The Others, Part 2
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Last time on Nexus:
The Others, Part 1

Annoyed, Guerra got out of his red Fiat Punto, as did his co-driver. They were in Madrid, the capital of Spain. And as usual in capital cities, firstly the traffic was an absolute disaster and secondly there was nowhere where they could park properly. Well, except maybe for Amsterdam…
They had come to one of the poorer areas of the city, one of those places where there was no hurry to repair the houses and graffiti adorned some walls. Guerra wondered if it wouldn't be more efficient to simply ban spray cans worldwide so that the city's sanitation department could finally catch up, but presumably the kids would have switched to bucket paint and brushes, even if that would take longer.
Although they had taken a car that was not particularly conspicuous in such areas, they probably stood out here their black pants and jackets like sore or rather black dressed thumbs.
Or not, as he noted with a frown, when a few young people walked past them without giving them a glance. They also wore completely black, although it were just everyday clothes. It might have been the weather, the winter of December had unexpectedly turned Madrid into some kind of refrigerator.
Their destination was a yellow terrace house with a brown roof, which towered in front of them with its windows like a huge block of Swiss cheese. His subordinate Cortez, a broadly built, tanned man with a bulbous nose, had already provided them with a front door key, thus this first obstacle was quickly overcome. The second, a narrow apartment door made of particle board, offered just as little resistance.
The first thing Guerra noticed upon entering the apartment was the smell. It smelled like the apartment of a man who did sweat a lot, but did not bother with such mundane things as ventilation.
The hallway was in simple woodchip white, the floor was made of bright parquet. Three other rooms branched off from the anteroom, and from one of them, with a frightened expression on her face, a… woman(?) walked towards them.
Guerra had never paid much attention to the matter, but he thought he was looking at an anime girl in a monochrome housewife costume. The eyes were disproportionately large and silver, the nose disproportionately small as a trade-off, the lips as skin-colored and flawless as the rest of the face and the mouth thereby only a black line. The gray hair, tied in a ponytail, almost reached the floor.
What puzzled Guerra most at the moment, however, was this: The woman was two-dimensional. This did not refer to the character, nor to corpulence; on the contrary, the body proportions were petite. No matter from which angle he looked at this being, it appeared to him as if he were looking at a cardboard standup, although it quite obviously had to have a three-dimensional body.
"Uh," Guerra began, after recovering from the bizarre sight. "We are looking for Mr. Ruiz. Pablo Ruiz."
Now that he said the name, he noticed how ordinary it sounded. So ordinary, in fact, that only bad secret agents could carry it. Poor guy.
The look of the… well… girl visibly brightened. Only that Guerra didn't like the kind of joy it suddenly radiated.
"Are you here to hurt Pablo?" she asked furtive.
Her voice sounded disgustingly cute, but at the same time so steely, as if its owner had decided a while ago already that the world as a whole could just get lost with relish.
Guerra decided to be honest.
"Depends on whether he and also you cooperate with us."
The strange creature clicked its tongue and half-turned to roar into the room behind her. Guerra became aware of another detail as it moved. Her chest area had looked strangely deformed when he saw her in front, now that he saw her in profile, the spy realized that it was because she was really very… well endowed. How did this woman manage to keep her balance? Were her back muscles reinforced with carbon fibers?
Meanwhile, the girl yelled, ignorant of Guerra's anatomical thoughts.
"What do we say?" asked a surprisingly gentle voice from the room behind her.
The maid(?) rolled her eyes.
