Smartly dressed violence (part xxx)

Click here for previous entries  or  Listen to this episode


 XXX

SIN first appeared in the city in the guise of poverty, the weakened condition against the affluent. Cases were initially put down to malnutrition, poor hygiene and terrible living conditions. The age was presented with such a vast gap between the affluent and the poor, that sanitation, health care and all manner of civil services benefitted those least needing of them. A virus began to spread in the lower end of the populace, weakening them and forcing them to become more physically dependent on services.

It didn’t take long for those in power to descend on this arising circumstance and to manipulate it. Screenings were made mandatory, and a classification of conditions were regulated. The virus worked fast, spreading through at a rapid speed, almost like a plague from God. It changed people in an instant, forcing them into lives that they would not be able to break free from. For those smartly dressed souls who seemed resigned in their reason and status, their lives seemed to be validated by this new wave coursing through the land. Almost justifying what they always knew.

The Altered, a place of such wonder, was the harbinger of all this darkness. A place that offered such goodness and possibilities gave birth to something so maligned. In an allegoric tern, it was the fact that something so good released something so terrible perhaps to show that people could overcome darkness. It was the Altered that set forth SIN into the material realm. Not wantingly, but by the malpractice of those going in and out of the world and not understanding completely what they were doing. SIN came from a mishandling of the magic, set free and loose from a mind that did not understand what it was doing.

But in the poison, so in lies the cure.

When the light had finally faded, and the scene before them came into view once more, they all stood there unsure of what to do. Jess had tumbled back with Aiko, taking a hit of both his and Nina’s magic. When Akari had run and touched the Holy water, the reaction had catalysed everything in the vicinity, surging through her and Aiko. Akari lay on the ground by the Pandora machine, and Nina and Daniel went across to her as Jess shook herself to, sitting up and piecing things together. Aiko lay on the floor, his eyes closed. He was no longer the huge entity that had fled from the Altered. He was once again his usual size. Little sparks of white light snapped about him, like the aftermath of an electrocution.

“Jess, are you alright?” Eva asked, coming over to her now and helping her up. Jess nodded, her head still raging with an odd static sensation.

“Yes, I feel fine. Great even, just my mind is swirling like duelling dragons in there.”  Jess said, seeming to shake her head as if the beasts would fall from her ears. They both looked at Aiko on the floor, the little lights emitting from him.

“What about him?” Eva asked, nudging his feet with her boot. Nina walked over to where they were now. They could see Daniel and the other members of the order going to where Akari stood, light also still emitting from her.

“Are you okay?” Nina asked, her tone calm yet concerned.

“Yes, yes I’m fine. Really. That was something though.” Jess said.

“Your bravery indeed is something Jess, amazing.” She said, putting her hand on her back tenderly.

Aiko began to stir, his head that was lulled backward began to move from side to side until he opened his eyes. He looked around for a moment, then pushed himself up, sitting still before them.

“What is going on here?” He asked, groggily.

The others looked at one another, before Nina spoke.

“A lot is going on here Mr Tanaka.” She kneeled down to him, looking directly into the eyes which once were black and dead. They now swirled with a different light, a human window to his soul.

“Tanaka?” He said, quietly, puzzled over that word for a moment. Then he looked across to see the machine, and the order members. On spotting Akari, it was as if a realization had been set loose in his blood.

“Oh god.” He said, his head falling forward as if in shame.

“Aiko, it’s over. Everything is going to be fine.” Nina said, and she too put her hand on his shoulder, comfortingly.

“But, I…” He began, but stuttered off, shaking his head.

“Come, we all must leave now. This place has done what it was meant to, but now it is time to leave.” Nina said, and she helped Aiko up with the help of Jess.

Outside of the building, the divine light from the Holy water was ebbing away in the distance. The streets and the city below them shimmered as if it had been scrubbed clean and bathed in celestial bleach. They took their leave, making their way back to the temple, Karen’s team following; leaving the pandora machines where they stood.

Akari had been the key it seemed; she was the one that had been able to turn the dark to the light. Though they had successfully released the Holy water and changed the city forever, it was because of her that Aiko had been subdued. Once back at the temple, they were all able to take stock of the event.

Karen set about monitoring the effects the pathogen was having on the city, flashes of screens and machines flooded her lab with data. Other members saw to helping those hurt in the battle and arranging for everyone to be taken care of and comforted. It was a member of the order by the name of Sally who discovered them. She had gone to get some additional medical supplies from one of their containment units and had stumbled across the Tanakas. They were asleep at the back of the unit, huddled together but safe

Nina learned from them, once they were woken and had joined the others, that they had appeared in the temple when the events in the Altered had climaxed. With a flash they had been expelled, and sent to the temple, landing unceremoniously in one of the storage units. Dazed and bewildered, and scared for what was happening; they had remained there where it was safe. It seemed once the pathogen had been released, it had plummeted their energy levels after their transition, inducing sleep.

Aiko had embraced his family when they had entered the room. He and Akari hugged them, tears coming easily and copiously to all the eyes of the Tanakas. Anyone suspicious on Aiko’s change needed only see how he greeted his family to know that a paradigm had indeed shifted. Not only was he changed, it seemed he’d reignited the empathy within him that he had tried so hard to exorcise.

Nina looked on, seeing how Akari and Aiko embraced their family. Akari was the key, the siphoned off bits of Aiko that he thought he could control, but what was made in the Altered seemed to overflow into the material realm. She had indeed magnified Aiko’s power and magic, but he had not counted for the goodness and reasoning that was still apart of him, and prevalent in her. Though the light was tiny in regards to the overwhelming darkness he wielded, the tiniest candle it seemed would always banish the deepest dark. She looked at her now and smiled, knowing that hope was always worth having.

“So how did the Tanakas get back here?” Jess asked, coming to stand with Nina. She was happy, a sense of elation not abating inside of her. Nina thought for a moment, looking over to the happy embraces of the family.

“I guess it was The Pope, he must have tried to save them in the final moments.” She said, smiling.

“He must have known more about the Altered then anyone, knowing how to use it.” Jess offered.

“Indeed. Unlike Aiko who sought to control the power, Samuel always respected and understood the power and the magic of the Altered. It was like he took such blessings from merely being able to caretake the magic, He always use to say…..” But what, Jess never did find out. “I need to check something.” Nina said, touching her slightly on the arm and disappearing away.

Jess was stood alone only for a short moment, before Eva came to talk and help her process all the events. They were both happy, and proud of what they had accomplished. Both their fights had occupied their lives for years, much as everyone’s had in the order. Jess now not only had something to be happy and proud of, but she had a sense of belonging too. Her tribe, so to speak. And her thoughts turned to her own family, hastily making a call to them.

It wasn’t long for Nina to find Karen. She was sat down in front of a huge holographic screen, numbers and images flashing in front of her, the glow of which dousing her in a ghostly blue light.

“All good I’m hoping?” Nina said, coming over to her friend. Karen looked up and greeted her with a smile, one of relief and elation.

“I can’t belief this data. Well, I do believe it but it’s beyond what we had hoped for. Everything seems to be stabilised, all persons seem to be responsive. The was a cluster expansion in the west side, understandably, but the readings are off the charts. SIN is gone, it’s evolved into the best-case scenario.” She said, beaming.

“Wonderful, that’s such good news. It was as we hoped then?” Nina asked.

“And more, we can’t tell from the data the emotive responses from individuals naturally, but the cognitive recalibrations would suggest a higher state of empathy.” Karen said, scanning through a diagram before her.

“So people will give a shit more then?” Nina said with a grin.

