Anna’s coming to realize just how much control over the universe she can exert by running six consoles at once when the only thing that could pull her away from the experience, a mysterious visitor from another world come with a message that Lord Walker wants a visit with the Human Family, does. Find out why Lord Walker wants to meet by continuing on in the story today, and don’t forget to pick up a full copy of the novel through this link or subscribe to my email newsletter through this one.
Thanks again for joining us, dear readers. Have a great weekend.
They probably didn’t need all six transporter rings for such a small operation in a low security area, but Anna had insisted. Once she had gotten a taste for the power that came from so much control over the universe, she couldn’t get enough of it. They only used two of the rings for their search, but with six paths to choose from she could ensure the paths they did use were spot on. The humming of the rings died down, and when she looked up from the consoles they were still only six. No Kara had been found.
“It looks like Five to me,” Rosa said, dropping the huge protector rifle she was holding to hang from her shoulder. Anna was still a little uneasy at the sight of all those guns dangling from her Family members like black misshapen shadows, but she couldn’t argue with why they had taken them and she wasn’t about to try. “You were right about that.”
“There’s more than that, though,” Anna said, shaking her head. “There are tiny disturbances I can barely see, maybe some holes in the wall or something. Did you search thoroughly? What did you see?”
Rosa scoffed. “We searched every brick of both alley walls. If there were holes, we couldn’t get through them.”
“She has to be there somewhere,” Anna said, shaking her head. Maybe if she hooked up another console or two, she could get a better picture of what was going on, a higher resolution image. She was getting so good at controlling two consoles that she could almost do it with one hand tied behind her back, so why not try to control three or more? Then she might be able to find the holes herself without anyone having to leave the basement at all. It was a—
“Anna!” Rosa said, breaking her from her thoughts. “Did you hear me?”
“Huh? What was that?” Anna hadn’t heard anything outside of her own head.
“I said fire them up again. We’re gonna station a lookout. Two at a time, switching up every six hours. Crake, Janice, you’re on first watch. Everyone else go get some rest. We may have won the battle, but the war’s nowhere near over.”
Anna didn’t hear the rest of Rosa’s orders or see the others leaving. She went back into her own little universe, setting the pathways and imagining new and better methods of finding Kara by herself. When the rings stopped humming and she looked up from the consoles again, she was alone with Rosa smiling at her.
“What?” Anna asked, blushing and feeling self conscious, as if she had just woken up to someone watching her sleep.
“Nothing,” Rosa said, grinning from ear to ear. “You look so beautiful when you’re working, lost in your own world like that. That’s all.”
Anna’s face got hotter. “I was just thinking.”
“I know,” Rosa said. “You always stick your tongue out like that when you’re thinking, and you’re always thinking. That’s why I fell in love with you. For your brains.”
Anna giggled. “Stop that.”
“What?” Rosa said, coming closer to embrace her. “Stop complimenting you? Stop stating the facts as I see them? Why?”
“Why?” Anna said, kissing Rosa’s cheek. “Because I don’t want—”
The door slammed open and a pair of boots stomped down the stairs at top speed. Anna wasn’t sure whether she gasped because of the sound of it or the sight of another gun.
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” the owner of the boots said, looking at their feet as Anna and Rosa broke apart. “There’s a call for Rosa.”
“A call?” Rosa said, confused.
“A message,” the boots said. “A messenger. She demanded to see you. Said you wouldn’t want to miss this investment opportunity. It was about a movie or something.”
“My movie?” Rosa said, interested now and a little less confused. “How did they get here?”
“I don’t know, ma’am,” the boots replied, shrugging. “But she’s waiting for you in your office.” Then the boots stomped back upstairs and disappeared.
“A messenger?” Anna said, raising her eyebrows.
“One of the Threes working on our movie, from the sound of it,” Rosa said, shrugging. “Though I didn’t think they were capable of interworld travel.”
“Well there’s only one way to find out,” Anna said, taking Rosa’s hand and leading her upstairs. “Let’s go.”
