Smartly Dressed Violence (Part xxv)

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 XXV

She couldn’t help it, it felt like going to war. This battle was to take place high above the city, looking down at the buildings that housed the inhabitants they hoped to save. Not that many cared or might even know of the lengths Jess and the order were to go to. They bustled about mostly in their ignorance, their little worlds the most important to them, theirs the most special. Once this was all over, Jess hoped that they could all start again. Her family had changed on a cellular level after the test, but their memories remained the same. They would never erase the years of mistreatment, oppression or injustice they had endured. Physically they hoped to change things, but people’s consciences and minds will be harder to evolve. That would be the next battle, Jess was sure.

But for now, her task lay before her. To get to the top of this building and put a stop to a machine that could end it all for everyone. Eyes on the prize she said to herself.

They exited out of a small wooden door that inconspicuously sat opposite the huge tower building. The HET facility had been completed a while ago but only recently had taken in the influx of staff who had relocated there. They had travelled through underground tunnels the Order used to maneuverer around the city unseen. They stepped from the forgettable small building they had arrived within, and down the laneway that led across to the tower. Their sources had told them of that all of Aiko’s sites had infused his technology with matter taken from the Altered. Unless you were looking, you would not be aware of such a system. Hiding in plain sight. But Jess and her small group of Order members were all too aware of how impotent somewhat they were now in using their magic.

They crossed the road and made their way into the transport hub that attached to the tower. The sheer glass frame housed the transport station, and they could enter the building here and access the floors they needed to. Aware of security, they moved almost stealth like through the station and were able to make it inside; despite their attire being a cause for alarm. It was late, and many people had left the building for the day. Despite this, many workers lived in the building, having been a part of the relocation project. So they had to be quick.

They made their way to the service areas where they came across their first obstacle. Security service robots had flagged their entry, and their lack of authorisation passes. They had descended quickly, and Jess and the members moved swiftly to disarm and disengage them. Now they were on the clock, as they knew their presence was no longer a secret. Jess took a final lunge at the remaining robot, pulling out its connective cording in its neck, the robot firing off it’s weapon at random as the sparks flew also from its head.

They left them where they fell and hastily made it to the service elevator and quickly ascended the building. Reaching only to level 89 their elevator stopped with a jolt and emergency warnings began to ring out exclaiming their breach of permission. They were quick and made it out of the roof of the elevator to get to a floor. They could see more robots descending down the huge shaft, their lights and metal glowing like a moving blur towards them. Like wild animals in a foggy night. They made it quickly through into level 90, prizing the doors apart and ducking out of the threat approaching them.

The floor was residential, and a café greeted them as they tumbled out onto the level. People were sat drinking their drinks, looking over to see the sight of Jess and the order members hurtling into their space. Nobody screamed or yelled, but frantic devices were reached for as they ducked out of sight. Jess thought this an odd reaction, a silent knee-jerk to an imposing threat. Maybe they had trained for something like this she thought, but she didn’t have long to think about it as the door behind them was heaved apart by the robots, and more seemed to swarm now across the way on the other side of the café.

They all bolted right in a unified front, escaping the robots from the elevator and discharging those that confronted them down the hallway. It was loud and frantic, shots and yells rang out, as lights flashed also. In an attempt to contain them, the security systems blasted the area with pressurised vapour, similar to liquid nitrogen. The order members were able to navigate through this, using quick self-contained enchantments which made them glow with a little blue film. The magic unheeded so far. The robots caught in the vapour were stuck and frozen to the spot, allowing them to slip past them and make it to another elevator terminal. Here one of the members, Daniel who as the youngest of the group aside Jess, overrode the operating system for the elevator and they bundled inside as it sped up again towards the 208th floor, where their next and final assault would take place.

Aiko moved across the large room, walking by the huge windows that opened out into the nights sky. If he’d had looked, he would’ve seen the lights of the bay over on the west side pulsing, the emergency warning systems initiating in locking down the area. Instead, his black eyes made their way quickly to the huge orb that rotated up on a small platform. Aiko eyed it closely. Much like the globe Jess had seen in Nina’s place, this one represented the Altered. Aiko had never seen it like this before. It spun and shook, vibrating manically as lights of green and blue flashed around it like little electrical storms.

The cloudy covering whirled and hissed, and he could see the very fabric of the space was being unstitched and re-stitched again, removing what was already there. The world was in a flux, or some sort of expunging. He wondered how this would reverberate in the material realm. Just as he thought this, he was drawn to the sky which was ripped apart with a huge bolt of turquoise lightning. It sped out into the bay before more forks began to snake across the sky, little dragons hurrying across the inky canvas.

He knew then he could not go to the Altered now. He barely survived his last trip, and now the whole structure of the place seemed to be regenerating to something beyond his understanding. He needed a source for his machines, but now this would not happen. He turned to look once more at the globe, seeing the little lightening dragons now over the material realm. He pinpointed his city there, his tiny speck of space that his empire resided. He thought of the people, those he was trying to change and those he wanted to seek revenge on. And then he laughed out loud, to no one but the empty room.

All his efforts had been to manipulate the magic for his own means. His own god complex, which he wasn’t too dissociated yet to not comprehend, it had made him make reckless and pointless choices. What did it matter if these people changed, or evolved? What did it matter if he removed the lower regarded ones and cleaned up the space for others? He found he didn’t care for anything or anyone now. People annoyed him, they hassled him, pulling his attentions always in another direction. He had hoped that similar minded and duplicated versions of himself, genealogically speaking, would make things better. But now he came to realise that this would never really end. He looked at the globe and realised how many people would need to be changed, how big the world actually is. How there would always be a resistance, a re-lapse, a revolution.

He dipped his finger into the orb, the static lightning and plumes of vapour nipped at his finger. He noticed that it turned black, staining his skin. He removed it from the orb and looked at this up towards the light. The blackness remained, like he had dipped his finger in ink. All black, as he blinked his eyes again, the clouding grey that had settled since his return shifted like a loose contact lens. All black. He would paint it all black, he decided. And with that he plunged his hands and arms deep into the orb until they too were stained with the blackness.

He no longer wanted to change these people, he no longer wanted to raise certain ones to a higher evolution like himself. He would be much happier without any of them he had decided. He now only wanted the world to burn. In sweet black fires.

“Nina, you’ve never looked lovelier my dear.” Samuel said to the effervescent version of Levon’s teacher.

‘So, you two are both alive, at least that is something.” She said. Levon watched as a huge bubble began and then popped out of her nose.

“Nothing broken, and we’re in the best place we can be.” Samuel said to her, turning the glass around so she could see Levon properly.

“Hey Nina.” Levon said, waving like a kid.

“You should be somewhere safe, like at the church or here. We’re about to take control of the machines at the sites. Where are you anyway?” She asked them.

“We’re at the site, BET I would imagine. And we have Aiko’s family in the next room.” Samuel said, happily as if it was all going how he planned.

“What, oh I guess that is where they would’ve taken you. Right well, we have the members taking control now. Where abouts are you in there?” She asked, calmly.

“Haven’t a clue.” Samuel said.

“Sub level 23. It says it here.” Levon said, exasperatedly, pointing to some signage over on the wall.

“Well, if you’re up to it you can assist the team; or return here. I think we need to be sensible about all this. If we can secure the machines, we can perhaps buy some time for anything else that you might have in mind.” She said to Samuel, seeming to know what he was thinking.

“Nope, I think what we need to do is to take his family to the Altered. There is a process I think Aiko will respond to.” He said, confidently.

“What, why? What’s the point, we can change everyone with our own Holy water. Why do we need to bother with Aiko?” Levon said, confused. Nina also looked as she was interested to see where he was headed with this.

The Pope sighed and looked off for a moment, taking in the room with all its contraptions and technology.

“You’ve seen how far we’ve come. How technology and ideas have pushed us further, yet more divided than ever before. Changing people into more evolved beings will not change the way they think. They allowed the world to become this way, they justified it with their own cellular developments. Aiko is the product of that ideology; he represents all that they hold dear. But we need to change the system that gave us Aiko Tsutsumi, or the way of thinking at least.” His father said assuredly.

Levon thought about this, almost comically scratching his head as it began to make sense to him.

“So if we can get to Aiko, he will represent what everyone else can do in the world, after the change. What the world will need to be.” Levon suggested. His father smiled back, nodding his head.

“Change Aiko, and you change them all then; fully?” Nina added, her face sloshing against the glass.

“Exactly.” Samuel replied. “But we need to get to them soon, as it sounds like others might have plans for them.”

“We need to get moving then. Is Jess with the order?” Levon asked, only just sparing a thought for his friend.

“She is with the team at the HET facility, so far so good I hear.” Nina said.

“And who is securing Aiko?” Levon asked. Nina paused a little.

“Well, no one. We couldn’t trace him anywhere.” She said, slightly defeatedly.

“No need to worry. He’ll come to us.” Samuel said, putting the glass with Nina’s head in it down on the side.

“He will?” Levon asked, uncertain.

“He will indeed, and probably within the hour.” He replied, and he stuck his finger into the glass. “Will be in touch Nina.” He said and swirled her face back into the clear water. Levon watched as her surprised features evaporated.

“So you have a plan then?” Levon asked him. His father looked to him, playfully offended.

“Levon, I always have a plan. It’s just people don’t know that I always do.” He replied, and with that, he set off towards the door they had watched Stefan and Dr Camogue had left through earlier. Levon couldn’t help himself, and he smiled as he sped on after him.


 

Smartly Dressed Violence (Part xxiv)

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 xxiv

Secretly, Jess was amazed with herself.  It hadn’t been that long ago that she was feasting on such small scraps from the magical world she knew lay beyond her door. So tangibly there yet beyond her grasp. But with everything that had happened, the thrust into the realm had forced her to think on her feet.

She had gotten everyone back safely, navigating through time and space and magical portals. The bridge that she had been so awed by and hesitant of was now the doorway that she could pass by on in ease. The Altered had a strange way of presenting both places and timeframes, but she had been able to pass through, out and over it all. The markings on Levon’s companion were the key. Like a reboot button it allowed her to return to the Order’s main hub beneath St. Patrick’s cathedral. She would never understand the science or the magic to any learned degree, but she had felt the electricity within her bones when she had conjured and brought her family back home safely, leaving the Limbo and tickling the fringes of the Altered.

