Short Story: Dangerous Feeling

We are a generation of fatherless children. A generation so far lost in our own sadness and feelings of abandonment, we look only to each other.
This is the best possible outcome for the situation.
Because we. are. not. alone.

The Nuclear Family has erupted. Dad’s stopped coming home from work. Instead he visits the bars. Mom cries a lot. The other kids in the family cry, too. So we cry: we cry harder and louder than any of the others, unaware of why or how, but knowing we’re justified in it.
Then, Dad does come home, stinking. Too late after dinner– which we eat in front of the TV now. TV’s kind’a like Mom and Dad, ‘cause Dad’s always home late and mom’s always staring: out the window. Smoking. Folding Laundry.
Did she always smoke?

Dad finally detonates, taking the Nuclear Family with him.

He comes home later than usual one night. He stinks. It’s a bitter kind of stink. Like the stink after pulling a prank crossing from harmless to malicious, humorous to depraved.
Mom and Dad are screaming. We’re pulled out of the room, away from the loud noises. Sounds nearer-by try to drown them out. Deliberate sounds. Sonic equivalents of rocking back and forth hugging our head. There’s a lot of tension in our muscles and guts, and our bum doesn’t feel right– like we ate bad meat. Or suddenly developed stomach flu.
Twitches are present from then on. Subtle, yet obvious signs something’s not right.
The noises last a while, sort’a freezing us in time. We cry. The other kids don’t. The eldest runs off, able to. We envy but miss them, yet desire to remain. The other remains with us, choice-less, but too old and numb to cry. At least in front of us. Sometimes.
We cry a while instead, losing sense of time in the chaos outside that eventually dies down– enough for the arms to come away from the ears, if yet the rocking continues.

I am dangerous: I feel.

The other keeps us occupied. Somewhere inside, we know it’s a distraction: an attempt to help process. Conscious or not, even if we do not understand the terms, the knowledge is there. The underlying concepts, undeniable, immutable.

These are not things to understand, the other teaches.

I am dangerous: I feel.

Dad goes away. He’s gone a long time. He doesn’t ever come back to stay. We have to go see him somewhere else. A place that isn’t home. There are strange people there. Ones that seem to know us, greet us, like family.
I have never met them.
We start learning a lot in a short time. Big words we’re not supposed to hear or understand. Words we’re not allowed. Why?

I am dangerous: I feel.

Strange people come and go: New ones. Old ones. Elderly ones. Young ones like us. Those we like best. They, too, seem to be confused on things. We don’t speak to them much, but we like them. We make fools and fiends of ourselves. We don’t know why.
There are new places too. Places that seem strange, even for irregular people like we’ve become. Places with men in robes. Rows of chairs. Men with badges and guns. The kind that guard. All of them look unhappy to be there, so we play along. Mostly, we’re glad Mom and Dad are in the same room.
But then, later, the fighting again. Walking away alone this time.

These are not things to understand, the other echoes.

I am dangerous: I feel.

There are only a few more new people now. Some like us: younger. The others seem to have settled in their places for now. Dad is with them. We still do not know them. We know she is not Mom, yet acts as her– as if to usurp.
Snake.
We don’t like the other young one. Dad pays it our attention. We begin to cry again, more often. What is happening here?

I am dangerous: I feel.

Dad does not try to sugar coat it. Anything. He never again candy-coats a single word or behavior. This, we understand, is growing up. This is the realm of the Adult. Of the sweary-mouthed sailor-comic and the naked-chested cable lady.
It is a brave new world, someone says.
Mom says otherwise. In fact, she screams it. Everything. If she is not screaming, she is crying. Often, she is doing both together. Sometimes, we do too. Sometimes the other leads us away. Still other sometimes we wander off alone.

Until we begin to break the golden rule:

These are not things to understand, the other echoes.

But we do. We are not sure how, but we do. We are also certain on how to fix these things, but no-one wants to listen. Or is willing to stop scream/crying or stink-snaking long enough to listen.
Mom is not happy. Dad is not happy. We are not happy. Nor are the other or eldest, whom we see less and less. These are not good things. These are the baddest of bad. So why can’t we come together and prevent it? Why can’t we listen?

I am dangerous, I feel.

Slow and subtle, we feel the creep of something. An anonymity. A dreadful yearning for attention. Not ours. Elsewhere. Distractions. We wish for the night and darkness. To command fear and dread so we no longer live with tension in our muscles and tendons and bones and bum and guts.
It comes from the loins. Sometimes, late at night. We think of the naked-chested cable lady, and those things the sailor-comic swore about her. It warms us. We like it. We make it warmer. It feels good. Like awakening.
We mention it to others like us. We know that’s how it works. Somehow. Instinct, someone says. An old person word. Something to do with the warmth, awakening.
The one not like us feels good, but so does the one like us. We like warmth. We later hear words that harden but do not frighten about this. Our feelings remain unchanged, though we become more excluding, excluded.

I am dangerous, I feel.