“You better believe they will. And it’s about time. Nina, this is it. We did it!” Karen said, her eyes on the brink of welling. Nina stood forward and hugged her friend deeply. It had indeed been a long battle, with many casualties along the way. But it seemed that everything was worth it..

“So, Samuel…” Nina said, as she and Karen broke apart.

This shook Karen’s smile.

“The greatest loss.” Karen said.

“Maybe not. Jess just reminded me something he said once, about the magic and the Altered. There’s so much really with all this and what has happened, and no one is an expert. Except maybe you now.” Nina said. Karen brushed the comment aside humorously. “Samuel once said to me that we needed to embrace the death of death, that because things are always an illusion here in the material realm, nothing is what it seems.”

Karen began to shake her head.

“I know where you’re going, but it’s not possible. It happened in the Altered, there was no illusion there. He used to speak of things moving to stages, how we are all the same underneath really; and that when things die, they merely move on to something else. There is proof with the science, how atoms don’t die but reassemble. Death is an illusion I suppose. But Nina, this happened over there. The same as Levon. They’re gone I’m afraid.” She said, sombrely.

“I know it happened there, but that’s what makes it odd to me. I’ve been Levon’s teacher for years now, I know his level of magic and the gift he had. It was borrowed from there; it came by way of his father and the unlocking that was done for him. But Karen, Samuel came from the Altered. ‘’To it, he shall return!” She said, almost urgently, adding. “The blue light….”

Karen looked at her, realisation slowly spreading across her face.

“The light we saw, of course. Things from the Altered don’t ever die, they realign on the basis of consciousness.” Karen said, a new light dancing in her eyes now.

“He’s waiting.” Nina said, almost silently as if to utter it, might undo it.

FIVE YEARS LATER

Jess crossed to the midway section of the road as a huge gleaming tram silently slipped by her. The car was full, the people inside in good spirits as the sun beat down and called them to the sea. A boy inside waved to her as it passed, and she waved back, chuckling to herself. She crossed over to the beach side of the road. The tram stopped some way up and lots of people disembarked, heading to the sands and the refreshing waters of the bay. The day was hot, the temperature had climbed to record levels the past few months, signalling alarms across the city and the state that the climate had begun to turn on them.

Jess walked up a bit further, being sure to put some distance from herself and the masses. Despite the weather, she wore her army jacket, the green fatigue blending into the palms that she passed which punctuated the shoreline. Whereas before the pristine beach area was an ordered place of affluent control, since the great change the beach fronts had opened up to more creative expression and controlled chaos. Little areas now pocketed themes and cultures, with an eclectic mix of fusions and tastes. Jess made her way along the path, past a community hub which seemed to be having an outdoor art exhibition. Canvases and works peppered the boardwalk, where eager eyes were enjoying the artistic flares and social gathering.

She saw her brother Den first, then Akari, sat on a bench with a huge palm above them, shading them from the sun. Their spot looked out over the beach, elevated slightly as it looked down onto the sand and out into the bay. She knew this spot was good, as it gave an excellent view to the peninsular where you could see the lighthouse and marine club where the sailboats would dock.

“Hey guys.” Jess said reaching the bench.

“Hey, he’ll be back any second…” Akari had said, but just that moment Aiko came walking around the palm from the other direction that Jess had come.

“Hey! Speak of the devil.” Jess said, embracing him. He hugged her back, carefully trying to hold the ice creams away from her weather defiant jacket.

“Good to see you, do you want one of these?” He asked her, handing both of the ice creams over to Den and Akari, little spots of the red and white dripping then blotching the floor beneath.

“I’m fine.” She said, smiling. “You guys been waiting long?”

“No, not really. We took the tram down together, but we’ve only been here about five minutes.” Den said, already tucking into the ice cream before it melted into nothing.

“Shall we head up the beach then?” Jess offered, and they agreed, getting up and making their way down onto the warm sands.

“How have you been?” Jess asked Aiko. Den and Akari were off in front, drifting down to the water where the tide was slowly throwing itself against the shore quietly.

“Really good, it’s been busy this year so far but we’re making some headway I think.” Aiko said. He looked refreshed, and content. Gone were the deadened eyes of apathy, in their place were little coffee coloured pools which seemed to absorb the light from all around.

“The legislations have made it easier i imagine. It was surprising that so many wanted to forget the past.” Jess said, the sand sinking easily beneath her feet.

“I think everything came so quickly to everyone, back at the change. They were so fundamentally moved and disgusted with how they had been living and allowing. That goes for me also. It seemed everyone wanted to throw it all away and start again.” Aiko said.

“Oh yeah I know, they wanted to get rid of St. Patrick’s remember. Anything that reminded them of the old ways. It took a lot to convince them.” Jess said.

“Well, Nina still holds a lot of sway.” Aiko added, smiling. “But yeah it was hard to keep anything, and from Atone too, to show them all that there could be some good salvaged from all of it.” They watched as Den and Akari splashed in the water, the ice creams already consumed, part of Den’s washed out to sea.

“Well, I’m glad things are better now. We have to remember what we’ve come from; we can’t remove the uncomfortable for ease of minds. I think a lot comes out of guilt, but it won’t help to erase the struggles, nor should they. I’m glad the Towers have been preserved.” Jess said.

“Have you been there since they opened?” Aiko asked, referring to his two towers where the Pandora machines were stationed.

“Not yet, I said I would with Eva and Daniel, it will be interesting to see them as museum pieces.” Jess said.

“I still can’t believe it all to be honest. Part it feels like a surreal dream that I merely watched. I can’t mentally take myself to the place that I was the cause of it all.” Aiko said.

“It’s probably best not to, the past doesn’t offer you a future, or any of us. What happened needed to, without it we wouldn’t have what we have now. This understanding, this fairness. This was what we all worked to get.” Jess said to him, adding. “Well, you were a little late to the party.”

“Better late than never.” He said.

“Exactly. You were there to show that people can change, that things could be so different. Not just inside the genes but in their minds. It’s not perfect, it never will be. But we are all collectively moving forward with a shared consciousness now.” Jess said.

They walked on a bit more, going down to the shoreline and kicking some of the water playfully at the others. The beach was busier now, the heat and the time of the day luring people like a siren’s song.

“Your technology will have to find a way to sort this heat out you know.” Jess said, wiping her forehead.

“Well you aren’t really dressed for the day.” Aiko added back, pointing to her jacket.

“I go everywhere with this jacket; it’s brought me luck.” She said, and just as she was pulling at the cuffs, a beeping sound came from her left one. “Excuse me a second.” She said to Aiko and slid her finger across a sensor on her watch. Nina’s face popped to life, faded in the midday sun which shone through the hologram.

“Hey Nina.” Jess said, greeting her friend.

“Ah, you’re with Aiko. Good. Hi to you both.” Nina said, spotting Aiko. He returned her greeting cheerfully.

“Hope you’re both well, nice day to be at the beach.” She said, friendly.

“Wanna come down here? It’s a little busy but still nice.” Jess offered.

“Well, I would, but there is something here at the Temple which has taken my attention.” She said, mysteriously.

“What is it?” Jess asked, curiously. Aiko looked on too.

“You both know the Altered’s protection order allows it to complete it’s recovery without any interference. It’s taken longer than we thought, but it’s finally getting there.” Nina said.

“It has been much longer than I thought it would need, or anyone would’ve supposed. Thank god it was able to repair though.” Jess said.

“The fractom robots should show recovery levels and produce a completion timeframe.” Aiko added, having provided the technology to monitor all aspects of the Altered from a far.

“Yes, of course. They have been a treasure. It’s just, with the near completion of the recovery, we have had a bit of a discovery this morning.” Nina said.