They had stumbled forth from a huge stone doorway which spewed a blueish vapour around them. The doorway, or more of a doorframe, was centred in the middle of a room similar to the laboratory crypt she had been in previously.  Around them the familiar sights of a church greeted them, but with these there were huge storage boxes, screens and strange objects which seemed to have been plucked right out of the Altered. The room was a bustle with people hastily moving about with agendas and intent. Jess and her family were greeted by members of the order who were alerted to their incoming return. Not long after they had orientated themselves, Karen entered the room from a little door hidden away at the side. She swept on up to Jess and embraced her, taking her off guard momentarily.

“Thank goodness you’re alright. And that you got back!” Karen said, breaking out of her extended embrace.

“Yes, it was pretty wild. But it was a success of sorts.” She said, casting her hand to her family to show that they were all alive and well.

“Just to get back on your own Jess, from the Limbo. That takes some doing, even with Levon’s return function. You have a grasp for the magic, it must accept you on a cellular level.” Karen said, smiling at her family.

“But where’s Levon, he disappeared after we released the pathogen. Which had no adverse effects, asides his removal. Where is he?” Jess said, putting her hand on her little brother’s shoulder, warning him not to run away as he clearly was prone to go and explore.

“He’s not here, but we know where he is. Jess, he was snatched by Atone, they intercepted during our trial of the pathogen release. It seems they have machines that can monitor the Altered and can also materialise users and objects. We’re not ignorant to this technology, we have our own trackers for the Altered; but to dematerialise from there, this is new to us. The dangers involved must be insane.” Karen said, Jess read the concern all over her face.

“But he’s alive?’ She asked urgently, worried more now.

“Yes, we know he is. He’s being held at site Bet. In one of the facilities within the towers. They also have the Pope with them, it seems they intercepted the cross activity along with another member of the order.” Karen added.

“At least he’s alive, but the Pope too. Wow. Thought he was beyond getting ensnared. So it seems they are doing their best to stop anything in the way of their plan to release the virus then.” Jess said. Her family were becoming agitated. Karen noticed this too and offered them to follow her. As they walked, jess asked what the next step was.

“Well, we will send some members to free both Levon and the Pope, but we still need to replace the virus with our own pathogen, now that thanks to you we know it works.” Karen said, leading them all down a corridor and into a huge room which had a more welcoming feel than the harshness of the church. She said her family could stay here before heading back to their home, they would be safer, and Jess agreed it would be the best for them. They settled in, taking to the huge chairs and couches while her grandmother went across to a small drinks table to mix herself something strong. Karen asked for Jess to follow her back, and after hugging her family and bidding them farewell, she followed Karen back out through the door and down the corridor.

“You’ve shown you can handle things, and indeed the magic. Jess, we’ve asked a lot of you but there is still more to do.” Karen said.

“I’m ready.” Jess said.

“We need to rescue Levon and the Pope, but we also need to stop the pandora machines. There’s one in each of the towers at the sites Het and Bet.” Karen said. They rounded into a room that was just as busy as the main one, with order members hurrying around. “Will you go to the tower in Het and switch the virus with our own Holy water. The readings we got from your family and the results of the pathogen are amazing, so we know it works”. Karen said.

“You were mapping us then?” Jess asked.

“Yes, much like Aiko’s technology we can monitor the Altered. We know the pathogen is stable now and can be released.” Karen said, excitedly.

“Great, I’m really pleased it worked. Not least because it was my family. But okay, yes; Aiko needs to be stopped. His time has come to an end.” Jess said.

“You’re telling me. Okay, you and some members will head to site Het. There may be some, umm; resistance…” Karen said, and Jess knew what she meant. Not one to look for trouble, Jess knew what the Others were likely to be like towards them, having lived for years at the end of their boots.

“I’ll try not to hurt too many people.” She replied.

“I had a feeling you could take care of yourself!” Karen said, smiling. “A rescue team, and another similar to yours will head to site Bet to do the same. We can’t seem to locate Aiko, so we have to assume he’s still moving forward as planned. Which is good for us in a way, as we know his timeframe.”

“Will Levon be okay, after he’s rescued. No damage done and all that?” Jess asked.

“He should be. There may have been some temporary reactions to the dematerialising, but we assume they are keeping them in stasis over there for some reason. They are both powerful people, and Aiko is no fool. He’ll want to keep them alive and use them.” Karen said, bringing up a screen and typing something into a system.

Jess hadn’t really had chance to stop or take things in, but she was getting used to this. She knew what was ahead of her, but she hoped that no one would be hurt. In her experience, someone always was; but enough people had suffered over the years and now it was time to end that.

“Better suit me up then, and let’s get going.” Jess said, and Karen smiled as the huge storage boxes opened up offering an array of military gear and weapons.

Levon pulled off the sensors that were stuck all over his body, pulling away more hairs than he would have liked. Fortunately, they did not trigger any disconnection alarms, or at least he hoped they weren’t silent. He prised at the connecting tube in his cylinder, forcing them to part and release him. The fluid that had covered half his body sploshed out onto the floor and washed away quickly down some metal grates. He went across to his father’s tube and pulled at his casing.

“Not opting for the clothes just yet then eh?” His father said, motioning to a rack of clothes on the side wall.

“Do you want to get out or not?” Levon asked, not seeing the humour.

“Of course, thank you. I shall look away until you are decent though. Respectfully.”  Samuel said as his own tube burst apart and the fluid sloshed outwards much like the other. They both went across and found the clothing hung up. It wasn’t their own clothes but suits that looked like they were made for astronauts more than lab technicians. Levon’s was a bit on the small side, and he held his breath as he squeezed uncomfortably in.

“How the hell are you here?” Levon asked him suddenly. His father finished zipping up the side of his suit, it shrank as it covered his body, moulding to his shape.

“Snug.” He said as the same thing happened to Levon’s.

“Were you in the Altered also then? These snatching machines must have taken us from there together and materialised us here at Atone.” Levon said, having pieced things together.

“That is quite a thing really, if you think about it. Locking on to targets like that.” Samuel said.

“They must have marker trackers that sense the energy spikes. But I didn’t know about the transporting technology.” Levon said.

“Come now, it’s not much different to stepping over. The same rules apply. But the flux of the world is the trick I imagine.” His father said, looking about the room more. Levon thought about this and agreed, it was the same principle really. With the magic, it always seemed mythical and somewhat spiritual to him. Knowing that the cold soulless world of technology had grasped something similar, saddened and worried him slightly.

“So what were you doing to get taken like that?” Levon asked his father as he put on some boots which too clasped to the outline of his feet.

“Well, you know. Save the world, stop the bad guy. The usual stuff that you have a habit of following.” His father said.

“No one really knows what you get up to do they? You lord about like some messiah, never letting people in or come close. Never giving time to explain what you are doing or why.” Levon’s frustrations were getting the better of them.

“Does it matter?” His father said bluntly. Levon looked at him, somewhat stunned.

“Don’t look at me like that. Honestly, does it really matter if the job gets done, if no one gets involved or hurt. I’m the one who sacrifices things every day, I’m the one taken to places I never wish to go. Do you not think I would like to be around and be normal, be that father figure to you solely and not the order?” He said earnestly. Levon couldn’t remember him ever talking to him like this.

“I…, I know you do good. That’s not what bothers me. It’s just, I feel like such a failure myself. I don’t deserve the gift I have, not when I see what you do and what little I can achieve.” Levon said, hoping it didn’t sound too much like a child complaining.

His father stepped forward and put his hand on his shoulder.

“That is your own journey. You can’t live yourself through someone else’s eyes. You have come here to be tested and to change from the original one that entered this material world. The evolution in your cells hurried the physical change, but spiritually are you any better than you were before?” He squeezed his son’s shoulder, endearing a closeness that neither of them had shared in years. “We both have talents and gifts; it’s how we use them that matter. We equally give and take too much and too little. I know this too.”

Levon smiled, happy to see the emotional aspect to his father instead of the absent vapour entity he had come to know.

“I guess we both need to change more.” Levon said, moving in to hug his father.

“Exactly. Maybe you a little more.” Samuel said, grinning back to his son before he thought he was being serious. “This experience has crossed our paths; I recognise that as a sign. After this we can unpack our emotions, and how we go forward. For now, we must get moving and finish what had been started. Aiko has been weakened, but his intent has only strengthened.”

“So he made an attack on the altered then?” Levon asked, knowing a lot already of Aiko’s endeavours in the magical space.

“Yes, and it’s failure has changed him in this material realm now. He’s a lot more disconnected to humanity, and willing to do more than before.” Samuel said.

“Hmm, wasn’t he before!” Levon asked.

“Let’s just say now he has something clouding his judgements.” His father said.

“Look, we’re in the Bet facility which is great as it’s where we need to be to take down Aiko’s pandora machine. We need to let the Order know we are okay.” Levon added.

“I will let them know now. Chances are they are sending members to take control of the machines at both towers.” His father said, looking around the room more. He spotted a shelf of beakers and jars, and went across to them, taking one beaker down of the shelf.

“Well, that’s good. So we should be able to help them and take control of this facility.” Levon stated, watching his father as he went across to the broken tube that he had come out of.

“We could do that, though I think they have things taken care of. Our focus should be what’s in the next room.” He dipped the beaker inside the tube, scraping it down to the bottom, filling it with some of the fluid which had remained. He lifted it out and began to swirl it around, muttering something very quietly and quickly.

“What’s so important about the Tanakas now?” Levon asked him. He saw as the clear fluid in the beaker slowly changed colour, blooming into a blue liquid.

“Well, they are Aiko’s flesh and blood after all. They are yet to play their big part in this story.” As his father said this, Nina’s face began to appear in the beaker, sloshing about the liquid.

“Nice to hear from you Samuel.” Nina said, the words bubbling to the top of the beaker.


Smartly Dressed Violence (Part xxiii)

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“Where’s Levon?” Jess asked, the euphoric whoops of her family still reverberated around the orb. She hastily darted her eyes back and forth, uselessly scanning the transparent space hoping to find him hiding in a corner.

“Wait, what happened to Levon?” Ethy asked, noticing his absence and Jess’s concern.

“Look!” Walter said, picking up Levon’s companion and handing it to Jess.

“Oh no! I knew something would happen.” Came from her mother’s wife, she was pulling at her cardigan sleaves agitatedly. Everyone slowly became silent, looking to Jess for some word or explanation. She, after all, knew about this stuff. After a moment, her mother looked at her and asked

“Jess dear, is everything okay? What’s happened?”

She had concern yet warmth in her eyes, the warmth Jess had known and loved for her lifetime. She looked around once more, taking in the world they were floating in. She went across to the hole in the side of the orb, strange green scorch marks bruised the edges of the gap.