We learn things as unusual. We believe otherwise. Feel otherwise. We exclude more. Seek only others that find night and darkness, full warmth, and sailor-comics and naked cable-ladies exciting. We join groups, bands, form tight cliques that last us decades yet form or crumble in moments.
We go through so much so quickly, and with everything else, it is impossible to know if we’ll ever come to see it all. We are not meant for this speed. And we are far beyond our realms of understanding, still hung up on…

These are not things to understand, the other echoes.

I am dangerous, I feel.

The night is sanctuary. It hides all depravity. No-one around means no-one to watch. They would not anyhow. Mom is rarely home. The other keeps us in line, fed. They are mom-sis. It is difficult. The shift is natural enough with the chaos around.
Mom works now too. It is hard. She’s not paid well. Mom-sis cannot work. She helps how she can, mostly with us. Eldest does too.
Family must support each other: this is said often. Loudly. And proudly.
Mostly it is said with a kind of wanting sorrow. A feeling we know all too well. The feeling of stink-snaking and scream/cries beneath mad-eyed smiles.

But the darkness absolves us of all. We don’t fear the others there. We feel only the warmth we surround ourselves with. We meet new people that like the warmth too. And we join the warmth however we can. We seek happiness in them because we know we won’t find it at home.
We ride forever and ever. One day is the same as the next. Night is the goal, always. Riding and running for days so nights can be warm and colorful. The days are colored no less for it. Somewhere is still an uneasiness. Tenuous for now, but at-peace.
We know it will come back again. When, we can’t say. Gut feeling says so. The one time teaches. That says the sun rises and sets. That we can trust in that, if nothing else.
The others like us, feel the same.

I am dangerous: I feel.

We become attached to a specific few. Time is spent mostly with them, or alone. They are all like us, forced into place without regard. We bond. This begins a cycle best summarized thus:

Here we go again!! what’s the point again?

Inside we are day. Outside we are night. Neither bothers us, or is any less us than the other. We ride two-ality like radical waves cause our futures so bright we gotta wear shades.
Something like that.
Knowledge comes quicker and quicker. Easier. Reading is fun. Taking time between two other things: writing, games– all stories.
Stories never wither.
Mom still cries and screams. Dad is meaner now. He says things he shouldn’t. He makes mom-sis cry. He makes Mom cry. He makes us cry. We dislike Dad. But we love him. He is Dad.
This two-ality can’t coast, bro…
We cry more. Again. Start to understand. What was hidden. Uneasiness. Out of placeness. Missing confidence. Something we never felt before.

I am dangerous. I feel.

We become excluding again, but do not stop. Ever. It is now a trait to seek almost solely the night. Warmth. Color. Exuberance. It is color that we see mom-sis embrace. It is not ours, but her own. It suits her.
We like our colors anyway. Some don’t. We understand this is why we must be excluding. Stink-snaking is a bloodsport with innocent bystanders. Like war. Which we love to understand. It is depraved. Like us. A thing of night and hot blood and passion. Corrupted innocence incarnate, which we now know ourselves to be.

It’s never to hurt. No. But like the joker whom pranks with the squirt of a flower, meant to be innocent, amusing. Showing of a sort of twisted affection only those that understand us can understand. Most do. Eventually. Even the ones that pretend they don’t, do too.
We’re not their type, but a prototype. Above they and the rest. Something tells us this. We don’t believe it. Though it is true, we don’t learn it for some time. How. Why. For now, we remain prototypical and in demand, yet plagued with failure.
Mom and Dad notice. They have no room to judge. Mom-sis notices too. Eldest is absent. All are upset.

Here we go again!! What was the point again?

I am dangerous: I feel.

And so it goes for longer than we can comprehend. Time is flashes. Television Mom and Dad. Mom-sis on the cello-lin. Lots of scream/crying. Stink-snaking. Bloodsports.

Here we go again: What was the point again?

Reading. Writing. Learning. Discussing. Seeking warmth. Often not finding it. Having it teased just out of reach. Prototype or not, frustration builds. We isolate and exclude further, never minding.
We begin to hide things. Make secrets. Lay plans. We break rules and push limits and test boundaries like never before. Night always comes and with it hides our indiscretions. Then, after the coming of day, the here-we-go-again-go-round absolves us. Day is white. Night is black. Color is everything around.
We fight. We love. We hate. We swear and smoke and drink and spit and swallow and fuck and forget and forgo and hope and dream and scream and cry and laugh and kiss and tell lies and make stories, and all to fill the void between the two-ality of things, the duality of things.
We are the all singing, all dancing crap of the universe.
Until darkness comes, and sadness falls, and betrayal abounds. We partake in it all, because we know we can and we’re allowed. Until we’re accused of excess for wanting to suckle the teats of knowledge so forcefully fed to us, and appreciated.

Something happens. More new people. Others leaving. Some gone, come back again. Others remain unchanged. Still more hurt, and hollow, desecrate and deconsecrate. Dad stays. Mom and mom-sis go away. No-one is the same again.
We are something different now. Swaddled in hate. Something changed and rabid. Weaponized. Something turned from pure, innocent, into corrupt and vile. Made vicious by pain, fetid wounds. Battered and broken. Manipulated and hurt. We are all these things.
But perhaps now…

These are not things to understand, the other echoes.