The “messenger” was standing behind one of the office chairs when they arrived. She stood as straight as a statue, staring at nothing across the desk and wearing a mostly black, skimpy skirted outfit with white lacy frills. She looked like she could maybe be from Three—she was certainly tall enough—but that’s only because a Three could look like anyone or anything, that being their entire purpose in life, acting like someone else.
“Hello,” Rosa said, crossing the room first and extending a hand to the messenger. “I don’t think we’ve met.”
So if it was a Three, it wasn’t one Rosa knew. Mark that in the previously empty column of things that Anna knew about this messenger.
“Hello, sir,” the woman said, curtsying instead of taking Rosa’s hand then trying to reach for it after Rosa had already taken it back. “I’m Haley. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, too, Haley,” Anna said, trying not to sound ironic. “My name’s Anna and this is my partner Rosa. Please, take a seat.” She indicated the chair that Haley was standing behind.
“Oh, no,” the woman said, shaking her head. “There’s no time for that. We should be leaving as soon as we can. Mist—er—Lord Walker doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
“Lord Walker?” Rosa said. “I was under the impression that you had some message about our movie. Am I wrong?”
“Oh, no, ma’am. Not at all. It’s about the movie alright. There are some exciting new directions Lord Walker has planned. He’ll tell you all—”
“New directions?” Rosa said, and Anna could tell she didn’t like the sound of that.
“Lord Walker can explain everything better than I can,” Haley said. “Please. Come with me and I’ll take you to him.” She started out the door as if they would follow her.
“But where do you expect us to go?” Rosa asked, her voice getting angrier and angrier. “And how?”
“To Lord Walker’s compound,” Haley said, stepping back into the office. “We would have called first, but—well… You know. You have no phones to call here.”
“And what makes your Lord Walker think I want to speak to him?” Rosa demanded.
Haley laughed. She shook her head then paused when Rosa and Anna didn’t laugh along. “Wait,” she said. “You’re kidding, right? This is a joke? I still don’t understand humor very well so you’ll have to humor me.”
Rosa shook her head and groaned. Anna tapped her foot. Neither said a word.
“Well, he’s an owner,” Haley said, as if it should be obvious to them with that information alone. “Like pretty much the richest owner in all of existence.”
“Is that supposed to impress us?” Anna asked, a little impressed.
“It doesn’t?” Haley asked. “Well, either way, he loves your movie, and he thinks he can provide further investments which would serve to boost your message.”
“He loves my movie?” Rosa asked, confused.
“Our message?” Anna said, equally so.
“Yes,” Haley said. “Both. But you’ll have to come meet with him for any of that to happen. So what do you say? Let’s go.”
Rosa turned to Anna with that I know you’re going to think it’s crazy but I want to do this anyway look and said, “What do you think?”
“I don’t know.” Anna shook her head. The owners were exactly the people who were holding their Family down, exactly the people they had sent a protector to assassinate, and now they were thinking about getting into business with one? It didn’t seem right. “We don’t even know who this guy is. How can we trust him?”
“It couldn’t hurt to see what he has to say, though,” Rosa said, unrelenting. “Right?”
“I guess.” Anna shrugged. It was no use arguing when Rosa had her mind set, especially about this movie of hers. “But if you go, I’m coming with you this time. I’m not going to sit here and wait anymore.”
“We may need someone to—” Rosa tried to say but Anna held a finger to her lips to stop her.
“No. Either we both go or neither does. You decide.”
Rosa smiled, kissing Anna’s finger. She turned to Haley. “You heard the woman. Let’s go. Lead the way.”
They followed Haley out of the Family Home, through the streets and alleys of Five/Six, to the nearest elevator where she opened the doors and showed them in. “Right this way, m’ladies.” When they stepped in and the doors closed she added, “The office.” and the elevator fell into motion.
The elevator opened onto a long hall lined with red carpet and hung with tacky, overly rich paintings and tapestries. Anna tried not to gag at the sight of it even though she knew it was meant to impress. It looked like some poor person’s sick idea of what a rich person’s house should look like.