“Obviously something has gone wrong, he wouldn’t have left us.” Ethy said, pulling her grandson in closer to her protectively. Jess caught herself there for a moment, remembering what Levon had said to them.

“He must have tried to stabilise it or correct something that was happening. Remember, he said he can go into the Altered if need be. That’s it, I’m sure.” Jess said, convincing herself as much as the others.

“But where is he now then?” Her mother’s wife asked, nervously.

“Well, maybe something happened which prevented him coming back right away. The magic is like energy, it drains as well as bolsters. Maybe he just needs some time.” Jess said. They all looked at her unsure. Jess continued.

“Either way, we are all alive, and the test worked. No one has any missing or additional body parts, right? So, it was a successful trial, we now have to get back to let them know as the order can move forward with the plan. The timeframe hasn’t changed.”

“But what about Levon?” Walter asked, his face saddened as if missing his dog.

“The order will know what to do. We have to head back right away.” She said, determinedly. As if action can put away the little doubts that had begun to creep into her mind.

“And you know how to do that, right?” Her mother asked her. Jess thought for a moment.

“Yes, I can do it.” She said, opening her own companion.

“Would Levon’s be able to help?” Her aunt asked, pointing towards his that Jess held also.

“The companions are personal; they only benefit the …. wait.” Jess said and started to frantically flick through Levon’s little book.

“Perfect, I can get us right back and where we need to be quick as a flash.” She said, and with that she placed her finger on a large symbol on the back of Levon’s companion and uttered a quick incantation. It echoed around the orb as if they were in a huge cathedral. Little particles of light drifted off the small book and peppered everyone in the orb, and with one bright flash they disappeared; leaving the orb to float for a moment before popping into nothing.

Levon had known pain before, the intense kind that forced you to cry inside. The mental anguish that can latch onto you in your darkest moments. Pain can be like a boiling hot bath that you are unable to get out of, or one that just burns your toe.

The pain that had engulfed him as he was ripped from the Limbo was nothing like he’d ever experienced or would ever want to again. It felt like his bones had been broken individually, grinded up and sprinkled back into some human form. He’s skin had felt as if it had been hacked off by a dull blade. His mind throbbed now in the afterglow of agony, housed in the cylindrical tube that was his new prison.

But he was not alone in this new confinement.

The room was dark yet spacious, the ceiling vaulted upwards with an array of tubes and conducts snaking their way to different homes. Levon stood in a glass tube, held into position by metal jacks which poked into all areas of his body. He was naked, and he felt it; the cold, almost frigid air panted over him as a scanning device rotated up and down the glass, checking his status.

To his left there were two other tubes and he’d noticed another one to his right. This one was not empty like those on the other side, this one housed another soul, and one whom Levon recognised instantly.

His father was propped up inside the glass much like himself, yet he was not conscious; Levon could see that. His head hung forward and to the side, and for a moment Levon thought of the crucifixion images that had so captured, and fetishized Christ’s last moments on the cross.

Levon had only just come to, and his mind was trying to map together the events that had transpired. Aside from the physical pain that still ran through him, he felt something else, a tingling in his arms. He looked down and saw little particles dancing on his symbols and markings. The green and blue flecks peppered his skin, and he felt a slight numbing sensation over the marked areas. The red scanning device burst back and forth, sparking the particles into little jolts of lightning. His body tingled and ached, and his brain still felt sluggish.

The lights in the room bloomed to brightness, and two persons entered and came close to the glass. Levon closed his eyes, pretending his state of continued unconsciousness. Though muffled, he could just about hear what they said through the glass.

“So vital signs are all good?” Stefan asked to the woman who stood next to him. She was tall and wore a pale blue lab coat which seemed to fit her oddly, extending her neck and head upwards almost comically.

“Surprisingly so for what they’ve been through. The older is struggling a bit more, but the fact they survived was a miracle.” The woman said, sliding through a report which she projected up in front of them both. She slid along some screens that floated there, seeming to find what she was looking for. “For some reason the system can’t generate an age for Wexton senior, the gene maps are all over the place with him.”

“Not to worry, we have enough information as it is on these two. Mr Tsutsumi has requested certain, urm, procedures for these two.” Stefan said, his eyes darted back and forth.

“I’m sure he has, the extraction machine that’s been fitted to the facility is a big indicator of what he has planned.” The woman said, resting a hand on her hip.

“Dr Camogue, I’m sure you will be the epitome of professionalism.” Stefan said, sarcastically.

“As I break the law, of course I will be.” She said, smiling a knowing smile.

“It’s for a greater good, remember that.” Stefan added, almost marking the authority that he thought he had.

“Oh, I do indeed. There will be certain benefits to my own studies with this anyway. So win win I would say.” She replied.

“Good, then I will keep quiet about what you do with your little project, if you remain equally taciturn with mine.” Stefan said, turning to face her now. She seemed unfazed, as if expecting this circumstance.

“Certainly. Would you like to see them also?” Dr Camogue asked. Her eyes flared red momentarily as the scanners descended and ascended up the cylinders. Stefan nodded to her. She flicked some screens and reset the reports as the screen disappeared. Levon could hear some whirling sounds and felt the throb of the scanner going past him. Dr Camogue walked across the room towards another door, this vanished in an instant as the detector read her authority pass, shimmering the door away.

“I’ve kept the Tanakas isolated, as there is a different agenda for them. Best not to muddy the waters, but they are all in stasis, until you tell me what to do with them next.” She said, walking Stefan through the door and out of earshot of Levon.

The door returned and once more Levon was alone in the room with just his father. Levon watched as the lights darkened once more and then turned to look at him as he was stirring in his tube. His father rolled his head back and forth before opening his eyes. He seemed alert instantly, grasping his confines and predicament much quicker than Levon had.

“Ah, Levon. Fancy meeting you here.” He said, giving his son a friendly smile.


Smartly Dressed Bonus

With the serial Smartly Dressed Violence coming to it’s conclusion shortly, it has expanded into some different arenas before its end. Please check out the audio version as a podcast or youtube video to catch up on previous chapters.


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Smartly Dressed Violence (Part xxii)

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Part xxii

Stefan picked up the glass of water, looking at the remnants in the bottom. Dark particles and flecks of green swirled in the glass, sediments that Aiko had dribbled back into. He took the glass away from the dimly lit room in which Aiko was resting within on a raised bed. He still wore the suit which he had used going across into the Altered, the helmet placed to one side.

Stefan returned moments later, the glass now devoid of the contaminants and refilled with fresh water.

“What else do you need?” Stefan asked, placing the glass down by the side. Aiko quickly reached across for it, his arm a mangled piece of flesh now, riddled with what looked like heavy burning but scorched black. Little flecks of green, like those in the glass, peppered his flesh like little emeralds.

“To hydrate, quickly.” Aiko spluttered, his mouth sparking little green sparks. “The hydrogen water is suffice, but for now I just need to recover.” He added, emptying the glass hurriedly.

Stefan reached over to take it from him.

“What else can I do?” He asked him, unsure of how to proceed. He had found Aiko slumped unconscious when he’d come to his home to collect some contracts. Aiko occupied the top few floors in one of his buildings on the Southbank, his main city residence. He preferred this one to his others as it was close to his business and could operate efficiently within the city.

Stefan had found him lying on the floor, surrounded by a small area of blackness, like powdered charcoal. He had got him into his bed just as he had regained consciousness. Aiko had ordered him to administer a medical robot to scan him over, checking his vitals and any signs of damage. Stefan had watched silently as the robot had done its magic, injecting and reporting until Aiko was more comfortable. He had placed the helmet near to the bed, noticing the scorch marks on it and the damage also to Aiko’s body. At first glance his injuries seemed to be burns, but the strange glows and the fine powder had troubled him. The most disturbing aspect to Stefan however were Aiko’s eyes, which now shone with an inky blackness covering the sclera.

Stefan was not an idiot, he knew of the Altered, in whatever form it had been known to him. Hearsay and whispering, subtle hints at another world and little tales of magic. He knew this was where Aiko went, this was also what he put some of Aiko’s power down to. How he was able to operate so successfully in this world. We all needed little aids. Aiko had never discussed this with him before, but he had guessed something of this sort. He had seen the machines and the technology the company produced, Aiko’s future plans and especially his latest venture, which relied so heavily on an ambiguous element. Discovering him how he did, he assumed something had gone wrong perhaps over in this place.

“What is the time-frame for EDEN?” Aiko stammered from the bed, ignoring Stefan’s question.

“Sir, you may need further medical….” But Aiko interrupted.

“I’m fine. What is the time-frame now?” He asked again. Stefan tapped at his wrist, files and images illuminated into the air, harshly in the low light.

“Six hours until we begin initiation of the final phase. Dependent on source deployment which has yet to be confirmed. Resettlement phase has completed, and operations are functional at full capacity. Two hours until the west side lock down comes into effect, as discussed; the disaster procedure framework will initiate the lockdown.” Stefan reported, his voice dry in the cold air.

“The source has yet to be contained, I need to handle this myself. It will require a four-hour window. Please factor this in.” Aiko said, sitting up slightly.

“In addition?” Stefan asked. Aiko looked over, the dark eyes revealing nothing.

“No, in unison.” He replied. He tapped some buttons on his suit, and this seemed to melt away; the textures caving in on each other like tiny bricks folding away. He moved the small disk to one side, the compacted suit now reduced down to the size of a playing card.

“Very well. Anything else?” Stefan asked, eager to get away from the room, which was now creeping over him ominously, like dark hands now scratching at his legs.

“I need to get some things together. They are here, but I will need your help. So don’t leave without telling me.” Aiko wheezed, as if struggling to talk.

“Perhaps….” Stefan began, but caught himself.

“I’m fine, the recovering will take about an hour. I need for you to begin the isolation solution, shift the power from site Het to initiate. The stockpiles should form within the time it takes for me to heal.” Aiko said, closing his eyes.

Here Stefan seemed to straighten up, eager to share some good news.

“These have already been done and finalised. The isolations have migrated the conflicting pathogens across. We did this as a test for the system, but they took such little power due to the new cells at the facility that we went ahead already.”

“What?” Aiko said, he voiced veiled any anger that may have been present.

“Well, we needed to move ahead with the timeline. And as we hadn’t heard from you, it was agreed to continue as planned.” Stefan replied, unsure now if this was the right thing to have done.

Aiko remained quiet, processing this information. He sat forward, looking at his arm now and the markings that were riddle up and down it. He turned to Stefan.

“Were there any by-products?” He asked.

Stefan nodded, as if expecting this question.  “Yes, there were, but we’ve isolated these away. It was as you said, anything in flux would be captured.”