I am dangerous, I feel.

Depravity drives us. We know it well. It is simple. Animal. It is the chaos of the universe at its core. Always decaying, always eroding. Chasing the dragons of a million uninterrupted myths and legends. Then, questions. More questions. Always questions. Why so many questions?
We don’t know why we’re forced apart, the night and day. The day and night. As if the two were inseparable. Like Gemini: twins, kindred spirits. Redeemers and destroyers. Bitch and bastard. We only know that there’s ridicule, that the prototype is malfunctioned.
It is not, but we do not know that. In all the here-we-go-again-go-rounding and excess of intake, experiment, and evaluate, we lose something. A focus. A clarity.

I’m told it’s the drugs. I don’t believe that. I know the truth…

I am dangerous: I feel.

We go back and forth, round again. Wounds. Weeping. Love, swooning. Mom and mom-sis bleed. Eldest screams. We cannot look back: the trail of failed prototype parts is too hard to bear for the loss incurred.

Anything can be rationalized by a mad enough man.
I know. I did it.

We are dangerous: We feel.

We cannot go back to what we were. So we move forward. How? Inclusion. One specific. To replace one lost, and with hope, build toward what we hope to be the crowning future. That which sees day turned to night and night, day, and color and warmth and vibration all as one.
For a prototype is, if nothing else, a showpiece for some avid collector. Finding one is a surprise. Finding a good one is a miracle. She’s the latter. He would be too. Time and distance are dictators and love is what makes the world go ’round.

The danger is not that we feel. The danger is that others do, too. That vastly complicates the web of possible interaction, and no doubt befuddles the mind. Especially for mass-production models.
Prototypes though, have features not included in mass-market versions. Simply, they’re too unstable. Mostly, in the Human sense, they’re difficult to come by as a result of genetic mutation.
But every once in a while, you get one. A whole line of ’em, even. And the best thing you can do, is run ‘em dead. Not just for their sake, but everyone’s. It’s an unfortunate fact of a prototype’s existence, that it is not for itself that it exists. Rather, it is for the masses that will soon come under its designs– the ones that appeal broadly.
The great tragedy of life is that this reality of possible-pains exists. The great comedy is that tragedy’s spawning of something far greater and grander than itself.
Duality at its purest.
Where that may lead us, no-one yet knows, but we can say for certain two things….

We are dangerous: we feel.

Guardians of Liberty: Part 19

19.

Paradigm

“You’re not unlike him, you know?” Ket remarked, pouring herself a drink from a carafe. He could only guess it was filled with wine.

It wasn’t. She offered him water from it. He declined by evading, “I’m here–“

She about-faced, “Why are you here, Commander Ozell?” He opened his mouth to speak. She was quicker, more practiced. “Your creed tells that you are here by grace of the altar of Justice. We both know this is not true. You’re no peacekeeper.”

“You are here to establish order,” she accused. “A specific kind of order.”

“I’m here for Martin Black.”

She hesitated.

“Yes,” she whispered in slow distance, as if slighted by divinity on such sour lips. Ozell heard her all the same. “Martin Black is dead. The man you seek, N1T3, is not Martin Black. Whatever it is you believe you will achieve finding him, you are mistaken.”

“You have seen him, then?”

“You would not have come here otherwise, Commander. Do not foolishly attempt to evade reality. You are hunting my former lover–” She said slightly to herself, “–or someone wearing his face. I am not certain which.”

“When did you last see him?”

“It doesn’t matter,” she assured him. He believed her. “Your presence does. You’ve come seeking information. I can provide that, but as with all things, for a price.”

Ket had already ensnared him. She’d sign-posted herself to draw Ozell, her audience, in. Now, she would take her place behind the curtain and wait for it to rise.

“I’m here on official business,” he argued, eying her graceful approach of the conglomerate of racks behind her– N1T3’s fountain, her own aquifer.

“I’ve no doubt of it,” she replied succinctly. “But you must understand your own role. Else, you’re sure to fail and take Paul with you.”

His nostrils flared and his face flushed.

“No-one would ever harm your son, Daniel,” Ket assured without looking. “We’re not without feeling.”

The use of his name hit him hard. Her blatant admittance to a part in the scheme hit harder, but with a sad panic that tempered fury. Reality cascaded in on him; he’d been played since the night of the attacks. Every step of the way. They’d wanted him here. Or, if not him, someone analogous.

‘Til now. Now they wanted him. He was the one they were pinning everything on. That want, need even, made them extra clever. Their traps more logic games than snares or spikes. Why anyone would bother, Ozell couldn’t be sure yet, but he’d let them divide and conquer him, left himself vulnerable.

In spite of that, he lived, still well-armed and capable of erasing them all from history.

“No, we are not without feeling,” she reiterated from the back wall. “Quite the opposite, in fact.”

The make-shift wall broke unevenly in the darkness before flaring blinding light. He blinked watery eyes and the light resolved itself into a large flat-screen. Thousands of small, broken up vid-feeds winked and flickered across it, contents barely visible as it cycled the various cameras.

