March 28, 2007

The Crane (12 of 19)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

Fay Patricia Bolt. Born 23 September 1975, Sydney, Australia.

In the air-conditioned interior of a fourth-hand Ford Fiesta, Mr. Alpha flicked through the fifteen pages of documentation one more time. Addresses and dates, business dealings, tax filings, a century of genealogy and so on. There were some points of interest amongst the detritus of Morgana’s recorded history, but largely it was dull and uninteresting. Reading about Morgana’s history weakened her somehow, transforming her into one of the ordinary lives at their disposal, slaves to the invisible power play of belief and perception. Of more importance was the fact he now knew her birth-name and that crippled her.

Mr. Omega had dismissed the most juicy item in her history as inconsequential. On a school camp in the outback, three of Morgana’s friends had died from a fall after managing to sneak away from their teacher’s supervision. Local police exonerated her from having anything to do with it, but a poisonous atmosphere of suspicion forced her parents to relocate to England in 1987.

And there was also the final, deceptive sentence in the report.

After a year without incident at The Priory comprehensive school, Fay disappeared in 1988.

In other words, the Cloth had adopted Morgana. Mr. Alpha had to give Supply credit for preparing the documentation so that, in the event that it fell into the wrong hands, there was nothing to reveal the Cloth’s existence.

‘We should go in,’ said Mr. Omega, in the driving seat. ‘Her parents haven’t been around for a couple of days. It’s time to have a look around, see if Morgana has been in touch or even been sneaking around here herself.’

Mr. Alpha agreed. The pair of them had been staking the place out for a couple of weeks now and there was no sign of Morgana’s parents nor Morgana herself. It felt like an exercise in due diligence, ticking off the ‘Check whether renegade has visited estranged parent(s)’ box. A waste of time. That Aussie whore was not stupid. She would not hand them a lead on a silver platter.

They exited the car to face the chilling night. Mr. Alpha shivered; the air was still and the ground sparkled with early formations of ice. Above, a star-encrusted sky watched over them.

As they strode towards the Bolts’ house further down the street, Mr. Alpha wondered if her parents had given up hope. As far as he knew, the Cloth didn’t provide a cover story for adoptions. The adopted weren’t raped and killed by sinners. They didn’t run away from home. The Cloth just took a piece away from the family jigsaw leaving something damaged and incomplete behind. As Morgana’s parents hadn’t returned to Australia, it was likely that they still hoped to find her again; it saddened him. Such loss, such bravery. Such sacrifice. The parents had given up their children, albeit without consent or knowledge, for the noblest of causes.

He had his own hopes. After the second disaster of losing that turncoat snag Grimmer to Morgana’s machinations, perhaps they’d be able to pick up Morgana’s trail here.

They reached the semi-detached house, doused in orange light from a sodium street lamp. ‘Gloves,’ Mr. Omega whispered as they passed through the open front gate and crossed a well-maintained garden. A high fence obstructed the nearby light imprinting a cat’s cradle of shadow upon the orange-tinted lawn.

Mr. Alpha held up glossy hands. ‘Way ahead of you,’ he whispered back.

They headed around the back, crushing some immaculate roses into immaculate dead roses. Mr. Omega tried turning the handle on back door, just in case they were the luckiest people on the planet. It didn’t budge, but the back door did appear to have an insecure lock. Mr. Omega pulled out a lock pick case from his jacket and got to work.

Mr. Alpha wanted to speak his mind, even though it would likely incur the wrath of his senior partner. ‘This seems wrong, you know,’ he whispered. ‘They didn’t do anything, well, wrong. They’re probably sin negative and we’re charging up their back door.’

The old man stopped fiddling with the lock and looked up with an inscrutable expression. Mr. Alpha wasn’t sure if he was about to bark at him or go for a shit.

Mr. Omega sighed and returned to picking the lock. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘Ain’t that the fucking truth.’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2059

March 21, 2007

The Crane (11 of 19)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

Mr. Alpha pretended to be daydreaming into his latte whilst listening to Mr. Omega’s conversation with Supply.