Aiko then smiled, sensing a victory.

“How many?” He asked. Stefan tapped again at his wrist. Little lights danced out, projecting some images.

“Three individuals, one of which died through re-alignment.” Stefan said, unfazed by the information.

“Is one of them Levon?” Aiko asked suddenly, a strength coursing through his words.

Stefan looked again at his information.

“Yes, a Levon Wexton and Samuel Wexton.”

Something in the room changed then, though Stefan knew not what.

“What did you say?” Aiko asked, almost as if he’d been insulted.

Stefan repeated, checking the information as if searching for an error.

“I’m assuming father and son.” He added, hesitantly.

It was the first time Stefan had heard Akio Tsutsumi laugh, he who was closest to him had rarely seen him display any great emotion. It was the first time, and he hoped it would be the last as it slithered and coiled around him in the room in a disturbingly maniacal fashion. Making the space a place he longed to leave quickly.


Smartly Dressed Violence (part xix)

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Jess had a story like many others, a cataloguing of moments in her youth that pushed her to the side of rebellion. She had watched for years how those with and without S.I.N were treated differently. How the great gap between the two seemed to be widening. It was assumed that Jess was a sufferer herself, tainted by the genetic mutation that kept some in the lower bowels of society.

But she was not.

Jess had always had a distaste for discrimination. Her very soul had rejected the nonsense and justification of how and why society behaved as it did now. She felt everyone was equal, despite of where you came from, what your were or how your cells formed and grew. She had be called an idealist with much of her ‘radical’ thoughts put down to her youth. But it was her youth that bred the rebellion within also, the mutinous feelings she had for how she was told to live.

When she discovered there was another way, and others who felt the same as she; Jess poured her effort into undoing the pain that the past had normalised. She craved to know more of the Altered and the magic, to do her part in righting the wrong. Her path had crossed Levon’s, a ghost like being in the revolution. His skills and gifts were well known, but also his allusiveness and reluctance to fully engage in the fight. Now Jess knew a little better the part he played. The veil had been lifted on the The Order and she had gotten what she had wanted, a true part to play in the war against the unjust.

Aiko had long ago become a target for her rage and contempt. She knew all about his upbringing of course, she had done her research well. She knew the secrets he kept and the hypocritical state of his youth. He may be smartly dressed on the outside, but inside he had been just as ‘unclean’ as the many he and his fellow appraisers shamed and kept persecuted.

All her efforts it seemed had come to this, to this tipping point where finally she had a real shot at correcting.

“Jess, are you in?” Nina asked her, tapping her knee slightly as if to rouse her.

“What, oh yes…of course.” Jess replied, her mind turning over the plan that had been hatched.

“Do you have your companions?” Nina asked, holding her own little book before them.

“Always” Levon said, producing his own.

“Yep.” Jess said, reaching inside her jacket and taking out her little black book.

“Good, then we have no time to waste. Levon…” Nina started, but was interrupted by a murmuring sound.

“Answer.” Nina said, turning to face a floating hologram behind her. The Gustave Doré rendering suddenly transformed into the giant head of Dr. Winkoski whom they’d been with not long before.

“Karen, what’s up?” Nina said, she was calm and polite. Karen seemed on edge.

“Ah, good. You are all there. There has been a development.” She said. In the background the lab they had been in earlier was a bustle of activity.

“What’s happened?” Nina asked.

“It’s Aiko, we found him in the altered. He was trying to get through the gates of Asher.” Karen said.

“Found as in apprehended, or found the remains of him?” Nina queried.

“We found him, but he escaped back into the material realm. When he tried to get through the gates, he was stopped. The exchange seems to have banished the darkness too, for it no longer swirls around the Altered. Our members are reporting it is not showing anywhere.” Karen said.

Nina was a quiet for a bit, thinking over what he had heard. She looked to the giant globe that was in the centre of the room, and noticed the blackness had gone.

“Was it he who stopped him?” Nina asked, her voice almost a whisper now.

“Who else.” Karen replied, before continuing. “We know Aiko still has his companion, and we must assume he was able to return on his own. Our disturbance trackers show entry and departure points that match his movements.  We are waiting for word to come from his Atone industries to confirm if they are still on course.”

“We must assume, like you said, he returned. He will follow his plan, he believes in it too much. But we need it confirmed before we act.” Nina said.

“Agreed. We’re trying to get this information now, but I would say we must proceed with our time-frame if we are to stop him.” Karen added.

“And what of his holiness?” Nina asked.

Karen looked away momentarily at this, as if uncomfortable slightly.

“We’ve yet to contact him.” She said, slightly embarrassed.

“Not too surprising. I’m sure he’ll appear just at the right moment, he usually does.” Nina said, looking across to Levon.

“Well, we’ll update you when we know more. I’ll continue to organise the final stages from our side, and transferring of our reversal pathogen. Awaiting confirmation of its success from you still.” Karen said.

“Right, and we are about to start the test so it will be with you shortly.” Nina said to Karen.

“Speak soon.” Karen said and logged off.

“He’s been busy.” Levon said to Nina as the hologram changed back to the Dore prints which spun and moved in classic beauty.

“The Pope has his reasons, I’m sure he’ll appear soon.” Nina said.

“Well, he was always an absent father in my life so I’m not surprised he’s doing the same thing to others.” Levon said, his face showing annoyance.

“Your father is the Pope?” Jess asked, this day seeming to offer her a new surprise after the next.

“Yep. And for all his goodness, he never sticks around long enough to be of any real benefit.” Levon snapped.

“He has his calling, he is doing what he knows is right.” Nina interjected.

Levon sat there, thinking on this.

“Maybe, but he’s never there when I need him.” Levon replied.

“I’m sorry for that, but if the world is better for his actions, then you have to deal with your own issues and selfishness. There is more at stake right now.” Nina offered in her quiet calming fashion. This seemed to do the trick as Levon seemed to shrug off his annoyance as he moved on the chair, perhaps seeing the bigger picture.

“So, what do we do first?” Jess asked, trying to get into action.

“We need to test the reversal pathogen. We can only stop Aiko otherwise if we don’t know how it will work.” Nina said.

“But I thought there wasn’t enough time to check its effectiveness.” Jess asked.

“There is a way. There is a place between the Altered and the material realm. A purgatory if you will. It seems to react intensely with anything from the Altered, but also stabilises things from the world below. We believe if we test the pathogen there on a group, we can gauge the potency of the agent and its success.” Nina said.

“So, we need some volunteers?” Levon said.

“Some brave ones I’d say. That is quite a risk.” Jess said.

“All or nothing at this stage. Can you gather some people who suffer with S.I.N to go with you to this place and test it?” Nina asked Jess. Jess looked away, taking in the vast room and all the words that were continued in the books. How many of those books continued stories of hope, of overcoming? She turned to face both Levon and Nina.

“I think I know just the people.” Jess replied.


 

Smartly dressed violence (part xviii)

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The Altered, the other realm. A place only known by those who had ever been there. It is easy to imagine another fantasy world, one which moves on an axis of magic and mystery. Yet it is a place that defies true understanding. Most technology fails to operate there, simple mechanical devices or computers are redundant in the atmosphere that swells and whispers spirits. This adds to the mystification and fascination of the place; throwing up questions of origins and beginnings as much as endings. Did we crawl out of this land on our bellies? Did we rid ourselves of the magic and lore like flicking away the fins and gills of our ancestors?

The magic has continued though; transported through doorways and openings, brought back by the brave and knowledgeable who understood and hoped to help the world with it. Mystic passages and symbols scrawled out by something that echoes in our own history. It has its own essence, its own living and breathing being that moves to the thoughts and the whims of those in possession. Magic, though dangerous and dazzling, can truly reflect those who wield it. For good or ill. The magic from the altered is a mirror and an enhancer of the one who handles it. The incantations, the essence from the physical place can be used in such wondrous ways. Which is how the Order have been handling it. Respectfully. Treating it as a living entity that, like anything loved, is handled with care.

Aiko stood now in the Altered, himself covered in a black suit as if travelling through space. He wore a helmet which was transparent, giving him a 360 degree view of everything around him. That everything now though was clogged in a thick black fog which was beginning to swirl and descended upon him, blotting him out entirely. Something kept the fog at a distance however, a little green flame in his hand he held before him like an offering. The little fire was a concoction, a breathing into being of the magic that hung in particles all around him.

He was not stupid, he knew the construct of this place and how delicate the system could be. He knew how it reacted and contracted to other people’s presence. The Order. He had seen them here many times. Slithers of white and blue light that would transverse the plains; not so much as meddling, but going by their own designs. Aiko had once thought they could work together, their plans not so different. He had come there once too as a student, eager to learn, eager to overcome this place which had at first inspired and frightened him. But as he grew, both here and back home, his mind and resolve became hardened and addled. His thoughts of others evaporated and his intent became clearer.

There was much power here, one he could harness. Not just to rid the city of those who he wished to teach a lesson to, his great flood so to speak. But to capture the essence and magic of this place, to bridge it over to the other world. He would then be able to control more than he could ever imagine.

The fly in the ointment however was the organic nature of this place, this Altered where each action had a seismic reaction. His pillaging and raping of this place had resulted in this darkness, this fog which was withering and unstructering all. He could see it, he knew what was occurring. He wondered if the damage could be undone. He knew the Order were trying to do just that, but each time he came here he seemed to make it worse. He had delved into the books, the lore and the mysticism and to him it spoke in riddles. There was something he didn’t quite understand.

He came now to a place, the one he had been fearful to go to if he were honest with himself. Before him giant metal gates loomed up into the sky. To say it was forbidden to go there was not a true reflection of what the writings said. What they actually told of was a place in the Altered where those with heavy hearts feared to go. Where the gates we closed to hearts and minds that could never be opened. There was always danger in the altered, missteps and mistakes had taken people. Snatched them into a trapped existence tangibly in view but forever lost.

The gates loomed high before him, the blackness covering much of it now above out of sight. A quiet heavy sound of silence was slowly being punctured by a tap-tap, which was beginning to build somewhere off behind the gates. His little green flame flickered, reducing slightly and threatening to go out. A blue light moved beyond the gates. A flash and flicker, the tap became more prominent.

“Who is there?” Aiko demanded, his little green flame growing with his command.

Only silence returned.

He looked above him through his helmet, through the suit that protected him now from the fog that he had found corroded flesh. The fog above the gates was dispersing, blanketing off to the sides as if cleared by a giant hand.

“You cannot enter Aiko, you know this.” A voice came from beyond.

“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do.” Aiko replied, definitely.

