Eyes of the Valkyrie
A Sphinx's Heros Short
Laura rocked back in the chair as the thumping bass from her sound system vibrated the press board desk on which she had propped her feet. The bank of flat panel monitors attached to the wall each displayed roughly the same thing; cells the size of an index card neatly arranged in a grid pattern with a high angle shot of the streets below.
Through the cameras on her radio controlled helicopters, Laura had coverage of most of the eastern part of Ether City.
Too bad the scenery hadn't changed any.
Bodies rotting in the sun, blood soaked trash that stirred between the empty buildings. Occasionally a zombie would wander into frame and the drone would pivot on its axis to get a shot of it. Boring. Ether city was terribly boring.
“Find him yet?” Laura grabbed a juice box, realizing it was empty she frowned and threw it on the pile beside her.
A high pitched voice filled computer's internal speaker. “No, mistress!”
“Come on, there's gotta be someone doing something.”
“Would you like me to replay a previous discussion, mistress?”
“Any luck finding working wifi?”
“No, mistress! You told me to let you know if I found any and since I haven't informed you of any such findings, it can be assumed I haven't!”
Laura quirked a brow. “When'd you get so snarky?”
“You told me too, mistress!”
“Whatever, bring up the feed from unit eight.”
A halo of teal outlined one of the video feeds and the image expanded to take up the full screen. Strung up between two of the National Guard armored personnel carriers was a slab of meat, dangling about four feet from the ground, it should have been an easy target unless the Siren had seen the trap.
“Val, didya catch any glimpse of the Siren?”
“Yes, mistress! The zombie known as the Siren--”
“Hold it. Rephrase, 'the Siren'. Single possessive, don't be a dink.”
“The Siren, then, mistress. She tripped over the wire and
continued on looking for food, mistress.”
“Uh huh, so why didn't she take the food?”
“Speculation is beyond my programming, mistress! You should fix that!”
A Hello Kitty image popped up over the bobbing feed from the drone waving her stubby little arms. “Mistress! Target sighted! Mistress!”
“Let's see it, then! Hold frame on him, I'm gonna get some popcorn.”
“He's moving fast, mistress!”
Laura sighed. “Fine, fine,” she threw her arms out and shouted triumphantly. “Let the show begin!”
Perfectly rendered in high definition was the Sphinx, a short man wearing flowing blue silk clothes and a matching cloak. He was running along the very edge of a curb, dodging between acid marred sedans and a couple of police cars with bullet holes in them. He was still wearing the body armor and chrome mask he had stolen from one of Laura's minions. She needed to get those back sometime.
He was in the shadier part of town heading towards the Chicken King restaurant. Laura had to smile.
Someone had been a naughty turnip. “Get me a wider view.”
The helicopter kept up with him easily, its electronic motor barely made a whisper of sound as it sailed higher and panned around the block around the restaurant. Val was getting better at compensating for wind. When had that happened? A man had set up beside the two overturned cars that blocked off the entrance to the building. He raised his handgun and fired several rounds at the Sphinx as a pair of men snuck around the edge between the gas station and alley and into the restaurant.
They must have really screwed up. Laura reached for another juice box and her hand grabbed empty air. She frowned but didn't look away.
For all that he lacked in size, the Sphinx made up for with brass gonads. He didn't dodge bullets or try to hide. He strolled through gunfire. Even when they had first encountered him the night of the riots, she had heard whispers saying the guy was neigh invulnerable.
She wouldn't go to any great lengths to prove the rumors wrong, she wasn't as savage as some of the people she employed and it wasn't like anyone would care anyway. Besides he was amusing to watch. Some guy with a comic book persona and the balls to wear it with a straight face? Oh yes, amusement abounded.
The Sphinx stepped up beside the police car and the man
standing guard watched him, weighing his chances at getting another shot off, if it would even do any good. The shooting was already going to attract zombies, he may as well have.
He didn't, though. He stepped back into the shade of the barricades and disappeared inside, slamming the door behind him.
“Val, get me a ground cart. Something quiet.”
“Sure what?” Laura tutted. “Silly AI.”
“Yes, oh magnanimous, monomaniacal and narcissistic mistress!”
Laura blew her purple bangs out of her eyes. “When'd you get so snarky, hm?”
“Because you told me to!”
On the screen, the Sphinx was approaching the restaurant with his hand reaching for a pouch on his armor-- on Laura's armor-- he slapped a small formed block of explosive against the front door's lock and went around to the back. That's when Laura noticed the two white tanks hooked up to the air conditioning unit and a gaggle of pipes running into the lines.
“Mistress! He's making a call!”
“The number he's been calling associated with Tyler's group!”
Laura already knew what it was. The traders had played with fire and now they wanted out but they didn't understand that the Sphinx played for keeps. She smirked. “I don't need to hear it but give me the highlights. If anything of value gets said, weapons caches and stuff like that.”
She leaned forward and grabbed a joint from the glass ash tray beside the monitor as the Sphinx crested the top of the roof using his own rope.
“Ooh! He's put chlorine in the air lines and he's promising them a way out if he'll answer his riddles!”
Laura chuckled. “Sounds about right. Second chance?”
“Ten SecUCoins on them biting it.”
“That's beyond my programming, mistress.”
She sighed. “Whatever, get me a ground unit out there, I wanna watch this.”
“Already on its way, mistress!”
“Any pickup from their phone?”
“Yep! They don't have ammunition but they're going to bind up the vents!”