“I hope a good one.” Jess added.

“Oh, I would say the best kind. In the realms of religious metaphor, it would be of a resurrection kind.” Nina said, and they knew what she meant.

“The Pope?” Jess asked.

“We think he’s back.” Nina said, a smile seeming to escape the bonds of the holograph and capture both of those looking on. Covering them in sparkling fashioned happiness.

THE END


 

Smartly dressed violence (Part xxix)

Click here for previous entries  or  Listen to this episode


 XXix

“What the hell is that?” Karen said, staring with Nina at the huge orb that spun and shook in the far corner of the room. They were back down in the temple, having left the topside church area for the more militant and scientific surroundings of their main sanctum.

“Oh my god, look at that.” Nina said, her usual calm voice wavering.

As they stared at the shaking orb, which represented earth, the Altered and everything in between, a violent green light erupted from part of the Altered. The swirling mists and fog of that realm had been blasted outward, like a huge mushroom cloud.

“What is happening?” Nina asked, unsure if an answer could be found. Before Karen could reply, a terrible boom shook the orb, and the point where the light was being emitted seemed to collapse in on itself, sucking up all around it like a monstrous green black hole.

“Something terrible is happening there, what do you think it is?” Nina pressed. Karen looked on, in horror too but with her scientific mind turning.

“My guess is that Aiko has unleashed something, a weapon we don’t know of; and it’s obliterating the fabric of the core structures. Look, that is where the bridge and the markers are.” Karen said, pointing to the orb which was humming and shaking frantically.

“We must do something! What if they’re still there?” She said, referring to Levon and The Pope.

“We can’t send anyone, it’s not safe. Besides, look what it’s doing to the fractom points.” Karen replied.

These were jumper points through to the Altered, over time they had learnt that the world was made up of a membrane of power, or magic across the landscape. These fractom points were how people could get across from this world, these points were congregated hubs that allowed movement. You could leave anywhere in the material realm to get across, but these points were where you would appear on the other side. Nina looked closer; the points stuck up across the globe like little pins. She could see the green glow pulsing through them now, pulling them away from the sphere like nails being pulled up by an invisible hammer.

“Shit. Well, we have to do something, what are our options?” Nina asked, a frantic level in her voice now that Karen had never heard.

“Well, I think our only choice is to go ahead with the Holy water. If Aiko has something planned, then now is our only chance to achieve our goal and hopefully by then it will be too late for him to change anything back. We have to move on and hope Samuel and Levon are okay. They’ll make it back if they can.” She said the last part with a faded hope, perhaps already knowing it was too late.

“You’re right, and we need to warn the others so they’re on their guard. We can’t get anyone over there, it’s too dangerous and unstable like you say.” Nina said, referring to the Altered. “But we can prepare them here.”

Karen nodded.

“I think it’s time for you and I to get our hands dirty.” Karen said. Nina agreed and they both made their way to where the militant suits and armour were kept.

The light on Jess’s suit began to glow, indicating an incoming call. She scanned her hand over a sensor and a hologram of Nina appeared, emitting from her wrist.

“Jess, how is it there?” Nina asked, Jess could see Karen in the background, suiting up. Nina was busying herself too as she spoke.

“Hey, well we’ve learnt that Aiko plans to bring some sort of weapon over from the Altered. We apprehended his assistant who has told us all he knows. Any news your side?” Jess asked, hopeful.

“Well, that makes sense. There’s been an event over in the Altered, we’ve monitored it from our Obs orb. We have to think the worst Jess, the world seems to be collapsing there. We’re putting the Order on its highest alert and we’re proceeding now with the Holy water. Karen and I are coming to the towers, but we need to move forward as soon as possible with our plan. We can’t wait any longer.” She said. She wasn’t matter of factly at all, in Nina’s way she seemed to convey much depth in her words, and each one struck Jess at different emotional points.

“I see, we’ll get things started then. Was there any word from Levon or The Pope before this event?” She asked, the hope shrivelling on the branch of her stunted sentence.

“There’s been nothing I’m afraid. The world is being engulfed in the green dark magic, there was only a faint flicker of a blue dot; but Karen seems to think this is residual energy from the bridge. It’s all being destroyed Jess.” Nina said, sorrow in her words.

Jess was stunned, not only at learning that she will no longer see Levon again; but that also the world she longed to understand was now collapsing in on itself. Never to be a place that she could go, or one that would be of a benefit for anyone this side of the realm.

“I, I…Can’t believe it. It’s been so quick.” Jess said, almost dazed. Nina could see her pain, but she was quick to act herself.

“Jess, we will have time to mourn and grieve. My heart is equally as heavy. But now we must act, time is a precious thing. I will be there shortly; Karen is heading to the other tower. Please start the preparations with the others.” Nina said, smiling. Letting Jess know that she was not alone, and that there was still some good left to source. Jess seemed to come back from the ledge, her mind returning to the now.

“You’re right, and of course. See you shortly.” She said, and Nina signed off.

The others had heard and seen the conversation and knew what needed to be done. Daniel set about calibrating the machine while others began the transportation of the Holy water. Nina arrived quickly, entering from the roof which had been cleared of all security. It seemed all the robots and security personnel from Atone had stood down, they had not had any altercations since they had secured the floor and the machine, this was mirrored in the other tower as the group there reported. Karen arrived there also swiftly, and they all set about to release the Holy water.

Though the pathogen was prepared, as with the test jess had done with her family, an incantation was also needed which would transfuse the Holy water. The Pandora machines would duplicate and project this out over the city, expanding the reach and infect everyone. It would move through all elements, so no one would be able to hide from it; but the magic and the science it seemed needed the elevated height to mix correctly. As was true for the virus Aiko planned to release. The pulse would flow like a giant egg had been cracked atop these towers, flowing across the city and changing everyone’s lives for good.

The little head of Karen bobbed on Nina’s wrist, her hologram swaying in the wind now that the huge glass doors had been opened and the machine had been pushed outside further. Daniel explained how it sucked the energy particles from the atmosphere like the giant turbines across the city, but few cared at this stage how it worked; just as long as it did.

The pathogen had been poured into the giant chambers, sloshing around like unicorn milk; glowing and changing form like mother of pearl beauty. It was a sight to behold, and as Nina coordinated it with Karen, there was a tense air all around those of the Order now. Years of battling and fighting had come to this moment, so much now rested on these machines.

“Ready when you are.” Daniel said to Nina, who gave the order to switch the machine on. This was done simultaneously at the other tower across the city. They could see it now, the tallest point in the landscape, Aiko’s tower scratching at the sky. Once the machines glowed to life, they could see from their own tower the luminous glow from the other groups Holy water, a giant lighthouse across the skyline.

“Karen, begin the incantation and release the pathogen.” Nina said. Much like Levon had, she had intricate markings on her arms, the powerful tools that bled the magic in this realm. She then rolled the sleaves up and tapped the black forms that peppered her arms. They began to glow blue as she recited, from memory, the incantation as the great machine whirled to life. The contents within churned and hummed, and with a blinding flash, a phosphorus luminescence began to drip out of the huge prongs, slow at first, then with much speed and haste; leaking over the side of the tower and massing in pools frozen in air. As Nina continued her spell, the globbing mass seemed to stretch and thin before crawling out over the city like a giant divine pancake.

The same was happening at the other tower, and when the two masses met, they sizzled with a blue electric before forging outwards into the surrounding areas and smothering everything beyond that the eye could take in.

