Smartly Dressed Violence (part ix)

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The blue and green lights seemed to call them onward encouragingly, radiating from the walls like a welcoming glow. Jess and Levon descended lower with each step, feeling a warmer air greet them as they went. Jess could hear a pulsating sonic sound coming from the walls, as if large computer systems were speaking to each other through the stone or mutterings of the dead from the graves.

“Is it always this elaborate, going to see him?” Jess asked, minding her head as they came to a low beam section.

“I thought you might like the clandestine way.” Levon said. He had been here before, naturally; but they also seemed to change the systems of entry frequently. “And who said anything about a him?”

Jess looked at him for a moment, confusion and understanding swimming around each other.

“The Bishop is a she?” She asked, hoping to sound less surprised than she was. Levon smiled at her.

“Change anything?” He asked her.

“Not a damn bit.” She replied, lying slightly.

They carried on down the stairs until they came to a less formal but equally solid door. A blue strip of light bathed the space outside the door and Levon stopped just before it.

“You first.” He said, nudging her forward towards the light. Jess stepped into it and suddenly changed to a deeper blue.

“It checks for contaminants, among other things.” Levon said, watching as the light hummed and pulsed over her.

“Let me guess what the other things are, S.I.N markers perhaps?” She said, irksomely.

“You be surprised what they check for.” He replied, noticing the light switch to green; followed by a successful ‘tink’ sound, like the finishing of a coffee machine.

“Looks like you’re good.” He said as she stood back and he stood forth into the light.

“Hmmph.” Came from Jess as she stood back and watched Levon go through the same process. It took longer, but he too received the same acceptance, and once complete the doors before them opened and they could see inside the room.

Before them a laboratory had been made up around the stone coffins, clearly down deep in a crypt under the church. About four people peppered the room, working at stations and swirling strange coloured liquids in tubes under lights. Computers and machines clicked and hummed and the same blue and green lights gently lit the space; washing the walls with a calm and sanctuary like illumination. Coming towards them suddenly came a woman dressed in a lab coat. A red face mask covered her mouth, but Jess could see she had kind gentle eyes. She pulled the mask down as she approached them both.

“Nice to see you Levon, a treat indeed for you to come down into the vault and see us.” She extended her hand towards Jess who noticed the red gloves that extended up to her elbow. “And you must be Jess, so nice to meet you. I’m Karen.” Jess extended her own hands and shook them.

“Nice to meet you too.” Jess said, looking around the room.

“Not many get to see the vault, so please excuse the mess.” Karen said. Jess noticed little mess, but large extraction machines, screens scrolling through vast amounts of data and blueprint plans tacked up on a board on the other side of the room. The effigy of a saint looked down upon them from above.

“Jess doesn’t know anything, I thought it best to leave it to you to explain what goes on.” Levon said, with a smirk across his face. Karen sighed, leading them in further to the room.

“I hope you don’t have the same disdain as Levon does for what we do here then, his attitudes become quite tiresome sometimes.” Karen said, smiling.

“Not just his attitude, he’s quite a pain most of the time.” Jess said, returning the smile to her.

“Siding with the Bishop already, who’d have thought?” Levon cut back to her. Jess looked surprised.

“Oh Levon, you and your names for people. Should I call you The Cleanser then, or do you prefer your usual name devoid of the implications or grandiose expectations?” She asked him coyly. Levon smiled back, enjoying the teasing.

“You…you’re the bishop then?” Jess asked, folding her arms both defensively and from an anger.

“I’m afraid I am, for all my faults.” Karen said, he face remaining warm and open.

“And you’re not ashamed for what you’ve caused people, what your system of selection has done. Playing god the way you do?” Jess was angry, but she was trying her best to stay calm.

“I understand you have a personal qualm with me and what we do then?” Karen replied.

“Not just me, many. When you can help the all and yet only choose the few.” Jess spat back. “You have the means to cure everyone, but you limit to whom you feel are warrant of changing. How are you any different from the others, or the likes of Akio?”

Karen let her speak, understanding of her compliant. She then calmly took off her gloves, revealing a blackness that stained its way up her arms.

“I will show you how.” She said, her eyes flaring with an excitement.


 

Smartly Dressed Violence (part viii)

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Jess was by the front door of Levon’s apartment, she seemed eager to go.

“Come on then, I assume you’re ready?” She asked.

Levon stood and watched her a moment, his mind navigating through what he had seen and trying to work out if it was achievable.

“You think that will work?” Levon asked, his face subduing tiny flickers of hope.

“You got a better plan?” Jess asked before adding. “Unless you want to just hide away and let this unfold without you?”

