Currently on hiatus. Will resume in July, or sooner.

Current story updates:

Current story interludes/Side stories:
Every other Saturday

Other pieces:
Every other Saturday (Saturdays I don't run the Interludes/Side Stories)

During certain periods updates may come more often; at other times updates may come less often. This schedule is my hoped-for goal.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Fallen Angels

And right on the heels of the end of part one of Hunting I've got something else.
And the sad thing is I can't even pretend that its weird because I was weirder when I wrote it; I wrote this last night

Fallen Angels

“Do you see them? Do you see them? They are everywhere my friend! I see them!”
The man with the milky white eyes raved as he stumbled down the street.
“I can see them! They are coming for us. They are coming for you. For everyone. They are coming! But not for me. Oh no. Not for me. Because I can see them! I can see them! Why can’t you see them?”
The crowds parted around him, men and women both giving him a wide birth. People of every nationality lived here in this city. People of every kind. They filled the streets, jostling pushing, making their way in a world that didn’t care. The air was thick with pollution and the sound of the city, horns honking, tires screeching, whores calling.
One little boy didn’t move aside like the other people. His mother was distracted at a store window and did not notice her boy instead staring at this strange blind man who talked about seeing invisible people.
“Who are they mister?”
“Huh?” the man’s head swiveled, trying to pick out the noise of the one who spoke to him “Wassat?”
“I said who are they?”
“Jeffrey! What did I tell you about talking to strangers?” the boys mother walked up and grabbed his hand. She looked at the blind man who was reaching towards the sound of these people.
“Please” he almost whimpered “You have to see”
“Yes yes. Here” the mother said as she fished a coin from her pocket and pressed it into his hand “Now lets go Jeffrey”
The boy turned back to look at the man as his mother dragged him away. The man kept reaching forwards, and the coin fell from his hand. It bounced and rolled away, but he didn’t notice.
“You have to see them. Somebody has to. The angels. The devils. They are here. They won’t hurt you if you can see them. But everyone else is going to die. Please. Open your eyes and see”

Abaddon walked down the streets of Dark Earth. He knew that the city had a name but he did not care. It was full of sin.
Everywhere he looked. Skies so gray, towers so tall, all metal, all so very very cold. Men and women selling their bodies for pleasure and coin, women and men taking advantage of anything that they could, even the children participating in this doomed damning perversity.
He took another step and passed through the human in front of him. He knew that the man would shiver a moment later as his senses realized that something was not right here, but that was not matter to Abaddon. Only the blind man ahead was.
Speaking of the blind man…
He had looked back again. He stared straight at Abaddon with those milky white eyes that could not see anything but the demons and angels that had come his world. Abaddon wondered if the man would go insane or not. Or rather, more insane than he was. For he had no reason to think that they would spare his life just because he could see them. That was pure speculation, and silly at that. Why spare the one who could identify you?
Abaddon knew that Azrael would not approve of that line of thinking but it had been a long time since he worried about what his former friend thought or approved of.
He had seen enough here. One of his manes would see to following the blind man, keeping him worked into a state of terror. It would not do to let him calm down; he may become lucid enough to warn people.
Abaddon unfurled his great wings and took flight with a flap of the downy feathers. His powerful muscles lifted him high into the air with each beat of his glorious wings, and he sailed quickly into the sky.
He continued until the blue faded around him and the sky began to grow black. Above him the stars never had a chance to come out eclipsed by the brightness of the sun. Not that Abaddon was flying right towards the sun. That would be foolish.
Finally as he left the atmosphere he approached his destination. He flapped his wings once more and floated through the emptiness of space towards the Immortal Avenger, his flagship.
One of the bay doors opened and he landed inside, touching down and walking deeper into his flagship. He knew that some among his men preferred to fold themselves into a lesser form, a human form, cloaked in the shadows that they would wear when they landed on Dark Earth in force.
And that would be a glorious day. Then they would begin the rising, and tear this Dark Earth, this horrible reflection, this mirror, this pit of sin from existence. It would be as if it had never been.
He smiled at the thought.