Nina stepped back, catching her breath. She lowered her arms which she had held up, brought together during the end of the incantation. Instead of drained, she seemed fused with energy and life. Her eyes glistened, the white luminous reflecting like those of the others all around her. Jess too felt a cellular shift inside, like little workers were crawling inside of her, fixing broken pieces, and patching holes. She tingled and smiled, the energy humming in her bones almost lifting her off the floor. They all embraced each other, feeling a connectivity to each around them, a genetic tie and a shared existence as if the same light flowed through their own veins.

Only then, in this euphoric moment of completion did Aiko appear, a swirling cloud of dark mass bursting forth as if spat from a cave.

The Obs orbs were very useful objects, showing the viewer the state of both the Altered and the Material realm at that moment. It dispensed with the surrounding space or indeed the centre, the insides of these orbs revolved on a magnetic field, swirling at the centre like the molten core of the planet. The best example of these was the one Nina had in her library. The one Levon and Jess had sat by not long ago. It was able to be shrunk or expanded, and at this time Nina had left it in an expanded mode, dominating the space.

Currently it was showing the disorder of the Altered as it was sucked in on itself, the green and dark lightening playing havoc on the outer sphere. As the glow from the Pandora machines swept out through the city and surrounding areas, this was shown on the Orb in a delicate white glow, oozing organically across the surface. It was dispensing the dark that had gathered and coiled. A strange thing also began to occur.

The little blue dot which was barely recognisable had begun to shine up through to the material realm. Like a laser pointer, it began to draw a line from the Altered to the Material. Along this line the white glow from the Order’s pathogen began to feed down into the Altered. It crept slowly, like a small spider along the blue line, finally breaking forth and pouring outward towards the black and green hole. The crater left by Aiko which was destroying all there.

The glow fed into this hole, but instead of being swallowed into nothingness, it began to fill it. Spiralling downward until it had eventually stopped the destruction, and then began to lift out of the darkness, coursing over the Altered landscape with a blue and white glow. It seemed to be repairing, restoring and stabilising the space.

Aiko stood like a cobra, huge and ominous. His darkness and use of magic had transformed his body, growing it to twice his usual size. He loomed before them, the hatred and blackness spewing from his eyes. He held before him Akari, one hand menacingly gripped on her shoulder. The girl was not scared though it seemed, there was an awareness in her own eyes, and a movement that seemed to be looking for opportunity.

They all turned to look at him, some members of the order firing off their strange weapons towards him despite the presence of Akari. He flicked his wrist towards these, and a green emittance stopped the shots and disintegrated the weapons which lurched from their grips.

“Ah, the teacher.” Aiko said, but his voice was strange, devoid of any human traits. It echoed sinisterly like a cry inside a cave. They all shuddered, all except Nina who stepped forward towards him.

“Aiko. You have no power here now, your time has past.” Nina said, her commanding yet calm voice almost beating down Aiko’s presence.

“Is that so? Yet here’s me thinking it’s just about to begin. Maybe the teacher is misinformed for a change?” Aiko tauntingly jabbed.

“It’s too late.” Nina said, her eyes darting to the Pandora machines, showing him the Holy water had already been released.

“Congratulations, you took something someone else had done and made it your own. So the pathogen is released, and everyone is changed? Everyone down there in their little expensive beds or flea-bitten coverings are now the same? Too bad it will only be momentarily.” He said, the other hand now on Akari’s shoulder.

“You can stop whatever it is you plan to do now and just remain Aiko. We don’t need to destroy you for us all to win. Can’t you see this way is the very essence of the Altered, the magic?” She asked him. Jess could see it was in vain, and Nina herself knew it was also; but she had to try. Samuel had never given up on him, and she followed his path.

“Enough. Enough of it all; this, you, them. It ends here.” And he began to incant above Akari, who took on a green glow, something taking hold. They all stood back, unsure of what was going to happen. All except Nina who stood firm, her arms coming together, her own magic at the ready. Little blue sparks beginning to bristle from her fingertips. The force seemed to build further and further around Akari, Aiko’s power and hatred, all his darkness manifesting in that innocent body, waiting to explode onto this world.

Sometimes it takes just one action to tip the scales. One little moment to shift the paradigm. The moment Nina aimed her magic towards Aiko, was the same moment that Jess chose to plunge into the breach.

Jess took a run and dove towards Aiko, knowing she might take the force of his power that was building in Akari. She did not close her eyes in one last desperate act, but instead flung full force into him with her eyes peeled back. Nina had released her own magic, her own generation of positive power which launched towards Aiko and impacted just as Jess made contact. It short circuited the connection he had made, sparking off in jets of green and blue. As Aiko tumbled back with her, Akari seized her own moment, now fuelled with his strength. She connected to the essence of the holy water, touching it like the ‘creation of Adam’, gentle moments which begot such wonder.

As the explosion of light blinded them all, a powerful silence captured the moment, halting their heartbeats there in time for those few seconds. The power of the magic, and that of the human heart seemed to reach up and touch the infinite, washing over everything.


 

Smartly Dressed Violence (Part xxviii)

Click here for previous entries  or  Listen to this episode


 XXVIII

Nina had been part of the Order as long as she could remember. As long as there had been injustice there in the city, she and her family had worked tirelessly in countering all the abuse and mistreatment that those smartly dressed others unleashed on them all. Her pockets were deep, and her heart was deeper, and though she had little title within the order itself (she left the organising and structuring to others), she was a cornerstone in the fight for change. She trusted and loved those she worked alongside, offering her knowledge and tutorage to those she hoped could make a difference also. It pained her to see the world the way it was, the way it had been for too long. When casualties began to come, those kidnapped and executed, tortured for their cause; it moved an anger in her that needed to be directed somewhere positive.

With those members working on the science behind the change, and those field operatives who would expedition into the Altered for sources, Nina adopted the role of overseer. She put her own faith in the work of Dr Winkoski, and the lab team based in the temple to come up with something that could change things on a genetic level. Their task was long, and fraught with many setbacks. The Order needed to continue its assault on the deviant minded in the world, and especially the works of Aiko Tsutsumi and Atone industries which were the target of their rage.

Those fallen in this charge did not pass lightly through Nina’s mind. She remembered all those gone, and the latest with those who had died in the recent transporting of Levon and the Pope, and those securing the Pandora machines.

Nina lit the little candles that were encased in red glass in a small alcove in the church above the temple. To the world it was just another church, but to those in the Order it was their sanctuary and headquarters. Their operations ran from beneath St. Patrick’s cathedral. If she would have stepped outside its huge wooden doors, she would have been able to look up and see the looming towers of Atone industries which housed the Pandora machines. Secured now, but which had claimed some members. Though the battles were more muted than expected, the technology of Aiko and his robots were powerful and deadly.

She lit the candles respectfully, bowing her head in a silent prayer for those fallen.

Karen appeared behind her, Nina hearing her shoes echoing off the stone walls as she’d entered the cathedral from their secret door below. She did not turn to her, instead allowing her to come to her side and look at the candles that now glowed and bobbed in the cold night air.

“Too many now, and over the years.” Karen said, referring to the little flames that indicated a life.

Nina Sighed.

“Too many yes, but lost to a cause they believed in, and one that is just.” Nina replied. Her heart was heavy. They were close to something; she could feel that. But there were too many variables in play at the moment for her to be at any peace.

“It will be over soon; our work is coming to an end.” Karen offered, sensing Nina’s sombreness.

“I know, and I have hope for the best outcome. I just wish no others need suffer.” She said, quietly in her calm fashion. Karen understood, she knew how much Nina had lost personally in the fight over the years. They all had really. Nina was such an attuned soul, sensitive to a fault perhaps. It weighed on her heavily, having recruited so many in the past.

