Jen Air: Springheel, Part Five
Well, things kick off a little bit here. We learn a little more about Henry/Jack, and what his motivation really is, but of course he lays another trap for our heroines.
Springheel, Part Five
Before they could go anywhere, Kay and Jen stopped briefly in the workshop, the blonde biting her lips and shaking her head dolefully at metallic disk with four antennae sticking out of it.
“What’s that?” Kaya asked.
“It’s what Titania and her minions used to create the dampening fields before they attacked,” Jennifer sighed, “unfortunately, this one was broken…” she moved away from to a cupboard, unlocking it with her thumbprint and removing from the shelves what looked like two large rifles. “These are Tasers,” she said, handing one to Kaya. “Kind of… I souped them up a little. Be very careful not to put your fingers between the electrodes after you turn it on, as the charge will most likely kill a human. Although with Jack, I’m hoping his suit will conduct most of it and overload the circuits and processors he must be using to control the thing.”
Kaya just had to ask, “Why do you even have these?”
“I…” Jen exhaled, her shoulders sagging, “I was trying to think of something in case we ever needed to incapacitate Ten. O-obviously I hope we never need to, but…”
“Gotta be prepared, right?” Kaya sighed. It was sensible, but she felt like she should have been consulted a little. Jen was probably just too used to doing everything herself, and there wasn’t really any time to discuss it now. “Anything else I need to know about this thing?”
“You’ll only get one shot. And it only has a range of about fifteen feet.”
Springheel could cover that distance in an eye blink. “That’s pretty damn close.”
“I’m sorry. It’s the best I can do right now.”
“All right… let’s go a-hunting. Any idea where to go?”
The van ground and skidded to a halt, the side opened and Jen jumped out. Before her was a site ringed by eight foot wooden panels with signs plastered on warning people to keep out. The building beyond had been left abandoned for several years now. But there was a gate, and the tire tracks in the mud between the posts suggested it had been opened recently.
Kaya climbed out after her friend, hefting her weapon. “What is this place?”
“It’s what the dates meant,” Jen explained. “Those were the dates he went to this school, Nicolas Glover’s.”
Of course they couldn’t see much with the dilapidated fence all around, but Kay observed, “Looks like schools out.”
“It was closed just a few years ago because they were having some financial difficulty, from what I gather.”
“So it was around when we were at school,” it was the opposite side of town from where they had been, but still Kaya was trying to place the name. “It does sound familiar…”
“It’s most likely Jack has laid more traps inside,” Jen said as she rummaged through a footlocker in the back of the van. She pulled out, handing Kaya a heavy pair of goggles. “Wear these.”
The punk didn’t see how these would help, as she couldn’t see anything through them. Then she realised there was a switch. “Hey, cool!” Kaya chuckled. She saw the world primarily in blue, although a little bit of green and yellow and a small amount of red around Jennifer. Another dial changed the spectrum even further, and now she could see the bones in her hand. “Freaky,” she noted, and then remembered when they’d been called in by Chance to answer some questions after the Stag Corp incident. “Hey, this isn’t why you were in the bathroom so long that time at the police station, is it?”
“I don’t have a bone fetish,” Jen’s skull glowered at her. Kaya couldn’t help but laugh. “Now stop messing around. You do remember why we’re here, don’t you?”
Weapons charged and ready, the pair made their way in, Jen saying to keep an eye out for even the smallest thing that was unusual, in particular any sudden spikes in temperature. They entered a lightless corridor, plaster and tools left lying around in it, like a renovation had been underway but like everything else here had been abandoned long ago. For a while that was all there was, until they rounded corner and there were spikes in temperature, at least in a dozen or so small, flickering points.
Kaya turned her goggles to normal vision, and they were stood before a shrine. Candles, reefs, all set around a single photo of a young girl with dark hair and a kind smile. The punk had never believed anyone could actually have a ‘kind’ smile, but she did. There was warmth she felt from that face, and yet Kaya also felt a chill as there was only one reason a shrine like this would exist. And then she remembered that she had seen this girl before.
“Alice Creber…” the punk whispered.
“What?” Jen asked.
“I remember now. She died here, in this school, just over ten years ago. I think some kids decided to play a prank on her but it all went wrong and… well, you can see how wrong it went.”
“He said he wanted ‘her’,” Jen sighed, “he obviously thought she was special. The girls he’s attacked… m-maybe somewhere in his warped mind he’s actually just searching for Alice.”
“Maybe… almost makes him sound sweet, in a way. But he’s hurting people. He has to stop.”
“I don’t think he can be far away now. Someone has to have lit all these candles.”
“Yeah. I was wondering if you’d notice that.”
Doors behind them opened into the assembly hall, tables and chairs stacked to the sides and there were also dummies. Mannequins of various sizes, but all dressed in school clothes and propped up and articulated distantly echoing a scene from back when this was a living institution.
“Well that’s kinda creepy,” Kaya remarked. They entered, treading very carefully across the floor, spinning when a light suddenly appeared. A projector had been set up at one of the hall, and Jack’s face covered the opposite wall, rotating and ticking as he seemed to regard the two women.
“If you want to know a society’s true character,” he said through the speakers set high in each corner, and then stuttered in the manner of a damaged recording as he usually did, “l-lo-look… to the children. Cruel… selfish… spoilt,” and then he pointed and snapped, “m-m-murderers!”
“I don’t know about that, Jack,” Kaya answered, “but I know what happened here, to Alice, it was an accident.”
“Liar! She was taken… taken too soon. But Jack… Jack will take her back.”