Azrael stood at the point. The waters flowed around him, the ocean moving in and out. Here he was. This next Earth. The ‘Dark Earth’ as Abaddon called it. He sighed and stared up at the sky where he knew Abaddon’s ship would be circling.
Sometimes it was such a galling duty to be angel of death. Even when it was a self imposed duty.
But it was the least he could do to collect the neural impressions of these people, save what little of their minds he could in the vast dataspace of First Earth, or as Abaddon would say ‘Light Earth’. And every other Earth was slated for destruction. Every single one of them that did not conform to Abaddon’s ideas of ‘light’. Unfortunately the high council was on his side in this and so had gifted him the Immortal Avenger stalked with enough firepower to rend spacetime itself and a thousand manes.
He sighed as he looked back down at the waters. He was here in flesh, fully formed, unlike the visitors from the Immortal Avenger. At least, he reflected, Abaddon granted him the time to walk among these people before they died.
He got to know each world before they moved on. Before the Avenger rained death and destruction with its guns, and before he stood at the epicenter of the destruction, sealing each brain pattern into the database as they fell. Someday these people would be remembered. Maybe someday they would even live again. But that was not his job.
He turned away from the point and walked among the people, adopting the appearance of a regular person from this Earth. Blue pants, two legs two arms, white things with tails in his ears and a shirt with cut off arms. His current one had a kind of slogan on it.
As he walked along the beach he thought on his life.
Each time they arrived on a new world the people seemed to know about the already. On this one he had found himself and Abaddon represented in religious texts. By name and profession if not by image.
It never failed to amaze him how these people knew of their doom beforehand and yet did nothing about it. The very odd thing was that they even knew of their death. Their holy texts described days of fire and death raining from the sky.
That would come from Abaddon and the Avenger. Yet they also spoke of some being saved, of those people being taken into the very sky from which the death was raining from and being preserved.
That, that was Azrael’s gift.
How did these people always know?
But his time was running out, as it always seemed to be. Abaddon would be sending down his people in forth any moment now to begin to prepare the world before the final bombardment.
As always he would make his plea.
He looked to the sky and unfurled his wings. He knew that the people around him would stare and that rumours would spread. He knew that somehow the picture of the angel with his white feathered wings, his near featureless face and his robed body would appear on their communications system within moments of his departure. Maybe it would spur some of them to act.
He doubted it.
He flapped his wings and accelerated out into space. Soon he had arrived at the Avenger. He walked straight into Abaddon’s command chamber.
“I assume you are here to ask me to not do this”
“That is correct”
“You know that I am going to anyways”
“Then why?”
“Because I know that there should be good left in you somewhere. If this Earth were truly evil through and through then I would have no compunctions and be the first into the fight, but they are not. There is goodness down there”
“But someday there will be only evil left”
“You don’t know that! The chance of evil, the promise of evil in the future is no reason to kill now! No reason to perpetuate yet more evil to stop it! Your system is flawed Abaddon!”
Abaddon turned away and his fingers began to fly across the console.
“We have this same argument each and every time. When will you give up?”
“I admire your determination, but not your cause. Besides, why do you complain? I let you save those you deem good. You should be happy”
“I am happy for that, and again, I thank you. But saving their brain pattern does not guarantee that they will ever live again”
“That is true. But they have their chance. Now, if you wish to save them, go”
Azrael bowed out and began the walk back to the bay doors. Abaddon did still have good in him or else he would not allow Azrael to save these few. The day that he no longer allowed that then their friendship would be truly over, and Azrael would leave.
He flew back down to this Earth and waited for the bombardment to begin.

Abaddon’s fingers played over the keys. He could feel the Immortal Avenger warming up, her guns banks coming online. As he always did he thought about Azrael’s words as he began the target acquisition process. Someday they may move him to something. But it seemed that today was not that day.
He flipped the switch to bring the ship fully into this dimension and began the firing sequence.
“All fighters, prepare to launch. Destroy anything that launches from the ground except for ours. You have your positions. Go”
He went back to his screen and continued the firing sequence. This ship truly was a miracle. It could be controlled by only one person. Him.
He smiled grimly as he began to rain death down on the Dark Earth below.