‘Sorry, Supply, could you repeat? My signal keeps cutting out,’ Mr. Omega said into his mobile, a large, black mussel shell against his ear. Perhaps he could hear the sea.

Realising he’d been staring at his latte for far too long, Mr. Alpha jerked himself upright as if snapping out of a daydream and then surveyed the other customers.

Jubilee Place, Canary Wharf on a weekday. Most of the people here were just escaping their skyscraper jobs for a few minutes to talk to friends. They would trade grubby thoughts of career, self and sex to make themselves feel better, feel that someone else understood them, that they were not alone. A weekly shot of normality in the arm and then carry on with their sinner lifestyles without the inconvenience of regret. He wanted to tell them all that no one forgave them, but they wouldn’t understand. Living with invented gods or, even worse, delusions of a cold, atheistic universe caused spiritual atrophy.

Eastern European accents barked across the counter, trying to top the volume of the background jazz, making up orders that resembled the fragmented request they had heard. Suits lined up waiting for their conveyor belt coffee, assured of familiar tastes. Sometimes a backpacked student or a mother going out for a giggle with the gals broke up the monotone queue with a thin dose of colour. Tables filled the rest of the space, each one with customers in orbit, flirting satellites that never overstayed their welcome.

What did these people talk about? Did any of them realise that a couple of Clothmen sat in their midst? Mr. Alpha then realised he had no idea whether any of the other attending customers were also Clothmen. Maybe the frumpy woman with a woolly, jade cardigan in the far corner sitting with a man, her head thrown back trying to charm the last dregs of foam out of her cup, a caffeine tit. No, definitely not. She was demonstrating a dependence on the material.

Mr. Alpha approved of the sanitised structures of Canary Wharf around him. It was only the people that seem to dirty its purity. There was far too much chaos and scum in the human psyche. Too many paradoxes that were only maintained through force of will. There were the City mothers who were well-dressed in sharp suits and revealing necklines, pretending to be anything other than a mother. There were those who hated their job and talked about nothing but finding another job, as if it would be an improvement, failing to realise that they were actually carriers of a contagion of self-oppression.

He saw this and acknowledged that they had a long way to go before The-God-To-Be could be made manifest. Another voice, buried deep in his head challenged him with the words: this is what we made, know that we are terminal.

‘Truth is ghost,’ Mr. Omega said and closed his mobile.

Mr. Alpha cursed himself, having pretended to ignore Mr. Omega’s conversation so well to have actually ignored it.

‘So what’s the story?’

‘Weren’t you listening to anything I said? Observation is root, Mr. Alpha.’ His monotonous, nasal-inflected speech felt even more irritating than usual.

He glared back without emotion for a moment. The anger passed, an asteroid just glancing the atmosphere. ‘I was observing our surroundings, Mr. Omega. What’s the word?’

‘It’s highly possible that Morgana’s going to look for her parents. There’s only been a handful of renegades, but nearly all of them went looking for their past. We’re going to find her parents and wait.’

‘That’s it?’

‘It’s a fucking good plan, Mr. Alpha.’

‘Well, how are we supposed to find her parents? If a Clothman talks about the time before we entered the Cloth, we get sliced.’ He clicked his fingers. ‘Just like that.’ He added a cutting motion across his throat.

Mr. Omega sighed. ‘The Cloth remembers for us. They’ve sent us some details by e-mail.’

‘Really?’ He leaned forward over his half-empty latte, keen and interested. ‘We’ve got details of another Clothman’s history?’

‘Yes, don’t get too excited about it, you fuck-knock. I have to report to Supply if you get suspiciously interested in illegal information.’

‘Jesus, what can you tell me?’

‘We’re off to Colchester.’

‘Never been there, sounds like a fucking horrible place. Coal-chester.’