“This is nothing your heart isn’t telling you also.” The voice said, seeming to creep about him now like its own miasma of eeriness.

“Be that as it may, I will be entering.” Aiko said. His plan rested on what was beyond the gates, his own bridge to the world below.

“If you do that, there will be no world to bridge to.” The voice came back, almost mockingly. Aiko was not surprised; he knew the nature of the Altered, how it revealed things you may never speak. But it had annoyed him nonetheless.

“That is a chance I’m willing to take. If you take me for a fool, then it is your mistake.” Aiko said, taking out his little book that he always kept on him.

“I do not think you a fool Ai, I know you too well.” The voice said. This did surprise him. No one called him Ai anymore, few even used his first name so casually. Ai was his childhood name.

“Stop it.” Aiko said, yet showing no signs of surprise. He found the page he was looking for and tapped the symbols on the page. His own little green fire died suddenly, but before the darkness descended he muttered an incantation and beneath his feet little green particles began to emerge from the ground. On his left arm he swivelled a dial on his suit and the particles flew towards it like a magnet. They bubbled in place, building to a sphere in a split second before exploding upwards into the darkness above and around him.

The flecks of green light seemed to cling to the darkness, haltering its movement.

“You’re like the little child who dipped his dirty hand in honey to have a taste Ai.” The voice came again, followed by a flash of blue beyond the gates momentarily.

“I warned you.” Aiko said, now angry. He turned the dial on his arm which seemed to energise the particles, he pushed forward with his hand and the darkness contracted around him, beginning to move forward at his command towards the gates. As they touched them they began to steam the metal, hissing the bars like a million serpents escaping a nest.

“I still think you can be saved Aiko, you just keep choosing the hard way.” The voice came, this time from behind him. Aiko turned quickly but the light blinded him. A Blue and white flash engulfed him; swallowing everything, including the darkness. He fell to the floor in a daze as the voice dissipated everywhere, an incantation he had never heard melted everything away.

It was a long time before Aiko awoke. He lay there in his custom made suit as the blue light washed everything it touched, bringing a gleam to the gates and the Altered he found himself in. When he did wake, he could still see the darkness fogging his vision. This was not because it had returned, but because it now resided inside him; forever staining what he saw.


Smartly Dressed Violence (Part xvii)

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The world had changed, and not for the better. As the years tumbled into the next, different generations had accepted the disparity between those with and those without S.I.N. They had grown accustomed to the hierarchy, where those smartly dressed betters were financially, intelligently and genetically superior. S.I.N produced no outwardly physical difference, yet it left a lasting trace over the lives of those with it. The change was swift and brutal. Humanity was put up on the shelf for later while this new world grappled with the gulf of difference, allowing it to be filled with years of pent up racism, discrimination and an endless lists of phobias which were now all legitimised. A caste system emerged that everyone now subscribed to, for God had made it all this way. Supposedly.

People now accepted how things were, and those at the top gave no thought to changing things. Why would they, they were supreme. Shuffling to and fro in their lives with all the abundance at their disposal.

The three of them watched them now, the inhabitants of the city, rushing about in the streets below from the vantage point of the library. A huge glass wall jutted out on one side of the room, scrapping its glassy finger into the city air beyond the walls; giving a balcony view down into the city. Jess watched the people in their finery, hopping aboard Tsutsumi transportation and disappearing off around the city streets or into tunnels which lead to other caves of wonders beneath the pavement.

Levon and Jess had followed Nina into the huge library, its feel quite different from the almost tropical room before. It was a library in the sense of books stacked high in huge bookshelves, some of which curved over at the top, transporting their precious contents over in gravity defying suspension above their heads. In the centre of the room a huge glass orb seemed to drip upwards from the glass floor, a perfect sphere which hummed and glowed with a translucent blue and green light. Jess at first thought it was just a globe of the world, but looking at it further she realised it was more than that. At the centre there was indeed the world, as she knew it, surrounding it however were layers of dimensions, each were encapsulating a new landscape which flowed and moved like bits on a chess board. Swathes of mist and vapour moved around these other levels, and Jess knew then what she was looking out. It was the Altered, a dimensional representation of the other world which, according to the moving diorama before her, surrounded the world.

Nina offered them a seat on the half-moon chairs that surrounded the globe and went to a small drinks trolley that stood by a huge hologram that displayed famous images from literature, changing every few seconds. She returned with some drinks for them and sat down next to Jess.

“Please forgive the somewhat half-baked reception, ideally I would show you around more Jess and be more forthcoming about this place and what we do. I no doubt presume you’ve been told most things by Karen and Levon here, but there are many levels to the order and many many things regarding the Altered and the magic which, I’d wager, you’d be keen to know.” Nina said. She spoke quietly, yet firmly. An underlying strength concealed in her soft quiet words.

“Jess knows enough I’d say. The best knowledge is practice and she’s already been baptised now. She’s been to the Altered already, and if I may speak for her; she’s keen to get to work.” Levon said, looking surprisingly timidly from Jess to Nina.

Jess nodded in agreement. Something about Nina made her crave her good approval or good graces.

“Well, to work then we must get. For there is much to do.” Nina replied, taking a sip from her own glass. The pink liquid within stained the rim before melting back down into a diamond pink glow in the bottom.

“We know what Aiko has planned, and the two points in the city in which he intends to unleash the virus. Now it’s easy enough, relatively speaking, to stop him. We have the agents and means to do so. We also know his plan and timeline, so we can orchestrate our own in which to combat his. I see two problems right now. ” Nina said.

“Just two?” Levon asked.

“Come now Levon, as your teacher I know your abilities. Stopping a crazed super-villain would be a walk in the park for you.” Nina replied.

“Well, now that I have my trusty sidekick too.” Levon said, cheekily.

“I don’t think so.” Jess added tautly.

From a bookcase on the far side, a seismic shudder seemed to reverberate from the selves. Jess looked over to the case. Old books were stacked upon it, but there was something different about them.

“It seems the Altered is becoming impatient.” Nina said, referring to the books which now began to ooze a vapour. Dark spots also appeared on the globe in front of them, small patches of shadow like a bruise on a peach seemed to swell and dissipate around the sphere.

“This is one of the problems. The Altered has been infected too much by Aiko’s presence. It has unbalanced the very fabric there, and it too must be cleansed. Now, if we can stop Aiko; we assume that the darkness won’t grow any further. We need to cleanse it, and restore it to what it was. That’s where you come in Levon.” Nina said, looking at Levon earnestly.

“Yep, one step ahead of you. I figured that’s what I would be called upon to do.” Levon said.

“It’s your abilities that we need to stop the corruption in the Altered, but we need to make sure Aiko’s access and interference has stopped. We need to revoke the magic he has tainted.” She added.

“So we need to intercept him and his plan, replace the agent with our own and then cleanse the Altered?” Levon asked.

“Yes. That’s the long and short of it.” Nina replied.

“So what’s the second problem?” Jess asked, her own drink now empty. She put the glass down on a small glass table at her side.

“The second problem is, as Karen no doubt told you, that our own pathogen is not yet ready. If we swap it with Aiko’s then we risk doing similar damage to his own.”

“Then why don’t we just wait? Stop him releasing his and wait until the cure is fully ready? What’s the rush?” Jess asked.

Levon turned to Nina also, curious to hear her answer.

“I agree we should, and would if we things weren’t so unpredictable. But this might be our only chance to release our cure, as you put it, on a mass scale with the aid of Aiko’s technology.” Nina replied.

“What do you mean? Once we have it, we can use it at our own conveyance.” Levon said.

Nina shook her head.

“As dangerous and deranged as Aiko is, and as extensive as our own enterprises is, we don’t have his resources or indeed technology. We’ve tried with our own trials and transmutation machines. They just don’t cut.” Nina said.

Levon looked angry, his brow furrowed and he looked at the floor as if some answer lay there. He went on.

“But why the rush, can’t we just keep the technology once we acquire it?” Levon said.

“Ideally yes, but our sources indicate that Aiko has systems in place that suggest that once compromised they will become inoperable.” Nina said with a sigh.

“A self-destruct. We are in a movie aren’t we?” Levon said with frustration.

“I understand your reasoning though. I agree that we do things on our own time-frame. But it has been escalated and this may be our only chance. If the Altered can’t be cleansed, and the damage done by Aiko is irreparably, then we won’t have more chances. It’s now or never.” Nina said.

“So that is quite a problem. What’s the solution?” Jess asked.

Nina took a moment, looking into both their eyes, almost scanning for understanding.

“Well Jess, the solution hopefully resides with you on this one.” Nina replied.


 

Smartly Dressed Violence (Part xvi)

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Jess watched as the blur of the tunnel rushed by. Dark earthy stones like the walls of the church snaked away before and after them as they sped deep under the city. The tunnel was lit by the same blue lights that she had come to recognise both the Order and the Altered with.

It took nearly no time for them to reach their destination, the automatic controls of their little mobile clinking in and slowing them to a stop beneath a square hatch above them. The lifted upwards, the hatch opening to allow them inside like a strange spaceship docking bay. She looked at Levon who, as always, expressed little surprise to his surroundings. This must all be old news to him she thought.

They rose up into a space which was very much removed from the old stone walled confines of the crypt. The room was open and airy, with high ceilings and huge windows which reached up beyond the ceiling line. The walls were dusted in a smooth red copper, and plants and foliage hung and crept from all manner of nooks and crannies. It smelt lush, fragrant; as if they had entered a small snatched part of the jungle somewhere.

“Are we at the Zoo?” Jess asked, stepping out of the mobile and onto a glass floor. A few steps away from her she could see water flowing beneath, eventually cascading out into a small waterfall towards the edge of the room.

“A personal zoo of sorts, yeah. My teacher likes animals and living things.” Levon said.

“And they got stuck with you, shame.” Jess joked.

“It’s an appreciation for life, the thing that is most important I suppose.” Levon said, clearly understanding it better than he made out.

They stood there momentarily, a few parrots rustling above their heads and fluttering down to a lower roost in a palm across the room. The huge Bali styled doors opened on the far side, dispelling the mist that was gathering at the bottom of the door. I little figure stood there for a moment, silhouetted in the light that equally poured in from the other room.

“It seems I was the one in need of help, not you Levon.” The little voice said, fading away quickly under the sounds of the waterfall which sploshed the water down the artificial glass rocks.

“This is the teacher.” Levon said to Jess, casting his hand in the direction of the small woman who had begun to make her way across the room now. She was tiny, barely five foot. She moved gracefully though, almost floating across the glass floor towards them. Her silken clothes and coiffed hair gave Jess a regal impression and contradicted both her own and Levon’s rough and ready outwear.