Azrael watched as the first of the blasts impacted. An entire city was leveled with one shot of the main guns. He went to work quickly, sifting through the millions of brain patterns, scanning memories, checking connections, ascertaining those who had done good, those who had done evil.
It was difficult work, cross checking the different brains for datapoints on the other brains. Only by building a comprehensive image of those dead from the brains of others and from their own brain could he identify if they were worthy of being saved or not.
Most he decided were. Only the worst he let die the final death. The rest he saved.
Again and again the process went, the Avenger firing on the planet in an ever increasing ring. It either already had or would soon enough be deploying its relay satellites so that it could destroy the planet in one expanding ring of death.
Azrael shook his head as he continued his work. He knew that the oceans would boil away, and then the planet would be sterilized. Never again would life grow on this planet. Such a waste.
He continued to gather the brain patterns and send them to the Avenger where they were beamed directly back to First Earth to be saved forever, studied as show pieces.
After a few moments more, once the symphony of destruction was truly underway he heard the flapping of wings.
He didn’t pause in his work; he knew it was Abaddon.
“Hello Azrael. I find it funny that both of us come down here”
“You to destroy and I to save”
“Well, yes, but funny just the same”
“This has been our ritual since the beginning has it not?”
“It has, it has. Why are you always so glum?”
“Because I am busy, and you are destroying a planet forever”
“Ah well, you know”
They stood in silence for the rest of the barrage. Finally it was over. Azrael felt the last human slip away into the final rest and sent the last of those to be saved into the core.
“That it then?” Abaddon looked around “These worlds are always so barren. They remind me of our purpose. To scour the evil from the galaxy. For this is what evil will leave behind if allowed to grow”
“Do you not find it odd that evil should leave behind the same thing as good?” Azrael turned, his work done and confronted Abaddon with as much sarcasm as he could muster.
“Ah, but we only do this to one planet, and we do it quickly. Evil will do it to many, and slowly. We save them from their pain”
Azrael looked up into the night sky and saw a slowly moving star pass overhead. A sense of foreboding shuddered through him.
“Abaddon, did you destroy the orbital platform?”
“Not yet, no. I figured we would do that as we left”
“Oh no. Have the guns target them now! Right now!”
“Why, what’s the rush?”
“Do it! Now! I’ll explain, just do it!”
Abaddon nodded and unfurled his wings.
“You don’t have a transmitter?”
“No, I never bring one down now”
“Then stay. Your going makes no difference now anyways”
“Why do you say that?”
Azrael pointed up into the sky. A smaller streak of light flew from the lazy one.
“What is that?”
“Its a weapon. These people put them in their orbitals so that if ever the world was attacked by those not of this world they would fire at whatever was up there. There was a twenty four hour delay after first detection of the vessel. If they did not get a message from their high command it would fire. The ship may be doomed”
Moments later a brilliant flash exploded in the sky.
The Avenger was gone.
“I don’t feel her anymore!” Abaddon cried, suddenly scared.
“Thats right. They had powerful weapons they called nuclear warheads aboard their orbitals. Your destruction of the cities meant that the codes were never sent”
“How do we get offworld now?”
Azrael folded his wings behind him and sat down in the dust “We don’t. The council will never know that we died here. Where the ship died. So now we wait on this world you burned until we both die”
Abaddon looked around and finally sat down beside Azrael.
“What did I do wrong?”
“You hated. You were too zealous. You destroyed when yo should have tried first to heal”
“I am the angel of destruction. What else could I have done?”
“I do not know my friend. But you have much time to think on it now. Maybe together we can find an answer”
The two friends sat in the dust of the burned out world as the sun rose overhead in the bleak grey sky. The buildings that had towered were now ash, and no vendors would ever cry out again. Their prophesied reckoning had come and left behind only two fallen angels.

Chapter 25: The End of Part 1

Chapter 25: The End of Part 1

The artist climbed the steps up to the top of the room again. She unfolded the stepladder and maglocked it to the catwalk. She didn’t want it slipping on the wetness there. Satisfied she pulled out her paints and climbed up.
The painting took shape before her. Her brush back and forth, this next part of the ceiling gaining beauty. When she had finished the one spot she moved the ladder to the next spot along and began to paint there too. She had never seen a garden, a forest, except in paintings, so it was hard to recreate it here. A painting of a painting, an interpretation of a memory of an interpretation. But she hoped that it was doing the paintings justice. She certainly felt that it added life and colour to this offflow.
Hours later she climbed down, her work done for the day. Tomorrow she would return and add another layer of paint. That would help seal the colours, deepen them, and perfect the scene of the woodland waterfall.
She smiled as she looked around. Maybe this was a better kind of art. A beauty that did not harm anyone to create, only added beauty to things that were drab.
Yes, this was far better. She smiled as she walked back to her small little house.

