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Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday Fiction - Clockwork Heart 2

This is part of a Wolf & Raven Serial Story. See all the parts that have been posted here, tune in Tuesday and Friday for more, and see all my free fiction here.


Gabriel Wolfe didn't feel the pull of the gap opened in reality. Other people around the compound did, and they talked about it constantly, but as far as he was concerned, it was just an illusion. In fact, it didn't even look real; he had no idea what people were talking about when they talked about the bottomless black, the keening darkness, or anything else. They were hysterical. It was just a shimmery sort of shadow hung up between four messy and slap-dash struts.

He paroled the edge of the demonstration space because it was his job, and he was determined to do his job right, but he didn't have to believe. Even if they were in there, those Old Gods had lost most of their worshippers a long time ago and he wasn't about to start a trend.

The Brothers of Darkness had that covered, anyway.

Wolfe believed in what he could see and touch, and shadows weren't in that category. The girl with the long black hair having trouble getting her equipment case open, was, however.

"Stuck?" he asked. She jumped and turned like he'd snuck up on her, and looked for a moment like a person much more deadly than a tech. Her eyes darted over his uniform, the weapon at his side, his empty hands, and then she relaxed into a stoop-shouldered sort of apologetic pose. She was fluid, this one. She wasn't meant to be a tech.

The case was one of four nestled inside a larger case; the other three were open.

"You scared me," she said. "It's not often someone can sneak up on me like that."

"Ah, but I wasn't sneaking. You were just distracted."

She made a pouty face that didn't quite look natural to her personality. "It's this case," she said. "It's not opening and I'm supposed to set up the dimensional lenseometer before the next stage of the experiment. It must've gotten jammed in transport."

Her face was so open and trusting he almost believed what she said. He squatted down next to her to examine the lock. She watched him, and he was aware of every move she made, the way her arm tensed as if readying for something, the sharp lines of her shoulders under the grey jumpsuit, the way her toes rooted into the ground for leverage she didn't need to open the case.

"Who are you?"

"Yates, sir," she said. The name didn't fit her, but she was wearing it well enough.

"Your real name?"

"Married, sir. Recently. It doesn't quite feel real yet." She gave him a beaming, disarming smile--but her hands didn't relax.

"This'll need help. Follow me."

"It needs to be set up soon--"

"And it won't be if you can't get the thing open. Follow."

She hefted the case, and followed, and he could feel her wariness radiating off her. It was strange, being this aware. He'd always been observant, it's why he had the job he did, but he'd never been so utterly tuned in as this. He didn't like not knowing why something was happening.

When they were inside the nearest of the tin-sided, prefab offices, he turned to her again and crossed his arms, looking down on her in the least threatening of his threatening poses. "You aren't a tech and you aren't setting up the lenseometer. Who are you?"

She did a pretty good job of looking startled and confused, but not quite good enough. "What? I--I don't--"

A little more threat, and she suddenly shifted gears. Her shoulders straightened, she stood up to him, and she smiled a fearless, almost reckless smile. "You're the first to notice," she said.

"It's my job to notice. The Brothers say I should kill any trespassers."

"Are you going to kill me?" It was almost flirtatious. He didn't quite know how to handle someone who literally flirted with death, and it wasn't what he was expecting, so he disregarded it.

"I'm going to get you to talk. Then we'll see."

Her smile shifted to what looked like genuine regret, and she folded her hands behind her back and came a step or two closer. "Sorry, big guy. I've got my own job to do, and my taskmasters wouldn't like me giving away our secrets."

"As you steal ours?"

She leveled a look on him that seemed as if it might pierce through steel if she wanted it to, and for a moment he thought maybe that's what it feels like when he looks hard at people. "These aren't your people," she said. "You're here because they pay you. You don't even believe."

She was good.


"And I might have a better job offer for you if you don't cause any trouble."

He was threatening her life and she was offering him a job. A small part of him wanted to smile, just a bit. This was an interesting woman.

"A job."

"The--people I work for are always looking for strong, unflappable men and women who will do whatever needs to be done."

"And what needs to be done?"

She waved a finger at him. "Secrets. That would give away all the fun. And now I have to go."

She darted left faster than he'd thought anyone could move, evaded his grasp, and by the time he had his gun out, she'd bounced up three levels of crates and dropped neatly out an impossibly narrow high window. He peered out and she was nowhere to be seen.

Wolfe was good at taking orders. Good at weapons. Good at moving through space quickly and efficiently. This woman had evaded him as if he were an untrained rookie. It amused him far more than it should have. What he should have been doing was raising an alarm, filing reports, mustering the other guards.

What he did instead, was stare out the window for a few moments trying to catch movement in the jumbled rocks behind the building, and then return to his post. He sent another tech to retrieve the lenseometer, and set himself up where he could see the entire staging area. 

He should report her, but he wanted to see what she'd do. And the Brothers had made it abundantly clear that nothing was to stop this experiment. Something about the alignment of the stars and the growing wildness of the weather. He didn't care. Leave the mystical stuff for the mystics. It was his job to guard. 

And now he had something to guard against.

Tune in Tuesday for Part 3!


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