February 6, 2010

Billie's Journal

Scotland, day seven and eight

The druids 'kindly' let us camp out in the rain near their fort. We spend a damp night in our tents and wake to an equally miserable day. It's windy, rainy and grey, just like it has been every day since we got here.

We break camp and take the first bus back to the village. Fiona mentioned that Quicksilver was planning to follow the ley lines toward Loch Ness, some lake that supposedly has a monster living in it. Hell yeah, since magic came back anything's possible these days.

We pick up food, gas and whiskey before taking the ferry back to the mainland. The landrover is still there and even still in one piece. It takes us pretty much the rest of the day to get from Skye across country to Loch Ness. There's not much there; just a handful of houses and an inn. The innkeeper sets us up in a couple of rooms, boys in one and girls in the other and we rest up till morning.

Scotland, day nine

The innkeeper is a grouchy old geezer, but with this weather who can blame him. He doesn't remember seeing Quicksilver around or at least that's what he claims. He points out the ruins of an old fort further down the lake. He says tourists used to go there to see Nessie, that's what they call the monster in the lake. Apparently the tourists stopped coming when they had some trouble with some paranormal aquatic horse creature that liked to drown and eat its victims. I can understand why the tourist trade dried up.

The druidic ritual obviously took more out Father O'Reilly than he let on and he says he needs to rest up to restore his magic. So we head out without him. Finlay insists on taking the landrover and to my surprise he gets us most of the way to the fort before the trail becomes too difficult. We walk the rest of the way. It's cool and damp but the hike keeps us warm.

The fort is little more than a pile of stones and as we approach a deep voice demands to know what we are doing there. At first there is nothing to see, but then the stones of the fort start to move forming into a vaguely human torso, head and arms at least 30 feet tall.

Alarm gives way to astonishment at this massive spirit and we ask it about Quicksilver. We quickly establish that it knows him, however it claims not to have seen him for a couple of months. When we ask it if he left anything here, it gets a bit coy but finally admits that it does have something of his. But if we want it, we have to give the creature something in return.

I don't quite get what the stone creature is talking about, but it seems like we need to undergo some sort of magic test like the one the druids performed on the padre. It say that it will gain insight into us and that perhaps we will also learn something more about ourselves too. As I don't really know anything about myself, I jump at the chance.

We all lie down on the wet grass and the creature hovers a massive stone hand above us. There is a swirling and then I open my eyes again...

I am still lying on the grass but the sky is blue and the sun warm. I hear a women's voice calling my name except she is calling me Wilhelmina, not Billie. Is that my real name?

I stand and discover I am a young girl again, fourteen, awkward, too tall and skinny and all raging hormones. And two real flesh arms. I pinch my right arm just to be sure. The lady is calling my name again. She is human, around thirty or so. Her hair is sunbleached and her skin a healthy tan. She has my eyes.

"Hurry up" she scolds. "Your dinner is getting cold and we need to leave soon."

I enter the rustic ranch house that feels like home and sit at a familiar place at the table. A man, fit and maybe in his forties, with short cropped hair joins us along with a boy, older than me, that is obviously his son. The boy ruffles my hair as I sit down. I jab at his ribs. He grunts and the lady tells me to stop fighting with my brother. I have a brother? Or is this all a dream?

I push food around my plate. The lady tuts at me and tells me to go and get changed as we need to leave soon...

Out front is a black Ford Americar. My heart goes cold when I see it. Something bad is going to happen. I ask if we really need to go to Seattle but the scene suddenly shifts and we are already in the car...

The boy call out a warning. Something hits us from behind and we are falling. Pain engulfs me...

I hear voices but cannot see who is speaking. A man's voice says, "She's pretty banged up but I'll take her. Here's your money..."

I am whipping another girl. She is strapped naked to the wall. I am wearing little more: just cowboy boots, a very short fringed skirt and a waistcoat that barely covers my breasts. The floor is covered in plastic and the plastic is covered in blood.

"Why did you stop?" asks a man. His face is flushed and he is obviously aroused. "Keep whipping her. You are supposed to do what I tell you."

I raise the whip and he leers more. Anger burns through me and I lash out at him. The whip cuts his face but he just smiles and works a control in his hands. Pain arcs through me.

"You bitch. You'll pay for that. Now do what I tell you."

My body jerks out of my control as I raise the whip and strike the girl again and again. Tears burn my cheeks as I watch helplessly while I flay the skin from her back. In the distance I hear thunder...

The man looks up startled as a door behind me is kicked open and a dark-skinned man wearing a facemask and black combat clothing enters.

"You sick bastard" says the newcomer and there is a roar of gunfire that leaves me half deaf. A row of red flowers blossom across the chest of my tormentor and he jerks back with a look of shock fixed on his dead face.

