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Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Fiction - Clockwork Heart 4

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.


Wolfe didn't remember a time when he didn't work for the Brotherhood. He also didn't remember a time when he didn't have reservations about what they did. He felt like statements along these lines should be more meaningful, but truth be told, he didn't remember much at all before the age of ten or twelve, when his parents had sent him away to a boarding school that turned out to be a training ground for Brotherhood support systems. He still wasn't sure if they knew what they'd done, but he had a suspicion they did. They hadn't spoken in years.

The woman's offer of a job that wasn't this one kept coming back to him. It's entirely unlikely that the Brotherhood would allow him to just quit and move on, especially to whatever group might be actively working against their plans, but this was the first time he'd had the chance to think about something like this, and he was a muller, a deliberator.

When he got an idea, he liked to chew on it.

The woman hadn't turned up again yet, and none of the techs or anyone else had gone missing. A part of him wanted to believe she'd given up and left, but he knew better than that; the Brothers were building power into their machine, and the shadowy space in the middle was thickening. Wind blew all around them, and his man had died before his eyes. There was nothing there that should have done that to him--it was like he'd been crushed, slowly, by some giant invisible fist.

He was a good man, Jacobs. Wolfe had never had trouble with him and had known him for years. It wasn't right to just leave him, broken and bleeding, on the cold stone, but the Brothers had forbidden anyone from touching the dead from these experiments. Six years ago, something strange and invisible had killed a woman at one of these demonstrations, and then had proceeded to kill everyone who touched her--then everyone who had touched them--until very few remained. The Brothers learned from lessons like that.

The techs moved away, horror on their faces. One of them burst into tears, and the tears were blood. The wind picked up.

Wolfe still didn't see anything but a few vague shadows.

True, the shadows were more pronounced, the space between the struts and pipes was darker. But true also that when he looked, he didn't have any pressing need to cry blood or break down into gibbering insanity.

It was always like this: whatever the Brothers were doing, and he'd never asked and never been told what it was, he alone was as close to immune as a person could get. Even before all this, when he was still in school, while some of the others got carried away with seances or poltergeists, while the kids in the science track had conjured lesser demons and opened minor gateways to the Shallow Aetherium, he'd never been able to do any of that. In fact, when those things came in contact with him, as often as not, they disappeared, negated by whatever made him unable to see them to begin with.

It made him a superlative guard, and he'd risen through the shadowy and ill-defined ranks of the Brotherhood's thugs quickly. He was more than able to keep his cool no matter what happened, knowing he was unaffected.

It also left him out of a lot of the spectacle, and almost all of the so-called deeper knowledge the Brothers were creating.

Wolfe stood, watching, as everything changed and he couldn't see most of it.

There were perhaps a dozen of the Brothers here, now. They stood in a precise half-circle a little away from the gateway device, their hands raised and their mouths open in some long chant that didn't sound like words, but reverberated around the space more than it should. A crackle of energy crawled over the side and top of the support beams, then jumped to a nearby tower of rock and burst into a shower of sparks and hot stone-chips. The sparks sputtering from the tubes and wires picked up pace, and the Bothers' chant went up a note.

The woman would be back soon; the rising note, the heightening level of the sparks and electric discharge, it all pointed to the fact that this was progressing toward some peak, and if she meant to have it stopped, she'd have to act.

Half of Wolfe wanted to see if she could do it.

One of the bolts of energy ripped out away from the frame and struck a tech packing up a piece of equipment inside the half circle of chanting cultists, and jumped between her and her machine. She screamed, but it was burned away by the blue energy. Despite himself, Wolfe took a step toward her, but it was too late before he'd even moved; within moments, she was a pile of blackened ash, far too burned.

A sound like the girders of the world shifting out of their sockets echoed up through the hole in the world. Wolfe heard it clearly; everyone else heard it better, and a a dozen or more of those working furiously around the Brothers screamed in harmony with the sound and fell to their knees, bleeding from their eyes and ears. With every drop of blood that hit the ground, the sound echoing up to them grew clearer, louder.


They were being fed to it.

Tune in Tuesday for Part 5!


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