Something to stay awake for – Stain

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It had begun to rain, a light drizzle that peppered the people as they walked along Bradley Way. Not the prettiest street in the world, and today it was overcast with a churning grey cloud that dampened the mood and made things ever more ordinary. People walked up and down the road, seeking out the local small supermarket that had opened just last year. It was housed in a former pub, the Bull and horn; the cigarette stained walls and beer marked floors long since ripped out. Outside, the faux Tudor design was kept, hoping the inn-like appearance would entice more customers. But people shopped here anyway out of convenience. The newsagents across the street had closed a year ago also, the owner packed up and moved away after a red Ford escort had rammed into his shop and robbed him late on a Sunday afternoon. Unless you were willing to cross the giant playing field at the back of Ashen road to go to the giant superstore, the pub-turned-metro shop was the easiest option.

Just near to the store was number 46, and though it was starting to rain, Mrs Taylor was found scrubbing the pavement. She had swept and tidied already, and now she was striking the wet brush across the path like she was toiling the earth. She worked with determination, scraping and scrubbing the ground over and over. She never dressed for cleaning. She was made up in her Sunday best, as if she had just gotten back from church. Though the fine rain had settled on her hair, giving it a web like crown, her hair was in place as if she had spent an hour on it. She was an odd sight to those making their way down Bradley road. After a while, she packed up her cleaning materials and went back into her house, number 46, the one with the red door.

It was grey again. It had rained in the morning, and the streets glistened like slumbering snakes. It was Sunday again also, and the local football club had finished their practice over on the giant field. A few kids had wandered off on their way home, stopping in at the local store to grab a drink and some much-needed sugar.

Mrs Taylor watched them as they walked down her road. She was scrubbing again, hot water and bleach burned away at the pavement. The added soapy suds flowed down the kerb and washed up to the drain, down into the darkness. She watched them, and they stared back at her as they walked by. She did not frown; she did not glare. There was no smile on her face either. Just a determination to scrub and wash, and get the job done. By the time the kids exited the store, Mrs Taylor had finished and returned inside her house. She had gone to make herself a cup of tea, her hands stinking of bleach and had become pale. The kids thought no more of her, and carried on their way home, their hands a healthy peach and holding the chocolate bars like tiny swords.

​-

The whole street knew of course. They watched her every week. She used the same bucket, the same brush. She would start by sweeping up the dirt and leaves that had fallen from the huge oak tree that loomed over the garden from number 38. Joyce, who lived with the tree, had never cared form Mrs Taylor. Joyce was a generation away from the woman, and tutted and shook her head to her antics in private. But if she saw her on the street, she would always nod her head in quiet recognition. To which Mrs Taylor would always nod her head slightly back.

It was Sunday again. No rain today. Just thick dark clouds above threatening the worst. A nasty cold breeze blew in from the south, ripping through Bradley Way like an arctic arm reaching from the poles. She resigned herself to a coat today. She had lost more weight than she would care to acknowledge, and her frail body would shiver in the conditions now. Underneath her plum coat, she wore her Sunday best again. The pearls her mother had given her hung over her dress, little eyes gleaming out into the cold. She had also decided to use some gloves, not because of the cold, but because her hands were now so raw from the bleach. She sat at night picking at the loose bits of skin around her fingers, peeling away the hangnails that had appeared, paled underneath from all the toxins. They stung and hurt.

But she did not care. She wanted to carry on, so she used the gloves to keep the feeling in her fingers to get the job completed. To feel the work.

And she scrubbed and rubbed and washed the pavement.

Bundled up against the elements, Mrs Stokes, and her daughter Ivy were walking along the other side of the road. Mrs Stokes lived down on Humber Way, but she knew Mrs Taylor from the primary school morning mums run. She had seen her at the gates with the others, a gaggle of women with their precious little birds waiting for the gates to part.

Ivy watched her as she scrubbed on her hands and knees, the warm water cascading over the lip of the pavement. Ivy broke free of her mother’s hand and crossed the street without looking, going over to Mrs Taylor. Her mum called after her, following her onto the street.

It was quiet that day, few cars littered the road and there was a peaceful calm.

​“Hi.’ Ivy said to Mrs Taylor, who looked up from the floor. Her eyes were glassy and tired.

“Hello.” Mrs Taylor replied, friendly. Ivy’s mum came up to them, grabbing her hand.

