February 13, 2007

The Crane (6 of 19)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

Mr. Alpha crouched, imagining himself as a bomb of arms and legs primed to explode. They heard the noise of movement on the other side, then the clack of the lock turning. They hadn’t expected her to open the door just like that, so easily convinced that the receptionist had arrived to tell her the taxi was here. As the door began to swing open, Mr. Omega threw his weight against it.

There was a yell of pain as the door slammed into Morgana and hurled her to the floor. Mr. Alpha exploded across the room and dropped his weight onto the fallen figure, human shrapnel here to do harm. Before she could react, he struck her face several times with the flattened palm of a hand, jolting her head against the floor until she was dazed. He grabbed her hair and dragged her over to the bedstead; she tried to break his grip by flailing her arms at him but her co-ordination misfired. Mr. Omega closed the door then yanked out the rope that was tucked into the back of his trousers, still sopping from the swim across the lake like their suits, and tethered her wrists to the two bedposts as well as tying her ankles together.

‘Lovely,’ Mr. Omega said, standing up and getting out his mobile. ‘Weapons free. Good job, Mr. Alpha. Finish off the knots, would you?’

Mr. Alpha knelt down beside Morgana. He was surprised how easily they’d taken a fellow Clothman down. Ex-Clothman, he corrected himself. He observed their adversary.

From a distance, Morgana might have seemed to be a delicate, brittle creature, but Mr.Alpha’s closer examination revealed how dangerous she really was. A loose-fitting black suit obscured the body of a toned gymnast; short in height but lithe and dextrous. Quick in kill. She had an elfin, thirty-something face with a greasy, lard-like pallor. A frizzy, amorphous clot of black hair clung to her head, sweat pasting the curls of her fringe to her forehead and temples. Morgana and the late Mr. Mogdred could almost have been twins; maybe she had chosen him as her new partner for just that reason, a younger self to train.

Her eyes were only half-open as she was still dazed from the attack, but he could see dark irises recuperating beneath the eyelids; penetrating eyes that would have been useful in an interrogation. A bloody goatee dribbled down from her nose and around her mouth. She’ll bruise up sweet, Mr. Alpha thought.

‘I’m not great with knots,’ he said to Mr. Omega.

The old man was holding the mobile up to his ear. ‘Not great with knots? What are you talking about? It’s practically a Clothman pre-requisite.’

Unwilling to push his luck, Mr. Alpha said, ‘Yeah, whatever, I’ll give it a go.’

He got to work on the rope and did his best; he knew how to tie up shoelaces, so several of the knots were done up like bows.

‘How pretty, nice job,’ Morgana said. Her dark, penetrating eyes were now wide open like a pair of negative headlights that absorbed light. She smiled with teeth that would have been dazzling if blood hadn’t already stained them.

‘Shut up,’ Mr. Omega said, still waiting on the mobile.

She continued to stare at Mr. Alpha. He tried throwing back his own venomous stare, but it wasn’t working. Somehow all elder Clothmen were much better at fearsome expressions and it pissed him off, knowing that he wasn’t quite as unique as he liked to think he was.

Morgana said, ‘It’s because I touched him, ain’t it? I knew that was a bloody mistake.’ She spoke with an Australian accent and Mr. Alpha wondered which school had adopted her in the beginning.

‘Shut up,’ Mr. Omega repeated. ‘I don’t believe this. No fucking signal.’

Mr. Alpha withdrew from the staring contest |know that we are terminal| and finished off a couple more knots. As things were calming down, his headache started to return. He felt like he’d done a fucking fine job and was pleased that Mr. Omega had recognised that. The assignment had started off badly, but even though he wasn’t a mature Clothman, things had come to a sound and just conclusion. In no time at all, he’d make his twenty. Vanity was a sin, but self-confidence was not. Perhaps Mr. Omega would stop treating him like a kid barely off his tricycle.

He was disgusted to find some blood from his assault on Morgana was drying on his hands and tried rubbing it off on the bedspread.

‘Oi,’ the old man shouted. ‘This room has to be cleaned up. Could you try not to make the job any harder than it already is?’

The bound Morgana shouted at Mr. Alpha too, the smile gone. ‘Yeah, mate, wouldya watch it with the grubby paws everywhere?’

Mr. Alpha jumped when a small and slender black object like an oversized mussel shell bounced off her forehead with a thwack. She scrunched up her eyes and shuddered, hissing through bloody teeth.

Mr. Omega retrieved his mobile phone from the floor after its improvised performance as a missile.

‘Shut. The fuck. Up.’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2254

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