Lian walked into her small hotel room and dropped her bag on the chair. There was nothing here. Nothing in this city. Nothing that could lead her to Sho. But she would keep looking.
She walked over and sat on the end of the bed, turned on the screen to the news. They were doing another special about the heroes of the front lines. Apparently the war was taking a turn for the worse despite ‘the many heroic deeds of our brave soldiers’. The news didn’t say it, but there were other ways of finding out the truth. Apparently the independent miners, the small stations, the factories and shipyards, had all sided with Earth. Slowly but surely the Colony Coalition was being beaten back. There was fighting in the space over Mars, the Coalition unable to push the Earth forces any further than the twin war-stations of Phobos and Deimos. Without those two stations, rumour had it, Mars would have already been lost. or at least there would be fighting on the surface.
Lian shook her head. She couldn’t let the war distract her. Even if the Coalition lost it would not change her mission. She had made a promise to a man. A promise that had become harder and harder to keep in the past year as she had begun to despair of ever finding Sho.
But there he was on the screen, as he was almost everyday.
Jorm the saviour of the Coalition, winner of a dozen battles, the one who turned every tide. The one who had stolen onto Earth itself and killed a dozen of the generals and leaders. There was another feature about his latest accomplishments. The hero of the Coalition, the Nameless Hero.
If he could fight tirelessly to give her more time, postpone the war to give her time to find Sho then she would continue to search, as long as she had breath.
She flopped backwards turning off the screen. She would sleep now, and start again tomorrow. As her eyes closed a smile played across her face. She had not heard about any killings. Maybe Sho didn’t need her anymore.

The agent stood on the bridge of the Redeemer. It was his flagship, in fact if not in name. This was where he worked from, to save the Solar System from itself. He sighed and shook his head. Somedays this war seemed to be going nowhere. No matter how many Old Earth targets he eliminated, no matter how much he did to try and end it to preserve life, the war ground on, chewing up men and women, capital and machines in a grinding, unending battle. And all it gave back was ruins, lifeless husks. Remains.
But it would end soon. He was sure of it. And when it ended he would go back to the Arc. What he would do there he had no idea, but he would do something. Maybe he would finally try to free himself of Callion. Maybe he would find the artist. Maybe lots of things would happen. But that was in the future.
“Sir?” Kral stepped up beside him. The war had taken it’s toll on the man; he looked tired, older than when the agent had first seen him. But he was more balanced too. He had become a better person, forged in the war. He had seen the error of his ways, seen too much death to want to keep dealing it out. But he fought on. The sign of a true soldier.
“The Earth fleet is moving out from behind the debris field in a classic Delta-X attack pattern. They have us outnumbered three to one”
The agent nodded and stared out the expansive viewscreen before him. The beauty of space was his to behold. The pinpricks of light that he knew were planets, the fainter pinpricks of the stars, the chunks of rock and metal of the destroyed mining colony that they had fought so hard to protect, the ships of his, or rather Admiral Hane’s fleet, and the sun, a still too bright glowing orb in the distance.
The majesty of the Solar System floated before him, and it was time to deal more death.
“Prepare the fighters and the dropship Kral. Lets see if we can’t stop this war. Maybe this battle won’t be the end of it. Maybe the next one won’t be the end of it. But maybe, just maybe, maybe if we fight enough, win enough, stop enough fights, maybe then the war will end. Maybe then this meat grinder will stop begging to be fed”
“I understand sir. I’ll get our squadron ready”

Kral marched off and the agent almost smiled. For he had taken his enemy and made him his friend. It could be done, even with one who wanted him dead as much as Kral had. And if that could be done, then maybe there was still hope for the Solar System. And if there was still hope for the Solar System, well, then maybe the universe could spare some hope for the redemption of two lost and black souls. Maybe it could spare some hope for Sho and for the soul of Jor Mallar, the agent, the sniper, the commander, the assassin, the artist, the killer. The human.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Chapter 24

Chapter 24

The Dragon swiveled slowly, guns moving to target each group in turn. As his team dropped their weapons soldiers ran in and cuffed them hand and foot.
When they were all secure the Dragon came in for a landing, turning so that its boarding ramp faced the agent. It lowered and a tall man in sinister black armour and a facemask stomped out.
“Rebels! You have assaulted Arcernment soldiers. You have the right to remain silent until we can arrange for your interrogation”
“Rebels?” Kral shouted, incredulous “Says the man bringing a private army onto the Arc in unregistered transports?”
The agent patted the air “Calm down Kral. I think I know whats going on here” he turned to the masked man “You were brought here by the Director? By Callion?”
“I told you to be quiet!”
“I will be, in a moment. We are all members of the Special Forces. We all answer to Callion. He is the Director to us”
The man faced him for another few moments before turning back to walk into the Dragon.
“Sila? Contact Callion. Double check these cretins lies. It would not due to execute his agents without first clearing it with him”
With that he stalked back into the belly of the Dragon and the hatch closed behind him.