"… Well, that'll have to do for now…. "
Out stepped a stocky Spaniard in a red tracksuit and horn-rimmed glasses. He wore two bunny slippers and black stubble revealed that he had probably last shaved a week ago. Guerra wondered if the day could get any more ridiculous. The universe unfortunately heard the question and decided to answer in the affirmative, probably as a joke.
Ruiz looked confused at his uninvited guests.
"How did you get in here?"
"That's not your concern," Guerra replied in Spanish and in a businesslike tone. "We're here because we have some questions for you."
The man glanced briefly at his roommate before answering.
"Uh, listen, if it's about Silver-"
Guerra, guessing he meant the maid, cut him off with a gesture.
"Your… creations are of no concern to me. But what does interest me is a certain person with whom you had contact. Why don't we go into the living room and sit down for a pleasant chat? Then you'll get away without bruises and broken bones and I won't have to get my suit dirty, how does that sound?"
Ruiz gulped.
"Um, yeah, well, uh, follow me, Silver, please bring the gentlemen a glass of water each."
Cortez followed him, but Guerra stopped short and turned to Silver.
"Why did you go and get him so willingly? We could have been the Mafia or somebody like that."
"Let me put it this way," the animated drawing replied. "If you had been here to throw him into the Manzanares1 with two concrete shoes, I would just have asked if I could watch."
Guerra frowned his brow, but then shrugged as he decided it was none of his business.
The living room doubled as a study and a studio. A drawing table stood on one side, with drawings of what Guerra summarized in his mind as "manga kitsch" stacked next to it. On the other side was a battered little couch, a stained armchair and a small table on which Silver placed a tray with two filled glasses. Ruiz dropped into the chair, Guerra took a seat on the sofa, and Cortez and Silver remained standing next to them. The two Anonymous Eyes Inc. employees exchanged a look in which Guerra instructed Cortez to leave the drinks alone in case they had been poisoned.
"So, uh, what do I tell you?" Ruiz asked.
Guerra took a sip of water before answering. The water tasted refreshingly non-toxic, though the two would have been pretty stupid to try something like that, and he rated at least Silver as reasonably intelligent. Cortez could take them both on if neccesary, and if everything went south, there were a few more helpers waiting outside.
"According to our information, you were part of the group under Garravizzo, is that correct?"
"Uh, yes?"
"You specialized in providing creations like that one there," he pointed at Silver, "for various purposes. No offense, miss."
"None taken," it came from the one addressed.
Ruiz nodded.
"Well, I'm interested in the person who removed you from that relationship. A person known to us only as 'Elli'."
Ruiz's face went numb, while an expression of perverse satisfaction spread across Silver's countenance.
"Uh, are we talking about the Elli?" the artist affirmed.
"Judging by your reaction, yes," Guerra confirmed. "So, how did that go down?"
Ruiz sighed, while Silver chuckled spitefully.
"Okay, so look, here's what happened. We had set up a nice pocket dimension in an old water tunnel on the Manzanares-"
"Where 'nice' here is equivalent to 'brothel'…" Silver added, dry as dust.
Guerra raised an eyebrow.
Ruiz seemed to struggle with himself before finally nodding under the drawing's probing gaze.
"Yes, yes, it was a brothel…," he mumbled sheepishly.
"I take it the employees weren't exactly, well…. fully three-dimensional?" the spy asked.
"Yes," the interviewee said flatly. "I had set up my base there with a couple of buddies, but I won't tell you their names even under torture, and decided to make some dough with my talent. There were quite a few… Consumers…"
Guerra got a little more respect for Ruiz as he pointed out his secrecy. The guy was actually serious. Not that he was interested in the names. He was looking for other things.
"How does Elli come into play now?"
"Well, her first visit was relatively innocuous…"