“Ivy, don’t bother her. Come along, we have to get to the store. And don’t run off like that. I’m sorry.” Mrs Stokes said, looking down at the woman. With that, Mrs Taylor looked off slightly, as if searching the road for something.

“Why are you cleaning the path?” Ivy asked suddenly. They all shivered there in the cold. Ivy’s mum began to pull her away.

“Don’t bother her. I’m so sorry, she’s always curious. Come along Ivy.” Mrs Stokes said, eager to get away.

Mrs Taylor stood then, much more agile than her demeanour would suggest. She popped up like a dog ready for a walk.

“Its fine, kids are curious. I’m just doing a spot of cleaning. The council seem to neglect this part of town, and the road is filthy.” She smiled then, a warm smile as she looked at the little girl. She turned her head slightly, as if she heard something, then turned back towards them.

Mrs stokes, eager to get going smiled back, hoping it would be the end to the conversation.

“But, no one else cleans the pavement. I’ve not seen anyone do it like you, scrubbing away.” Ivy said, determined to understand. Mrs Taylor was silent for a minute and then replied.

“Well, you see there where you are standing; I just can’t get this bit clean. It’ll take some time, but it will lift.” She said, reaching back for her scrubbing brush, having looked more at the spot where the two stood.

Ivy looked down at her feet, seeing nothing but the black road.

“But there is nothing there.” Ivy replied.

“Come along now Ivy. Leave her to her cleaning.” Mrs stokes said, vigorously pulling the girl. Mrs Taylor laughed a little. A small laugh, brittle from its long hibernation.

“You kids think everything is already clean. I bet your room at home is a mess and yet you think its fine. No no, the stain there, it spreads up and across the pavement. I think it is oil, but it’s taking ages to go.” She sighed suddenly, as if reminded of the huge task in front of her.

“There you see. Sorry to bother you. Come now Ivy.” Mrs Stokes said, and this time successfully moved the girl who walked on still puzzled.

They made their way to the store and Mrs Taylor watched them for a few seconds before scrubbing a bit further and then packing up her things and heading back into her house, closing her red door behind her. She took off her coat and went upstairs. She always did this. She went into the front room of the house, the second big bedroom. Hers was at the rear and was slightly smaller, but she liked the view of the back garden. She liked the green. She went across to the window and looked down at the pavement.

“It’s still there.” The little girl said.

Mrs Taylor pulled at the sleeves of her dress.

“I know. I’ll buy the super strength bleach next week. That’ll do it.” She said to the empty room.

She looked up the street as a few people came out of the store. The old newsagents across the road had been turned into kitchenettes. She looked in through the ground floor window, a huge TV screen the size of the wall flashed away in blues and reds.

“Maybe in time, it’ll fade on its own.” The girl said.

She looked down at the spot again. A huge stain on the floor seemed to pulse before her. She closed her eyes and watched the red ford escort zoom away noisily like thunder down the road. She hoped she would never see it again, but she knew she would.


MORE FABLES HERE

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.


 

Something to stay awake for – Grace & Josh

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It had rained all morning and a small stream of water now ran down the slope of the playground outside. Miss Carbine stole a look out of the darkened window from the warm classroom she inhabited, seeing the water hammering down the pane. She sighed to herself knowing they would have to have the lunch break inside today. Her class were currently in pairs, going through the textbooks that she had put out that morning, hoping the eager minds would devour them greedily.

It wasn’t too big a class, and she found she was able to manage the five- and six-year olds reasonably well with her wispy ways and mild manners. They hadn’t yet lost the awe of having a teacher, that special entity that was there to bestow wonders upon them. Indeed, many still seemed to want to impress, which she cherished as all too soon this seemed to fade.

Grace had been reading her book with Josh, going through the story of Finders the dog and his adventure in the supermarket. She was a good reader and was able to point out to Josh where she felt he was going wrong. Josh was slow and he didn’t much care for the stupid dog or why it was even in a supermarket. He’d only ever seen one dog in a shop before himself, guiding a man around who his mum told him couldn’t see.

The dog buying cereal seemed stupid to him and he lost interest quickly and began to pinch Grace as she tried to read. If they had spoken more about the story, Grace would have agreed with Josh. The anthropomorphic antics of Finders seemed stupid to her also, and she did question its applicability to their development, further wondering if Miss Carbine; who was busy checking her phone, had given them the correct course book that morning. But she persevered and tried to ignore Josh as he pinched her, pushing him away and trying to finish the story for them both.