She came over to them and outstretched her hand, offering it to Jess.

“Nice to meet you Jess, my name is Nina.” The woman said. Jess shook her hand which felt oddly soft, almost too velvety; as if she was a collection of the vapour she had just walked through.

“Good to meet you.” Jess replied, still taking both the woman and the room in.

“Levon here likes to make out he’s never phased by anything, but I do believe that he is very put out sharing this all with you.” Nina said, eyeing Levon wickedly.

“Uh, I wouldn’t say put out.” Levon replied, but Nina went on.

“It’s a very personal relationship to have with a teacher, and this very space here is a sanctum for us. Not many have passed up through the floor there that you just have. And never with company.” Nina added. She stood there now with her arms tucked away in her long silks. Jess was unsure if she was being chastised, reprimanded or cautioned. Nina’s expression did not lend to any interpretation, her features stood like a carved stature, trapped in beauty.

“I, uhhh.” Jess began but Nina smiled, sensing her nervousness.

“Please, do not feel alarmed. All this is pretty intense I imagine. You are safe, and most welcome; indeed I think you are exactly what we need right now.” Nina said, resting a light touch on her shoulder tenderly.

Jess was relieved, and smiled in reply.

“Looks like you’ve added some more parrots since I was here last.” Levon said, motioning towards two parakeets which were chirping noisily above them. Nina looked above, smiling still.

“The more the merrier I find.” Nina said, extending her arm out. The two birds suddenly flew down and rested on her outstretched arm, their noisy chirping now changed to a sweet birdsong.

“Amazing.” Jess said, watching the little birds.

“They are a delight. But come, you must need refreshing and a good sit down I imagine.” Nina said, turning towards the door she had entered through. She began to walk away and Levon and Jess followed, their shoes echoing over the glass floor.

“Just mind your step.” Nina said, motioning to a large dollop of bird crap on the shiny glass floor. “A delight, but a messy one.” She added.

The birds then took off as they made their way into the other room, leaving the humid nature of the tiny rain-forest behind and entering what Jess could only call a library. The likes of which she had never seen before in her life.


 

Smartly dressed violence (part xv)

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The city sprawled out across the bay which curved round like a crab. The huge gleaming skyscrapers rose high, dotted across the expanse looking like giant teeth from out to sea. The city was indebted to the ocean, growing out of its natural harbour and becoming a gateway to this part of the country. In recent years the city had begun to creep out ever further into the bay, huge complexes which dug down deep into the shaky sandy ground under the waves.

Atone industries was no different, with facilities on the west side and also underneath the central CBD; leaving their development centres to be on the coastline, a hybrid of industry and futuristic posturing with their sleek designs and innovative constructions. For Aiko, size was everything, and his properties were known to be the tallest points in the city. He would boast some of the best views of the ocean from atop his giant towers, the looming monoliths sporting his name for all to see.

It was these towering structures that Aiko hoped would be the key to his planned ‘modification’ for the city. The height and change in pressure allowed the magical elements to react better in the thinner atmosphere. This gave him the opportunity to hide in plain sight, stationing his machines at the summit of these towers that lay in the heart of the city.

The Order had known what Aiko was planning for some time. That change in the Altered had begun some time ago, the fabric shifting and fraying the further along he seemed to be going. They also knew from their sources inside Atone industries and the hidden world of magic that something was being prepared. In many ways it was a battle of good versus evil, but at the root of the war; they shared the same goal. They both wanted to use the magic and essence of the Altered as a great equaliser, to eradicate the level of us and them from society. Too long had there been a great discrepancy between those with and without S.I.N.

With the help of their sources, The Order had been able to monitor Aiko’s plans for the city. His ‘alteration’ machines had been developed to be placed at the top of two towers, for maximum coverage. With his accumulated maligned source of essence, he planned to release this over the city where it would converge with the particles in the air and be drawn into each person’s cells. Those below who lived in the city. No one was safe as these particle attractions had been manipulated to be drawn to human tissue. It did not discriminate. Upon release, with the correct incantation, which would be broadcast throughout the cities C&M (Chipped and marker) system, which all citizen by law were made to have; the essence would begin its evolutional thrust.

What Aiko failed to know, was that the magic of the essence would not follow his planned selection process. The Order had learned that on the levels in use for the whole city, they would change the mutation of essence, as the incantation they knew he planned to use had a sub-verse within the text. In simple terms, it operated on a ‘one for all’ method, in that, it would power the essence to the overall rate of change. Aiko wanted to select a middle range of survivors, an age group outside himself that he believed were the best and fitting for his new utopia. His plans would not follow this rule and would override to modify everyone at the same rate. Like Pandora, what he would release could not be controlled.

Fortunately, The Order had been working on their own variant form of essence. They had developed something which worked in-tune with the Altered, on the same principles that Aiko had in mind. The difference being that theirs had to work from the Altered, through a conduit that could control and defuse the rate of power being unleashed.

Jess looked at Levon as Karen finished talking. She cocked her head to the side.

“So, you are our saviour then I’m guessing Mr Messiah?” Jess said, understanding now what was planned. Levon grinned and extended his hand, king like; jokingly suggesting she kiss it.

“I prefer the term superhero.” Levon replied, grinning.

“Come on, be serious both of you. This is important, and we have no time to loose. Aiko has already re-located his staff to his Het and Bet facilities under the city. That means they have entered the final phase.” Karen said. She handed Jess a small glass bottle in the shape of a cross that she had taken from the cabinet.

“How long do you think?” Jess asked.

“The intelligence suggest tomorrow night is when he plans to turn on the machines.” Levon said.

“Wow. Then, we need to get moving. What’s this for?” Jess asked, holding the bottle.

“This is a sample of what Aiko has developed, the maligned essence. You’ll need this to open up the Pandora machines, their elemental readers will only operate if its sequence is detected.” Karen said.

“Will one be enough?” Jess asked.

“I’ve got the other.” Levon said, shaking a little bottle also.

“So how are you going to be in the Altered also?” Jess asked, not quite clear on the plan.

“You will be meeting someone who will help you, Levon will take you there. All will be explained. I will handle things from here, this place is more than just a church or science lab you know” Karen said.

“Okay, so let’s go.” Jess said, making her way back towards the door they came through.

“There’s a quicker way, follow me.” Levon said, making his way around the corner of the room where a huge glass box stood, touching the roof of the tomb. Jess followed him and watched as he scanned his arm across a reader by the glass. It changed colour to green and the stones behind it moved backwards. Beneath the floor a small hover cart moved upwards until it was docked in place. The glass slid down, the cart hovered there at knee height.

“Jump in.” Levon said.

“Transport too?” Jess said, hopping into one of the seats.

“Of course, the popemobile silly.” Levon replied, jumping in next to her. He swiped the dashboard and the glass returned to the room and they were lowered down onto magnetic tracks. A casing came up over their heads, making it indeed look like the popemobile from days of old.

“Hold tight.” Levon said as they were suddenly propelled off into the tunnel before them.


 

Shabbily dressed violence

There is a delay this week for the new Smartly dressed violence entry. The next installment will be the 11/07. Until then, feel free to remind yourself of the story so far: 


I

The sun had stopped shining now, the wind that had blown in from the east seemingly extinguished the light like a dying candle struggling to survive. The day was young still, yet the streets were empty. People at work, kids in school. The ordinary pluck of the strings of life vibrated through the city. Heavy now with silence, it weighted on his shoulders as he rounded a bend and dived down a graffitied lane, sneaking inside a side door. He carried a small brown paper bag, but its contents; like people, were more precious than the coverings……

Click here for the whole saga up to now

Smartly Dressed Violence (part xiv)

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Levon remembered his first time over, it was not something he could easily forget. Not only had it changed the course of his life, but it had saved him from a circumstance which would’ve consumed him. He had stumbled down the rabbit hole, not out of curiosity or on any noble quest for change; but in running away. Fleeing from an unending grief, a void which was swallowing his life.

Levon had come to understand his place in the world. Growing up, placed on the bottom rung, abused just by what was housed in his genetics and what stained his face. His family, his friends, all suffered the same; it was the system that was rotten; but it was the system that was in place. Then someone came into his world that changed it all, turned the dark to light and the bitter to sweet. Made him move, question, life and love. But it was not a happy ending, for it was never the end for them, only one. Robbed so quickly out of the material realm. The science that bubbled under their skin had more ways to poison than just S.I.N. Things that science should have had a hold over by now, it played havoc on a body so pure.

So he ran, he escaped all he could see or touch, anything that would remind him of them and the gaping hole of their absence. In his flight he stumbled down the path that led him to the door of the Teacher. Fate usually puts us where we need to be, and for Levon; that was in the hands of the one who held a pass to the land that could give him a gift. A gift he would come to battle with himself, but at first was one which took the pain away. Levon was shown the way over to the Altered, his teacher saw something in him that was different. Maybe a broken heart allows more light in to fuse the bits together. But for Levon it seemed, he was able to maneuver through the Altered as if he was a part of it. His S.I.N was erased, his body seeming to evolve around a state that few had seen. He could manipulate and conjure the magic, it bent to his whims and flourished in his cells. Stepping over for him was easy, but Levon remembered the first time. The great revelation of light, like stepping out of a darkened room into the sun. It burnt, it hurt. Like a radiation scorching away his history.

He knew what Jess could see when she had gone over, he knew at all times who was present in the Altered. He felt it within him like a tickling thread. He had known for some time a gathering shadow, closing in on the world like a coming storm.

“I thought you didn’t know anything.” Jess said to Levon, confused.

“We know, but we can’t go around telling everyone. There’s levels of trust in this thing. Take a look around, it’s not amateur hour.” Levon said, casting his hand around the room. Jess looked around, but was hurt also.

“I know that, but you made it seem like you didn’t.” She said.

“I’m sorry for that, forgive the tiny deception.” Levon said with a grin. “But there is a plan…”

“One which we could use help with.” Karen added, seeing how Jess was a little upset.

“But wait, first tell me what you know. What’s the darkness there? What is really happening?” She asked.

Levon and Karen looked at each other before Karen went on.

“As you know, the Altered is a realm that has a different makeup to our own world. Magic if you like, though some of our science is beginning to understand it. We can enter the world through certain rituals, or incantations. Levon and others can get there by different means, but that’s another tale. In the Altered there is the ability to reverse S.I.N, as you’re aware. We’re working on something which will rapidly expunge S.I.N in all individuals in our own world, using a combination of matter and a reciting of a series of incantations. We have an essence, one we’ve come to call Holy Water, which has the ability to reverse S.I.N in subjects and evolve their genetics beyond to what we have at the moment.” Karen said.