Haley led them to the other end of the hall and through huge oak doors into a similarly decorated office with a giant oak desk populated by the fattest person that Anna had ever seen. The man chuckled with a deep “Ho ho ho!” not getting up from his seat as Haley showed Rosa and Anna to the two chairs across the sea of desk from him.
“Ho ho ho!” he was still chuckling once they were seated. “It’s so good to finally meet you, though I must say that I expected an individual not a pair. Ho ho ho!”
“We’re a Family,” Rosa said, and Anna smiled. “There are no secrets between us.”
“Ho ho ho! A family. Of course. Just like your script, huh? It wasn’t all fiction, then. Was it?”
“Not in the least,” Rosa said.
“Good,” Lord Walker said, slamming a ham fist on the desk. “That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. You see, I’m more interested in your message than I am in your medium. Though I do think you have some gumption. Ho ho ho!”
“And what do you think the message is?” Anna asked.
“Well,” Lord Walker said, staring at Anna for a moment in silence. “I would say the message is made quite obvious in the script.”
“Humor me,” Anna said. “Pretend I haven’t read it.” She actually hadn’t but she knew what the message was anyway. She didn’t have to read it to know. She knew Rosa well enough to know what it would say.
“Read it?” Lord Walker said. “I thought you had written it, my dear.”
“I wrote it,” Rosa said, proudly—and deservedly so.
“Answer the question,” Anna said. She couldn’t quite put her finger on why she disliked this jiggling, black clothed man in the tall hat, but she knew that she did.
“Ho ho ho!” Lord Walker chuckled. “She’s a feisty one, isn’t she?” he said to Rosa. “Like an angry cat or something. I see why you brought her along. Ho ho ho!”
“I’d like to know the answer to her question as well,” Rosa said.
“Of course, dear. Why wouldn’t you? Your message is an obvious one, and one I’m afraid I’ve only recently come to understand the true profundity of. It’s an old fashioned message, if I’ve ever heard one, and I mean that with all due respect. Old fashioned is my motto, you see. I live by it. And, yeah, though I may have been lost, I now am found.” He grinned, nodding his head and sending his chins jiggling.
“And…” Anna said. For all his words the big man hadn’t said a thing.
“And a sturdy dose of old fashioned capitalism is exactly what we need. For too long now we’ve been lulled into a false sense of lazy security by the ever present and ever popular robot service force, but I’m afraid the jig is up. The worlds are crashing down around us. You’ve experienced it for yourself first hand, I’m sure. And the only way to prevent that disease from spreading to the rest of the worlds and beyond is to return to our roots. We are not meant to have social relations with things, tools, objects. Instead we should be hiring people, human beings. And in that human—we might even say familial—interaction we will return to the glory days when there was enough work to go around. As soon as we get rid of the robot menace, all our worlds will be made right again. I assure you of that, my dears. I assure you of that. Ho ho ho!”
“Well,” Rosa said, “I can’t argue with that.”
Anna only shook her head, though. She still wasn’t sure about this Lord Walker. He seemed to understand their message, but there was something a little off in his delivery. The words he used were a little too perfect, a little too planned, as if he had been rehearsing them for some time before delivering them, and from the look of him—so richly dressed and overweight, sitting in his opulent palace while messengers fetched his visitors for him—he was getting more out of this—or any—relationship than he was putting into it.
“So what did you have in mind?” Anna asked.
“Ah, yes,” Lord Walker said, grinning. “Finally. To the business. First and foremost, since we’ve already been discussing it, the movie. As I said, I thought it was brilliant. I mean, I loved every bit of the script. It was full of top notch symbolism and simple enough for even the dullest of Sixers to understand.”
Anna scoffed. Who did this pompous whale think he was?
“Yes,” Rosa said. “I really tried to make it accessible and entertaining. I think those are the keys when you want to spread your message as far as it can go.”
“Oh, yes,” Lord Walker said. “There’s no doubt that those are two of the keys—and very important keys at that—but as you’ll come to see, my keychain is full to the brim. One thing, for instance, that I find you’re lacking in is a proper crew and the right actors.”