My arms twitch as I get control of my body back. "Please help us." I croak grabbing at the black clothed figure.

"Sharif, we need to go. Now!" comes a female voice from beyond the door.

With a glance at the other girl, he shrugs. "Come on then, but leave her. She's a goner."

"No!" I cry, pulling at the girl's restraints. "She's still alive." I strip off my waistcoat and wrap it as carefully as I can around her bleeding back. She moans weakly and I glare at Sharif. "See!"

Sharif picks up the girl and with me clinging to his arm we flee from the room along dark corridors. We seem to run for hours and my lungs are burning. Then as we turn yet another corner there is a guard. Flames erupt from his gun. Sherrif twists, his armor protecting him and the unconscious girl. I try to throw myself aside but bullets rip into my right arm spinning me around...

I am in a hospital bed. I can't see but can feel tubes going into my skin. I can't feel my right arm. I hear Sharif's voice saying, "What you've taken out is more than enough to cover what you need to do to fix her up. So do it."

He comes to visit me every day as they rebuild me. New arm, eyes plus a few extras like the smartlink and the blade. "Just in case you ever need them" he says with a wink...

The pistol is beautiful, a Cavalier Deputy with internal smartlink II and a pearl handle. I kiss Sharif, my Sheriff on the cheek...

Cold rain splashes on my face. I jerk upright. Tears burn my eyes. I remember. My god, I remember who I am. Not all, but I know it was real.

The others are also sitting up too. Chad is patting at his chest and arms as if he was on fire. Zero is also crying, mumbling something about killing her boyfriend. Only Finlay seems unaffected by the experience. He moves to help Zero to her feet then comes towards me. I still hurt too much so I pop my blade and warn him off. He backs off and I retract the blade, tears still streaming down my cheeks.

I turn to the spirit. "Is it true?" I demand.

I feel a great compassion wash over me that soothes my soul a little. "It may be what was or what is yet to come, or a chance to set right a wrong. It is always different. But you have given of yourselves and now I give this to you. My friend left it here in my safekeeping but I feel you are the right ones to have it now."

It holds out a hand made of granite blocks. In it is a tiny package, wrapped carefully in bubble wrap. I take it carefully and open it. It is a second chip, similar to the one Fiona gave us.

We return to the inn in silence. Zero calls Amelia and the woman admits she has Quicksilver's cyberdeck. She will bring it to the inn tomorrow. A few whiskeys help me to sleep.

Scotland, day ten

We all rise late, rested but drained. I soak for a long time in the bath and scrub myself clean of the previous day's memories. But I hold on to them dearly. My cowboy clothes feel uncomfortable as I dress now that I know something of my past. But still, this is who I am now.

Finlay, worried that someone might be out looking for us, spent the night in the landrover. The innkeeper finds him still there, fast asleep while collecting fresh eggs for breakfast. Real eggs and real bacon and hot coffee. Food and caffeine make me feel better, if still a little fragile. I apologise to Finlay for drawing my blade on him. He's one of the good guys.

That evening, Finlay, Chad and myself spend several hours hiding in the gorse around the village until finally, late in the evening, a lone car approaches. We wait several minutes to see if she has been followed then join Amelia, Father O'Reilly and Zero back at the inn.

Amelia has Quicksilver's deck. It looks pretty flash and when Zero opens it, all the circuitry inside is the same as the strange chips. We retire to the room I share with Zero and after connecting her deck to Quicksilver's and inserting the two chips that we have, she jacks in. At first everything is smooth, but then she starts twitching and blood runs from her nose. Finlay is ready to pull her jack, dumping her out of the system but she relaxes and then after a few moments sits up, unjacking herself.

She says that she saw Quicksilver again, then that she felt like she was Quicksilver. She remembers shooting someone, possibly her dead boyfriend again and then running. She saw a woman called Mary Macdonald getting killed. She claims to love her or that Quicksilver loved her. Amelia recognises the name, claiming to have seen something about her in the newscasts.

Somewhat recovered, Zero scans the matrix and finds an obituary for the Macdonald woman. The newsfeeds claim that is was the result of a long-standing clan feud with the Campbells. They also mention an Ian MacDonald, a clan elder and senior director of Transys, the company that Quicksilver was working for.

Looks like Glencoe is our next destination, even though Finlay and Chad are keen to just sell off the deck even missing a couple of chips and go back home. Zero wants to hang onto the deck but finally we persuade her to give it back to Amelia for safekeeping. I need to see this through. The spirit of the glen gave me back some of my lost memories. I feel I owe it to Quicksilver to at least find out what happened to him.

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