July 27, 2008

In the Hands of Others (9 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

‘Blow something up? Kill someone? Assassinate?’ Ariadne was incredulous. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me, Fay. We’re just about staying alive by keeping out of harm’s way. You want us to dive right in? I just about know how to handle a semi-automatic at last but… what’s the Foundry?’

Fay moved into a cross-legged seating position before answering. ‘Alright. The Cloth makes all its own weapons so nothing is traceable. They make them in private factories, the Foundries. They are very difficult to keep off the authorities’ radar so there aren’t too many. Europe has two and one of them up north, here in England. You take it out and it’s a serious smack in the teeth for the Cloth.’

‘Fay. You don’t go poking around in a bee’s nest.’

‘We’re stripping the bees’ of their stings. How are they going to keep half of Europe armed after this? They will have two options. Do less until they get a new Foundry established or start pushing more guns from other Foundries through insecure channels. Either way, it makes them more vulnerable.’

‘This is madness. We’re not soldiers, we’re just ordinary people.’

‘Ordinary people who believe the Cloth is more than a myth, more than a story to scare children to bed. That belief makes you more stronger than you know. And you also have firearms, which is also a plus. If you can’t get your hands on some decent explosives, you’ll probably have to resort to something like TATP. It’s your choice.’

‘Fay, will you listen to what you’re saying. You want the six of us to become… terrorists?’

‘Yeah, just for a bit. You got to ask yourself some hard questions, Ariadne.’ Fay stood up and walked to the window on the opposite side of the bedroom. She looked out, checking for something, then said: ‘How long can you keep this up for?’

Ariadne had no inclination to follow Fay to the opposite side of the room. This woman no longer felt like their saviour or benefactor. ‘What do you mean? Keep this up?’

Fay kept her position. ‘You’ve got the nipper to think of now. You can’t keep hiding forever. The Cloth will find you one day. You’ll slip up once, maybe twice, and the they’ll find the string in the maze that leads back to you and make good on their mistakes. So I ask you: how long can you keep this up for? How many days can you stay alive? Will you see Theo’s fifth birthday? Tenth? Twentieth? Grandchildren?’

Ariadne had no answer.

‘So you see, getting rid of the Cloth is our first priority.’

‘Is there a second?’

‘Everything is in the folder beside the bed. Location of the Foundry. Security for the site. Things you need to do and prepare for.’

Ariadne placed her head in her hands; shaking. She had no control over her own destiny. She couldn’t give Mummy a call tell her things were fine. She couldn’t hang out with Maurice at Dotheby’s tonight if she was in the mood. God, was Maurice even the editor of the Watch anymore? Two years in which the world moved on without her. Ariadne’s life was now in the hands of others, a piece to be played on a game she wasn’t permitted to understand. She now had to follow the moves laid out for her, with no input into the outcome. She had to believe that Fay knew what she was doing. God oh God; were they pawns or were they rooks?

She drew her legs up into her chest again and perched her head on her knees.

Talking into her legs, she said: ‘So who is the switchman? Why do we have to…’ She couldn’t finish the question.

‘Oh I almost forgot, kiddo. Switchmen are the go-betweens between the Saints, the ones who weave the Cloth, and Supply, who give out the orders and organise things on the ground. Switchmen are a rare commodity, much like the Saints themselves. Take one out and it’s as painful as the loss of a Foundry.

‘We’re taking out their teeth, one by one, without anaesthetic.’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2057

July 12, 2008

In the Hands of Others (8 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

Mr. Alpha tried to read the documents sprayed out on the desk. Most of them were in type too small, but he could make out the gist: scientific ramblings about flash-freezing, frozen cadaver preservation, possible advances for getting the bodies back out of stasis. He was amazed that people would submit themselves to a coffin of ice, at great cost, without any promise of getting out again. He wondered about the business model of these places. Was it until the money ran out? Did they pull them out for defrosting after that point? If you can pay, you can stay!

‘Not much to tell,’ said Mr. Smoke. ‘Here’s the tape.’ He fiddled with a remote control and an old, battered television on one shelf played out a careful selection of black-and-white CCTV scenes.

A blurry Morgana broke open the front door; there was no mistake, it was her again. She strode past reception, uninterrupted and without pause. Next scene: she travelled down the corridor, passing the office they were sitting in.

Mr. Alpha looked up at the patterned window in the office door, expecting to see a shadow pass by. No one came.

