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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Serial Tuesday - Clockwork Heart 5

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.

#5

Raven crept up behind the structure. Everything and everyone was focused at the front, and though a gate should open from both sides, back here, she saw only a vague mistiness, like something smeared over a camera lens. She saw the faces and the reactions of those before it, blurry, but stricken. And she felt the pull here, too, the whispery gibbering that nibbled at the edges of her mind taking larger bites now.

Inside her mind, she felt like she was coming unhinged, like a door that had never been opened was loosening in its frame.

And the saw the guard, watching whatever was happening, his closed face shuttered against the deaths of people all around him.



She had no idea how the Brothers determined who would die and who would be kept alive to keep working, but the ones writhing and bleeding on the ground were those who could be spared; more stayed, working the machines, patrolling the perimeter.

A new, bigger, shower of sparks made her duck behind a boulder, and one of the struts leaned, then warped, and the new shape of the portal changed something in how it worked. A deep, echoing groan washed up from whatever chasm the hole opened into, and more people screamed, bled, and crashed to the ground.

The Deep was a watery place, the depths of the primeval ocean--the darkest, coldest parts of the void between galaxies--the evilest places within living, sentient creatures. Here, the Brothers had brought all three together--and now the creature they were summoning was changing the spell to suit himself. Itself. Whatever self it was.

Raven had seen enough madness to understand when a situation was soon running off the rails.

It was now or never.

She hefted a large rock and threw it experimentally at the back of the portal; it went through the hole she couldn't see from this side and never emerged in the open space where the Brothers stood, but there was a brief wave of energy and one of the Brothers took a tiny step back. Not much, but just enough that the semicircle was no longer perfect. She felt the energy around them wobble, just the slightest bit, and when it oscillated, so did the wash of whispers and the creak of the door inside her.

Someone screamed, alone, each of his bones breaking one by one.

The creature made a noise more like a roar, like a storm, like a burning star, closer.

She wished she'd brought a gun. She was good with guns, a crack shot in fact, but for whatever reason, Know-It-All had decided that it was unneeded, and she wasn't cleared to bring one. There were precious few here; the guards carried them, but not all, from what she'd seen, and she hadn't tried to get one. She should have. She was off her game, the nattering and gibbering making it hard to concentrate. It was like static in her thoughts, blurring out everything.

She tossed another rock, and everything wobbled again, more this time. A third, bigger rock caused a cascade of sparks from a series of connections down the side, and one of those support beams wrenched free.

The sound was terrible. Like rending metal and falling stones and cracking continental crust deep under the sea. She couldn't tell if it was the beast, or the device or the portal that made the noise, and she wasn't aware that part of it came from her, too, until the guard wrapped his hands around her shoulders and all the noise snapped clean and left her alone inside her mind.

"What--?"

"I was about to ask the same thing." His voice was hard. His hands were harder, and he lifted her without much apparent trouble, and forced her to walk in front of him, away from the device.

"What did you do to me?"

"I didn't do anything. You're the one trying to damage revolutionary tech by throwing rocks at it."

"You don't understand. They're trying to destroy the world."

"I understand." The solid, hard edge in his voice chilled her worse than the cutting wind rising off the ocean, more and more as the experiment continued.

"And you don't care." He walked her into a heavy steel shed without any windows and only the one door, and turned her to face him.

"What is worth saving in this world?"

His closeness made the whole world very sharp, cuttingly bright and distinct. "Who cares? All I know is that this isn't the way you want it to end."

He squeezed her arms again, bruising them with hands that went almost all the way around her biceps, and making her fingers tingle, then pushed her away from the door like a problem he couldn't solve. "This way is as good as any other."

"It's really not. Those things are monsters--the oldest monsters. They'll consume the world in blood and fire, and they'll keep us alive long enough to watch it and go insane." Without his hands on her, the static came back, but less now that she was away from the portal.

He stood away from her, his hands on his hips, pacing like he was working through something terrible. "You said I could have a job."

"I meant it."

"What sort of job?"

"Doing what I do."

"Which is?"

She took a breath and held it, and then let it out in a long, calming release. She hadn't told anyone what she did, not even her twin brother. "I'm an agent for an organization that protects the world from supernatural threats--like this one. I'm good at it. We're all good at it. You don't live if you're not. But there are a lot more of them then there are of us."

"Why me?" He looked at her now, and his dark eyes were half-feral. But there was a quality in them that she couldn't name that drew her to him, a quality that resonated with the strangeness deep inside herself.

"I know you," she said, though it wasn't what she'd meant to say.

"We've never met."

"No, we haven't. But I know that look. I know the feel of you."

"You're insane." He said it with disgust--but also with a desperate sort of disappointment that seemed raw and new.

"Look, the Brothers aren't the only weird people in the world. I used to think I was normal, but lately--lately I've been hearing things. But I don't when you touch me. It all goes away. That's got to mean something."

"It means you're nuts and I should have shot you when I found you."

"And why didn't you?"

"I--"

"You felt it, too. We're alike."

From the doorway, a third voice. "And you're both traitors." She didn't see the figure that closed the door and locked it from the outside, but before either could react, they were both trapped.


"I'm no traitor." The guard said, and clenched his fists as he advanced on her.



Tune in Friday for Part 6!

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