“Don’t make out you don’t need me for this.” Levon cut back.

Jess rolled her eyes, expecting this type of reply.

“Come on, we can get there before they shut.” Jess said with urgency. Levon walked towards the door, taking a biker jacket off a hook and putting it on. He stopped in front of Jess.

“Fine, but we’re not going there. You want my help, then I need make sure I can give it.” Levon said.

“What do you mean?” Jess asked, surprised.

“You’re coming to see the Bishop.” Levon said, intrigued to see her reaction. Jess took a moment, looking away as if looking for the right words over on the wall. She turned back to him, her eyes wide.

“About time.” She said, hiding the feeling he knew she had. And with that they both set off out the door, each holding their own little books tightly to them as they made their way down in the elevator.

They sped down the twenty eight floors quickly, not talking as they went. The exited out into a small lobby and then to the street which was moving with a bustle of city life. Well-dressed men and women crowded the sidewalk, each going off to their own little space and place to be. Levon and Jess attracted a few stares, their clothing did not fit and their overall look of rough and readiness did not blend in well. They moved on through the crowd, making their way to the tram stop.

As the tram came to a stop, more people exited, brushing past them both; the two of them together seemed to double the disgust of the others. Some of them tutted as they passed, while others barged into them purposefully. One woman stopped and jabbed her umbrella into Levon’s side.

“You two should fuck off the streets while decent people are about. Shouldn’t you be driving the tram, not riding in it?” She said, scornfully addressing them and looking them both up and down. Others smiled and nodded in agreement as they went on by.

Jess made a move forward, but Levon pulled her back.

“It’s not worth it.” He said, quietly to her. He then spoke to the woman who had jabbed at him.

“We’re sorry, it’s an emergency. We wouldn’t be travelling now if we didn’t have to.” He said, noticing how busy it was. The rush hour was always the worse for this type of thing. Levon could pass sometimes, he would blend in with his outfits and manner. But Jess stood out like a sore thumb, dressed in casual combat gear and dyed hair. Conformity was not something Jess subscribed to.

“I should think not. We don’t want to see your lot, I thought that was clear by now. Get out of my way.” The lady said, pushing past them with her umbrella. Jess mumbled something under her breath, but then made her way onto the tram; followed by Levon.

They stayed at the back while it snaked its way across the city, emptying and refilling as it went. They received more unwelcomed looks, but no one else approached them. Finally they reached the stop they wanted, exiting out by some gardens that sprawled off into the distance. They waited for the tram to move on and quickly crossed the road on the other side. More gardens greeted them as the huge black church loomed above. They turned left, making their way down a side street that looped around the back of the church. Here they found a small building opposite the left transept. It had a large ornate wooden door with a knocker in the shape of a cross.

Jess and Levon looked around. The sky was getting dark, but they could still see the street from the doorway. A few heads bobbed along, but no-one was really watching. Ignoring the knocker, Levon put his fist into a small alcove at the side of the door as a little blue light appeared and scanned his hand. A click and a whirl, and a chain dropped for him to pull, which he did and then stepped back. The door opened before them as the ground also dropped away, revealing a staircase down into a blue and green lit corridor.

“How cool is that.” Jess said, noticing the marks on Levon’s hand; tattoos she’d always thought meant nothing.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet.” Levon replied, stepping forward down onto the stairs. Jess followed him as the door quickly closed behind them and they descended.

SMARTLY DRESSED VIOLENCE (PART VII)

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Across the city, at the time Levon had come out from the altered, Akio Tsutsumi sat at his desk high up in the 101 building. The skyscraper on the south side of the city looked off over to the port where, if he was looking, he would see the ferries leaving the docks and making their way out to the ocean. Akio wasn’t looking out at the view, high up on the 101st floor, he was finalising a document with a smile. The final flourish of his signature completed the task and he set his pen to the side and sat back in his chair. Akio Tsutsumi was impeccably dressed, he had to be; he was at work. His business, his building, his empire here on earth. Or at least the headquarters of an empire that stretched far across the globe. The problem with empires, and to those that want after them, is that they are never enough. There is always more to conquer, more to have, and more to consume.

This notion of greed had plagued Akio since he was a child. Growing up in conditions he would let no-one privy to now, he had been incensed by his circumstance. He had watched as others had excelled, moved on and up with all the niceties that a life could offer. While he had remained, reduced down to an allotted placement and allowance in the order of things. But Akio would dig himself out of the circumstance, he would bloom like a flower out of the mud of life and never forget where he had started. For many, this would have led to an understanding of the unbalance, perhaps even campaign to end the wrongful ways the world was turning in. But for Akio, he had been damaged and maligned. Broken and used by both sides of the system. He removed any shame that might stick to his cells along with the S.I.N, and in its place he filled it with anger and contempt. Not entirely however. Akio’s secret could indeed be his undoing; a fact that he was well aware of. And he took great care to protect and hide this, whatever it took.

