotating endlessly. The older bookstore on the other side of the station seemed to be still in action, but it was empty too. The suits had been cleaning out the station, so tomorrow, it would stay empty – or not. Everything in Berlin was temporary, even silence.
And the shooting. People yelled at each other. Panic appeared and ebbed. Now they were trying to find the girl again.
“Where should we go?”, the girl asked.
“To the subway.”
The subway-level was empty. And for a reason. No train has left the station or even touched the station during the last decade. No money from the state, no money from the people, the trains have ceased to exist. And the tunnel and the level had the same kind of darkness, the real darkness, a darkness lifted by a few fires. And where fires are, there are people.
“Lets go for a walk”, Viktor whispered.
“But in which direction?”
Viktor tried to remember the way, tried to get a direction at least.
The tablet snared again.
“Lasseter. What the fuck was that on the screens?”
“This wasn’t me. It was a man called Tamburian. He hates my guts.”
“I know he does. But why?”
“This is not the time. I suppose, you are still on the Zoologischer Garten, sub-level.”
“Good. Now the way to get to me is …”
A large exclamation followed. Viktor didn’t feel able to keep all the memories. Spots appeared on the screen and faded away. Fun fact was, the bunker of Lasseter wasn’t that far away, but it was complicated. And complicated was good, because it would divide the Swabes and suits, who didn’t know shit about here. Only Max, good old Max, would maybe be able to find an optimal way.
Small fires lit the way, empty fires, as if their masters had disappeared. Blackness reached unseen levels. Doors were open, which usually lead to maintenance-rooms or corridors. Some old graffiti warned of dangers, of a hidden flower, evil and old, but that story was already over, years ago. Creepy creatures didn’t roam the empty rails, there was no need for blind mutants which usually stared in the forgotten trains. A fine sound of “Hit the road, Jack” echoed from forgotten places through the night.
Sometimes, Viktor believed, he had lost his way, but the girl was still with him and Lasseters words still burned in his mind, leading him between tunnels and rooms with dusty magazines to rusty bridges over an abyss of unseen depth. Viktor didn’t believe in supernatural stuff, but this time, he was almost able to believe.
They opened another door, she must had been closed since the last world war. Viktor had to use his mechanical arm, while his almost mechanical shoulder burned from the pain. The blade had hurt him badly and then, after landing in the spree, the rotten fluid had surely entered his body, was probably already working in him, restructuring his DNA – or just letting him die.
The wheel in the door cracked. Puzzle pieces of old green and black paint swam to the ground. The door creaked, obviously woke some hidden creatures, experiments whatever, but nothing moved.
They continued to run. The air was stale. Old food, old water bottles, dust everwhere. Some old magazines, some ammo and a couple of weapons. A pistol.
They ran again. The air became disturbingly rotten, like old water, as black as oil, but it still was air.
Another door, behind that door a weird glimmer of light. Viktor ripped the door out of the wall. His arm hurt like hell. He cursed.
“Everything okay?”, Maria asked.
“More or less. I hope, we are soon at your dads.”
“He wants to kill me.”
“I suppose, he does not. Its Tamburian.”
“Yes, its me”, a voice said.
The man was standing in the long floor, a couple of his cult members staring at them.
“How the fuck can you be here.”
Tamburian laughed. “I have my informations. And now die.”
He whistled. His sheep followed the order.
Viktor shot. It was only one shot and the pistol was old and maybe none of that should have been able to work, but it did. It worked. The gun hit Tamburians shoulder and the man fell backwards like a domino stone.
His sheep stopped instantly, turned around, turned back to Viktor and the girl. Waves of disbelief and cognitive dissonance ran over their faces.
They needed time to react. But after several seconds they decided to live another day and maybe find another guru.
They left the corridor on the left side, ran in the darkness. Steps softened and disappeared.
“Is he dead?”, Maria asked.
“I don’t know. Is he?” Viktor went near Tamburians body, pushed the gun on his chest.
“He is not dead. Get up!” Viktor pulled the man up.
Tamburians eyes flickered.
“Why are you doing this? Money? Fame?”
“I … hate Lasseter. I hate him. Money and fame are nothing compared to my rage. Hear my roar.”
“Yeah, okay. So … this video stream was your idea, right?”
“Idea? No. But I did it. It was great. It was amazing.”
“You want me dead? Why?” The girl had come near him.
“You … you are not normal. You are a clone or so. You will heal your host. Your basis, whatever. You will …”
“Burn in hell, Viktor. You and your part of the family, you are weak and rotten and demonic!”
Viktor got his hands of Tamburian and the man fell to the ground, groaning, cursing.
“He is no good use to us. Lets go.”