“London Cit-Surv,” Ozell surmised. He’d seen the official room more than once. This was anything but.

“Every single camera in London,” Ket re-affirmed. “Many unregistered. Some corporate. Others aren’t.”

“Every one?” He asked curiously, confounded yet awed.

“Every one connected to a vulnerable node.” Her head tipped slightly, “So. Yes.”

Ozell’s passions stirred, “This is illegal.”

“Highly.”

Ozell’s eyes begged an explanation. Ket ignored it. She stood at the fountain’s controls, typing, “This was the footage N1T3 took his post from.”

A vid-played, jumping angles here and there, easily imparting its multi-point capture of Paul. Even if small, he remained visible in every frame.

Ket explained, “A weapon is a weapon, no matter the hands. It can harm as you equally as another simply because that is the nature and purpose of its existence.”

He didn’t understand, remarked as much.

“A tool, no matter its purpose, is dangerous whether misused, abused, or lying idle. The more capable the tool, the more damage can be done, and the more security it requires. Often that security requires only the skilled hands of its operator. Otherwise, this is the result.”

He stared at Paul: Kay’s eyes and smile were plastered across the boy’s face as he hugged his father goodbye. The vid replayed, showing the whole wait. Editing had more or less dissolved into long plays of each angle. Ket stepped away from the screen. The room dimmed, save the fountain’s screen still glowing with the running vid.

She returned Ozell’s side, eyes tracking her every swaying movement. She used it to relax and hypnotize him, goad him into accepting his own arousal. He let her. That was the attraction; he knew it as anyone worthy of her would. He was more than prepared to take the ride. Especially with a comatose wife destined for the nut-house and everything riding on him.

He needed her… And that was how she got him.

She sat beside him on a small couch before the glowing vid, lit a cigarette. Her motions kept drinking-bird tempos in the active room, however slowed by circumstance. The intimacy set Ozell ablaze.

“You will not find Martin Black, Commander. You will only ever find N1T3. And he would never tell me where to find him. Beyond that, I do not care where he is. I can, however, show you how to find him. To do that though, you must learn to think like him. Or, at least, understand how he thinks.”

It sounded good– or made sense at-least. He trusted her as any trusted a force of nature: to be unpredictable, unstoppable, chaotic. He was fine with that. Chaos was his stock and trade.

She was closer now. The tempo of her smoke had slowed. She began lulling him with soft tones and neck-line– hints of what more lie beneath.

“Martin Black was not a man, but neither is N1T3. He is something more. Like all of us now. We are not born the creatures we die as. It is a process to become them. Sometimes for the worse. Sometimes not.”

She leaned her head longingly on a hand, eying him from the side. Her eyes said she wished to draw him further in. His said he was perfectly fine with it.

She smoked, “To understand N1T3, you must understand his world. He is not unlike you. He sees this and admits it. Yet also acknowledges he is different in specific ways. Ones that are not like you, if only because you’ve yet to achieve them. But you can, likely will.”

He winced, “Is it the same with you?”

“In certain ways. With certain things. But he and I differ fundamentally. He recognizes this as well. Thus, we can never come to understand one another fully, no matter how we try or wish to.”

She leaned away to ash, prompting slight, desperate grief to incise Ozell’s chest. The slight hint of her shape in his periphery refocused him.

She continued unabated, “Incidentally, that is also what sets N1T3 apart from Martin Black– the figment you’re chasing. He is not either, or. He is both and neither. As all of us are, to some extent.”

Ozell didn’t understand. Hopelessness and fear bled frustration. Paul flashed larger on-screen through the darkness. “Cryptics don’t help either of us.”

She oozed a tempered excitement, as if viewing a newfound prospect, “On the contrary, Commander, it is precisely what we need.”

The shift threw him. He almost stammered, “…Why?”

“Anything capable of obscurity can be protected. So long as that obscurity remains possible in any context, proper application can protect it.”

“Paul,” he breathed, seeing his son flare across the fountain.

He didn’t know how, only that it happened. The aftermath.

Suddenly, a flash of Paul. Then a flash of movement. Metal cold at his throat. Sharpness in a lethal crook. The only weak point in his armor, physical and meta. She was ready, had been. Now, she’d use it.

In one movement she’d turned the tables entirely.

Missing weight at Ozell’s side rippled panic through him. The fountain flared. Ket’s knife was poised, lethal and steady. He froze in terror. Paul’s face reflected in his father’s eyes: Leaving the house. Hugging him. Waving good-bye.

Ozell didn’t breathe, only watched, too fearful to.

His son’s partings were moments of growth. He watched himself recognize it time and again on the fountain. His own passing of the torch; Mortality. Humanity. Knowledge that his son would one day have a place to take; his– And so-on to the end of his line or species. Until then, he’d assured himself, his family, that they were safe. All of them.

Short-sighted given the blade at his throat.