“So, you have a tonic that cures and the ailing and makes everyone equal. Great, why aren’t we using it? Why aren’t we giving it out to people? Levon is still going around with his magic bag of tricks, what are we waiting for?” Jess said, more agitated now; walking around flaying her arms about.

“Jess, hear us out. It’s not that straightforward.” Levon said.

“Levon is right, for a change Jess. It’s not so simple.” Karen added. Her disposition seemed to imbued calm and trust, she was The Bishop after all. This seemed to calm her a little.

“So…..” Jess said.

“What we have come to find is that the Holy Water does help most of those who suffer with S.I.N, but not everyone….yet. And we’ve found that it actually has a negative effect on the Others. Those without it.” She said.

“What, so they turn back?” Jess asked?

“No, I’m afraid not. It kills off those cells in those without it. So we cannot release it on a mass scale as it will kills thousands.” She was keen to see how Jess would react to this. Jess hung her head.

“I see the problem then. No one should be suffering. But what is the darkness in the Altered?” She said, moving on.

“Well, that is something we do know something about and I think we can stop it too.” Levon said, looking to Karen for some approval. She nodded her head. “Your friend Aiko…”

Jess sighed and shook her head. Levon continued.

“Your friend there seems to have access to the Altered also. He’s been robbing it for his own needs for years now. As you’re aware it is a very mercurial place, reactive to what goes in and out and what takes place there. Aiko has been pillaging it without any of the offerings, without any of the respect we in the order give it. He is like a toxin that leaches into the world and pollutes it. The darkening is his presence, ever encroaching and snuffing out the light there. It’s beginning to erase and alter the Altered…if you get my meaning.” Levon said.

“So it’s another thing we have to deal with.” Jess sighed.

“Yes, but now we have an increased timeframe.” Karen added.

“Why?” Jess asked.

“Because Aiko is about to unleash something on the city in the next few days which will change everything forever.” Levon.

“Fuck.” Jess said. Karen nodded.

“And what he doesn’t know is that it will not go how he expects. He cannot control the magic or the essence of the Altered in the ways he thinks he can. And it won’t just mean the end for those with S.I.N, but for everyone.”

“So double fuck.” Levon added.

“Indeed.” Karen replied, making her way over to a small cabinet in the corner of the room. “But, like you say Levon…..there is a plan.”


 

Smartly Dressed Violence (Part xiii)

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Aiko Tsutsumi was not an evil man, he himself didn’t even class himself as particularly mean. He was direct and calculated, practical and realistic. He knew how people perceived him though, and sometimes relished those times where people were intimidated by him. His anger and contempt over the years had been funneled into a vindication that best suited himself. Living well is the best revenge after all. And Aiko lived very well. His empire that sprawled throughout the region and touched nearly everyone’s life. Being rich was part of that, but he also had control. He had felt a turning though through his stages of vengeance. He let go to his notion of merely punishing those who had done him wrong, but moved his sights to a much larger spectrum.

He had been brought up in poverty and anguish, poisoned by the S.I.N which had run throughout his structure. This he hide from the world and he grew up lying and doing what he could to better his circumstance. Many could see this as admirable. But along the way the underdog turned into a more dangerous beast. Aiko found a way, much like those in The Order, that he was able to rid himself of the S.I.N by stepping into the altered. His search for change had led him down a darker more maligned root to the magic, and though incompatible at first, he had made his own sacrifices to get what he wanted and created his own demons. He had harnessed aspects of the magic which he brought out of the altered and fueled his technology and systematic growth of Atone-industries. He kept these secrets hidden well, for few knew of the power or the existence of the altered. He knew of The Order and what they were trying to achieve, and his mission now was to accomplish his plans first.

And those plans did not allow a second place result.

Scanning through the schematics of his plan labelled ‘EDEN’, Aiko familiarised himself with the logistics of the upcoming second phase. He knew there would be a fallout from this project, media relations played an important role in all his endeavours. But with any systematic change, there are always casualties. Aiko had developed a device which, much like Levon’s little bag of cleansing, would cleanse a huge population at the same time. The size of a city for example. He had manufactured a machine which increased the power and range of the magic and could distribute it across the city. The Order were indeed trying to do the same thing, but for Aiko; his objectives were different.

The Order planned to re-balance the scales, lifting everyone with S.I.N to an improved genetic place where all were equal and positively mutated to an evolved state of being. Aiko was more selective in his view of change. He had worked hard to rid himself of the taint of S.I.N, disgusted by both those who had kept him down, and equally those around him who had failed to do anything about their circumstance. He saw them as weak, lazy and deserving of their state. He planned to speed up the natural selection of evolution. His device, his Pandora’s Box, released an adjusted version of the magic, one which he had modified to purposely only enhance and select a middle range of people. Those with S.I.N who were too weak, or genetically feeble would of course be killed but so too were those in the age group of himself who had made his existence painful in his youth. A generation of bastards he could not forgive. Those, even without S.I.N too would be killed, leading to a superior group equally measured in abilities and evolved state.

Aiko now was too far removed of empathy to care for those who would not survive his plan. Those who had hurt him would get their comeuppance, and those too weak to try would be removed for the greater good. This second phase would begin shortly, activated from the West Side to heavily impact all of those that he deduced needed to change.

Naturally Aiko would be safe. He sat back now in his chair, happy and content that things were coming together. He had made arrangements of course, he wasn’t completely devoid of emotion to let his family perish either. He loathed them of course, but he had yet to turn that corner into cartoon villainy, and still retained that sense of connection, and on some level love, for them.

He pushed a button on his desk and the floating head of Stefan appeared before him, the hologram blurred with static.

“I have to leave for a day or so, I won’t be able to be contacted. Is everything in order?” Aiko asked. Stefan nodded agreeably.

“Yes sir, all is fine and on course as you’ve initiated. You’ve had some requests from the elected states to conference in tomorrow though, so I will have to re-arrange that.” Stefan replied.

“They are always asking for things.” Aiko replied.

“It seems they have concerns over the recent relocation of staff into the elevated sectors in the city.” Stefan said.

“I’d be surprised if they hadn’t. Remind them of the proposal I outlined to them previously and convey my apologies for missing the conference. I will get back to them when I can.” Aiko said, knowing he never would.

“Is there anything else you need from me today?” Stefan asked. Aiko paused a moment, looking at the disembodied head before him.

“Not now no.” Aiko said, leaving a small silence before adding “But if you know anyone in the west side, or that way inclined, you may wish to tell them to get out before tomorrow.” Aiko drew his hand across a sensor and Stefan’s head disappeared, leaving him alone again in the darkening room, as the sun was beginning to set over the city.


 

Smartly Dressed Violence (part xii)

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The first time it hurt, obviously. Pain is a relative thing though, and Jess had always seen herself as a strong person with a high pain threshold. Procedures as they go these days, with internal computer systems into the body and detailed mind graphing, they usually make those operations devoid of pain. But the eyes, those hurt like hell. Severing of optical nerves were quick, but the input modules that were meshed around the socket; those ached as they were attached.

Jess had first used the magic from the altered years ago, before the books and the written language were truly understood. She had come by a small sample of the green matter, acquired like many backdoor drug dealings, through a shady acquaintance. It had been poor quality, mixed and watered down; removing its potency. She was naïve then and knew little about how it was to be used. She was naïve, but desperate. Eager to change her own and families circumstance. It gave her nothing but a longing to know more, to understand all about the altered and what came back from there. Over the years she was able to source her own ‘companion’, a little book of altered magic to help use the matter. Spells was a silly word, but it was what they were; incantations, yet ones that worked at a cellular and genetic level. It is what many needed now in this inequitable societal system. Able to shift makeups and change circumstances.

Temporarily. As was the problem for Jess. Her body makeup was not aligned to accommodate the altered states. The magic, the matter; never stuck for her. As was true for many others. Their level of incorporation was never sustained. It took cleansers like Levon to manipulate the matter and reconstitute it with their own to make something that could be transferred to those needing it. To change them into ‘accepted’ humans once more.

Jess persevered with her knowledge and training in the mystical arts however, doing what she could to help. Seeking out those to her help her and change her circumstance. Coming across the likes if Levon, and now Karen, The Bishop.

She put her eyeballs into a small metal cylinder that she removed from her pocket, having taken a seat next to the desk; and tilted her head back a little. Karen moved closer, taking the stopper from the small vial and tipping the contents into each of her eye sockets. The liquid pooled abnormally, as if floating inside her skull before turning to a vapour in an instant and clinging to the insides of her sockets.

“It takes a few minutes, relax if you can.” Karen said. Jess laughed slightly.

“Yeah right.” She said. Levon stood watching the colours now emitting from her.

“This will open the gateway to the bridge to the altered. You may have seen this before, but now you’ll be able to move through the haze too, beyond the marker point.” Karen added.

Levon knew what she meant, with his trips to the altered he was able to move above the bridge, flying above with his own abilities that took him seamlessly into the other world. It was as if he was a resident of the altered, able to move back and forth with ease. Others could be tourists, temporally view and touch the world; but their travel there were laboured and hazardous. Karen was setting Jess up now to be able to view and touch this world; and with the right incantations, would be able to eventually transfer parts of herself through. The bridge was always the challenge for everyone. It took time. But it was needed if you were to truly change.

After a few moments, Karen indicated that Jess could put her eyes back in, which she did. She opened them up and blinked a few times.

“How does that feels?” Karen asked, genuine concern coating her words.

“Fine thanks, it tingles a little.” Jess replied.

“Just the matter taking hold. I’ll start the incantation and it will unlock the gateway. With that, Karen took her small book and found the page she was looking for. She began to read aloud some strange words, words both Levon and Jess had heard before, but in different states. The lights in the room began to dim and a luminous glow appeared beneath the eyes Jess had recently placed back. Karen took her finger and tabbed at the top of the vial which had contained the liquid, drawing a small symbol on Jess’s hand. Levon’s own symbols began to glow, and Jess suddenly pushed back in the chair.

“Ahh.” Was all that Jess could exclaim. She was thrown out of the room there under the church and transported through a mist to the beginning of the altered. She could hear Karen’s words ringing out but they sounded tinny, as if coming from inside a shell. She extended her arm, and the mist moved apart like a cloud. The air hung with little sparks of blue light, like electricity in vapour. As the mist moved she could see before her a huge stone circle, and beyond a stone bridge leading off into the unknown. It reminded her of  Japanese torii entrance-ways to shrines, the mystical and tantalising. She had only seen glimpses before, unable to move in the static. Now she could walk and move around. She moved towards the stone gateway, her heart beating to a hurried rhythm. As she approached she could see a smaller stone by the entrance. It was covered in the language she had tried desperately to learn over the years. Here the text melted, forming words now that she could understand and comprehend.