A further step in this direction was what was contained in the documents, now signed, sitting on his desk.

Akio pushed back form the large wooden desk before him and stood up. He straightened his smart expensive suit, a suit that cost more than his assistant Stefan earned in a year, and called him into his office. Stefan looked agitated as he entered, uncertain perhaps of what was happening. Akio usually set very strict routines, ones you could set your overpriced watch by, and today’s activity so far had changed many of them.

“Yes sir?” Stefan asked, lingering in the door area of the huge office space.

Akio had now turned away, looking out of the window. He watched the boats out to sea, the huge ferries passing the smaller ones seemingly not to notice them bob frantically as they passed. He remained staring off out the window.

“How long have you worked for me Stefan?” Akio asked, pleasantly.

“Almost a year sir.” Stefan replied. He loosed the top button to his Oxford shirt.

“And in that time, have I asked you to do anything for me that goes against your, shall we say, moral compass?”

Stefan paused for moment before answering, he reached inside his own mind both looking for a truthful reply and balancing it off with the correct one.

“No, not to my knowledge. I find you to be a very honourable person, and if I might add; someone to aspire to be like.” Stefan said sincerely. And it was true, many of the others would trade places with him in a heartbeat. Akio was the epitome of success and class.

“You’re very kind Stefan. You’ve always spoken honestly, which is why I trust you.” Akio turned now to face him, offering him a smile. “I trust then you feel the same as I with the west side.”

Stefan looked at him, unsure.

“How the west side of the city is a blot on our greatness. A pebble in the shoe of our progress. A blight, a cancerous tumour in all we wish this city to be.” Akio said. He stood proudly, hands folded down in front of him as if posing for a magazine cover.

“Well, yes the area there is very dilapidated. It could all use some gentrification in my opinion. Some nice suburbs and a change of clientele.” Stefan said.

Akio beamed.

“Exactly, a change in clientele. That’s what is needed.” Akio said.

“But it’s been proposed for years, and nothing ever came of it. The sinners have legal protection for their ghettos and housing projects. We’d never be able to have them removed.” Stefan offered.

“No, I agree. They will never leave. They are stuck to that area like a barnacle on a ship.” His voice was soft, devoid of any emotion. “But then, accidents happen all the time. Don’t they?”

Stefan stared at him. He shuffled his own expensive shoes nervously.

“All the time.” Stefan replied, his own hatred massaged by unfolding suggestions. A hatred which he was free now to express, with the privilege of position.

“Accidents and calamities. Acts of God.” Akio added, pulling the cuff to his suit down, straighten it.

SMARTLY DRESSED VIOLENCE (PART VI)

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He wasn’t surprised, she had done this before. She had a key after all and would sometimes come by without telling him. It had been a while though, and their last meeting hadn’t been too pleasant. Home truths, on both sides, hadn’t landed well and he was glad of the distance and space as a result.

Jess sat opposite him now, her face friendly yet revealed nothing. She was holding a book herself, smaller than the one Levon had used to go into the altered, but it was similar in design and he knew what it was. Sweet trickled from his head after his journey over and back, and he was thirsty too, like always. She pushed across a glass of water, which he took up quickly; emptying it before talking.

“And what do I have this pleasure for?” He asked, setting the glass back on the table and wiping his brow.

“Pleasure for you, but a chore for me.” Jess said, toying with the book in her hands as she sat forward.

“I was being sarcastic.” He replied.

“Oh course you were Levon, as you always are. You can never be direct, or sincere or transparent.” Her words hung over the table. He looked away.

“What do you want?” He asked, the irritation sticky in the words.

“I want you to do what you do best. There’s a family I want cleansed, and I need it done quickly.” She said.

“I figured as much. And you always want things done quickly, and specifically…and to your specification. It must really annoy you that you don’t have this ability, having to rely on me and my…what was it, pathetic and backward ways of handling life.” Levon said. He bore his eyes into her own. Jess looked away, irritated.

“Once again you put your own needs in the way of others.” She said, smiling in satisfaction before continuing. “For your information, this isn’t about me or what I want. This will change everything, eventually.”

Levon paused before replying, searching her eyes for the reasons. He found them tucked in there between the iris and starlight the he could always see in the honest.

“Who and why?” he said.