Ket was feather-light, but her strength immeasurable. Her hands and thighs paralyzed him with lethal precision of bone in pressure points. Her voice rasped disharmony; eyes and aura demonic as Galadriel in the One Ring’s presence; a fury the likes of which Daniel Ozell had never met.

Just over her shoulder was a still of Paul, glowing, smiling.

“Choose now, Daniel Ozell; your life or your son.”

Paul’s face burned his eyes. Steel punctured his throat ever-so slightly. Blood trickled beneath the collar of his armor. Ket could kill him without hesitation, mercy, or fear of reprisal; Ozell’s system needed her a fuckuvalot more than him.

The blade pressed deeper, forcing him to block out everything until only two things remained; Paul’s face, and Daniel’s fears of its suffering. At times it was unavoidable, but so long as he lived, he’d live and die first as father and Guardian. If Ket, force of nature and power she was, demanded his blood for his son’s, she knew his choice already.

His neck stiffened until the blade cut deeper. “I would die to protect my son. If you’re my executioner, so be it, but I’ll take no less in trade.”

She flung the knife aside, rolled off him and onto her feet in one move. She faced away from him, panting slightly– from exertion, it seemed. In reality, something far more powerful was the cause. It left her reeling. Ozell didn’t know it yet, but both would come to understand it better in time.

She about-faced, recomposed, and offering his pistol back. “If you find N1T3, rest assured what comes was preordained by your system. For good or ill.”

Ozell mind was lost for moments. Then he found himself on his feet, moving. Fleeing from something primal, like excitement but deeper, more dangerous. It was a knowing one had before a moment of great action, where all things secured await only proper leverage to catapult time and history along.

Daniel Ozell’s world was long past the tipping-point. Now, he and it would be falling at terminal speeds.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: You ask, Yet I Answer

You ask me what love is,
yet I do not know.

I know that I have loved and lost:
the feelings of life and entertainment,
all at mercy of soul’s cost.

You ask me what love is,
but I do not know.

I know only warmth and vibration:
delivered through aetheric space-time,
from the source of cosmic machination.

In the end,
what do my meanings matter?
Do you not,
know them yourself?
Then look toward the lingering,
of the inner soul-health.

It is what’s needed
‘tween the dwindlings of time,
and if gone unheeded,
the Mariner’s last rime.

You ask me what love is,
yet I haven’t a clue.

But I have a deep-down feeling,
that you know,
really,
you do,
yet still,
you go on reeling.

You ask me what love is,
I haven’t the faintest,
for all I know,
is when it is true.

VIN27- In It Together

I grew up wanting to be a cop. Then, as a teenager, I was treated like a villain for my views. Most ran counter to those of what I wished to be. Not because I was any different, but because I learned my “dream me” requires being someone other than me. Namely, an asshole hypocrite.

Simply, my views kept me from achieving what I wanted because I was suddenly the enemy, rather than the Guardian, as I’d wished.

Growing up is difficult. Yet I remain a Guardian. Each fool that believes I hate: I do not. Each debater/hater that disagrees and hate me— I don’t hate you.

In fact, I feel for you. Because you hate, and that is a painful thing to carry around.

Trust me, I’ve spent most of my years hating myself.

Growing older, I came to realize how important it was to discourse. I grew up, realizing, if I wasn’t the bad guy, and “dream me” wasn’t the bad guy, and the guys I wanted to be like weren’t really bad guys– for Guardians are required, regardless of title– then something was wrong.

That something, it turns out, is the system meant to support and nurture these “dream me(s)”.

It is broken. With it, so are we.

But I’m speaking personally, so I will remain narrowed to that field, and personally, I am broken too. I am damaged, emotionally and physically, as are many of my family and would-be friends (as I don’t have any left at this point).

All the same, we’re not the only ones.

In fact, there are entire generations of us utterly wounded, bleeding, broken, and all from unhappiness.

I have said it once and I will say it until my teeth fall out, tongue withers, and throat bleeds:

We are in this together, and should fucking act like it.

In the end, I don’t give a fuck what you put in your body. I don’t care how or who you love. I don’t care about your affiliations, views, or perspectives. You are Human and I love you.

If I feel you are wrong or confused, I will debate and correct you ‘til the B’ohs wander in from pasture, or I get bored, too angry, sad, or disappointed to go on. But I will return. Eventually. And do it for you. And me. And everyone between, around, and hidden or foreign.

Because we are in this together, and should fucking act like it.

Take heed however: there are powers that wish us all to be at each other’s throats. I love them too. Because they’re Human, susceptible to error, and just as much scared, lost, and alone as the rest of us– no matter their power or position.

That doesn’t mean I like them. It simply means, because they are Human, I feel for them and hurt with them. I love them, as I love the stranger weeping on the street for their loss whilst the others walk past.

It’s past time we stop walking past and help.

Because in the end, all any of us wants is to be happy, healthy, and loved. You cannot deny that. Not at the core. It is a Human thing. No matter what you say, you’re Human– if only in part. Because you understand, at your core, (even if you don’t want to admit it, and trust me i have fucking been there) that you it is truth.