One hour later the agent was marched into the briefing room by two of the masked man’s soldiers and the woman he had identified as Sila They escorted him to his chair, unlocked the handcuffs, and left. As the door closed behind them Callion glared at him from across the table.
“Explain why you assaulted Arcernment soldiers”
“They opened fire on us first sir”
“Thats not what they said. They said that you were deploying your hood mounted guns”
“We had hood mounted weapons in our groundcar?”
“Don’t play dumb with me. Why did you fire on them?”
“Because they were shooting at us. That is the only answer I can give. Check my neural readout; you’ll see that I’m telling the truth”
Callion glared at him before moving on.
“Why were you in the area in the first place?”
“One of the team members discovered evidence of unscheduled landings by unregistered vehicles at that docking bay. Combined with evidence that we had that the Butcher was going to be slipping out aboard an Earth Council ship we believed that this was what happened”
“Because of your idiocy I lost two dozens good soldiers! And now everyone knows about troops arriving that way and about my docking ships there”
“Sir, I don’t see why you couldn’t just bring in troops through conventional means, unless these were to be private soldiers. In which case the Arc government should know about you equipping a private army with their funds”
Callion directed a hate filled glare at the agent. It promised pain.
“It is not your duty to question Jor, but to serve. Since there have been no sightings of the Butcher since a day before your attack I am forced to believe that you are right in assuming that she left the Arc. Because of your ineptitude she escaped”
“Sir, its because you had undeclared-”
“Silence!” Callion roared at him, spittle flying “I am in charge here! I will do as I please!”
He sat back and took a moment to regain his composure.
“You are dangerously rebellious. If I were you, with your chip, I would be a bit more…careful”
The agent doubled over as a jolt of pain spiked through his skull. It felt as if every piece of his body was being pierced by needles, sliced to bits, and burned, all at the same time.
Finally the pain stopped and he sat back up, shaking.
“Better? No more questions? Good. Since you let the artist escape I have a new mission for you. You are to go to the battlefront. Assassinate military leaders of the enemy, politicians, anyone whose death will negatively impact the war effort for the Earth Council. I leave it to you to choose your targets so long as I get results. Sometimes I will direct you at specific people. Understood?”
The agent nodded.
“Then get out. I’ve prepared a dropship. You can load your team’s railcar directly onto it, or you can load the vehicles and resources individually. Requisition any additional resources that you need. I want you and your team off the Arc by the end of the day. Meet up with the Third Fleet group. You’ll be assigned a ship when you get there, likely a carrier or a corvette to act as your personal vessel”
“Understood sir” The agent stood and walked to the door. He stopped just before leaving and looked back. Callion had already turned back to the screen behind him and was issuing orders to someone, the agent forgotten.
Which was fine by the agent. The more Callion forgot about him the more freedom he would have. And the more freedom he had the sooner he would be able to bring down Callion and his private army, the sooner he could be free.

The agent collected his equipment from the table where it sat and checked it over for any problems. Finding none he strapped his weapons back into place before marching out to find the team.
“I guess they are my team now” he muttered as he turned a corner and saw them all sitting on benches, hands cuffed.
“Let them go. We’re leaving” he waved a hand at the guards who, after a moment glaring at him moved to uncuff his team. Everyone was there except for Thomas, Alexander, and Lori. But they were at the hospital getting emergency treatment with Thomas overseeing them. He would call Thomas, tell him that they were leaving and get the three to make their requisitions from there.
He slowed only slightly as he passed through, heading for the exit and the new groundcar that Callion had given them. Kral fell into step beside him, as did Cassy.
“What’s happening now sir?” almost all of the mistrust was gone from Kral’s voice.
“We’re going off to the war. Requisition what goods you need”
“Yes. Callion decided that he didn’t want us around to kill his private army anymore so he’s shipping us off to go kill Earth Council soldiers”
“Sir! How can you say that about the Director? He wouldn’t build a private army. He’s loyal to the Arc!”
The agent turned to look at Cassy incredulously, one eyebrow raised.
“What? I thought you knew about him”
“He was right about you. You are going rogue. And you want to poison us against him. You want to make the conspiracy that you were talking about”
The agent just looked at her.
“If you really believe that then you can stay behind. Anyone else believe I’m a traitor?”
Everyone shook their heads.
“Even you Kral?”
“No proof yet sir”
“Good man”
The agent walked away from Cassy and swung himself into the groundcar. With a flip of the switches he powered it up and made sure that the hood turrets were locked down this time.
As everyone climbed in he hit the gas, and the groundcar leapt forwards, towards the docking bay, the war, and the future.