“They are the Tanakas, and they live over on the west side.”

“They’re always on the west side.” Levon blurted out.

“And we all know why they’re all in the west side, we know who’s pushed them there. Geez, listen will you. The Tanakas live in a shared house, there’s five other families there with them. They live on the top floor. The place is a dump, the usual. We need them cleansed as soon as possible. I think they are the answer to all this.” Jess said. She got up now and moved across to the bookshelf. She clutched her own small book still, but ran her fingers across the spines of the others on the shelf. It came to rest on a book, which she tapped before sliding it out of its place.

“And what is the answer to the question we all know then?” Levon asked.

Jess turned to face him. Her eyes wide, yet filled with hope.

“Because the Tanakas are the dirty little secret of the one and only Akio Tsutsumi. And I think we have a way of getting your amazing abilities to a much wider audience.” Jess said, suddenly alive with more urgency.

Levon looked at her, wondering what plan she had formed in her mind. Jess moved, not on impulse; but from a place of strategy and calculation. Her anger from all the injustice was ploughed into ways of overturning the system that had raised the few and lowered the many. She herself, a product from the tainted world of S.I.N where her blood directed her supposed path. That anger and disillusion spread, forcing her into the revolutional world of the likes of Levon. Levon, a lone wolf in a rising group of defiers. Of lights in a darkening world. Their alliance was problematic, but they wanted the same thing in the end. Equality.

“The asshole of the year you mean. What’s Tsutsumi got to do with your plan?” Levon asked, also getting up and moving across to where Jess stood. He took the small book she was clutching, opening it up. It shimmered too with a familiar blue light.

“Take a look for yourself.” she said, and she whispered over the book he had held open. The book flickered forward through some pages before a mist began to seep out; wafting upwards. The blue light seemed to charge through the cloud like an electricity circuit before images began to appear and move, like a floating screen. He saw what Jess had in mind.

Smartly dressed violence (part iv)

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“Did it work?”

“Of course it did, it always works.”

“Not always.”

“That one time. It always works with those who need it the most.” Levon replied into the phone. He drank from a glass, a murky green liquid that coated the sides. He placed the glass down and moved out onto his balcony. The vista before him was the city that he called home. That he currently called home at least, his bones had been born much further away from the stretching skyscrapers that he saw before him. The light reflected off the window glass, a giant mirror that blinded those who took the time to raise their eyes up into the sky.

“How much did you charge them?” the voice asked him.

“10” Levon replied, without a hint of remorse. A silence hung on the phone.

“You know that is steep, even for you?”

“I know, but there were more of them this time.”

“Yes, but it’s all they…..” But Levon cut in.

“I know that it’s all they had. It’s all they ever have. They put everything into this. Their last roll of the dice. But I helped, I did it for them; and they have changed because of it. I don’t feel bad taking their money you know. Now they have the chance to go make more than they ever dreamed of.” Levon sighed.

“It’s more than that for them….I’m not giving you a hard time, it’s just….I know you’re better than this.” The voice allowed for the words and then the silence to sit.

“I know I am.” Levon replied, sighing once again.

“And you know that nothing lasts forever. This gift came to you, and it can go just as easily. You need to be doing more with it.”

“How do you know I’m not?” Levon replied. The voice was quiet, thinking. Levon watched the traffic in the streets below. Little toy cars moving in slow motion.

“I hope you are. If you need help, you only have to ask.” The voice replied.

“Thank you. I will do soon.” Levon said.

“Then when you’re ready to talk about it, let me know.” And with that, the call ended.

Levon stood on his balcony, breathing in the city air. He felt the blood moving in his body, the wash and pulse of the magic that he held in his cells. He pinched his fingers together, seeing the refill mass and the white skin give way to the red river in his finger when he released them.

He went inside his apartment, sliding the door shut loudly behind him. The room before him breathed an air of absence, of necessity. Accompanying the chairs and television set, only a single bookshelf gave any peak to a character. No photos or artwork adored the walls or the empty spaces. This was a place of need. The books that were lined up on the shelves were packed in like commuters on a busy train at rush hour. Huge books sat comfortably next to tiny preciously bound ones, their reflective wrappings catching specks of light; shimmering out echoes of the forbidden and treasured words.

Levon approached the bookshelf and slid a large book off of the middle shelf. He took it over to the table he had, empty of anything aside a small plant that was in need of watering. He sat down at the table, placing his feet squarely underneath. Sitting upright and focused, with one hand he gripped the edge of the table whilst the other lifted the cover of the book which exploded open with a blue light, radiating off of his eyes like a mystical waterfall.