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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tuesday Serial - Clockwork Heart 1

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.


The Gate to Hell was open, and it shouldn't have been. Agent Raven Devinovitch frowned over the case she was helping one of the techmen carry. How the hell was she supposed to close a Gate to Hell? Her briefing had been woefully under-informed; as far as the deskmen back home had said, this was a test of the technology--if you can call mechanical harnessing of magic a technology--and all she'd have to do is infiltrate the site and make sure it didn't work so the Brothers of Dakness would be set back, at least, and outright abandon the work at best.

This was far from a test.

The tech was unrefined, of course. It looked like a roughly rectangular frame of wires that sparked at unpredictable times, tubes of liquids and gases that leaked and shook, a bank of generators that glowed with the specific peculiar blue of magic being made to work against its normal channels. And three huge claws that held back the ragged echoing of the world so that between the cockeyed lines of the Gate, a gaping hole stood in the fabric of the world.

Popular opinion was that Hell was a place full of fire, but Raven knew from her time as an Agent that there wasn't any fire--there wasn't anything--and, really, there wasn't any Hell, exactly. The opening in the world peered into the Deep Aetherium, the oldest and darkest of the nested layers of reality, and the place where the oldest horrors still lived slow, terrible lives. They'd long since lost easy access to the world humans lived in now, a world gated off by science and strict ideas of what reality was, but there were ways back, and the Brothers had one of those ways.

Raven didn't like looking at that hole; it felt like falling to look at that black, and it worried at the edges of her mind. It poked her consciousness and sounded like lost voices in fog when it did. It made her hands itch, made it hard to hold her end of the equipment case, hard to look like just another tech.

She turned away as best she could, wishing she could turn so far away that she was back home, and not here on this blasted island off the coast, surrounded by the black sea. The hole called to her, though, a sucking, dragging feeling like the undertow the signs along the rocky coast warned of, and no one else seemed to feel it.

The experts at the Agency said that the closest connections between the Laminae were the places where moods and looks were echoed between the place and the destination, so the Brothers had done well choosing an uninhabited, forsaken rock surrounded by bottomless black to call upon dark things. She, however, just wanted to stop them and get out again; she had no interest in the Deep. In fact, if there was such a thing as an opposite of interest, that's what she had for the Deep.

She didn't even like knowing it existed.

Years ago, Raven Devinovitch had been a jewel thief, and an good one. She'd liked the work, the challenge of it. Then she'd made a deal with a criminal, lost her side of it, and wound up teetering between death on his side and life in prison on the other. The Agency had saved her from that...but it had its own costs to pay. To minimize them, she did her job as quickly and quietly as possible and left before she could be caught. The same as she'd done when she was a thief.

This job was meant to be a quick in and out, her typical sort of job and the one she was best at, but this wasn't anything like she'd been told. She made a mental note to have some choice words with Lous and Know-It-All when she got back. If she got back.

The Gate was set up on a wide, flat piece of hard basalt, some part of the bones of the island, and there wasn't any cover around it. Probably intentional, really, in case something they hadn't anticipated happened, and that's why she was posing as a tech.

There were, however, dozens of people. The Brothers themselves, decked out in their ritual best black robes, each embroidered with his own unique arcane symbols, but all of them glinting in ways they shouldn't have in the low, dreary light of this place. Techs, both of learned-in-magic and learned-in-mechanics varieties, moved in and out of clumps everywhere she could see, carting pieces of equipment from low, ramshackle sheds. And dozens of so-called 'interested parties' stood and watched and talked among themselves.

No one gave Raven a second glance; she was just another underling here, and there were Important Matters at hand. This was something that was in her briefing. The Brothers were savvy. They'd done big, dangerous experiments in the Arcane Sciences before, and they always did it with an audience of people who would be impressed, people who would want their technology, and would pay dearly for it. It's how an ancient cult had managed to become one of the fasted growing and richest socio-political groups in the modern world.

Too bad their social interest was of the anti- type and their politics were ancient-evil inspired anarchy.

They counted on governments to be short sighted and they were very, very long-sighted; they'd seen capitalism and globalization and everything else decades before people cared, and had set themselves up to very effectively take advantage of it.

This, however, was their most ambitious test of new technology yet. The Agency had no idea who had had the idea to punch a hole right through the Laminae and down to the Deep Aetherium, and they obviously hadn't known how far along the project was, but they'd recognized right away that this had to be stopped.

Raven agreed; she just wished she had some backup, a partner, a contact, someone she could count on not to stab her in the back. Maybe literally, knowing how dark magics usually end up. For the first time in all her years as thief or Agent, she regretted being such a difficult loner. Sort of.

Tune in Friday for Part 2!


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