Rosa scoffed. “No doubt. But I don’t really have much control over that. I was forced to take what I could get on such short notice, I’m afraid.”
“Yes,” Lord Walker said. “I realize this. That’s where my keys come into play. I’ve already selected an actor to play the robot. He’s a real star, too, top of the line, and he should give us the name power we need to get this movie seen throughout all the worlds.”
“And the rest of the crew?” Rosa asked. “I was scraping the bottom of the barrel to get them. They’re prolly not any better themselves.”
“Independent’s big right now,” Lord Walker said, waving her concerns away. “Don’t you worry about that. I’ll ensure they have the studio space and equipment they need, and they should do just fine.”
“Good,” Rosa said. “Great. What do you think Anna?”
Anna shook her head. “I don’t know. What’s in it for you?”
“Ho ho ho!” Lord Walker laughed. “Spreading the word, my dear. That’s all. And it doesn’t matter if you agree anyway because I’ll be helping whether y’all ask for it or not. I just wanted to meet you to get a feel for you. And I’ll tell you, I like what I see.”
“So that’s it then?” Anna asked. “You don’t want anything else?”
“Well…” Lord Walker tapped his sausage fingers on the desk. “There is one other thing.”
Of course. Anna sighed. There was the matter of what he wanted from them out of all of this. There was always that.
“What is it?” Rosa asked, smiling. “Anything we can do to help our new friend.”
Lord Walker chuckled. “Yes. Friends. I’d like to think of you that way. And in turn I’d like for you two to think the same of me.” He eyed Anna as he said it. She had to suppress a groan. Now she remembered why she never went to any of these meetings with Rosa. She couldn’t play the fake kissy kissy suck up game that Rosa was so good at.
“And can your friends serve you in any way?” Rosa asked, proving again she thought nothing of this man—if he even was human. If Rosa held any regard for him at all, she would have called him brother—or son at the worst, but she would have brought him into the Family in some way nonetheless. Friend was something else to Rosa, something lower, and the funniest part was that Lord Walker didn’t understand that fact one bit. He thought she was being nice when she called him friend, and Anna wanted to laugh out loud at him for it.
“Well, you see…” Lord Walker paused for a moment, taking the monocle out of his eye and setting it on the table. His neck must have been tired from carrying his already massive head, not to mention the towering top hat with it. “This is a touchy subject. I don’t want to offend.” He spoke as if he had already gained their confidence.
“Please,” Rosa said. “Go on. We know you have no ill intent.”
Anna did scoff at that one. She couldn’t help it. If anything, Lord Walker’s intent was entirely ill. She regretted the scoff as soon as she had let it out, though, and held her hand to her mouth in embarrassment.
Lord Walker sneered at her. “Yes, well… I don’t want to make any assumptions about your intent, either,” he said, focusing all attention on Rosa alone now, practically acting as if Anna wasn’t there. Anna didn’t care, though. She didn’t want him talking to her anyway. She wanted to leave. She never should have been there in the first place. “Which is why I will try to be as elegant and proper as I can when I tiptoe around this one.”
“Please, Lord,” Rosa said, bowing her head a bit. “No tiptoeing.”
“Well, you see,” Lord Walker said, still tiptoeing nonetheless, an amazing feat for such a wide frame—it probably would have been havoc on his pants if he were doing it in real life rather than with words. “There was a slight disturbance in Outland One recently. A group of terrorists—as what they did can only be described as an act of terror—attacked one of the protector precincts under my ownership.” He paused, waiting for a response, but he got none. Ann and Rosa both knew how to control their emotions when it was essential.
“And the only reason I bring it up,” Lord Walker went on when he was sure he wasn’t getting the response he wanted, “is because it just so happens that one of my protectors found the source of that disturbance. It took them some time, yes. Whoever these people were had to be very clever in order to break into my precinct. They knew how to cover their tracks, you see, but not well enough. There’s always some trail left behind, I’m afraid, and my bloodhounds never fail to sniff it out.”
“I’m not sure I understand what this has to do with us, sir,” Rosa said.