So. If you see me fighting, arguing, debating, or finding yourself subject of it, please remember I am doing it for the betterment of all. Even if I wrong, the point is to discourse: to understand and compromise. For the good of all.

And so we all can come to happiness, health, and love. Because we’re in this together, and should fucking act like it.

Short Story: The Nature of Love

Madness. Chaos. Disorder. All in flashes that burn retinal nightmares into the mind. Blood and screams. Far off smoke, nearing. Smells of sulfur, gunpowder, death. Once-tall buildings lay in ruins, any former majesty that kissed or embraced the sky with its dark beauty of Human progress now regressed and weeping; mounds of rubble that burn, scream, and bleed.

He was torn from sleep beside her, sensing her nightmares. He hadn’t seen the images, but knew she was living them. Nightly. Cost of a rising action in Human Evolution forcing him to coddle her to sleep every night, but also hold her tight anytime she tossed and turned, wept or screamed.

He wrapped his arms tight around her. Amber flax, frayed at their ends and needling his skin at breath. She needed a mother. Someone to care for her properly. Someone whom knew what they were doing. A woman– Christ, anyone– he needed them himself.

But all this madness, this chaos… It was too dangerous to go out into. To seek one. Especially for her. Whomever she was.

He’d never gotten her name, but she had one. Who didn’t? Worse, she couldn’t have been ten years old, yet was fully-aware as any adult. More-so, even. Most of them couldn’t recognize the futility in clinging to something that no longer meant anything to anyone but her– and thus, no-one at all.

It broke his heart just once but was all he needed.

She stilled in her sleep. No longer twitching. He’d have another two or three hours before they’d be apart long enough for the twitching night-terrors to restart. He held her anyway. Tight against him for warmth, emitting what little remained in him.

He wasn’t doing a good enough job. He knew that much.

He rested his head on the straw-stuffed sacks they’d collected to call a bed. The distant drip drip, DROP of leaky infrastructure echoed from somewhere too far off to care, but not enough to ignore. Often enough he welcomed the tempo it gave to his thoughts.

Not tonight though. Tonight was just dripping randomosity, chaos incarnate to mirror the rest of the world. Or maybe, simply, to act as an extension of it.

In the mornings he’d often wake to find her sitting, staring into the distance. No doubtthe tragedies she’d seen replayed in her mind. For as many times as he’d seen her bony spine through her ratty clothing, he’d seen memory torture her face.

He tried to comfort her once, but she shied just enough. This, and daytime, weren’t what he was needed for. Only night. And only so she might sleep peacefully.

It stung, but he obliged without hesitation.

She’d spoken a little that first night he found her on the rooftop, ready to jump. He wasn’t sure she’d been all that lucid. She was wounded, mortally. At least for the skills of a child. He put a tourniquet above her wounded leg, tied it off, set the bone and stitched the skin. Skills he’d learned somewhere through life but couldn’t place.

It was poorly done, but it kept her alive.

She’d cried wet rivers of tears, and not oneaudibly. She made no sound, sob, or screamof pain, however much he’d promised she could Whatever she’d been through was worse. He couldn’t begrudge her the strength she’d gained, but he could hate that she’d been forced to gain it.

What little he’d gotten out of her was like pulling teeth. He’d let her rest for a few days before trying again. He’d only bothered the first time ‘round to keep her mind off her bone pain. Over a few nights, he got the general gist of things. Most of which centered around the chaotic global war and rebellion.

Everybody knew the madness was under a smokescreen. The media corporations and companies had aggressively taken-over or quashed any attempts at remaining “free-press”. Freedom of information no longer existed beyond a theoretical (and outlawed) concept. Information was now being held hostage, even by the so-called “good guys.”

Fact was, they both knew, no-one was good anymore. There was “bad,” and “less bad.” He wasn’t sure which he was, but hoped the latter, for her sake. She felt the same, though never admitted it.

No-one knew the true causes of the battles, the wars, the attacks. Just that they were happening. Orwell didn’t want his name anywhere near this clusterfuck. Who could blame him? Evidently, she felt the same, if only because she might now believe such parts of her, name included, were dead.

Probably because they were. Along with her parents. Her friends. Any hopes or dreams she had of ever living a normal existence.

It was another normal morning when she spoke again. Normal of course, being relative. By now, everyone living knew that much. The point remained valid in his mind.

“We need to leave this place.”

He wasn’t sure he’d heard her right– or at all.Rather, it felt as if he’d thought her words in his own mind. But how? It was impossible.

Nonetheless, the severity of her statement was witnessed in the few, meager packs at her feet.

“We can’t go anywhere. They’re looking everywhere for anyone able to fight or–”

Don’t finish the thought.”

It definitely came from his own mind. Her mouth hadn’t moved. Had he lost it somewhere in the process? No. It had to be her. Somehow. He didn’t know how, but he knew.

She gripped his hand, forced a pack into it. He moved to protest, but her eyes met his.

One echo in his mind ordered and pled at-once, “please.”