“Nina don’t lose hope or sight of what we are doing. This will correct everything, once it’s concluded. Think of all the good that will bring.” Karen said, hoping to lift her spirits.

“Yes, I know. I just hope we’re not too late.” Nina replied.

“What do you mean?” Karen asked her, confused.

“I hope that the people can still be changed, to something better. Their hatred is so ingrained, we do not know the psychology behind what they do. We can change the genetics and their make-up, but their minds and hearts. That I don’t know.” Nina said. Karen thought on this for a moment.

“ I’m sure Samuel will know what to do with that, he always has an idea about things out of the box.” She offered. Nina nodded to her.

“He did, he does. That’s why he has gone to the Altered.” Nina said.

“Then why are you so uncertain?” She asked her. There was a pause before she spoke again, as if caught in the dance of the candle flames.

“Because I fear it will cost him his own life to forward this change, and too many good souls have already fallen.” Nina said. They both remained quiet for a short time, staring at the flames, knowing that the end had perhaps begun.

“What is he going to bring back, what has he gone to get?” Jess asked Stefan, already anxious and now worried about what was happening. Stefan’s breathing was erratic, and it took some time to catch his breath before he answered.

“Before I managed to get away, he told me what he planned to do. He was so cold, detached almost. It was frightening to hear and witness. I knew I was about to die as he’d just murdered the doctor. He came up to me, and I saw it there in his eyes. Those black dead spaces filled with an essence so evil, evil is the only word I can describe it as. He told me his plans had changed, that the machines of god would now be the machines of Satan. He plans to bring a force from the Altered, bathed in this negative cloud that will destroy everything living.” Stefan said, now slumping to the floor.

Jess looked at Eva and Daniel, the other members surrounded him in rapt attention.

“Is this the dark entity that had been polluting the Altered?” Jess asked. Stefan shrugged.

“I don’t know too much about that world. Aiko was very secretive about it all and who had access to the information for his plans. I know he was to secure an essence originally, so I assume this is something similar. But he’s changed, corrupted. His eyes are poisoned by this darkness. I believe he will do anything now to have his revenge, or whatever he views it as.” Stefan replied.

Jess turned to Daniel now.

“Can this be done, over in the altered? Can a force be harnessed or weaponised and brought over?” She asked desperately. Daniel thought a moment. All members had been trained in understanding the Altered and its magical properties. With Daniel’s obvious technical proficiencies, she hoped he would know what Stefan was talking about.

“Well, we all use the magical to some degree as a weapon, but it’s scale is hard to quantify really. In theory he could manifest something from his own darkness if, like this man says; he has been so far corrupted. We know of the darkness there, but it wasn’t able to overcome the Pope’s power in the recent battle. He would need to defuse it into something from there that could be transported back, something of its construct.” Daniel offered, thinking things over.

“Like what, an organic object?” Jess suggested.

“Sort of, but it would need to be multilayered, able to contain and transition.” Daniel said.

“Like a person.” Jess said, a statement more than a question.

They all turned towards the bridge as they saw Aiko. The dark cloud that swirled above him was like a concentrated tornado, spinning and churning at a furious speed. It drew up into the fog of the Altered like a finger, blended away into the grey and the unknown beyond.

“Ai!” Exclaimed his mother, shocked by both his appearance before them and the sight of her son. His face was gaunt, shrivelled almost as if the cloud above him were sucking his insides out. He held a little green flame in his hand, the same he’d used at the Gates of Asher. They watched and waited to see what he would do. Aiko merely stood there, surveying them all; a hatred leaving him incapacitated it seemed.

“Ah, Ai; so good of you to join us.” Samuel said, in a jovial tone.

“Ai, what have you been doing?” Akari asked him, her eyes wide; perhaps prepared for anything.

Aiko turned, aiming his hand at the bridge. He let out what appeared to the others to be a scream, but to himself was a directed channel of energy. The green fire leapt from his hand, swirling in the black clouds from above and pulverised the bridge and the marker stones. The vaporized particles seemed to hover in their dismantled state for a second, before lifting off into the fog above like sand being tipped away upside down. A fracturing seemed to stem from the space, huge green cracks crawling out across the ground and reaching the others.

“Ai, stop this!” Akari screamed at him. But it did little good. The dark cloud, now energised further by the destruction of the bridge loomed toweringly, sparkling with Aiko’s green magic. He aimed it towards them, directing the force and the power straight at Samuel and Levon.

Levon was as quick as his father, tapping his wrist and uttering a spell. The words had just left his mouth as blackness covered them, washing over like a black tar.

Inside the vortex, a blue light glowed. Faintly at first, but it grew stronger. It thronged and pulsed as Aiko moved forward, closer to his family and Akari who were grouped together cowering from the onslaught before them. The fog of the Altered had peaked upwards, as if blown away by giant lips. A strange lightening storm raged up in the atmosphere now, strikes of green, white and blue punctured the clouds. Spitting and hissing like a giant snake coiling around them.

Out burst the white light which seemed to halt the dark which had attacked Levon and Samuel. It projected outwards, turning the dark matter to globs of stringy ash. Levon aimed his arms towards Aiko, a blue light streaking outwards towards him. But Aiko was quick and unrelenting, he aimed his own power back, slamming hard into Levon’s spell, stopping it in its tracks.

Akari rushed forward, breaking from her family, calling for Aiko to stop what he was doing. That it could all be better, but he must end this.

“It ends with me!” He yelled to her, aiming a strange green and orange fire towards her.

Levon reacted, lunging in her direction to protect her from what Aiko had sent her way. But the glowing fire had split, the green and orange separating. The green part of the spell shot towards Levon as he pushed Akari out of the way. The Orange part however caught her as she fell, encasing her in a strange, almost crystal-like confine.

Her family rushed forward, but Aiko aimed again. He was battling Samuel but managed to fire off further magical elements towards his family. Caught from his previous attack, Levon stumbled, half firing off some elements from his arms which now burned and singed green from the markings which ran up them. He missed his footing but dove with all his might to block the spell which was flying towards Aiko’s family. It collided with him in an array of green and black, and much like the bridge, Levon was broken outward into particles which hovered for a moment before pouring upwards.

“Levon!!!” Samuel yelled. He turned towards his son, but it was too late. In that moment, his own magic enchantment broke, and Aiko’s green and black torrent of cloud pushed him backward.

“All wars have sacrifices.” Aiko said, dryly. His words drifting over the strange landscape which now hung with loss. His family were scared to move, though his mother looked desperate to go towards Akari who was encased in her orange shell.

Samuel was on his knees, but he was not defeated. He spoke directly to Aiko, less tauntingly than previously.

“Aiko, please stop this. No one else need die for this.” He said, his hands out imploringly.

“Everybody needs to die for this. That’s what you don’t understand. I’m done with everything, none of this matters now.” Aiko said, twirling the green flame once again in his hands.

“It’s never too late to change, no one is ever too far gone. Despite what they have done.” Samuel said, casting an eye to where his son just stood.

“You’ve always been the ruler of this kingdom, and what a place to be king of. But look at it now, dead and empty. Just dust and fog. Why do you wish to save all this?” Aiko said, in almost a whisper but it tickled everyone’s ears.

“Because I believe this place can help change the material world and make it a better version then what it currently is. It’s not too late to do that still, with what you know Aiko; you can help also.” Samuel said, earnestly. But the others could see it was in vain.

“I don’t care.” Was all he replied, and he aimed his arms towards him once more.

In that moment The Pope surprised everyone. He leapt up from his space and dove towards Aiko’s family. He muttered a spell as he snaked around them pulling the ground up with his hands. The floor beneath reacted like elastic, moulding upwards to create a dome over them.

