Previously: “Five years ago, the Sky Spiders descended from space and wrought untold destruction and change on our world. Now Una and I had discovered that the leader of the largest remaining group of survivors was EON-1 - a thinking machine once sent to steal the Sky Spider's secrets, now running Fortress City as his own personal nature preserve.”
Part 43: Confrontation
There were three of them, clad in long coats, their eyes stony and emotionless. At Kirkham's gesture, they each started to draw an eclectic firearm of some sort. Before I even had a chance to draw my own weapon, Una had moved with impossible swiftness, grabbing the nearest assailant and whirling him into the other two with such force they all burst open in a shower of shattered cogs and gurgling hydraulics.
Kirkham was remarkably unfazed at seeing his bodyguards collapse into a broken pile. Extending his arm to aim a gun of his own at Una, he shoot her twice in the chest. The bullets bounced off her with a quiet metallic ping.
Kirkham's single circular eye whirred and clicked. “I wasn't expecting that. Perhaps I've not been paying sufficient attention.”
“This is the point,” Una said, “where we start to renegotiate your position in the city.”
“It's funny,” Kirkham said, his gun still raised, “I always thought you'd be one in favour of preserving human culture. Has your new friend from the Select Committee been such a bad influence?”
Una said, “Put down the gun.”
I stepped forwards. “You want us to think you're so altruistic, but whose face is it on that Sky Spider machine? Who is it that has the last word on everything that happens in Fortress City? Who lives in this luxury while your citizens eat processed slop?”
Una glanced at me testily. “I told you to get behind me.”
Kirkham lowered his gun, but kept hold of it. “No, no, let him speak. It's rather remarkable to be lectured on altruism by one of those who waved the white flag to genocide.”
“We all reacted differently to the Sky Spiders,” I said. “The more differently the more we knew. Because it's the oldest and most difficult moral question. Is it right to kill one innocent person now that two may live in the future? I don't think there's a real answer to that. We all come up with our own one.”
“Humanity,” Kirkham said, “came up with its own collective answer in a hundred different cultures, long ago, with a prohibition against killing. It is one thing to be killed by circumstance. Another to be killed by intelligent action.”
“And yet the circumstance in this case is intelligent action.”
Kirkham chuckled. “So the Sky Spiders seem to think. I'm increasingly starting to believe that humans are incapable of intelligent action, this latest little drama being a prime example.”
“Both of you shut up,” Una said. “I'm the one who holds all the cards right now, and I'm saying that I want the humans of this city to be free of the Sky Spiders and Kirkham and able to make their own stupid mistakes and bring about their own stupid deaths. So put down the gun, Kirkham, and we'll start talking this out.”
“You hold all the cards?” Kirkham mused. “Because you're metal beneath that ridiculous dress? Because you can break a few primitive automata? I hold the only card that matters. Prometheus.”
There was a sound like someone stamping on both your ears at once, and the vault door that led out onto Kirkham's balcony imploded into nothing - a huge, perfectly circular chunk of the wall suddenly ceasing to exist. Una and I turned round to look, instinctively. Beyond the gaping rend in the city's thick, fortified wall was the immobile, impassive face of Prometheus, its features identical to those of Kirkham's golden mask.
In the commotion, Kirkham had disappeared. And under the intense, emotionless gaze of Prometheus, the centre of the room began to crackle and fizz in a sphere of blue lightning.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Next week: Prometheus is on the rampage! Does Kirkham really have control over it? And who can stop such a machine anyway? Check back in a week's time for the next instalment of Into the Mind of the Sky Spiders!