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Minutes before sunset Chap 24
18.07.2017 12:58

“Rise and shine!” The shrill cackle awoke Reena from her unconscious state. “Huh?” she groaned, forcing her heavy eyelids open. The first thing she saw made her cringe—a wrinkled visage contorted with maniacal amusement. “We’re already behind schedule,” the man with scraggly white hair and crooked, yellowing teeth declared. “Wh-where am I?” Reena groaned, trying to shake the grogginess away. Only then did she realize that they were still underground, in some catacomb tucked away from the main tunnels where she had previously ventured. She glanced at the man, who furiously worked away at a computer console, then to the bizarre machinery set up around the area, until finally spotting Madison and Rackham—both locked in what appeared to be rectangular boxes made of glass. “Madison!” “You okay, rookie?” the silver haired officer asked. “I’m fine, just a little—” Reena’s eyebrows shot up. She wasn’t fine! Still coming to her senses and fighting through the mental haze, Reena discovered that she was sitting down, her wrists and ankles strapped to some makeshift chair. Like Madison, she too was trapped in a glass confinement, but larger than the others. The floor beneath her appeared to be made of metal grates, while something that looked like a large speaker hung overhead. “Uh, what’s going on?” “We found Melchor,” Madison replied, disgust in her voice. Kumo desu ga nani ka