“Hmmm.” Lord Walker frowned. “I thought you would by now. You’re smarter than that, aren’t you? No.” He shook his head. “That’s not it. You’re not stupid. That’s for certain. You act this way because you’re afraid. You shouldn’t be, though. This affects nothing about the deal we’ve already made. In fact, if anything, it makes me more eager to work with you. You’ll fit in better with my new business model this way.” He smiled.
“What are you saying?” Rosa asked.
“I’m saying, my dear, that I know it was you who attacked my protectors and stole my guns. I’m not as stupid as you’re making yourselves out to be.” Rosa tried to speak but Lord Walker cut her off. “But, as a gesture of friendship, and as a way to get our new business relationship started off on a good foot, I’m willing to overlook your transgressions without recompense. Furthermore,” he went on, cutting Rosa off again. “I’ll see to it that an arsenal twice the size of what you’ve already taken ends up in your hands, with the promise of more weapons to come as you prove to me that I can trust you.” He smiled, finally relinquishing the floor, but Rosa nor Anna said anything in response.
“Well,” Lord Walker said. “What do you think?”
“Work together toward what?” Anna asked.
“Toward our common interest, sweetheart. What else? Toward the destruction of the robot industry. Toward the benefit of myself and yours. Toward whatever we can agree on, including this movie we’ve already begun. What’s it matter to you if you’re doing what you already would be doing and getting some extra benefit from it on top?”
“Some benefit.” Anna scoffed. “Some benefit much smaller in proportion than our input, I’m sure.”
“Your input?” This time it was Lord Walker’s turn to scoff, unable to control his own emotions. “And what exactly do you think that is, sweetheart? You’re nothing more than bodies. Anyone can be a body. Everybody’s some body. I can pick up anyone off any corner in any world and they can contribute exactly the same thing as you. Any benefit you get is more than proportional to your input. If anything, it’s charity on my part. The only reason I chose you is so I didn’t have to meet with any other disgusting low worlders or deal with the headache of punishing you for your hilariously inadequate crimes. Now. You can take what I offer you, which is more than you can ever expect otherwise, or you can turn around right now, leave my office, and face the wrath of Lord Walker.” His nose was flaring and all of his chins had gone red by the end of his heavy breathed speech.
“You can f—” Anna started to say but Rosa stopped her. She turned to Anna and nodded with a straight face. That’s all it took. Rosa would handle this. Anna wouldn’t like how she did it, but that was how the world worked. Anna fumed under her skin about that fact, hiding it well, as Rosa spoke.
“I’m sorry if we’ve offended you,” Rosa said and Anna took special notice that she used “we’ve” instead of “she’s”. “It was not our intention. You must understand that we would be stupid not to ensure that we get a fair deal out of this relationship.”
Lord Walker nodded. “Yes, of course, but—”
“And you must also realize,” Rosa went on, taking control of the conversation finally, “that when you talk about a future relationship it implies future demands on our time which we may not be prepared to put up with. Given zero knowledge of your future plans, we would essentially be handing you a blank check by accepting your offer.”
Lord Walker grinned. “It’s funny you should say that,” he said, “a blank check. It’s such an archaic term, especially for a Sixer.”
“I’ve made it a point to remember my Family’s history,” Rosa said, nodding once.
Lord Walker nodded back. “Yes,” he said. “It’s important to remember history if you want to know how to come out on top when it repeats itself. But how about I offer you a blank check in return then?”
“How so?” Rosa said.
“Well, I’ll simply send you one of the armories. They’re essentially 3D printers capable of creating all the guns and armor you have time to ask for. That’d be about the same as a blank check, and it would serve to show just how much I trust you and value our new relationship.”
Rosa looked to Anna who shook her head. She didn’t like this idea. He was giving them a blank check, technically, but it was limited and Lord Walker could cut off the supply whenever he wanted. And besides that, there was no telling what he would ask of them in return.
“And this is a once in a lifetime offer,” Lord Walker added, anticipating their reluctance. “If you leave here without saying yes, then you’ve said no and you’re responsible for whatever happens to you and your family as a consequence.”