Another eternity followed, but then, after a few minutes, they reached the spot, Lasseter had told them about. The door had an old arc with older symbols, some even older than Berlin itself. A keypad appeared, when Viktor moved his human hand over the wall. He entered the code. The door clicked, some machinery in the background was working.
Bright light burned the night away. The room was full of white, burning white walls and columns and machinery, computer cables, screens.
And Lasseter. The old man sat in his glass box, his skin still drier than a mummies, his eyes black and almost inhuman.
“Viktor. Its nice to see you. I am sorry, I can’t greet you in a more proper way. And Maria, come here, let me see you, please.”
She stepped forward, a sheep under her masters command. Her hands touched the glass. The glass moved, as if it had been made from water.
“So, now …”
“So you will kill her?”
“Your illness and her solution, her genetically engineered body, it will kill her, right?”
“No … I …” Lasseter looked up. Met the eyes of his daughter.
“What?” Viktor asked. “We don’t have time. The others …”
“Well, let the others do what they want to do. Maria is here. Thats enough.”
“Enough? Is there anything enough for you? You are richer than the world. And now I bring you your salvation. What else do you want? You will never have enough.”
“Oh, my boy, its enough” Lasseter turned his head, and his black eyes met Viktors. “I just wanted … wanted to meet her. I know, what you are, Viktor. You are a better person than me.”
“Do your worst, Lasseter. I know men like you, hoping for eternity. I will leave now. I go home. It was a long night. And a longer day will follow, a day full of rain and rot and pain.”
He turned around. He tried, not to care. He knew, that she would sacrifice herself to him, because she was programmed to do that or worse, she did it, because she felt that he was her father, not some host, some original version.
He stepped in the dark.
And the dark stepped back and kicked him.
He flew backwards and landed on one of the columns.
“Hello Viktor. I am happy, you are alive.”
Viktors fist hit the wall. His shoulder screamed. Behind him, father and daughter reacted somehow different. A glare burned the shadow of Viktor in the wall. A sucking sound rolled through the room.
Max cursed, opened fire. Viktor dived away, but he wasn’t the target. The fire of several dozen guns lit the room and pierced the walls and the columns – and the glass.
The girl was inside the glass! How was this possible? Nano-bots or something like that?
The suits continued to shot. The glass reacted like water, waves of kinetic energy rolled over its surface, created ripples, patters, weird pictures.
“I save you”, the girl yelled, staring down on her father, who had pulled her in, but Viktor could see, that something else had happened. There was something in the air inside the glass cube, a kind of black smoke or flies or dust.
“No. You don’t. You will die.”
“Let her die!”, Max yelled as he ordered his men to stop shooting. “Let her die and then I kill you, old man!”
“What is it, Viktor?”
Viktor got up and walked slowly through the room. The glass cage behind him began to glow.
“Why did you use me?”
“Because you are an idiot. You are ridiculous. You were hurt and still you like people. You fight for people – with no reason. You bring this daughter to the slaughter, without even asking, why. What did you think, you are doing? Did you believe, that he would keep her alive? After all these years, you are still a pretentious little prick. So, Lasseter, kill your child and then I will kill you. And then I will be the boss.”
Viktor turned around. He looked at Lasseter and Maria. The old man looked worse than before. His skill seemed to change, while Maria looked bad. Sick. Sick, because …
“You will become my heiress”, the old man said. “Its already set. The machinations of my company are already in motion. The paperwork is done. And now go. Go, please. You have to life. I may exist in the future again, as backup or so in a computer. Who knows. Go!”
The glass started to move.
Viktor heard steps behind him. The girl was crying, but slowly stepping out of the glass. Guns clicked.
Viktor calculated his attack. He would …
Viktor turned around.
Max’s eyes were wide open. His mouth was screaming a wordless scream. He let the gun go. A blade connected to a glove stuck in this throat. Behind the suit, a porcelain-white face appeared and seemed to smile.
“The effect on the market is tremendous, since Lasseter signed his company to his daughter, Maria Lasseter, which has spent the last decades on the moon. The woman has recently reached earth and was welcomed by several representatives of economy, religion and culture. Several changes have been made, considering climate …”
Viktor turned the tablet off. The rain was dripping down the open window. The moist of the constant rain still lived behind the wallpapers.
He looked down to his desk, deliberately ignoring the black box with the insignia of Lasseter. He was no suit. He tried not to care.
The Swabes had problems now. The Regierungsviertel was holy territory and whoever had allowed them to cross it was now without help from Max and his suits, who had probably hoped to get an agreement after the successful “change of power”. The police was looking for the leaders of the conspiracy.
Viktor stood up and walked to the window. Outside the rain created kind of a veil and behind the veil, he could see a shadow, standing in the doorway. A car drove by, emanated the person. A porcelain-white face glowed in the dark and disappeared again.