"Hey, señor, you can't just-" Ruiz stammered as he stumbled backwards, trying to back away from a very ill-tempered Dean, who was driving him in front of him with stomping steps to gain entry.
Elli paced behind him, looking around critically.
"Lousy architect," she muttered.

"And what did she want?" Guerra asked.
"Well, we'd pretty much taken a bite out of the, uh, 'classic' red-light district. We were surprised ourselves, honestly. Apparently, the woman hadn't liked how far down prices had to go there so people had something to live on. So she, uh… made inquiries. Anyway, she introduced herself to us as-"

"Elli, detective for fun, admirer of the lightly clad, part-time otaku, and unanimously crowned the 2010 Miss Kinky of Three Portlands."

Guerra's brows drew together.
"How did she find out about your machinations?"
"We don't know exactly," Silver explained. "But she seems to have become fixated on this after she had used the services of the red-light district herself."//

"I had seven all to myself, that was awesome!"

"She probably squeezed out the former clientele," the artist surmised.
"And then what came next?"
Ruiz shrugged.
"She bitched a bit about ethics and respect for life, but I told her that what we do here is legal, since legally our creations are not people. Then she left."
"Just like that?" asked Guerra.
Silver chuckled again.
"She promised Pablo here that someone would end up kicking him in the balls. And that there would be much rejoice."
The artist nodded darkly.
"Then nothing happened for the next few days," he continued. "Me and my colleagues didn't give a damn until we noticed that more and more of our employees were just disappearing."
"What did you do?"
"Well, questioned the employees, of course, but none of them claimed to know anything. Also, we kept our eyes open outside, I mean, if there's suddenly an anime character running through the streets, it's bound to be noticed. But there was nothing. They were gone from the face of the Earth."
Guerra made a mental note.
"Did that have any consequences?"
"Yes, of course. We had more and more customers with less and less service. Eventually what had to happen did happen and angry customers were overrunning us. But at that point, they couldn't find any of our creations."
"I watched them beat him up," Silver noted grinning. "Elli had one of those big telescopes that let you see into the pocket dimension. It was quite funny."
Rejoice broke out among the ladies in the room.
"Ugh, I never thought that there's anything left that could make me horny…"

"She got you girls out?", Guerra verified. "How?"
Silver shrugged.
"She could create wormholes in doors. Transported us into a living room and let us watch everything with that telescope thingy. Even had sound."
"What else did you guys see?"
"Nothing, there was just the room, some chairs, beds and a huge fridge with all kinds of great stuff. Stuff that my creator never put on the table for me up to this day…"
Silver glared grimly at the artist.
"And you put up with that?" the spy wanted to know.
"Still better than being banged 24/7 by some premium moron. Most of them only lasted a few seconds, but it perhaps exactly that made it a disgusting affair…"
"How did she approach you?"
Silver seemed to search for the right words for a moment.
"Pretty unorthodox…"

Silver was taking her meager dinner in the small chamber assigned to her when the door behind her suddenly turned black. A loud whisper sounded from it.
"Hey. Psst. Hey. Could I have a moment to talk with you about Elli, your friend and savior?"
Silver got startled, gaining eyes the size of dinner plates.

"Well, after reaching out to a few others and explaining her plan, it was time for action. "
"Weren't you afraid you'd be held accountable somehow?" asked Guerra.
Silver laughed humorlessly.
"No, you can't offer people damaged goods, can you?"
After these words, she threw Ruiz another one of those smiles that expressed the complete opposite of friendliness.
"How did the whole story turn out?"
Silver continued as Ruiz apparently agonized over it.
"Well, the dimension and Ruiz's cronies were ransacked. Then, when everyone was gone and those scoundrels were just lying there motionless, Elli reappeared with us and that Dean guy. Dean pulled Ruiz to his feet by his hair and Elli seemed to be talking to him."

"So, Ruiz, I hope you learned something from this. If I ever hear about you creating sentient life just for your own profit again, I'll be back, and then I'll stick long fondue sticks in your ears, throw you down the stairs, practice acupuncture on you, feed you my homemade special pancakes, slam dunk you afterwards, clamp your head in my workbench, and then work you over with the biggest hammer in my possession until you come back to your senses. All right?"
Ruiz nodded as quickly as the pain would allow.

"And that made you stop, Mr. Ruiz?" the spy asked, taking another sip of water.
Riuz swallowed.
"Elli is not a woman you can just say no to once you get to know her."
"I see. What actually happened to the employees after that?"
"They were sent to another dimension," Silver explained. "One that matched our appearance. It was incredible."
Guerra frowned.
"But then why are you still here? Didn't you want to leave, too?"
Silver gave him a charming smile. It was the first time he had seen her express honest joy. And with sheer happiness in her voice, she replied.
"I stayed because there must be someone to make life hell for this scum right here."
Guerra had heard enough…

Next time on Nexus:
The Others, Part 3

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