I had seen the machine-creatures earlier, shuddering at the way the hideous single eye of each creature followed the movements of anyone nearby.
I found another one, behind Loki's pub, so I moved closer to inspect it. As I approached, a high-pitched scream erupted from the device, and several crab-like creatures rose out of it.
I backpeddled quickly, drawing my pistol with a practiced movement and fired a shot. With a metallic clang, it ricocheted off the shell of one of the creatures, not even slowing it down.
I scrambled into open territory, where I could maneuver better, and fired several more shots, aiming for the large eye. Whether my aim was off or the creatures were resistant to Dame Ordinal's exploding ordnance I could not tell, but in either event my weapon was having no effect.
The great pincers snapped open and shut, leaving me with no doubt as to what would happen if one caught me. Discretion being the better part of valor, my only sensible course of action was to run. Still the creatures pursued me, though I seemed to be putting some distance between myself and them.
Several blocks later I dared look back again…they were gone. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Reloading my gun, I decided that I should have a second look at the Van Creed factory. Perhaps I had overlooked some important clue in my last visit.
Again I gently moved the old planks away from the doorway and crept in. The factory was unoccupied, as it was on my last visit, but this time there was something different…a gap in the floorboards in the center of the factory floor allowed a gas to escape. I peered in and the gas seemed to overwhelm me. I swooned, and when I regained my senses I was staring at a huge eye, much like the ones on the crablike creatures, only many times larger. Voices shouted at me, as though coming from the inside of my head:
Think about those moments all of them, the moments you felt hopeless, the moments you felt alone, those moments that life pained you, the time those you admired turned on you, the moments were you were young and alone and hurt, that moment of losing a loved one and accepting that never again you would experience their light. Don't repress it anymore, let it out, let it free, all the hate towards the world that demands you forget the pain and bury it away. Let the truth of your existance ring from your beating heart; you need not carry the guilt any longer. The choice is yours, take it and let go to the painful truth: none of it matters, you do not matter, no one matters.
More faintly: "None of it matters, you do not matter, no one matters.
The voice, combined with the smoke, made me dizzy. I clasped my hands to my ears as the voice repeated its evil mantra. "No!" I shouted, though I spoke to no one. The despair was overwhelming. What was the point of it all? What did I really have to live for?
As the mantra cycled through once again, I shook my head. This wasn't real. Something was putting these thoughts into me, but it wasn't real. Despite my dizziness, I unholstered my pistol once more and shot directly at the eye three times. The eye still glared back at me. I didn't see the point in continuing this investigation - or any investigation. With shaking hands, I placed the still-warm barrel of the pistol against my temple and started to squeeze the trigger...
…I awoke in a canal, soaked to the skin. Judging by the sun, several hours had passed. Blessedly, the voices were gone and I had no idea why I would want to harm myself. I slowly dragged myself and my sodden garments out of the filthy canal water and made my way to a hotel.
As I reflected, I thought: I just had an encounter with the Dark Aether...
Other news: Miss Breezy also meets the crab creatures.
Miss Avariel Falcon finds saboteurs have destroyed several of her units.
Master Jimmy finds the crab creatures.
Miss Bookworm Hienrichs finds the Dark Aether.
Brother Napolter creates a weapon.