The rest of the class didn’t seem to have any problems with the book or Finders, indeed some seemed to be enjoying it. Before long though they had all finished and it was time for lunch. As it would be indoors today, they were allowed to sit on the carpet and have their food. An indoor picnic Miss Carbine suggested, helping them retrieve their lunchboxes from the tidy trays and bags. Grace went to the hallway where her bag was and retrieved a cup from the side also for some water. Josh had pushed passed her, knocking her into the wall as he attempted to put something down Amanda Hartly’s back. She scowled at him as she steadied herself, a small red mark appearing on her elbow where she’d banged into the wall.

With her lunch and water Grace sat on the carpet, eager to begin her food as her stomach growled. She heard the rain outside their classroom and watched it drip down the glass like a hose had been aimed at it. Her best friend Michael was not in today, and Miss Carbine had told them he was unwell. She looked at her teacher now, who was helping Robert with his lunchbox that wouldn’t open, missing Michael.

She had just started to tuck into her sandwich when she felt water pouring all over her. She momentarily thought the windows had smashed open, the storm breaching the small stronghold their tiny school offered. Then the laughter rose about her, coming strong from behind. Josh stood there, with an empty jug in his hand having poured the contents all over her. His fat face sporting a smile that reached from one chubby cheek to the other.

​“Oh, Josh Devonport what do you think you’re doing!” Miss Carbine yelled, stepping the short way across the carpet to where he stood.

“That’s horrible Josh. You’re so mean.” Amy Standhall said, who was sat next to Grace but had escaped the projectile of the water. Grace sat there, the water pooling in her dress as she sat crossed leg. Her sandwich now a sodden mess and a cold chill slithering over her body.

“Get over there right now!” Miss Carbine said, ordering the boy away from where the others sat. Miss Carbine, lovely as she was, was not really prepared for the antics of children. She had the priorities of the situation confused, and though she acted with Josh; she somewhat neglected Grace as she sat there with the water in her knickers and the fat boy laughing on at the other side of the room. Amy got Grace to stand up and shake off the water and she even went with her to the bathroom to help her dry off. Grace watched Josh as she left the room being reprimanded by Miss Carbine. She doubted he really cared.

A while later Miss Carbine appeared in the bathroom and helped Grace dry off completely, asking her if she was okay and not to worry about her dress; or her lunch for that matter. She would see to it that some food would arrive. But Grace was no longer hungry. She was wet, cold and angry at being humiliated.

She returned to the classroom where everyone had carried on with their lunches. Some of the kids had finished and were playing with the building blocks near the blackboard. Josh had been ordered to get some paper towels and was mopping up the water that he spilt on the floor where Grace had quietly sat waiting to eat her lunch. He smiled at her as she came back into the room. The taunting face of someone who would do the same thing again.

Teddy Evans came up to her and asked if she was okay, she nodded in reply; thankful that all boys weren’t as horrid as Josh. Miss Carbine suddenly whisked herself away to go get Grace some food, despite her protest. While the others played, Grace went to the back of the class where the storage cupboard was. She opened the door quietly and went inside. The small cupboard was stacked high with boxes and games equipment. They weren’t really allowed to go in there on their own, but everything was stored safely and there was no real danger. Silly rules to keep them in place she guessed. Unless you were locked in with the light off perhaps. Grace found what she was looking for quickly, and a few minutes later slipped out of the cupboard and approached Josh.

“That wasn’t very nice what you did you know.” She said to him, hoping to find remorse there in those fat brown eyes. Josh scoffed and pushed her away.

“Buzz off. You smell like a wet dog.” He said.

​“Aren’t you even sorry for doing what you did?” she asked him, giving him one more opportunity to apologise.

“I said buzz off!” He said again, pushing her hard. Grace stepped back; her eyes burning a hole through him. Then she smiled and said.

“You know with Miss Carbine away, there’s nothing stopping us getting the footballs and tennis balls out of the cupboard and playing quickly. Shame we didn’t get to go outside today, huh?” She said, innocently. She knew Josh wasn’t too stupid, but even at her young age she knew how to manipulate certain people. She had said the magic word too, football.