The frumpy woman pulled the coffee cup away from her face to reveal foam smothering her nose and mouth. She licked her lips and stretched her tongue up to the tip of her nose, wiping away the creamy bubbles as best she could. She experienced pleasure, grinning through the stain on her face. Her tongue seemed unnaturally long, managing to reach across her cheeks like some hideous tentacle. Her coffee partner, a male in a taupe suit, reached over and wiped the remaining foam with his fingers. He wasn’t wiping it off, though, he was just smearing it around, making the mess worse.

Mr. Alpha noticed the man’s index finger pop into the woman’s mouth for a second. Sickening. Just sickening.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2319

March 18, 2007

The Crane (10 of 19)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

Mr. Alpha tugged at the cabin door to no avail. No keys. He wondered how easy it was to hot-wire a tower crane, not something in the standard Clothman skill set. He peered through the cabin glass; levers, collision detectors, load monitors… and a seat. He could have done with a little protection from the elements. The wind was howling up here and his jacket flapped around him like a superhero’s cape.

The fog was chewing on the ground, each successive bite removing another section from view. Soon it would be gone altogether, replaced with an illusion of void.

Mr. Alpha crept around the cabin and clambered up another set of steps that took him over the cabin and onto the jib itself. It stretched out in front of him, a sturdy, yellow shaft beguiling like a yellow brick road to nowhere. A red light pulsed on its side and cables snaked along its length. He climbed inside the jib where a crawlspace extended all the way to its tip.

As he crawled the metal grid beneath him shuddered. His thoughts were still off-kilter, emotions rampaging around, ripping up furnishings and upholstery. He tried to focus on Windermere than more… recent days. Despite the Keswick school suspending the operations of around thirty pairships for a local manhunt, Morgana was not found. The burden of tracking her down had then fallen to the idiots who could have stopped her, but failed to do so.

His career was on hold, thirteen Weave assignments and no more. It drove him insane – he would never make his twenty at this rate. Forever pubescent, the butt of jokes amongst the men of the Cloth. Would they ever find her? Would she allow herself to be found? Halfway along the jib’s length, he paused. Mr. Alpha tightened his grip on the mesh until the indentations it impressed on his skin became so painful that he growled through clenched teeth.

The crane conceded him no power, affirming only his impotence. He was just a pawn who could no more move backwards out of the situation than he could take the Queen. It had been a mistake to come here. He felt trapped in this beast machine and, instead of learning from the crane’s fearful beauty, he was actually in its gut, being digested.

He dropped his head to the metal mesh and stared through at the nothingness below.

He wasn’t going to think about it. He wasn’t going think about it, he wasn’t going to… the stain of sin stank at the back of his mind, demanding acknowledgement. The scum of it was buried deep under his fingernails. The passive smoke of it was absorbed in his lungs. The HIV of it was hooked into his bloodstream. Here was something that had been inevitable from the day that Morgana had escaped but there was no why. She had orchestrated a sequence of events that had no point.

Mr. Alpha smarted as a chilling wind blasted his face. He pulled himself forwards as the waves of bleak memory rolled over him, tossing him in their wake.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2200

March 6, 2007

The Crane (9 of 19)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

| fuck is she? Jesus fuck, where is she?’

Mr. Alpha opened his eyes and saw the sun straining through an overcast sky. The jittery silhouette of Mr. Omega jutted into his field of vision and then the sun became a light bulb and the white sky a featureless ceiling. Alarmed that time had passed, he sat upright, plunging into a vicious headache, and winced.

Morgana was no longer tied to the bed. She was no longer in the room.

‘I was only gone for a couple of minutes,’ Mr. Omega said. ‘How the fuck did she escape? How the fucking fuck did you let her overpower you? Didn’t you bind her tight and proper?’

Mr. Alpha was still disoriented and stuttered, ‘D-Don’t remember.’

Mr. Omega held his jaw, shaking his head as his gaze darted around the room. ‘This is fucking bad.’

Mr. Alpha felt woozy but tried standing up anyway. ‘I’m not sure…’ he opened and then started careening. Mr. Omega grabbed him before he fell.

