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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Serial Tuesday - Clockwork Heart 7

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.

#7

Raven almost fell through the space when the wall finally popped off the back of the shed, and caught herself in a more graceful sort of landing, but the guard saw and even smiled just a tiny bit.

"What's your name?" she said. "I can't just go around thinking of you as 'the guard' and calling you 'hey you'."

"Names aren't important."

"You're seriously going to do that? Act like a slave and a drone? Names aren't important, just like that, like who you are doesn't even matter even though you've got a very definite personality?"

That tiny quirk of a smile, there, then gone. "We're working together now?"

She leveled him with a hard glare. "We aren't?"

He looked around the corner to the staging area, to the big weird polygon of the gateway. "The shadows there are thickening."

"Yup."

"I don't care if they destroy the world." His voice was flat, emotionless. A robot's voice.

"Well, I do." She couldn't work if he was going to get in her way, and the creature's sound was nearer, less echoy, more defined--and definition did not make it less horrible. It made the tiny skittering sounds in it more noticeable, the creeping terror behind the darkness more imposing. The whispering noises at the edge of her mind surged like the waves on the beach, and for a moment, overwhelmed her thoughts.

She woke again when the guard caught her shoulder. Damnit. She wouldn't be the fainting damsel!

"What happened to you?"

How much should she tell him? All at once, she decided to tell him everything. He was part of it, whatever it was. She could feel it in her bones. "I...I hear voices. They get loud sometimes."

"Voices."

"Yeah."

"So they've sent a crazywoman to stop criminal lunatics."

She jerked her arm out of his grasp, and the surge of whispers was louder. "I'm not crazy. My brother is crazy. I'm...The Agency calls it gifted. They collect people like me, people who have something unexplained about them, but are generally functional. It helps if you've got other useful skills. I hear voices. They get louder the closer I am to nutbars using old magics--it used to be a really useful paranormal detector, like a Geiger counter inside my head."

"Used to be." A statement again. This man was defined. His edges lined up with the outline of his body. He didn't need the uncertainty of questions.

"Lately it's been... stronger."

"Stronger."

"It was already more pronounced when I came here, but the gate, the creature, these particular magics--I get overwhelmed."

"And, for whatever reason, I can stop it."

She paused just long enough to convey that this was an important point, and saw in his eyes that he got it. "Yeah."

This time, he was the one who paused, his dark, predator's eyes boring into her, reading her like a book. Again, that mingled tangle of relief and discomfort wormed through her under his gaze. "This hasn't happened before."

She shook her head, tried for a rueful smile and hoped she got it. "Usually, physical contact makes it worse. When it was less of a mind-eater, it clarified the sounds so I could tell what the voices were telling me, a little. Now...now, touching someone skin-to-skin seems to amplify the whole noise, not the message. And then coming here."

Did she imagine his face softening, just a little. "You're barely holding it together."

"To put it succinctly."

"Why me?" So he does use questions after all. But even his questions are defined. "I don't even see most of what the Brothers do."

Interesting. "What does the gateway look like to you?"

"A machine. With shadows in it."

Raven peeked around the side of the shed; the gateway was bottomless black, pulling on her sanity with hooked claws, and something large and horrible was moving around in there. She shuddered, and a loose, insane scream started down in her stomach. The guard caught her elbow and pulled her back before it even reached her lungs.

"The gateway looks like a bottomless pit full of moving horrors," she said. The whispers washed around her, sliding static between her thoughts, until the guard folded his hand more firmly around her arm.

"Not to me," he said.

"Maybe that's it," she said, glad her voice was still mostly normal, glad it wasn't a shriek or a strangled sob. "maybe you're immune to even the harshest, oldest, most terrible powers."

"Lucky me." He released her arm.

"No one figured this out before?"

He shook his head, one small sharp movement. "No one in the Brotherhood much cares about their servitors until they fail. I haven't failed."

"It probably makes you an exceptional guard."

"It does."

"And it'll make you an exceptional Agent. If you work with me."

Nothing from him, just a measuring look.

"You're good at this stuff. Think of it as guarding the world, instead of guarding these jerks who don't even know your name. You'll get to think for yourself, make your own decisions. Have a choice."

A ripple, a tiny current of emotion. "Will your superiors figure out what it is about me that makes me immune?"

"Are you kidding? They'll be clamoring for your attention."

For a long, hard moment, they stood, eyes locked, her hoping she'd made the good recruiting choice, and him unreadable but weighing options. Then he held out his hand. "My name is Gabriel Wolfe."

She slid her hand into his, her fingers disappearing in his much larger ones. "Raven Devinovitch."

"Russian."

"On my father's side. I'm a citizen of the world." Flippant, yes, but flippancy was a good cover for the difficult things. He saw that it was difficult, and she saw that he saw, but he didn't comment. One day, she was suddenly sure, all these details he filed away would either save her--or lose her entirely.


"Pleased to meet you, Agent Devinovitch."



Tune in Friday for Part 8! We're past the half way point now!

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