“Why me?” Josh asked, somewhat suspicious.

“Well, they’re on the high shelves aren’t they, I can’t reach them.” Grace replied, hoping the seed would manifest in Josh’s stodgy brain.

​“Right, outta the way then.” He said, reaching his own conclusion that the break time indoors was dull and kicking a ball around would be better. Grace knew Miss Carbine would be returning soon, but she watched as Josh went over to the cupboard where the sports equipment was and saw him go in.

It seemed that fate was eager to help Grace that rainy Wednesday while the other kids played in the classroom, and Miss Carbine chatted absently with one of the other teachers by the school kitchen.

​Once Josh had entered the small cupboard the sports boxes had tumbled onto him and the lights had gone out, plunging the whole school into darkness. No doubt the storm had downed a power line mile away, knocking the electricity off and unleashing chaos upon the small primary school. But the skipping ropes had found their way around Josh’s neck in the tumble of the boxes, their disordered storing knotting quickly and completely in the frantic blackness of the closet.

Her earlier placement up into the vent made it an inevitable trap Josh would not be able to escape from. When the power sprang back to life, Grace quietly flicked the switched outside the small cupboard which kicked the extractor fan on that resided within; left over from recent renovations when their classroom used to be part of the old bathrooms.

The ropes worked quickly around him, tightening hard around his fat little neck. He lifted slightly off his feet as the light bulb above him blinked in and out, mirroring his consciousness; the ropes choking him into regret.

Grace returned to the others, pretending to be scared by the lights and the storm. Secretly smiling to herself as his howls of help were drowned out by the chaos enveloping their class.


More fables here.

Smartly Dressed Violence (Part xxviii)

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 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)

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 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.”


 

Smartly Dressed Violence (Part xxv)

Click here for previous entries  or  Listen to this episode


 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.


Pick your poison:


 

Smartly Dressed Violence (Part xxii)

Click here for previous entries


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.


Dislocated: Short Broken Tales

OUT NOW


Dislocated is a collection of 28 short stories which cover the need to escape, and the horror of remaining. Tales such as ‘Folkroot’, where something dark is lurking in the hotel pond. Or ‘Nemesis’, which takes us to another world where still a darkness dwells.

This collection shows you the road to freedom, but warns you with a cold hand, that you may not travel alone.

Out in ebook and paperback



Smartly dressed violence (part xxi)

Click here for previous entries


Peace, that was what usually met him when he stepped into the Altered. The magical realm that he felt was his alone, though he knew it was not. Now it was different, it was a hubbub of noise and action, light, and movement.

They had all stepped over, Levon, Jess and her family. They hovered momentarily in the Altered, before rewinding back into the purgatory place between there and the material realm. Where the Altered offered a calm with its twirling mists and mind creating spaces, this place was all noise and fusion. They hung inside what seemed like large oversized clear Christmas baubles, giant spheres which throbbed with a pulse of their own. They drifted through a clouding haze, a grey smoke which swirled around other orbs, knocking into their own and bursting with new sounds and senses.

They had come over with the help of Levon’s incantation, which successful took them to the Altered and then stepped them back. Like rewinding a film. Levon had only passed through this place once before, in his own learning experiences of the magic and the states. His journeys into the Altered were so clean and effortless now due to his gifts, it was like stepping through a door. For others, it was a deliberating and confusing process. Jess, who had a little experience in these realms herself felt drained, as if her mind was held before her and stretched like chewing gum.

Her family looked around the sphere they were in, globs of blue and green liquid began to leak down the sides, undulating to a wave of sound that bombarded them. They huddled together, looking around confused, taking it all in.

Levon stood in the centre of the sphere, taking out his companion quickly, and commanding another incantation. He held his arm outstretched, as if commanding the air all around. He breathed out a spell, and the words formed before him in green and blue. They flew to the sides, sticking into the crystal walls that deceptively made the sphere smaller than it was. The words hovered for a moment before melding with the other bits of the liquid and began to twist around the walls, painting a swirled pattern all around which eventually coated their sphere.

The noises ebbed, and the motion of the sphere halted; Levon’s control and protection taking hold.

“Wow, that was something. Where are we?” Said Ethy, the oldest one there being the grandmother. She touched the sides of the sphere, her hand disappearing into vapour momentarily, before returning.