Enraged, Aiko fired off his own green flame and cloud once more, but it could not penetrate the forcefield that Samuel had created. Inside the dome, he suddenly produced a bright white flash and a few seconds later the family had vanished, and Samuel stood there as the dome broke away in patches, revealing him once again.

“Noooooo.” Was all Aiko could say as he charged towards him with such fury and anger that he leapt huge strides like a charging beast. The flames and the clouds bellowed forth, the storm raging above seemed to descend towards them in that moment. Samuel once again shot out his bright white light from his arms, the almost divine illumination shone through the dark, piercing it like tiny swords. A Little blue flash popped above his head and flew towards Akari, bursting at the top of her casing and slithering down like a broken egg.

Aiko charged and concentrated his full force towards Samuel, stopping moments before a concentrated pulse of his power emitted outwards and travelled towards him. Aiko dove out of the way of the retaliating magic and landed next to Akari. He muttered some words and dissolved away with her, leaving the space. It all happened in the blink of an eye. His final view of the Altered was of his powerful magic exploding with the Pope who fractured and erupted into a bright white flash. Just like the bridge and just like Levon.


 

Smartly Dressed Violence (Part xxvii)

Click here for previous entries  or  Listen to this episode


 XXVII

Jess stood there once the clatter and the smoke died away, wondering if it wasn’t all a bit too easy. They had managed to push through the guards and the armed robots which had been surrounding the machine and the top floor. The battle had been swift, with much of the attack coming from Jess and the order. The robots did what they were programmed to do, but the guards had seemed hesitant to really go at them. They had folded quickly, retreating and abandoning their posts relatively easily.

Jess said this to one of the other members, a small woman by the name of Eva.

“I know what you mean, it’s as if they were just going through the motions or something.” Eva said, throwing a robot to one side which had been sparking frantically.

“Are we sure this is the correct machine, or if this is the right place?” Jess asked, to both Eva and the others. They all surrounded the machine now, some of the members dealing with the stray robots which had been whirling and continuing on as the guards had fled. It was Daniel who spoke.

“Yes, this is definitely the machine. But having a look at it now, there isn’t anything set for release.” He said.

“Are we sure the timing is right?” Eva asked. One of the members contacted the temple to check in and to ask them this also, his wrist illuminating. Jess went across to the Pandora machine now. The huge apparatus looked like a giant upside-down wish bone, its two arms pointing up into the air. At its base there was an empty receptacle, presumably where the pathogen would go. It was voluminous, the size of a small hover pod.

“These conductors stimulate the contents and distribute them equally up these wands. The levels have to be equal or the distribution would malfunction here.” Daniel said, pointing to two valves up the sides of one of the wands. Jess could see a strip of little holes like that on a flute, with pressure lights pulsating underneath.

“So with ours mixture, we need to have the correct consistency also, or just for the distribution outward?” Jess asked him, not really sure of the science to it all. She was happy with the magic, and elemental nature which worked in a space she didn’t have to understand. But the nature of science always confused her.

“Both really, they obviously planned for a consistency of equality throughout the release, if it changes as it propels; it will shut down. I guess this was to avoid uneven distribution.” Daniel said. Jess looked at him like a child might, not getting what he was saying. He registered her confused expression.

“It means they were probably aware it was unstable, and they built in a failsafe. It’s good really that they didn’t want to just release something that was not controlled, or what they expected.” Daniel said, looking over the machine further.

“Very surprising from Mr Tsutsumi really.” Eva added, her brow furrowed.

One of the other members walked over to them, speaking to the temple and drawing the others to listen too.

“So we have the other machine, is that correct?” He asked into his wrist where a little image of a head floated.

“We have secured the other site yes, but there is an absence of material.” The little head replied, fuzzing in and out of clarity.

“Same here, we have the machine no problem. But there’s no agent to be seen, or even plans to upload one.” He said.

“Okay, remain with the machine, and let me get back to you as quick as I can. We’ve had some developments here, and we need to know if it’s safe to release the holy water still.” The head said. Jess could make out it was Dr. Winkoski. They all turned and looked at each other, wondering what to do next.

Karen clicked off the call and turned to face Nina, who stood holding two cups of tea. She handed one of them over to her.

“So we have the machines, just no presence of the virus. Were we off with our information, had Aiko not precured his source?” Karen asked her, she blew on the rim of the cup.

“No, it’s not that. We know he has his manufactured agent, and he needed a source from the altered to combine with this. This has been planned for a while. Something must have gone wrong. His encounter with the Pope must have changed things for him.” Nina said, sipping from her own cup.

“Then his plan has shifted since returning, presuming that he did. We don’t really know what took place there.” Karen said.

“No, not entirely. We know he was stopped entering the gates of Asher, but what state the Pope left him in is anyone’s guess. We can’t move forward with our own until he is accounted for. We don’t know what back up plans he has developed, or what reaction technology he may have devised. People like Aiko always have another route to take. We must locate him before we release ours.” Nina said, a worried expression hovering on her face for a moment before disappearing.

“What did he say when you spoke?” Karen asked, referring to the Pope.

“That they were to take Aiko’s family into the altered, and that he would follow. I said we’d buy him some time. We’ve got the machines secured now; we just need to wait to hear from him.” Nina said, looking at Karen in a way that conveyed her thoughts on the Pope’s communication abilities, or lack thereof.

“I see, well he does have Levon with him. Perhaps he will be more communicative.” Karen offered.

“I hope so too.” Nina said, sipping more of the tea, which burnt her tongue.

Levon felt cold there for the first time. Usually in the Altered there was little change in temperature, the atmosphere was always heavy and hung like a humid day, the temperature always warm. But he shivered, the fog swirling around them. He had long ago learnt how to manipulate the surroundings of the world there; the emotions and thoughts usually constructed the space around you. But here now, there was a cold deadness, as if the Altered was no longer receptive, but in a state of sleep. Reduced back to its default it seemed.

“You feel it also?” Samuel asked Levon, noticing him shiver along with Aiko’s family.

“I’ve never known it like this before.” Levon said. The girl before them then spoke.

“It’s trying to repair; something has attacked the fabric of this world.” She said, helping the older woman get to her feet.

“She’s right. Aiko’s darkness had spread too far and wide. When he tried to get through the gates of Asher, he unleased a huge amount of negative energy. The Altered is trying to heal, trying to shift. The test in the Limbo only made things more unbalanced. Like people, it can only take so much.” Samuel said.

“Who are you?” The girl suddenly asked him. She was young, around twelve. Much younger than Aiko.

“I’m Samuel, good to meet you. And this is Levon.” Samuel said, motioning to his son.

“I’m Akari. Thank you for rescuing us. I don’t remember much, but I do remember those horrible tubes in the facility.” She said. Her family were quiet, slowly understanding where they were.

“You’re welcome, and you’re all safe now. But what did you mean that you had come from the Altered?” It was Levon who asked, he had been watching the family; they all seemed relieved to be there and together.

“What do you think I mean? I came from here; it was where I was…constructed I guess you could say.” She said, matter-of-factly.

“You’re a spirit of this place, taken into form?” Samuel asked. The girl nodded.

“Wait, I don’t understand. Are you Aiko’s sister?” Levon asked, clearly perplexed.

The older woman put her hand on the young girl’s shoulder then and spoke.

“You have saved us, and we thank you. This is Ai’s doing, we know this.” She said, her accent heavy with Japanese. Samuel nodded in recognition. The woman muttered something, shaking her head.