“Jack… she’s gone…”
“No! She is hidden, from the others who would do her harm. But not Jack. Jack just needs to find her, now Jack can protect her.”
“Yup,” the punk muttered through the corner of her mouth, “he’s totally crazy.”
Jen agreed, but focused their attention on a storage room sealed by a chain. As they approached, Kaya believed she heard knocking and hurried ahead while Jen kept an eye on the hall.
“You in there, dibbles?” The punk asked through the doors.
Chance’s muffled voice answered back, “don’t be cute, Cade. Get this damn door open.”
“Well not if you’re going to be like that.”
“What are the magic words?”
“You know there are a lot of unsolved thefts I could easily pin on you.”
The punk shrugged nonchalantly. “Good enough,” she said, looking down at the lock and readying her picks, “should only take a minute.”
Jack’s projection had shut itself off, leaving Jen shuffling uncomfortably while Kaya worked on the lock. “It’s too easy,” the blonde whispered. “There’s no way Jack’s going to let us just walk out of here.”
The lock fell from the chain and Chance fell out of the doors, looking just a little more worn out and bedraggled than usual. Jen moved to help him up, but the officer suddenly pushed her back and screamed, “Look out!”
She spun about, lifting her Taser rifle across her face to defend against a cleaning lady, or rather mannequin dressed as a cleaning lady, suddenly taking a swing at her head. Jen was knocked back, the eyes of the now animated creature following her. Francis Daramy suddenly rushed forward to defend her, attempting to wrestle it, but the automaton turned and pushed and pinned him against the wall while its hands clasped around his throat. Two other officers tried to pull it off, but its grip was firm and unyielding. Kaya hit it with the butt of her rifle, but all that did was scrape away some of the vinyl skin revealing the metal skeleton underneath. With no other options, the punk told the other’s to all stand back and she fired her rifle into the side of the automaton. The electrodes released the charge, a smell of burning wires and plastic as the creature smoked and convulsed and finally collapsed. Kaya knew she was lucky not to have electrocuted Daramy as well. It was a move born of desperation, but had paid off. Must have been its gloves.
In any case, the emergency was over. But, only for a few seconds. In the rest of the hall, all the other mannequin’s started turning and rising from wherever they had been seated and began advancing toward the humans. While individually they moved slowly and mechanically, they quickly joined up to become a horde, blocking the door that Kaya and Jen had used to enter the hall.
There was another exit and so they all rushed to it, into a cafeteria. Chance, Kaya, and a couple other officers attempted to block the door behind them while the others sought a way out.
“It’s all right,” Kaya gasped, her body propped against the door as the automatons began to push from the other side. “You don’t have to thank me for the rescue yet.”
Chance frowned and shook his head, more and more mannequins piling up and it getting harder to stop them getting in. “What the hell were you thinking?”
“Wasn’t a whole lot of time for thinking. I just knew I couldn’t leave my old friends in the lurch. I mean, we’re cool, right? We’ve always been cool,” he frowned more, while something started vibrating inside her jacket. “Cool. Just hang on a minute,” she said, answering the phone. “Hey Ten… I… I don’t know. I’ll ask. Hey, Jen! Where is the cereal?”
“In the cupboard above the microwave,” the blonde called back.
“You get that? Okay… um, while you’re there, there is something you could do for me…”
But, before she could ask anything, there was a sudden surge from the other side of the door and the automatons burst through. They all ran back, Kaya dropping her phone. At the same time, more mannequins were shuffling through the other cafeteria entrance, leaving the only way for them to go through the kitchen. As they went there, the punk looked back, and finally she saw Jack. He was kneeling, his robotic minions shambling around him as he cocked his head. And then he reached down and picked up the phone, staring at the screen. Kaya realised that she hadn’t hung up, and a picture of the last caller was still being displayed on the screen… Tenley. Jack grinned.
“Want…” he rasped, gently tapping the image with his cold metal claw.
“Shit!” Kaya spat angrily. But Jack took off, leaping away and out of the hall, and she couldn’t go after him. Jen must have seen what happened as well, as she stood gritting her teeth, her whole body tense.
“Come on!” Chance demanded as the mannequins were already almost at the kitchen door.
They hurried through the kitchen, only to find the exit locked and the automaton’s not far behind.
“Any ideas?” The sergeant asked.
Jen looked around at her feet, at the mat they were all standing on… rubber and a bit worn. She turned her back to Chance, showing him her bag. “I have a flare gun inside…”
“All right,” the officer shrugged, unclipping and removing it. “What are we supposed to do with this?”
“The sprinklers,” she explained. Chance obviously didn’t really understand, but with few other options he complied and fired at the nearest one. There was a flash and a cackle, and to everyone’s surprise it worked, in so far as the sprinkler activated and it started to rain on the heads of some of the automatons advancing toward them. But it didn’t slow them at all. Even so, Jen gestured for him to continue, while she readied her Taser.
Chance activated more of the fire sprinklers, while Jen waited, waiting for as many of the machines as possible to be covered. The nearest one was reaching out, about to grab her, before she turned the rifle up to eleven and fired. The creature fell back, sparking and crackling, and then others did the same, smoke literally coming out of their ears before they collapsed.
There were a few unaffected, but with the majority of the horde down the remainder were quite easily taken care of. Kaya and the police officers just grabbing anything heavy and using it to turn the automatons into trash. There was little time for them to enjoy the euphoria of having survived however, as Jack had gone after Tenley.
“We have to get back,” Jen said. “Before he hurts her…”
“Yeah,” Kaya agreed. The only thing she was unsure about was which one they were going to have to rescue.