Unlike Philip, the Graysons were not made of clouds. When Libby slugged the first Grayson in the face, she felt a very real, very satisfying crunch.
The Grayson fell back, collapsing onto the grass. Libby gave him a swift kick to the side, then turned and punched another Grayson in the throat. He, too, went down, gurgling happily. More Graysons fell as Libby pressed her attack, and more pushed in to replace the fallen boys - but they never fought back, never resisted, never even stopped smiling as Libby beat them to a pulp.
This isn’t real, Libby insisted to no one in particular. She was throttling one of the Graysons This isn’t. It’s not. We… I… he… IT’S NOT REAL!
“It is and it isn’t,” said the nearest Grayson, drawing Libby’s wrath. He barely had time to finish his sentence before Libby uppercutted him. “We’ve been working hard to combine the two - urk!”
Libby pressed her attack for a long time. She couldn’t master her angry impulses, not now. There was too much blood on her hands, too many tears on her face, and too many grass stains on her legs to stop. She punched, and punched, and punched, and the Graysons continued to fall, and though their bodies soon littered the landscape, their numbers never dwindled. They seemed to be growing, if anything.
Eventually, exhausted, Libby fell to her knees. Killing her middle child had lost its flavour.
“Sorry, mom.” One of the Graysons leaned over Libby, patting her gently on the back. “I figured you would be upset. This seemed the best way to let you release some tension. Do you feel any better?”
Libby laughed. It came out as a half snarl. “Oh, fuck, yeah! I love… I love beating the shit out of… my son… ugh…”
Three of the Graysons gathered around Libby, trying to hug her. She elbowed them away and stood, though her legs were shaky. She backed away slowly, circling to watch all of the Graysons, until she felt her back press against a building. It gave her some small measure of comfort knowing that they were no longer behind her where she couldn’t see them.
“Where…” Libby sniffed, struggling to pull herself together. This was too much, even for her. “Where the fuck… are…”
The majority of the Graysons stepped back, giving Libby some space. Only one remained near her, their apparent spokesmen. “We’re in the bridge between your world and codespace. The realm of the rats. I’m sorry for what they tried to do to you earlier in the year, by the way - I wasn’t in full control, then. They paid for that.”
Mental images of Traveller, a naked Traveller, jumped to mind. Libby shivered. “That… that doesn’t explain… shit. I don’t know what the hell you’re talkin’ about.”
“I suppose not.” Grayson shrugged. “There are a lot of complexities that need to be explained. For now, think of this place as your new home.”
Libby laughed again. The presumption in his voice brought back some of her anger. “Oh… oh yeah…? Not Pubton, or… or the Sky Bitch… this fuckin’ place is… home, now, eh…?”
Grayson nodded. “It will have to be. But don’t worry, mom. You’ll love it here. I can give you absolutely anything you want. For example…”
The Graysons waved their hands to the sky, their movements so eerily in tune as to seem choreographed. Libby looked up, following the mass gesture, and spotted a massive airship rumbling along. It looked only half completed, and the analytical sections of her brain immediately spotted dozens of improvements that could be made… with a little tinkering.
The lead Grayson smiled deeply. “I knew you would like that. I can give you as many airships to work on as you like. Or you can create all new inventions, things you’ve never dreamed of before. Perhaps you’d like a starship? Trust me, I can make it happen for you. And I’ll help you build, like I used to. Just ask.”
Libby trembled. Grayson’s offer - and she knew it wasn’t really an offer - seemed so attractive as to be repellant. She didn’t want it at all, because she knew she’d have to spend her time here with him, and though she loved her son… though she loved him…
“You’ll come to love me again,” Grayson murmured. He took a step forward. “In time, mom. You’ll learn. You… won’t have much choice.”
Libby blinked, fury mounting in her again. “Gonna force me, eh? Gonna push me into it? Gonna brainwash me again? You just try it - “
Grayson shook his head. “No. No more brainwashing. I want to earn your love this time, no matter how long it takes. I simply meant, that… if you reject me, well, there won’t be anyone else to turn to. You’ll be alone here.”
The tone of Grayson’s voice, mournful yet happy, chilled Libby. She pushed herself against the building - it’s the stable, she thought, probably full of the prettiest fucking horses I’ve ever seen - and wished she could sink into the wall. “Talk… plain, you little bastard.”
Grayson clapped his hands together. A little smile formed on his face, the same cruel expression she’d finally, finally seen on that last day together in Pubton, when she’d finally realized what her son really was. “Very well. You’ll have to love me, mom, because everyone else on this planet - everyone else - will be dead. I’m going to kill them all, and your… husband… is going to help me.”