“Purgatory, or at least the place between places.” Levon said, the markings on his arms glittering with a green glow.

“I hadn’t expected it to be so beautiful” Came Jess’s mother, who looked below her seeing the clouds swirling and dance.

“Or so loud!” Said Pearce, Jess’s grandfather, wiggling his little finger in his ear as if ringing out bathwater.

“Well, there’s not much time to enjoy the sights. Levon, do you know what to do next?” Jess said, hoping for him to take charge.

Levon looked around, seeing the confused, scared and amazed faces. He had forgotten what it must be like to look at the magic through fresh eyes.

“Everyone is safe, we’re in no danger here.” Levon said as a giant sphere containing a volcano came drifting towards them, spewing inside a lava river which sploshed and splashed the sides of the orb. The noise of which bubbled into their space slightly, like listening to something through a can down a piece of string. All around them orbs floated and crashed into one another, bits of the planet and the world they knew held inside; waterfalls, lions, screaming children, pollution, and balls of gasses. Drifting around in a perpetual state of being.

“I’m glad you know what you’re doing.” Pearce said, backing away from an orb carrying a small hurricane inside which was heading towards them.

“Jess, we need to make our way to the equator. The strip of the surround, like the rings of Saturn. Here is where the energy levels from both the Altered and the material connect. That’s where we can perform the test.” Levon said.

Jess had explained to them already what they had put their lives on the line for. What was needed, and how uncertain it could be. They had nodded and gone along with it; comforted by Levon’s promise that he would be there to help and that it was all to help others. They would’ve come along without these reassurances though; they would’ve come to help Jess no matter what. They were family, and she had sacrificed so much for them in the past, it was their own way to give something back. Circumstance had left them on the lowest rung in society, but they had held strong to their morals and respect; and had raised Jess to be the fighter that she was.

“There, that’s it.” Den said, her younger brother. He pointed behind where they stood, the rings looming for a moment before a giant landscape orb drifted in sight.

Levon tapped his arm and muttered some words before their sphere halted and turned in the same direction, heading towards the rings. It purred along like a cat, nudging out the other orbs gently without a sound. As they got closer to the red rings, they heard the pulsing of them, humming like electrical cables.

They gently came to rest by the rings which swirled around so fast, orbiting the world, that they looked static. A moment later a huge green and blue pulse was emitted from the swirling rings, going both up and out and down towards the centre of the earth.

“We have to catch those pluses, right?” Jess said, taking out her little companion.

“Yep, they go every few minutes. Imagine them like nerve endings traveling through the worlds.” Levon said. He took out the vial. The little bottle of Holy Water he had gotten from the bishop, and in which lay all their hope.

“That the stuff?” Pearce said, nodding towards the vial. They all looked at it, the matter inside swelled like mercury.

“Yes, it’s changing form in this environment. But it should still be fine. I need to recite a spell, and the stopper will dissolve away before it’s released and will wash through…..” Levon had said but was interrupted by intermittent screams which were slowly building.

Vivian, Jess’s stepmother, was began to howl incoherently.

“I can’t…. we can’t…this can’t be…it will kill us all….” She began panting out, hyperventilating. She was flailing her arms around, spurred on by the surreal orbs that were floating into view outside and which offered her such a strange view of their reality.

“Calm down Viv, shhhh. It’s fine. It’s all going to be alright” Her mother cooed to her, as if calming a child.

“Vivian, you signed up to this. We can’t back down now.” Jess said, the others nodding in agreement.

“But, look…. What if it doesn’t work.” She spluttered through sobs. She was slowing her breath now, the rubs to her back from her mother seeming to calm her.

“Levon is here, he said nothing bad will happen. This needs to happen though Vivian. We need to save the others from what is planned. You know this.” Jess said curtly.

This seemed to help, and Vivian calmed further, though her eyes darted back and forth.

“Come on Viv, we’ve all agreed to help.” Ethy said, patting the woman on the shoulder.

Levon came over to her, he pulled the sleeves to his arms up revealing the intricate signs and symbols which covered them both. He knelt in closer to the woman and muttered something to her. A sense of calm seemed to wash across her face, and she nodded her head as if nothing in the world could phase her.

Levon stepped back, stepping once more by the vial which now was placed in the middle of the sphere.

“Right, let’s get going. Jess, time the pulses.” He said as they all looked at Vivian who had quietly sat down crossed legged.