His eye twitched disbelief, allowing her to usher him along with what remained of their valuables– bare necessities of few toiletries, a half-molded scrap of bread, and a pack of canned non-perishables. She’d already layered her few clothing articles collected for colder nights, presumably having packed his away.

Before he’d regained his wits, they were far beyond the drainage outlet they’d take refuge in. Its massive, grated gate, easily picked and re-locked, had been left askew. They wouldn’t be coming back. Not surprising, but how had her voice done that? Was it him? Was it her? Was she really there at all?

Such questions need answers,” her voice echoed within him. “But now’s not the time. We must get as far away as possible. Now.”

He shook off the last of his confusion and stopped, hand held in hers as she’d led him forward. “No.” She didn’t hesitate, just simply tugged him onward until he went no further. Then, she released him and turned to look upward, “There. Wait.”

He whirled ‘round, “I don’t–”

You will.”

He waited, staring at the empty blue sky, wishing its weren’t just more of the smokescreen.

Then, he saw it: like a dart thrown from Olympus, streaking white smoke and rocketing toward their newly-vacated hideaway.

His eyes lit up, body lurched to shield her. It was pointless.

The missile struck the former hideout. Rubble gravitated inward then back out with a shockwave of heat and G-forces that rag-dolled them across the dusty ground. He landed winded and coughing, scrambling to find her another in the sudden cloud. She found him first, doubled over a rock, wracked with dry breaths that didn’t wish to come. He’d broken half his ribs, knew the feeling too well. It would kill him if he weren’t careful.

She forced him flat, then knelt beside him, hands over his battered abdomen. A minor flicker of light, like heat, emanated from her hands and into him.

“They’re hunting us now. All of us. You’ve helped me and they know. The things I’ve seen, what I can do, have me marked for a fate worse than death. You’ve been kind to me, so I will tell you there is much you do not know, but if your virtue is as it seems, you’ll learn the rest in time.”

She removed her hands and the pain was gone. He breathed normally: broken ribs, mended.

“Wh– how’d–”

“Once,” she said gravely. “They called us Seers. Now, we are the Hunted. And they, the Hunters.”

Something mechanical screamed past overhead, beyond the dust cloud still descending.

“Come, they’ll check for bodies soon. If we’re caught, they’ll spare us no horror.”

He pushed himself up, determined to follow, but confused. “How d’you–”

“It’s why the want me. I do not know anymore than you, save that we must counter them. Be the reaction to their action. That means leaving. Now.”

She led him forward at a brisk walk, but he’d already left his body, was following on instinct. He wondered what the hell he’d gotten himself into, if the girl could ever be safe. Or now, him with her.

He shouldered his pack, damned determined to ensure she was. Even if to his last dying breath. Such was the nature of love.

Guardians of Liberty: Part 18

18.

Cat and Mouse

N1T3 was running. Again. He’d probably lost somewhere on the order of 10 kilos in the last few days. He was also quite certain one of his arteries was beginning to clog, or had some structural weakness of a kind. It was hurting more with each run, like it was giving out.

His message had been as innocuous as possible– and Daniel Ozell responded exactly the over-blown way a taunted bully on a bad day might.

In the end, N1T3 knew, that’s all any of his kind were– the corporate types, their loyalists. Most simply used money in place of fists. Fists remained involved though. Especially for the decision-makers, the BoDs and Execs. Of course, it was easier to pay others to do the beatings than spend their own energy. Easier on the knuckles, too.

For puppeteers, those were important assets.

N1T3’s message said few words, but its subtext was obvious; “Cat and mouse now; Find me. Find you. Who draws first blood? You didn’t yet. Bravo.”

He left the message on the net, exposing its post-point blatantly, and started running.

Ozell needed something. Anything. If only to stall. No-one was ready yet. Even Ozell himself. If he’d been ready to do what was needed of him, he’d have killed $trydr and Dru. Among other things, it meant he hadn’t chosen sides. Not yet. His son was what mattered.

His son, and now finding the man that threatened him.

Good.

N1T3 left him a bread-crumb because he needed it. Ozell needed a win. Power. N1T3 had some, didn’t want it, saw an opportunity to disseminate it. Ozell wouldn’t see it that way yet, but N1T3 and the others did.

So, N1T3 was running. Fleeing. Somewhere behind him, Ozell was fuming, raging, sniffing out his scent to hunt him down. His system demanded it. Just as it had demanded everything else thus far. That same system Ozell fed and lived off, put the bullet in Anisa Blanc’s back, set fire to her corpse, then stayed Ozell’s hand against Dru and Riter. The same system currently hunting N1T3 on a death warrant.

Who wouldn’t be running?

N1T3’s next safehouse he knew equally well as the first. It wasn’t much. Just a hovel out of the way. A former apartment, on a derelict corner, in one more rundown, abandoned area. Once more river-side, though not as secluded, yet obscured by emptiness.

Riter’s diversion had taught him an important thing; London was nowhere near flat. Storm-sewers ran everywhere, interconnected not only with rivers and one-another, but also linked to the suburbs– like city-states, but smaller, more-guarded. At least, for a flat-landers’ entrance by air or land.

But N1T3 had sewers.