Anna shook her head again. She still didn’t want to get in bed with this flabby monster, but she knew what Rosa was going to say before she said it.
“We’ll take the armory,” Rosa said. “And we’ll see where we go from there.”
“Good,” Lord Walker said. “Great. That’s all I needed to hear. Haley will show you home and carry the armory for you, but I’m afraid that’s all I have time for today, ladies. I’ll get you a phone, too, so we won’t have to meet in person all the time. You heard that Haley? Get them a phone, too. Now, ta ta!” He turned in his seat so his back was facing them and they couldn’t respond if they wanted to.
Anna and Rosa followed Haley out through the elaborate hall to the elevator where the armory was waiting for them.
“He’s so pompous,” Anna said when she saw it.
Rosa grabbed her arm. “We need this.”
“Sorry for the tight fit, Haley said, squeezing into the elevator with them. “Sector US1Q84.” The doors slid closed and the elevator fell into motion. When they opened again Haley pushed the armory out, following them in silence to the Family Home.
“All the way in the basement, please,” Rosa said when they had arrived, and Haley obliged.
“It was a pleasure to meet you,” Haley said when she had climbed back upstairs.
“And you,” Rosa said, extending a hand to Haley who took some time to shake it before curtsying and leaving.
“I can’t believe you did that,” Anna said, slapping Rosa on the arm and stomping to the kitchen. “And all for some more guns.” She had to cook something and get some food in her stomach to forget how gross everything about what had just happened was.
“I didn’t hear you speaking up,” Rosa said, following her into the kitchen and sitting at the bar. “I did what needed to be done.”
“Ha!” Anna set to cooking, not even knowing what she planned on making. “I didn’t have to speak because you knew how I felt already. I don’t like all these guns around here, and I certainly don’t want any more in the House.”
“Technically, there aren’t any more, just a printer that can make some.” Rosa grinned, trying to lighten the mood.
“You know what I mean,” Anna said, dicing harder and faster. “There will be because of that thing. And more deaths, you can count on that. I don’t like one bit about this Lord Walker business, and I don’t understand how you could.”
Rosa chuckled. “Oh, don’t worry. I don’t trust that fat old man as far as I can throw his gigantic top hat, but what did you want me to do? Say no and piss him off from the get go? At worst, we get some guns out of it so we can defend ourselves better when we inevitably do piss him off by not bowing to his every demand.”
“Unless he cuts off the pipeline,” Anna said, tossing the diced vegetables into the frying pan.
“Then we’ll just have to be sure we get the guns before we piss him off. Won’t we?”
“Exactly,” Anna said, throwing a can of beans in with the vegetables. She hated using the cans, but she was too hungry to wait for the real thing. “Which means more guns in the House, exactly what I said I didn’t want in the first place.”
“Well, I’m sorry,” Rosa said, shaking her head and letting her hands flop on the table, not quite slamming them. “I know you don’t want violence. I don’t either. But that’s the only way that they know how to respond so we have to be prepared when they do.”
“I don’t know.” Anna shook her head. “It’s almost like we’re asking for it if we stock up on weapons like this.”
“It would be asking for it if we didn’t,” Rosa said. “We have to protect ourselves. No one else will.”
“Well, I hope you’re right,” Anna said. “And I hope Lord Walker doesn’t ask us to do something we don’t want to do in the meantime—like maybe start the violence instead of defending against it. What do we do then?”
“We say no.”
“And deal with his wrath?” Anna said with a laugh, setting a full bowl of food in front of Rosa and sitting next to her to start in on her own.
“Exactly,” Rosa said with a smile, taking a bite. “Mmmm. Delicious.” She took another. “And exactly why we’d be dumb not to arm ourselves in preparation. You met the guy.”
“Which is why I don’t trust—” Anna turned to say but Kara came rushing into the kitchen to cut her off.
# # #
There it is, dear readers. Another chapter in the Infinite Limits saga. I hope you enjoyed it. Don’t forget to come back next week for the continuance of the story. We do nothing alone.