“He denies us, he forgets us. He tries to bury us. But we cannot be forgotten.” She said, her eyes alert, betraying her sad, aged face.

“Ai isn’t my brother. I wouldn’t call him my father either, but he was the one who brought me over. I live in both realms, on separate plains.” The girl said, a fragile tinge to her words, yet she stood assuredly.

Samuel turned to Levon.

“Aiko unlocked the essence of spirits here, while exploring the magic. Reversed engineered somewhat. His scientific approach to this place, probably how he tried to understand things. Whenever we want something, we must give something back. He traded part of himself to absorb more of the essence of the Altered. He takes it to a dark place, because he does not know how to handle the power properly. The Altered, being what it is, created Akari here, from his particles.” He said. Levon could see a world of knowledge in his father’s eyes.

“The nice parts!” Akari said, smiling.

“You betcha.” Samuel added, smiling back to her.

“We care for her; we raise her as our own. But she deserves more than what we can offer. We cannot rid ourselves of the SIN which keeps us in place.” The old woman said sadly.

“And Aiko knows all this?” Levon asked?

“Knows and tries to hide. But he can’t be rid of us, or me at least. If I die, Aiko dies.” Akari said.

“You’d think he’d keep you safe, protected somewhat. Not living on the west-side where things are hard and dangerous.” Levon said.

“We live in love there, we survive.” The older woman said, almost defiantly.

“Ai does not know everything that we do, or where I am all the time. I know his movements, and when he is in this place.” Akari said.

“Then you should have known I was stood right over here then.” They heard from a voice over by the bridge. They looked across to see Aiko stood there in his suit, a dark cloud swirling above his head.

“What developments do you think she meant?” Jess said, anxious after the call with Karen.

Eva shook her head, not knowing herself. Daniel was examining the machine further, looking over the controls and the entry module for the pathogen.

“Well, at least we know they can’t release the virus now. That’s something.” She said, she was trying to convince herself more than the others. Something felt off to her.

“But where is it then, our information had them releasing both of them tonight.” Eva added, sharing the concern.

“We need to talk to someone, to get some information. Any of those guards conscious?” Jess asked, motioning to some of the security team they had already fought with.

“Nah, we did too good a job.” One of the temple members said, checking the guards.

Just as he said this, Jess spotted something out of the corner of her eye. Something moved off around the corner of a wall.

“Be right back.” Jess said, hurtling over a fallen robot and heading off towards the movement.

Jess was quick, and the person was slow. She seized Stefan by the back of his neck, spinning him around.

“Gotcha.” Jess said, and he let out a tiny yelp. She marched him back to where the other’s stood, the alarms had finally stopped, and an eerie silence had fallen on the scene.

“Who are you?” Eva asked him as he stood before them and the machine.

“Please, don’t hurt me.” Stefan said, looking around at the others on the floor and the remains of the robots. His suit was a mess, patches of oil sprayed up his leg, and his suit jacket was dirty and torn; a line of blood stained his collar.

“Don’t give us reason to.” Jess said, nudging him with her weapon. “What is happening here, where is the virus you intended to release?” She asked him.

“It’s all gone wrong, it’s all failed. Aiko has gone mad, he’s deranged.” He said. He was not hysterical, more of a defeated man who had his world rocked, and his illusions shattered. He had been brought up in a world where there was a clear system and order to the disapprobation of those with SIN. Aiko had fallen in his eyes, and everything now seemed unclear.

“We know this, but where is the virus?” Eva pressed.

Stefan looked around, as if surprised it was not up by the machine.

“If it’s not here, then the consignments weren’t moved up from the containment sector in the lower levels. We have the laboratories and higher risk units underground. Aiko didn’t ascertain the material from the other place for it to impart with our agent.” He said, letting his head hang.

“So we were right, it’s not set to be released now. We need to check the same at the other site.” Eva suggested.

“What happened to Aiko?” Jess asked Stefan as one of the members began to contact the other team, having been unable before.

“He surprised us, I was trying to save us all really. Keeping his family safe. He’d moved to a mental sphere that I couldn’t understand. His actions were beyond cold, calculated. But when the others took his family, he was enraged. He murdered the doctor, and I barely escaped myself.” Stefan said.

“What others.” Jess asked him, not concerned who the doctor was. Stefan looked more awkward, shifting nervously. Then he sighed heavily.

“We had intercepted some people from that other realm, we had some fatalities but two were kept in stasis. Aiko had plans for them, but they were able to get free. They attacked me and the doctor, before disappearing with Aiko’s family, presumably to that other realm.” He said.

“An old and younger man?” Jess asked, knowing who he meant.

“Yes, one who’s abilities I’ve never seen with such power.” He added.

“And they took them to the Altered? What about Aiko?” Jess asked, hastily.

“He is mad, insane. The things he wants to do now. No one is safe.” Stefan said, clearly shaken.

“But what is he going to do, where is he now?” Jess said, the urgency frantic in her eyes.

“He plans to kill everyone he can, he’s gone to the Altered after them, and he’s bringing back something that will do more damage then these machines ever could.” He shook his head, defeatedly.


 

Smartly Dressed Violence (Part xxvi)

Click here for previous entries  or  Listen to this episode


 XXVi

Jess could recall a countless number of times in her life when she had been attacked by ‘The Others’. Physically beaten, verbally assaulted. One time when she was a teenager she was pushed down a flight of stairs, backwardly tumbling step after step back down into the recess of the city and out of sight; all because someone thought she shouldn’t be somewhere where she could be seen. By those others who moved about in their own gilded self-contained world, always consuming; yet never giving back.

She thought of these instances as the faces of these others blurred past her. The smartly dressed ones who had been drinking coffee, and then cowered quietly out of the way. The more they made their way through the tower, Jess noticed more of a mix of people which was unknown for this location in the city. As many of the workers had relocated from other facilities, and those already operating and living in the tower prior to this; a strange fusion of peoples now occupied the tower. Aiko had inadvertently mixed the two groups together, maintaining control through a shared goal. She could tell they were mixed, something about those with SIN she could always spot right away, like an internal scanner she passed before them. It was a habit, something she did without thinking about it. She was now trying to save everyone, regardless of what their cells said about them, or how they had treated her in the past.

She passed them all now, those with and without residing in the tower that looked out to sea; climbing up to god.

She and the other members rode the elevator a certain way, then exited out again, making their way through further residential and office spaces. Their map projections were taking them a way that was to avoid any unneeded confrontations, accessing the areas where there would be more people but less security. They moved quickly and found themselves at some hover pods which would take them right to the top where they new the machines were located, both here and in the other tower.

They all climbed aboard, the scanner moving over them a few times, scanning fruitlessly until Daniel overrode the system once again. The scanner recoiled back into its compartment and the hover pod, which looked like the top of a glass, floated upwards towards the higher floors, carrying them silently. They were a much nicer way to move around, though none of the group sat on the luxurious white leather seats. Before too long they had reached the top and Jess could see that their job was about to get a lot harder.

There were guards and security robots everywhere they looked. The floor was a strange mix of open plan arrangements with little hives dotted about the place, rooms they guessed which were more private. Over to one side and encased in glass they could see a machine, jutting out into the outside part of the building which loomed over the city. It was dark, and the outside lights were turned off, though pulses of red flashed repeatedly from the red safety light that adorned the very top of the tower.

They all looked at each as the hover pod came to a gentle stop and hoped they enjoyed their time there. Jess and the order were able to act only a fraction of a second before they were spotted, and an incessive alarm rang out alerting everyone to their presence. Though Jess would regret anyone getting hurt, she was so struck by the adrenaline that coursed through her, that much of the fight was a blur to her. A frantic show of lights and flashes, of strange noises and robots descended in sparks and screams.

Stefan looked at Aiko’s family, all of them suspended in the same glass tubing that had housed both Levon and his father. The room was much the same, if not larger and with a window. Or what was meant to be a window, they were still underground and the vast glass space on the wall simulated outside views to give the working space a less subterranean feel. Synchronised to the time of the day, the current view was that of a harbour at night, the boats bobbing on the gentle waves as the lights of the dock peppered the water.

All of them were there, though this only amounted to a handful of them. Aiko had been able to pull himself out of the mud of his circumstance, but his family had not. They had withered and struggled, suffering more than most due to the compendium of hinderances and genetics that had cruelly disposed on them. His parents had survived, and one of his grandparents. But of his immediate family, there was only a sister remaining.

Stefan tapped the glass like he was in an aquarium, and the girl flashed her eyes open to him. He stepped back, alarmed.

“They can’t do anything, fear not. We’re controlling their muscles and brain activity anyway. I could make her if I wanted, but best not to play with them.” Dr Camogue said, pulling up a screen before her.

“So, they are all healthy and fine?” Stefan asked, looking across to the other bodies in the tubes.

“I don’t quite know about healthy, they lived over on the West Side. Their SIN levels are off the charts too, I can’t believe Aiko came from this?” She said, registering disbelief.

“But they’re fine?” Stefan pressed.

“Yes, you can see they are.” She replied, sliding the screen and looking over more information which glowed with red and white lights.

“They need to be strong for the extraction you said, I’m just making sure. And that they won’t be harmed.” Stefan added. She looked at him.

“Trust me, I know what I’m doing. They are fine for the procedure.” The doctor said. Stefan nodded.

“I know, and sorry if you think I’m being difficult. A lot rides on this. If everything falls apart, and Aiko doesn’t get the results he’s hoping for. We need them as insurance. There’s a secret locked inside of them, as these results show.” Stefan said, his hand pointing to the little hovering screens in front of the tubes.

It seemed to give a read out of the occupant’s vitals, along with a series of flashing numbers and signs. These, as Stefan had come to learn, were mutated coding markers in their genetics. Aiko had gotten out of the mud, so to speak, but the silty world of his family’s make-up held a secret about his own evolutional path that was unique to the Tanakas. For that mud had been sprinkled with its own magic.

“It’s fine, I get it. But don’t worry. We’ll extract what’s needed and keep them in stasis until everything unravels. This facility is protected anyway, so whatever goes on upstairs will not affect anyone here. They’ll remain unchanged.” Dr Camogue said, before continuing. “Though I am making sure that my own body gets that super boost Aiko is promising, even with a little help from mother nature.” She said, eyeing him.

“What do you mean?” Stefan asked curiously.

“Well, we can all do with a little enhancer; let’s just say I have my own little medicine to take when the process begins.” She said, almost proudly.

“You sure that’s safe. All of this is based on a magic that is still hard to comprehend.” Stefan said, unsure.

“There you go, doubting again. Don’t.” She said, and though was playful, Stefan sensed a nastiness lurking there. “It’s all under control.”

She said this with such certainty, it was a strong emotion that hung on her face as it, she and Stefan were frozen to the spot.

Levon and Samuel had entered the room and expecting to find someone; had come prepared. A quick incantation from Samuel had used the condensation from the tubes to collect and then snake across both Stefan and Dr Camogue. The magic had frozen their bodies in place as the water travelled across their skin.

“That’s Stefan Ruud, he’s Aiko’s assistant.” Levon offered, going with his father towards the frozen pair. “What do they want with the Tanakas?” Levon asked his father, who was looking at the Doctor.

“Could be many things, good or bad. I know the good doctor here has a history of experimenting, so it’s probably best we get them away from her.” He said, something in his eyes told Levon he knew a lot more about her.

“Are they able to go in this state, or do we need to release them first.” Levon asked, looking at the tubes which bubbled away slightly. He felt the solution on his own skin for a moment, reminded of his own confinement a short time ago.

“Well, they can…” Samuel began, but what they could do Levon never found out.

The door to the room had opened and Aiko Tsutsumi stood there, his black eyes taking in the scene.

“Your eminence.” He said, mockingly towards The Pope.

Samuel turned to look at him but remained calm, no sign of surprise took him.

“Ah, Ai. Good to see you, a little family reunion it seems.” He said.

Aiko looked at the glass tubes, which seemed to conclude his suspicions. Levon went to move forward in an attack, but his father held his hand up to stop him.

“And what is going on with these people then? As for family, I would be pressed to use that word.” Aiko said, moving further into the room.

“Well, it seems your friend Stefan and the Doctor here have a nice little plan for them. I hope it was to keep them safe while you tried to ruin the world, but I fear it might have been something more untoward.” Samuel said.

There was just a tiny flicker in Aiko’s eyes, but he shook it off and continued.

“They mean little to me.” He said.

“As do many it seems now, but it doesn’t have to be this way.” Samuel said.

“Yet it is. What are family but a letdown. What are others, besides an annoyance. A great purge is coming, and I believe I will be better off on the other side of it.” Aiko said, quietly.

“There is more than just you in this world Aiko. And indeed, another world where you are equally at odds.” Samuel said, watching both Aiko And Levon, trying to control both.

“That world will fall too.” Aiko replied, his hands moving to his arm slightly. Samuel noticed this.

“Don’t do anything that will mean you are forever lost Ai.” Samuel said.

“Don’t call me that.” Aiko replied, almost in a snarl. And he reached towards a dial on his suit, the same as he had worn to go into the Altered.

But Samuel was quicker.

He flicked his hand around, sending the water that had encased Stefan and the Doctor and flung it against the glass tubes. Both Stefan and Dr Camogue unfroze, staggering for a moment on the spot. Samuel then grabbed his son, and with his other hand tapped a sign on his wrist and muttered some words quickly.

A green vapour had begun to emit from Aiko’s own suit, but he was not matched with The Pope’s swiftness. They had vanished in a flash and Aiko was left with the vapour pooling around the room with the glass tubes now empty, and Stefan and the Doctor looking at him in surprise.

They arrived at the bridge; the huge marker stones loomed before them as the bridge spanned out into a fog. Levon stumbled, and he caught himself. He saw his father now, bent over, wheezing as one might after a huge run. Around them were the bodies of Aiko’s family, their eyes closed but they did not look dead, more like asleep. They had arrived hard, and some of them had collapsed onto each other.

“Are you okay?” Levon asked his father, who stood with his hands on his knees.

“Yes, yes…. just that took a lot to do.” He said, as if trying to catch his breath.

Levon went across to check on the family, and they all seemed okay. Indeed, the younger girl had begun to stir, opening her eyes and sitting up slightly.

“Hey.” Levon said, going over to her.

“What the hell is going on?” She said, angrier then scared.

“Far from hell, you can rest assure my dear.” Samuel said, getting himself together.

“There’s a lot to tell you, but you’re safe; so don’t worry.” Levon said, offering a smile. She returned one, calmed by his nature.

“Okay, but why are we in the Altered?” She asked.

Both Levon and his father looked at her, taken aback.

“You’ve been here before?” Levon asked.

“Of course.” She replied, getting to her feet. “It’s where I came from.”


 

Revelation

Show the world who you are.
Dripped in honey and absinthe.
Hovering by a flame.
All parts, never the same.
As they try to push you under a reason.
A statement, a label, or part treason.
When you smash the brackets of age that constricts.
And you pull down the gods for a closer look.
They’ll see you reflect in their eyes.
Please, memorise their apology.
And wave as they pass you by.