Problem was, useful as that intel was, he couldn’t use it yet. He needed to get hidden, stop moving. If Ozell caught him in the sewers, he’d be gunned down before the time was ripe. What needed to would never take place.

N1T3 focused elsewhere to block out pain in his legs and chest, follow his gut toward his destination. He was glad to have squandered most of his sense of smell on youthful excess. The air had grown thicker, and though he couldn’t smell it, he tasted rotting water in gritty air on his tongue.

He focused on “home;” the place was stocked. Good. It would take time for the cat to sniff him out. Nothing could be done about it but wait, run if needed.

His feet splattered mixes of Human and Earthen refuse, a backwash of civilization spilling in little-by-little on floodwaters into its own bowels. N1T3 was immune to the sound, the distant squeals of rats, rumbling roads and piping– encroaching civilization that said he was getting closer.
The roads themselves were still used. Most of the mains, anyway. His new digs would be a pair of blocks up and over; by his estimate, five or six more manholes forward and one or two down the mainline.

He slowed, maneuvering his way through darkness with echolocation and footfalls. His wet shoes plodded shallow streams that felt more homely the longer her traversed them. Ozell would’ve called him “a rat in its natural habitat.”

He smiled.

He wasn’t a rat, of course, but baiting a cat into chasing another cat was too risky. Too different an approach was required for the subtlety of predatorial-hunts. Ozell himself might’ve been acting on predator-predator instincts, but his system was forcing him to act on predator-prey instincts. Even he knew discrepancy of such kind was pointless. If he hadn’t, he’d have long ago abandoned the mantle of corp-sec for more promising ventures.

What kept him around wasn’t hope for fulfillment, it was obligation. Likely, to honor those closest to him through it. N1T3 knew that of Ozell, as he knew it of all, postdigital children.

Like Society, whether Ozell accepted himself as part of Humanity or not, didn’t matter. It was immutable. The damage being done was harming itself as much as its victims. Accepting or not, it was happening.

Those were the stakes. N1T3 knew it. As everyone else did. Even Ozell’s masters. Even if buried so deeply it resembled the ancient skeletons of their first dead, it remained as immutable as the law it represented. The problem wasn’t the people though, it was what the system did to them.

But systems could be changed. Ozell needed to learn that first hand. He needed to know the game was rigged from the start, because the system was controlled by its own, self-made rules. Ones written by long-dead men and wanton cheats, never exposed to the concepts of technology, instant and global communication, or mass-dissemination of information.

Ozell knew that, or had the capacity to. N1T3 had seen it in his eyes: in that cold moment of deadened panic before reflex took over. That instant of deer in the headlights before turning master manipulator, the flit from prey to apex-predator.

Ozell knew how things stood and obligation told him not to care. Obligation alone.

That was the essence of the postdigital struggle. Every hacker knew it, on some level or another. Some just weren’t programmers. They couldn’t see the inherent programmability in organization, its structure. The subject or method of organization didn’t matter– Stage IV civilizations might stabilize entropy, after all. Nothing wasn’t off the table if Tech, Science, and Humanity progressed far enough together.

Knowing for certain wasn’t possible yet, but getting to that point of knowing was.

100,000s of years of potential Human progress ahead, and yet even the tech available to N1T3 could lead to immortality given a slight synthesis with the Human body. What was the harm if that body’s life-span rose astronomically or disappeared altogether to become universal, eternal?

N1T3 saw none. In fact, he was so certain of the post-human certainty, he’d ensured he’d go to his death having done his part to speed the process. If not for himself, then those he cared for– and all like him that would come later.

Above all, he did it not from obligation, but love, kinship, and hope.

N1T3 pushed his way up from a manhole into darkness. Nearby enough could be heard the sounds of life, but its distance made it impossible to see. At that, it was mostly auto-cars, the last of the courier drivers of manuals.

Soon enough, they’d be outlawing that, too.

N1T3 took a deep breath and fought the cover back in place. He made mental note of its weight, how long it might take to lift if fleeing. The leverage from beneath was easier than above. If he had to run, it could trap him.

Seconds. Breaths. Heartbeats. These were the tempos of life and death now.

He’d have to find a better entrance. The place was never ideal, that’s what the pier was for, and his shack atop the office-building. Even as he made his way up the few steps to the rundown doorway, he was double-checking the area, listening carefully. He waited until certain he was alone, then pushed the door open.

The converted building exactly as left; a large, bi-level home, divided well into four flats. From outside, it looked twenty-years abandoned. Then again, it’d looked that way for somewhere on the order of 30 years now.

It wasn’t eye-catching or well-known. Rather, it was obscure, innocently placed. A place of history and mystery N1T3 had felt attracted to since first seeing it as a child. The sort of attraction that told one of a place, moment, or person of importance, like the first meeting of an old-friend-to-be.

He slipped in. The place remained stocked, undisturbed. The flat he’d secured, near the upper-rear, was sectioned off and reinforced. Its windows were entirely blacked out, its power expertly spliced and hidden.

It was the best, last hope of remaining safely hidden. