Previously: “Transported, somehow, from the place where EON-1 was supposed to be, we found ourselves in strange company - and in Unity City.”
Part 35: Remus
Lady Una folded her arms. “Do you know this person, Peregrine?”
I shook my head.
With a swoosh of silk robes, our new friend bowed. “You may call me Remus. There's no need to be formal. I already know of you, Peregrine, and the Select Committee. When we found you, I'm afraid you'd experienced a fatal level of exposure to the toxins that result from our work in that area. We found it necessary to retrieve you and perform a mild restitution.”
“Necessary?” I asked. The servants, their heads bound with glowing Sky Spider machinery, silently placed trays of food on the room's single low table. I was hungry, I realised suddenly.
“Morally necessary,” Remus said. “It was within our power to help you.”
Lady Una swirled about in her hoop skirt, trying to avoid the servants and keep a careful watch on Remus at the same time. “And you brought me along too, because I seemed to be attached to the doctor?”
Remus turned to her, ignoring her question. “And you: Viscountess Una of Circhester. You're quite a peculiar case. No immediate danger, but we thought that we could at least discuss your condition with you.”
“I'm certain I will discuss no such thing with you.”
Remus' delicate features assumed a sympathetic expression. “But is the pain bearable?”
Lady Una flushed red. “There's no pain. What are you talking about?”
“You're an appalling liar. Even if I hadn't seen your organs for myself, I wouldn't believe you. Without drastic improvement - or replacement - that primitive machinery will kill you just as certainly as if your body had never been repaired. It would be remarkable if you lived another two years. Fortunately, we can help in that regard.”
Lady Una spoke very carefully. “You damn well keep away from me.”
“If that is your wish.”
Remus turned to me. “I am sure that you have many questions. I may not have answers for all of them, but I will be happy to hear them. In the meantime, perhaps you would care to eat. You must have questions for Una as well.”
The servants filed out - silently, orderly. Remus followed close behind. The double doors to the room closed with a heavy click.
I looked at Lady Una. She was as angry as I'd ever seen her.
“When he used the plural,” she said, “when he said 'we' or 'our', did he- or she- Was that referring to-?”
“I don't know,” I said. I turned to the food on the low table. “I'm hungry.”
“Were they uncertain what to feed us?” she said. “They seem to have prepared a little of everything. Does lobster really go with cheese?”
“Are you in pain?” I asked
“And I suppose they expect us to sit on the floor as well. Although, since my backside is made of metal, it's actually quite a comfortable position for me.”
We sat down on the floor either side of the table. Utensils had been laid out for us in long, silver rows. Spoons, forks, knives, chopsticks - and items I'd never seen before.
“Are you in pain?” I repeated.
She speared a potato with a fork. “My vital organs are crammed into bottles connected by rubber hoses. I might have become used to it over time, but I suppose there is a constant... discomfort. I certainly wouldn't suggest making yourself into a half-machine creature like me without very good reason.”
She turned the fork around, spinning the potato on her plate. “Didn't you think it strange that my uncle didn't want to see or speak to any of you after we arrived back from the Twisted Forests? He was like you in that respect. Always curious and eager for knowledge.”
“You said he'd taken a turn for the worse.”
She avoided my eye. “Yes, about as worse as it gets. He was already dead by the time I arrived.”
“Don't be. It's not like it was a surprise. Anyway, the title's hereditary. I'm his only surviving relative. But I'm sure you'd be the first to point out that it all seems so pointless and arbitrary. It's not like I earned it. I'd sooner be a doctor than a viscountess or a lady.”
“Maybe it'll suffice to be a Una.”
She smiled. “I'd like to think so.”
I looked down at my empty plate. “If... If they - whoever 'they' are, can help you - could end your discomfort and prolong your life, would you let them?”
She kept smiling. “If 'they' are the Sky Spiders, then I'd rather die.”
TO BE CONTINUED...
Next week: What do the Sky Spiders want with our world? To what end have they caused a billion deaths? Who or what is Remus? There may not be any answers to these questions, but still check back in a week's time for the next instalment of Into the Mind of the Sky Spiders!