As she stood there she became aware of an encroaching shadow off in the distance behind her. Like a new weather front coming in. It seemed ominous and did not feel like it belonged here in this space. Everything she had ever known of the altered and its magic had always brought her warmth and comfort, this felt foreign and threatening to her. She turned away, towards the bridge now through the gateway. She tried to move her feet but it was then she felt a pulling, a tugging coming from inside her skull. It was then that she knew she was heading back, back to the crypt under the church. Like stepping out of a hot bath she returned back to the chair, Karen and Levon before her.

“How far did you get?” Levon asked her. She looked up excitedly.

“To the gateway, I could read the marker.”

“That’s good, the baptism seems to be dong its wonder.” Karen added. “Each time you’ll get further.” Jess looked concerned then.

“But it felt strange, there was a shadowy wall encroaching in on me. “ Jess said, rubbing her eyes. “I’ve not known anything like that before.”

Karen and Levon looked at each other.

“Do you know what it is?” Jess asked, seeing their faces.

“Yep. And it comes back to your friend Mr Tsutsumi?” Levon said, walking over to wall and tapping the blueprints that were pinned to the board.


 

Smartly Dressed Violence (part xi)

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Karen Winkoski never went by Dr. Winkoski. She didn’t like the airs and graces that came with the title. She wasn’t one to blend into any background either, she liked for her work to do the talking. She had studied synthetic biology for the best part of her career, finding it hard to tread the fine line of ethics and morality in a corporate capitalist system. She had gone off the radar in the past few years, taking her work away from the mainstream to focus on understating S.I.N and finding a reversal. She had established ‘The Order’ as part of her approach to undo the changes that had occurred in her lifetime, and how the corporate and class system had evolved around S.I.N; relegating many to its crippling societal discrimination.

Having come across resistance and unforeseen battles against agencies and individuals; her work was forced underground. This is where it may have slowly died if it wasn’t for a mystical discovery that was brought to her attention by way of a strange visitor. Unlocking parts of the secret had forwarded both her quest for a cure, and to move the benefits of this magic for all; beyond that of disease. A great equaliser.

Karen led them both around the room, showing them the sequencing and extraction machines and impressive hologram units which broke through codes and displayed eerie glowing vignettes of things that Jess could not make sense of.

“The vault is really the heart of our operation. I’m not sure how much you know Jess, or how much you should know; but The Order is no longer working on the solely on reversal of S.I.N in afflicted individuals, but the elevation of all human cells. We’re looking at what S.I.N does to the body, and moving things to the other end of the spectrum; creating cells and tissues resistance to cancer strains, diseases or immune disintegration.”

“Making everyone a superhero, right Bishop?” Levon said, nudging Karen in the side playfully.

“Kind of. While it’s true Jess that we have only selectively reversed certain people, this is not through any discriminatory process. We found that we can only use our reversal pathogen in certain gene types. The virulence is not stable on all cases.” Karen said.

Jess remained silent.

“I won’t go into the stages of success we’ve had over the years, or failures for that matter as I’m sure you can imagine what results we would’ve come across. It wasn’t a pretty process. But we have made huge advances in understanding S.I.N and its makeup, and reversing certain types and halting the mutation.”

“But you have a cure right?” Jess asked, watching Levon pick up a glowing test tube and shaking it, seeing the colours inside change.

Karen sighed.

“It’s not that simple I’m afraid.” She said, taking the test tube from Levon and putting it back in its holder.

“It’s not simple at all, but get to the magic part….that’s the bit everyone is always interested in.” Levon said.

Karen had walked around to the other side of the large metal table. She looked at them both, placing her hands on the bench before her.

“You know of The Altered, you know what this world has offered us. It has brought about a way of slicing through the darkness in our science, and has shone a light into that void. We call those within the order Saints, Bishops, Teachers and Priests; invoking a religious space and veil of mysticism. And in a way, it is. But the magic is ruled by its own decrees and laws. There are limitations to it and things we don’t understand. With the help of The Order, and the work we do here in the vault, we are marrying the two worlds together to understand the science behind the mutation for those suffering, and moving it to a space where we aren’t all just equal; but better than before. Our vow is to right a terrible wrong, not just for some; but for all. Our work is leading towards one great event to cure everyone.” She breathed out noisily, as if completing an affirmation.

She stared at both of them, letting the gravity of what she said hit each of them. Karen knew Levon’s circumstance, and she knew too of the likes of Jess. Soldiers in a war fighting with only have of the picture. She was brave and an idealist, but making moves with only part of the information.

“So what can we do?” Jess asked, looking Karen squarely in the eyes.

“The first thing is to be baptised.” Karen replied.

Jess scoffed slightly, a look of satisfaction coming over her.

“I’ve already been baptised, for nearly six months now.” Jess replied, cockily. Karen looked over to Levon, he looked away smiling.

“You can read the incantations, and I imagine you can generate the mind projections. Right?” Karen asked her.

Jess took a moment, knowing now where this was heading.

“Yeah.” She said.

“Which is a good start, I bet it wasn’t easy as it can be painful when you first begin.” Karen took out small book from her lab coat pocket, followed by a small viral; its contents glowing blue. “But you have yet to be baptised using anything from the altered I would assume?”

Jess was quiet.

“Levon here is a mystery to us still, what he can do and how his body reacts with the magic is still beyond our understanding. But there are some of us who do react more with the powers and the magic this mystic world offers. We have found ways to enhance ourselves to it, and as a result; can aid our efforts towards our goal. Initial steps, baptism for example, shows a commitment and entry to this world that we must keep secret and safe for now. But it also has physical and practical changes to our bodies.” Karen said, shaking the little vial.

“I want to help, I want to change what this world has come to.” Jess said, watching the vial hypnotically.

“Then you’re in the right place.” Karen replied, smiling. “Are you ready?” She asked.

Jess nodded. She was knowledgeable about much of the Order, having been eager to enter and do her part. She had met Levon this way, the strange cleanser who knew more than her would ever tell. She longed to help, and have a function.

She tipped her head forward and slowly removed both of her eyes.


 

Smartly dressed violence (part x)

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It was just a short trip by air to the processing site near the west port. Flying over the city, you could see a sense of order and refinement. The skyscrapers gleamed, and the roads were angular and planned out. The public transport operated on a level never before seen in the world. This wasn’t dirty congested tubes that racketed around on tracks, here the elegant transit sparkled like the buildings, ferrying commuters in style and luxury to their destinations using the latest magnetised technology.

Aiko looked now over the cityscape, pondering over the order and the harmony below. He saw his own technology zip through the streets, part of his ever growing empire of business and wealthy assets. His fingerprints lay over much of what he saw and he smiled at the dominance that stretched out before him. There was order and cleanliness, structure and control; gifts he believed he had given the city. And the city had rewarded him, never knowing his true identity or intentions.

His transport landed on atop of the processing plant which churned and heaved below him. Steam and smog bellowed noisily into refinery pipes and containment vacuums. Though the plant was sleek and modern, its processes’ were old and dirty, expelling the residues and filth into areas of the west side that he paid a lot of money hide. Oh course, those who lived there made their own uses for the by-products, and cottage industries had risen up around the site that took advantage of the unwanted.

He made his way swiftly inside, eventually entering a vast circular meeting room that hung with nervous people, eager to see what the visit was all about. Many were smartly dressed, but a few wore clothes tailored to factory floors more than board rooms. Almost forty people filled the room, silently waiting for Aiko to speak. He entered through the circular desks and stopped in the centre of the room, the lights illuminating from below giving him an almost angelic appearance.

“Thank you all for coming to this hastily arranged meeting. I am very pleased with how the plant has functioned recently due to certain demands made, and your overall contribution to Atone-industries. As you are aware, this is only the first phase in our outlined projections for the city and surrounding suburbs. Phase II will begin shortly, and as expressed previously, this will require a relocation to sites in facilities Het and Bet underneath the city. Many of you will be familiar with these sites, but those who are not; you are soon to be amazed by these sites.”

A few pocketed whispers began around the room, reassurance began to seep in and some smiled.

“The timeline has been accelerated due to your success here and I would like to thank you for your efforts. Each department will have a briefing following this meeting, and relocation A.I’s will be on hand to transport and reconfigure all for the next stage. Those of you who have requested additional family cleansing and assessment, this has been approved by myself and will also begin immediately.”

Applause and smiles now filled the room.

“I needn’t remind anyone here that this is a delicate situation and technically takes place outside of the realms of legality. As such, I will remind you all of your legal bonding to the NDA’s and contractual stipulations you have all signed.”

The applause faded, but the smiles remained. Many in the room had been waiting all their lives for this to happen.

“Wonderful. Then let me thank you again for your effort, and here’s to Phase II.”

Applause broke out again, and Aiko bowed respectfully before making his way out of the room. Those who remained quickly dissolved into chatter, and the room filled with the sound of hurried cheerful voices creeping up the walls like happy lizards.

Aiko made his way down a corridor followed by Stefan, he entered an office with a large glass window which looked out over the port.  Stefan came to a stop one side of the desk while Aiko looked out over the sea.

“What is the timeline we are now looking at?” Aiko asked him calmly.

“I would say just under a week. If we are to process everyone and their families. The AI’s are in place so we only need to do a systems check.” Stefan replied, checking a hologram tablet in front of him.

“Good. And the system failure scenario, I have access to that now?” Aiko asked, his gaze locked on the horizon out at sea.

“Yes, your access codes are here.” Stefan said, sending something over to him remotely using the hologram. “The staff relocation….” He began.

“Should be of the highest importance, and secrecy. Building 70 is complete and is ready for the intake. The views are fantastic there, they’ll have a better vista than either you or I.” Aiko said. Stefan smiled and ticked something off a list.

“There are some things that I’m not quite sure of still….” He began, but Aiko cut in.

“Then you are not to know of it yet I would presume. Everything in time.” Aiko replied.

“But the source….” Stefan tried again, confidentially. At this Aiko turned to face him, slipping out a small book from his inside pocket. He held it down in front of him like precious hymn book.

“Is not your concern.” Aiko said. And with than, Stefan nodded and turned to depart, leaving Aiko alone in the room which began to glow a faint blue behind him.