“Good luck with that. . . Chlorine weighs more than oxygen. So sorry but A for effort.” She lit up her joint. Another predictable outcome. “See, if I was them, I'd be shooting through the roof. . . Damn the ammunition problems, you're out of time anyway!”
“They considered that, mistress. They say they're going to survive.”
A single gunshot was picked up by the drone's microphone.
“There goes one. Who was it?” Laura took a deep drag.
“Jason. They're arguing about the riddle and how it was all Jason's fault.”
The Sphinx turned the valves on the tanks and flipped a switch on a small box he had hooked up to the AC unit. He stepped back and circled the edge of the roof once, watching a hand full of zombies approach from downtown. He was restless. “That's a shame. He was the brains of the outfit as far as I'm concerned. What's the riddle?”
“It is: Listen closely, I am hard to understand , I am as elusive as is a handful of sand. Even if you perceive me, you know me not before you can tell me, what I have forgot.” Val chimed.
Laura bobbed her foot casually, considering the structure of
the riddle while the Sphinx continued to pace the roof. The answer was easy, very easy, but the reason behind the riddle and the subtext were what she was more interested in. He had been the only person in her life to offer any sort of challenge, to work in layers that most people missed. Even the so called intelligent ones.
Abruptly it clicked into place and she laughed. “Oh, you poor screwed up person. . . Too bad you didn't wanna play with me any more.” She took a pull from her joint and closed her eyes. Coughing, she chuckled. He was more screwed up than she was, how beautifully ironic. “Dude needs some serious therapy.”
Maybe it was more telling than ironic. Did she know anyone like that?
Probably no one she would bother to remember.
The doors of the Chicken King burst open. Two men ran out.
A flash of light burst from the right door. A second later the drone picked up the sound. Phwoom.
The explosion was small scale, enough to blow the first two men into the side of the nearest car. Each probably had their insides shredded by shrapnel from the frame. The last one staggered out behind them coughing and hacking, gasping and clutching his throat in a silent scream. He dropped a few feet away. The sphinx looked over the edge at the mess he had made.
Then, to Laura's surprise, he looked right up at her drone. He reached for the touchscreen computer on his forearm.
Laura's personal cell phone rang. A bobbling head wearing a chrome mask swayed back and forth under his title 'Lame Ass Super Villain'. Laura picked up on the second ring. “Pros and cons of this exchange. Go!”
His robotic voice grated against her ear. “This is not a spectator sport, we have parted ways, let us remain amicable.”
Laura laughed. “Yeah, dude. Amicable like a chlorine milkshake. So now that you're out of playmates, what's next?”
The man inhaled deeply as he wandered over towards the canisters and closed the valves. He looked almost. . . sad. “The hunt continues.”
“Oooh, I bet you have someone in mind.”
“I do. . .”
“Oh, oh, oh, can I see?” Even as she said it, Laura was grabbing her wireless keyboard, opening a terminal window and using her drone's on board wifi relay to connect to his helmet's communications rig.
He paused for a moment and looked up at her drone.
“Ground unit available, mistress!”
Somehow he had locked it out. Laura frowned. “Clever boy. . .”
“You may,” he said softly. “On condition that you do not interfere.”
“Do I ever?” Laura keyed up her radio controlled truck and navigated around the corpses into the restaurant. “So what's the name?”
“Here. . . The port is open.”
“Val, grab that.”
The inside of the restaurant looked pretty mundane. Paper had been wrapped around the florescents to keep them from showing through slats in the windows. Their supplies had been emptied out and boxes were strewn about. None of it useful. “Hmph.”
“Files are downloaded, mistress.”
“Fine. Get the truck back in the air. . . Let's have a look.” She flipped through the files, starting with a dubiously named 'Dossier'. It even included a photo he had taken himself. “Mmm, I didn't know you went for eye candy.”
Laura skimmed a few lines. Cora Whitehall, high school graduate, some community service with the local baptists ministry, lived in Detroit most of her life, decent IQ with a strong emphasis on creative problem solving. . . “Okay, so what's so special--”
Then she found it.
“Oh. . .”
“Oh, this is gonna be fun. Dibs!”
“This is not a game, this is a woman's life.”
“Heh, heh. Dude. . . Do you even hear yourself? Yeah, nice try, buddy. Life's kindda valueless these days if you haven't noticed.” She killed the connection. “Val, find me this chick's number and where she's at, I'm gonna go for a walk.”
The story continues in 'The Sphinx Gambit'
Cora Whitehall came to Ether City to hide from her past, little did she know that the city had its own dark secret. Five weeks later the streets are crawling with zombies, the local National Guard has been decimated and all forms of communication are cut off. Nothing goes in and no one comes out.
If it were just her, it wouldn't be so bad but Cora isn't alone. A little girl she saved was bitten during the Guard's rescue attempt. When Cora's supplies and hopes at their lowest, she is offered a chance at redemption. The Sphinx offers his cure but at a price, it must be won in a game of wits with nothing held back and everything on the line.
Aided by a brilliant but dangerous teenage programmer with an agenda of her own, Cora will challenge the Sphinx and even other survivors in hopes of getting the cure before the girl turns. Yet what she doesn't know is that in this game of cat and mouse, there are no winners.
Available September 1st on Amazon, Smashwords, Barns and Noble and Kobo. Learn more and Download a free sample chapter at http://johnenright.info
Thank you very much for downloading this piece of my fiction, I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. If you would like to check out some of my other works, including those set in this world and others, you can find them at http://johnenright.info