Holding him up, the old man appeared to be wrestling with a decision – whether to take care of his damaged colleague or berate him for letting Ms. Judas Iscariot escape.

‘Look, just sit here on the bed,’ he said helping Mr. Alpha over to the bed.

The room was spinning and Mr. Alpha was at a loss to explain what had happened. He went over the events in his head in case he had missed something out. Morgana started singing. Then he was at a waterfall. Then Morgana was gone. Nonsense, complete nonsense. Reality was not a scratchy old record with a tendency to skip. She must have broken her bonds and knocked him out. Maybe Morgana had had a knife. Did they check her for weapons? Maybe that was the mistake.

‘How long were you out of the room?’ he asked the old man, starting to grasp the gravity of the situation.

Mr. Omega was on the mobile. ‘Oh now I’ve got a signal. Can you believe it? A signal. I was out of the room for only a few minutes, three at the most.’

Then he was talking to Supply. ‘This is Mr. Omega, Keswick South. Put through a priority call to the Keswick school. The renegade Morgana has managed to escape… that’s correct, I am contradicting the previously reported status… yes, of course I know it was just a few minutes ago, but she managed to down my partner… no, not dead.’

Mr. Alpha caught a scowl on Mr. Omega’s face when he said those last few words. Mr. Alpha then realised that all of the brownie points he’d acquired had been jettisoned through this incident. But what was the mistake? What had he done wrong? Was it really his knot skills? Why couldn’t he remember what had happened? And why the hell had Mr. Omega left him alone, a junior, with an experienced Clothman gone wrong? The situation had slipped out of his grasp and over the edge of a precipice. His chest tightened and, for an instant, he wondered whether a fit boy like himself could have a heart attack.

While Mr. Omega continued to spar with Supply on his mobile, Mr. Alpha observed the obese suitcase open on the bed. So she had been in a hurry to leave when they arrived, but where was she going? Frantic to find something of value, something to salvage from the fucked situation, he started going through the contents of the case. Apart from the clothes, he found a few folders stuffed with newspaper clippings, handwritten notes and photocopies; some cross-religion Cloth project she had been working on. No immediate clues and there was too much for him to go through right now.

To his surprise, wherever he touched Morgana’s documentation, dark red fingerprints were impressed like bloody footprints in snow. He was positive that he had washed his hands earlier, but they were wet with blood again. Focussing on something had eased the dizziness and he decided he could get up to wash again. But in the bathroom, the mirror gave him something he hadn’t bargained for – the blood was from his face. He had a bloody goatee just like Morgana had displayed, minutes earlier.

This time, instead of taking care not to knock any toiletries over, he whacked them all onto the floor in anger. He took his time washing, dabbing at his face with moistened toilet paper fragments, trying to find the origin of the blood, its painful source. When all of the blood was gone, he was perplexed. No injuries.

Suddenly, he realised where the blood had come from, and bent over the toilet, jamming a couple of fingers down his throat. Hot bile erupted, burning and scalding his mouth on its way out. The vomiting robbed him of the little energy he had. He coughed, trying to spit out the vomit that hadn’t made it out, cloying like some hideous, acidic rice pudding.

Mr. Alpha pulled himself up using the basin, unsteady, and his eyes stung from the involuntary tears. He leant down to pick up a hand soap dispenser that he had dismissed to the floor, moving in a lazy fashion like one of those funfair grabbers that never actually grab any of the prizes. He squirted all of its contents into his hand and stared at the off-white fluid, steeling himself.

Closing his eyes, he poured all of it into his mouth and started rinsing. He grimaced but bore the disgusting taste, sloshing the soap around. He used his tongue to ensure the soap reached into every nook and cranny.

Once he was convinced that he’d cleaned her away, he spat out the now yellow mixture into the sink. He held onto it for dear life; his legs were shuddering, unable to bear weight. Acrid fumes stinging his nasal passages, he whispered to himself, ‘Jesus.’

Morgana had kissed him.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2245