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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday Serial - Clockwork Heart 3

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.


Raven skirted the compound, berating herself. What was she thinking, moving in like that? Trying to handle unknown tools, drawing attention to herself. She might've gotten killed--or had to kill him, and he looked like he'd be hard to kill, all muscle and brute force and moving like he's been trained in a thousand different ways to kill a person. Her heart was still beating too hard from escaping him.

She had a suspicion he hadn't tried that hard, or she'd have been caught.

She didn't like that suspicion at all.

What bothered her the most, however, was how he'd looked at her. Not as an object--she'd gotten that a lot when she was with Alexander, before she'd failed him, and she knew how to handle that. He looked at her like she was a puzzle, like he was starting to figure her out. He didn't miss anything, and she got the distinct impression that he understood her, and she had no idea what so ever what to do with that. A part of her felt relief she hadn't expected; she hadn't realized she'd been craving understanding before. A bigger part of her felt threatened, since she depended on people not being able to read her to do her job, and the part that felt relieved only made that worse.

Time to change tactics. 

Her orders had been to get in, shut it down, and get out. Now, she thought she'd rather know more about what's going on so she could find a better place to strike. A more efficient way to be sure she'd done her job. She wouldn't likely get a second chance.

And now she had a guard on her tail. He didn't follow her, though, which was something. What, exactly, she didn't know, since she'd expected him to follow, had been taking precautions like not setting foot on the ground until she was out of sight and the like. What kind of guard identifies a threat and doesn't run it down?

What kind of operative offers the enemy a job?

She doubled back through the tumble of large bounders, headed for the staging area, and found a spot where she could spy on the operation without being seen. She wasn't sure why she'd done it; he just seemed like someone who might benefit from the Agency, perhaps better than she did. She wasn't railing against it right now, but she usually was; this was just more of a period of resignation. She'd had periods like this before, and she knew it'd pass, and she'd be right back to wanting out and not being able to get out, since the Agency owned her. She'd signed that contract of her own free will, and she kicked herself all the time for not reading it better. But she'd been in a bad place, and the Agency offered something like freedom.

Below, the hooded Brothers were increasing in numbers. When she'd been down there, there was only one or two, no flesh showing, not even their faces or hands, watching. Now there were six or more, and two of them had their hands raised, the ghostly blue of bent magic flickering around their arms. She didn't know how many were there on the island; her briefing had said maybe four, the most that had been spotted at other 'events' like this, but there was already more than that. Almost twice as many more, now, and the weird lights of the experiment showed what could be more coming from the shadows.

This was a big deal. Far bigger than any of the deskmen at the Agency had thought, and she'd been sent in alone. There was no uplink to the Agency satellite, because the frequency had been identified and was tracked and hadn't been replaced yet, and there was no plane or chopper waiting off the coast, no boat or sub lurking in the water, listening for her signal. No one knew any of this. The only way out was to shut everything down, survive whatever happened when she did, and continue surviving until the crew came in the morning to retrieve her, hours after everyone else either died or fled.

It wasn't the best of situations, but when the threat was thought to be lower, it wasn't that bad; she could have made it look like an accident, they wouldn't even have known she was there.

Now, she wasn't sure about any of that.

She squinted through her binoculars and saw that guard, with his shaggy reddish hair blowing about his face. She didn't feel any wind though heavy clouds were rolling in; it must be coming from the device, and if that was true, the Gate was much more open than she'd thought. One of the techs buckled, suddenly, and she heard his scream when it echoed up to her, out of synch with the picture the binoculars showed her. He hit the ground without even trying to break his fall, and when he rolled over and arched off the hard stone, his limbs didn't move right, his joints looked...uneven. They moved more out of place as she watched, and he mangled in slow motion while everyone stood back and let it happen.

When he died, finally, and not quickly, they left him where he fell and continued with their arcane work. The guard was the last to look away, and, eventually, even he turned his attention back to the Gate.

Who were these people? Even the Agency didn't just leave them all to die. Not slowly, of unknown causes, anyway. Agents tended to die fighting. Like Kiernan did--

She cut off that line of thought before the pain could well up, and she started to pick her way closer to the device.

This was more dire than she'd thought.

Tune in Friday for Part 4!


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