“Is she alright?” her mother asked, and Levon nodded back.

“Seven minutes and seven seconds.” Den said to Levon, tapping the little screen he had on his wrist. He had timed the pulses it seemed.

“Nice. Thank you.” Levon said. “Can you count down to the next?” He said, and the boy suddenly started to count down from forty-three seconds loudly, as if he was doing a public service message to the sphere.

“Once the pathogen is released, there will be a blinding light which will wash around and through everyone. We’ll know the second it’s over if it’s been successful.” Levon said to Jess.

“…16, 15, 14…”

“Let’s hope this works.” Jess replied, finding a protective spell herself in her little companion.

“…9,8,7…”

“It will be bright, the energy here is insane. It will accelerate the particles, so if it doesn’t work, we’ll know as it will vaporise the incompatible.” Levon said, flickering to a page in his companion.

“What, really?” Jess said, quickly glancing from one family member to the next, suddenly unprepared for this to be the last time she may see any of them. With their varying levels of S.I.N, it was a gamble for this to work she suddenly realised. But it was too late to go back.

“…2,1” her brother said, yelling the last few numbers.

The pulse came and Levon incanted as planned, the symbols on his arm glowing in the haze flare of the magic and the pathogen erupting all around. It was like a small silent explosion went off inside that orb, photons dancing with the atoms of a myth and magic together in a great combining. The light which blasted out was brighter than three suns, and they all shielded their eyes as it bathed their souls.

It took only moments, the air alive with little green and blue sparks as a calm descended inside the sphere. All was silent aside the little electric splutters of the sparks which danced little dragons in the air. They all opened their eyes, eager to see if it had worked, and who survived.

Sigh and smiles emerged; a quick glance reported their number to be the same as before. Cheers and laugher of relief erupted, family members embraced each other, swelled with an energy and feeling of strength that many had not felt in years, if ever.

“It worked, it worked.” Ethy said, high fiving her grandson who then began darting around between their legs. Jess smiled, her heart lighter now and happy to know she had not lost anyone she loved. She turned to look at Levon, an impulse to hug him pulling at her body.

“Wait, where is Levon?” Jess said, finding only an empty spot where before his body stood. His companion lay on the floor, fluttering in a little breeze that was coming from a hole in the side of the wall.


 

Something to stay awake for

Eiko Tanaka sits on her porch sipping her tea. The wind is low and it gently ruffles the shrubs and the hanging golden ash trees that line the boundaries of her little property. So little it seems, barely much room for anyone. Yet hers is a seemingly amble garden on a street so squashed and encroached by looming tower blocks. She is proud of her garden, knowing it blooms brightly in the grey field of city.

She is waiting patiently, as she does most days. She is waiting for her granddaughter to visit after school is finished. She comes by every day. She comes to help her. Eiko doesn’t need help in the usual sense, she has gotten around perfectly fine for years. She adapted well after the incident, but people worry. They care and worry, as her Nanoko tells her. Her granddaughter, only fourteen; yet knowing the many twisted ways of the world. And she is right, there is care mixed with the worry; she can tell. As her own bones are getting more tired and her body is struggling, simple things are not always so simple. Being blind now is only half the battle. The people who visit her always note on her living by herself, always quick to offer some horrendous situation where she’ll meet her end. All because she can no longer see.

It hadn’t always been that way of course. She had lived for years alone in that little house with no problem. Just her and her dog Aio. Then it happened, and though she wished she could erase the memory of that terrible day, she had gotten through the worst of it. The insomnia came later, wreaking such havoc over her little life, disturbing her soul.

Nanoko had been a blessing. Eiko hadn’t wanted any fuss herself, but her granddaughter had done what she could to help her. Eventually she confided in her that she could no longer sleep, she spared her what she saw in her mind when she tried to calm it and be still. So Nanoko had started a blog for her, telling her story to the world, hoping to get some advice and see if anyone else was going through anything similar. She wanted to help her grandmother, she wanted her to be happy after the trauma.

What happened next surprised both of them. Along with similar stories and messages of support, people had responded to Eiko’s problematic sleeping and began to send in short stories for her; something to entertain her through the vast sea of struggle. The first had come with instructions for Nanoko to read out the story to Eiko, seeing as she had lost her sight and was there to help her. This led to Nanoko recording her stories for her grandmother to play back time and again, as she never bored of listening to tales. More people began to send them in, each one fanciful or romantic, scary or thrilling. They would both have fun as Nanoko would act out the story, and she would also post them on the blog for others to enjoy also. It brought them closer, and brought an extra bit of light into Eiko’s darkened world.