 “Whatever you do, rookie—don’t scream.” “S-scream?” Reena stuttered. “His machine’s activated by vocalized frequency,” Rackham added. “And he needs yours to power the Resonator.” “None of this makes any sense!” Reena shook her head, confused. “Frequency? Resonator? What machine?” She craned her neck in the direction of the towering metal monolith nearby. “That machine?” “Those earthquakes—” Madison nodded, “—that was the cause.” “Enough chatter!” Melchor struck one last button on the keyboard before offering Reena an insidious smile. “You’re a very fortunate young lady. So very few get to make history—it should be considered an honor. All I need is one beautiful shriek—just one, and Pallad City will finally have gained the title it so richly deserves—the largest mass gravesite on the planet!” “If you think I’ll ever help you, mister,” Reena snapped, “you’ve got another thing coming.” “Fortunately,” Melchor grinned, “your willing compliance is less than required.” His fingers sprang to life, pounding a series of buttons on the keyboard. “I sorely lack the time or patience to extract a myriad of vocalizations from you.” Melchor gestured to the glass containment surrounding Reena. “But, with the aid of this repurposed chamber, I should have no trouble obtaining what I need.” “What’s this…chamber…going to do?” Reena asked, trying not to let her nervousness show. “The acoustic amplifier above you will emit an infrasonic resonance,” Melchor tapped a final button on the keyboard, snapping his finger back in an almost playful manner. “Its long term effects are harmless, but the correct output will certainly cause you to be more accommodating—though they may lead to some unpleasant momentary sensations…” Melchor’s twisted smile forced his chapped lips to curl. “Acoustic amplifier initiated,” the computer said. Reena shivered from a strange prickling on her skin, followed by a gentle heat emanating from the speaker above her. She struggled against the chair’s restraints, but it accomplished nothing. The heat intensified with each passing second, combining with a slight, barely audible hum. “Can you hear that?” Melchor asked. “It’s quite surprising what sound can do to the human body.” The noise grew louder and Reena could almost feel her body vibrating. She felt an odd sensation building in the hold of her chest and the roots of her teeth. 
She had never experienced anything like it before. It wasn’t pain, but a peculiar discomfort that increased with every passing second. Reena’s fingers and toes twitched first, but the spasms quickly worked their way through her body, attacking the muscles in her legs, arms and back. Her breathing intensified and, panting, she let out a slight gasp. “Resonance match at 13%,” the computer said with its detached, monotone voice. A look of frustration consumed Melchor as he pounded on the keyboard, increasing the infrasonic amplification. “Not nearly enough—we need more!” Reena tried to stifle any further cries, but she wasn’t sure how much longer she could take the effects of Melchor’s machine. A stronger blast of heat consumed her, causing sweat to trickle down her forehead. Her uniform was soaked with perspiration, which glistened down her back, arms and thighs. The vibrating continued, causing Reena’s jaw to tremble and her eyes to vibrate in unison, blurring her vision. The discomfort grew and her stomach swirled. Her only frame of reference for the bizarre sensations she was experiencing was like being on some twisted amusement park ride, repeatedly spun around until the point of nausea. “Ahhh…” “Resonance match at 21%.” “That’s it…” Melchor clapped his hands together like a giddy child. “Let’s have more!” “Aaahhh…” Reena gagged. The entire world was spinning and an intense pressure was welling up inside her head. “Resonance match at 54%.” Shit, Madison cursed to herself. Just feet in front of her glass prison, resting on a table cluttered with scrap metal and electronic parts, was her Halvok 99. If only there was some way out, her mind raced. She spotted the U3 in the far corner, nestled against unused machinery, its limbs coiled around itself while the creature’s red eye glowed in the dim lighting. The unit looked like it was conserving power, possibly having entered some form of sleep mode. If there was any time to escape, it was now. “Resonance match at 67%,” the computer said, seconds after Reena let out another short yelp. Madison activated the holographic projection display on her I.DAC. It still hadn’t found the proper encryption code to unlock the chamber. She had no choice left. Damn risky, she thought to herself, removing the I.DAC from her wrist. If this failed she’d be out of options, but it was a gambit she needed to take. She clicked a button on the communicator, activating its magnetic coating, and stuck the device against the glass door’s metallic locking mechanism. She pressed the button again, initiating a hidden feature on the I.DAC. The device let out a soft beep while a red light blinked on the wristlet’s surface. She had triggered the I.DAC’s ultimate failsafe, designed if an officer needed to prevent their communicator from falling into a criminal’s possession. After all, the I.DAC did link directly to Pallad City’s centralized GeoCore database. In the wrong hands, that information could prove extremely dangerous. “Aaaaah!” Reena howled. “Resonance match at 74%, 82%, 88%...” “Now or never,” Madison said under her breath and stepped away from her I.DAC, still magnetically affixed to the digital lock. She backed up as far as she was able, despite the restricted space in the cell. Her undivided attention was affixed on the device. She began counting to herself. 10, 9, 8… “Resonance match at 92%.” …7, 6, 5… “Resonance match at 94%.” …4, 3, 2… Madison shielded her eyes as the I.DAC exploded. The detonation wasn’t large, but precise enough that it succeeded in blasting a hole directly through the lock. She looked at the result—it had worked just as she planned. There was no way she would have been able to shatter the heavy duty glass, but the lock was unprotected—the only observable weak spot. She kicked the door and it swung open. From the corner of her eye she could see Rackham watching, his mouth hung open in surprise. Reena was oblivious to her partner’s success, her body thrown into spasms by the infrasonic onslaught. She tried her best to hold it in, but couldn’t any longer. “Aaaagggghh!” “Resonance match complete.” “Now!” Melchor shouted, nearly leaping into the air. He pressed a red button on the keyboard and an array of lights on the Harmonic Resonator began to glow. The ground shook with violent unease. Sovereign of the three realms
Madison charged out of her glass prison, snatched her Halvok off the nearby table and fired a torrent of bullets into the Resonator. The lights adorning the machine flickered, sparks lancing through the air. “M-Madison!” Reena perked up, still besieged by the infrasound. “You fool!” Melchor spun around, seething with rage. “What have you done?!” “Resonance match…” the computer sputtered out as the tremors subsided, “…lost.” Visible crackles of blue electricity discharged from the Resonator, striking nearby machines and setting them ablaze. “Overload imminent,” the computer’s last words were distorted by a screech of static feedback. Madison fired a bullet into the digital lock on Rackham’s cell, releasing the doctor. She redirected her aim at the acoustic amplifier hanging over Reena and squeezed the Halvok’s trigger. The bullet shattered the glass confining her partner and struck the speaker. Devastated pieces of the amplifier rained down harmlessly around Reena. She took in a sigh of relief as the infrasonic attack came to an abrupt stop. “U3!” Melchor ordered. “Kill them all!” At the sound of the doctor’s panicked voice, the U3 reactivated, rising upon its tentacled appendages. But, before it could advance, another charge of electricity shot forth from the Harmonic Resonator and struck the nearest machine. It exploded in a furious cyclone of smoke, flame, and metal, throwing the U3 to the ground as a blistering chain reaction consumed more equipment. The explosive force shook the tunnel and a segment of the roof caved in. Rubble smashed down onto the U3, demolishing its scarlet  cyclopean eye. Only its flailing tentacles could be seen for a brief moment before a dust cloud pushed its way across the immediate area. “No—this can’t be happening!” Melchor cried. “I was so close!” He dashed into the direction of the overloading Resonator. “Melchor!” Rackham yelled. “Don’t do it, you’ll be—” It was too late. The Resonator vanished in a brilliant white light, taking Melchor with it. Pieces of smoking metal flew through the air and crashed into the nearby walls. A deafening boom resounded through the tunnel. More of the ceiling began caving in. Madison undid Reena’s restraints and helped her unsteady partner to her feet. “You okay?” “Y-yeah,” Reena nodded. “Just a little shaky, but I’ll be all right.” “Melchor’s gone—no one could have survived that,” Rackham confirmed, staggering over to the officers.   Madison glanced over to the fiery blaze where the Harmonic Resonator had previously stood. She was convinced Rackham was right—Melchor wouldn’t be faking his demise this time. “Let’s get out of here before this whole place comes down.” *** Reena leaned back against her locker and let out a sigh of relief. She was glad to be back at headquarters, despite still being stuck in her tattered, dirt encrusted uniform. She couldn’t wait to get home and take a much deserved shower. “Here,” a familiar voice called out. Before Reena could turn her head, a blur of folded clothes flew through the air, hitting her in the chest. “New uniform,” Madison said dryly. “Can’t come in tomorrow with the rags you’re wearing now.” “Thanks!” Reena nodded, offering her partner a smile. Madison turned for the exit but stopped just short of the door, not bothering to look back at her partner. “By the way,” she said, hesitating to get the words out, “you did well today.” Reena’s smile grew. “Oh?” “But following after Rackham and me, that was pretty reckless…” She craned her neck around to make eye contact. “Any other officer would have waited for backup.” “You wouldn’t have,” Reena replied playfully. “You’d have done the exact same thing.” There was a long silence, and then Madison finally spoke. “You’re probably right.” Reena stood in awe. She could swear that, from the corner of Madison’s mouth, the slightest outline of what appeared to be a smile had formed. It was too fleeting to be absolutely certain, but she’d swear the resident ice queen of the PCPD had almost broken her frosty façade. “Anyway,” Madison continued, exiting the locker room, “I’ll see you tomorrow.

Reena slumped back against her locker. Despite all the insanity of the day, including crazed scientists, earthquake-creating machines, and tentacled monstrosities, she wagered that what she had just witnessed might have been the most unbelievable of all…


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