Morgana proceeded further down the corridor, reached a big, metal door. She played with a panel beside the door; it opened.

‘So where’s security?’

‘They were there at the time this footage was taken, but no one remembers seeing anything. Not the guys in the control room, not the man at the front door. How does she do it? What are we supposed to do to prevent it happening again? I’ve not heard any suggestions so far.’

Mr. Alpha leaned forward towards the screen. ‘She’s so careful and clever –’

‘Is that hero worship I’m hearing?’ Mr. Smoke barked. ‘She barged into my facility without an invite.’

‘Hold on,’ Mr. Alpha said. ‘Look, she’s so careful and clever but why doesn’t she do a fucking thing about the CCTV?’

‘Time?’ Mr. Smoke was impatient with him. Mr. Alpha twigged; Mr. Smoke had heard all about the ‘failures’ of the plucky probationer with a bad mouth. He could recall the same glint in the eyes of the receptionist Ms. Wood, a look that conveyed unspoken words: ‘Oh, it’s you.

‘I don’t bloody think so,’ Mr. Alpha answered. ‘Look at her wandering around as if she has all the time in the world. She’s not quaking in her boots. She’s telling us she doesn’t give a dog’s nut if we know what she’s up to.’

Mr. Omega said, ‘Assumptions, Mr. Alpha. There are multiple possibilities. Possibility first. She’s pretending she doesn’t care, to make us think there is genius in her action – and lead us to plot falsely what she might do next. Possibility second. This is a smokescreen for her real activity, deliberately drawing our attention to blue centre incursions away from a bigger picture. Possibility third. The CCTV gives us so little information that it’s not worth her time disabling it.’

‘Hmm, fair play. Perhaps it’s all of those possibilities.’

Mr. Smoke laughed at them with derision. ‘I don’t know how she managed to evade a couple of smart-ass whipshits like yourselves.’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1553

July 5, 2008

In the Hands of Others (7 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

Ariadne pushed herself against the wall under a window. A breeze filtered through a gap in the frame against the nape of her neck. She wanted to cool down, calm herself, but her heart kept pounding. ‘Repay?’

‘For saving your lives,’ said Fay. ‘Just like you repaid Bobby after he saved yours.’

‘What are you talking about?’

Fay tilted her head and said, ‘You guys became fuck buddies because you love each other I suppose.’

Repelled, Ariadne said, ‘We do love each other.’

‘He’s not your type, you prefer the quiet ones who do the laundry or pop down to the corner shop to get the tea and biscuits without a prompt. Bobby, well, he’s a little impulsive, right? You gave him your bed because you owed him. And he’s had enough of his hand all this time, so he forgave you all that grey hair up there… and down there.’

Ariadne didn’t say a word. She disagreed with everything, completely, one-hundred-and-one-percent, but she wasn’t going to cross Fay.

‘I bet he said something like, I never knew older women were so into sex. And you bit your tongue, wanting to tell him you’re only in your thirties. Then your periods stopped which was a big surprise for both of you.’

Ariadne bit her tongue, trying not to get angry. Her tongue was sore.

‘And Bobby, always good with his words, said he wanted to abort the ‘thing’ because you two are on the run. You told him a baby was a precious treasure, a life more important than your own. What you didn’t tell him was this was probably your last chance to have a sprog. Bobby got mad and whomped you one in the face, then cried because he was sorry about it. Like I said, impulsive. A bit of a numpty too, a condom hadn’t occurred to him.’

‘Shut up, Fay!’ Ariadne shouted, looking up and glaring at the ex-Clothman. ‘We’re not all like you Cloth people! Love isn’t perfect and I never wrote that it was!’

Fay smiled; Ariadne turned towards the floor again, dreading the response. A chill came over her.

‘Nice one,’ said Fay. ‘I really need you to have a bit more fire in your gut if you’re going to do this thing for me, right? Rise and shine, darlin’. It’s time to shake this town.’

Fay swore she wasn’t Cloth anymore, but she still had the blood of one, playing mind games and little party tricks. It didn’t make Ariadne feel any better. Ariadne lifted her gaze. ‘What the hell do you want, Fay?’

‘Ah yeah, that.’ Fay cleared her throat. ‘It’s dangerous but to help you I got what you could call the Lonely Planet guide to taking on the Cloth. Your mission – should you decide to accept it and let’s be you honest you ain’t got much choice – is to raze the English Foundry and kill the switchman there.’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1923