My name is Eiko Tanaka and I am 74 years old. I live with my dog Aio, who is always getting into such mischief, despite his age. We are both ageing cheekily and gracefully. I am blind, but not as a result of the shifting clock of time which is unrelenting. I was blinded in an incident which changed my life forever. My granddaughter Nanoko is the light in my darkness. She is there to steady my soul when it wobbles and falls. I love to hear stories and fables, and as such; I thought I best if you read mine, courtesy of my granddaughter.

My story is much like anyone’s….

Click to continue…..


 

‘Nothing but I am’ – New novel

COMING SOON

She left the earth how she wanted, walking into the ocean as the stars above sparkled in their preciousness. She hoped to join them, to transform into something that burned with a power a millions miles away from here. Her departure may be one of sadness, but it was by her own choosing. It was her own way to transform.

‘Nothing but I am’ follows the life of Eleanor, as read through her journal in her final days on the planet. It washes over her hopes and dreams, loves and despairs at the hands of fate and the disturbance of states that begin to corrode her life. Her death imprints itself on a police officer trying to unpick meaning in her demise as she goes through her words and thoughts left in her journal.

A hybrid poetry and fiction novel, marrying poems with journal entries surrounded by a story of departure.

To be lost, was how she found her soul. Cast away on that tiny little craft of self. On no-one’s tide. Swallowing only her own light. This is how she hoped it could be All loss of time and space, never found. And s


 

40 Portraits of Pain

By June Okochi
http://www.juneokochi.co.uk/

I love telling stories. I write about my experiences of life, art, travel, culture, poetry. I even journal about living with my genetic condition.But one day I decided it would be great to express in a different kind way. I wanted to tell mine and other’s stories of living with our genetic condition through visual imagery.I wanted to use photography as an art form to express the different motions that come with this condition.How we deal with pain and suffering every day of our lives. To express how we battle fatigue levels, how we live with anxiety about when next we will be sick and back on a hospital bed, how we have become accustomed to discomfort and pain that we are no longer afraid of it. We have normalised it like the air we breathe. How we deal with broken bones, broken cells, strokes, suffocating pain, damaged organs and fight early mortality. Sometimes the pain is so excruciatingly unbearable, we chose death over life.We are born with it and we die with it. There are no easy ways around it.We deal with the impact on our social lives, our physical, mental and emotional lives. It takes its toll on our childhood, education, careers, professions, everything, until we end up borderline depressed and broken but we keep going, we keep living, we smile, we hide behind our pain, we cry at night, we keep smiling, we keep thriving, we keep popping those pills, we pop them until we die, we take your blood and exchange them into our veins to have life, to live. We need your blood donations, it fixes us for a short time until the next time when we need another fix. We take opiates to keep us alive, pain free. We use oxygen to keep us alive, we use surgery and chemo treatments to keep us alive. We do everything we can because we have no choice, because we didn’t choose this, because we were made to deal with it.Some of us do not know what a decent quality of life looks like.We fight, we fight, we win, we lose. Some fall and don’t make it, we hold their memories, recognising that they are in a better place, pain free, others keep fighting until we make our mark, find our legacy and our legacy may be as simple as just surviving.Sickle Cell…I am a warrior. We are warriors.World Sickle Cell Day, 19th June 2019Watch out for the full online photography series exhibition coming soon.#40potraitsofpain
#worldsicklecellday
#sicklecellinlondonCreator: June Okochi
Photographer: Jim Higham
Creative Director: Ijeoma Okochi-Agwu
Production: Mica Marshall and Tommy Okochi

Oxford’s Eeriest Ghosts

“For heartbroken Sarah, it was clearly too much, and she hung herself from the couple’s four-poster bed. Today it’s claimed that if you see her – and you surely will – but ignore her too, she will either scream and shriek like a Banshee or hang limp and lifeless from the bed.”

A Magazine piece available online Co-produced my with friend and amazing human being Shaunna Latchman.

Click below for the article’s main page:http://oxhc.co.uk/Oxfords-Eeriest-Ghosts.asp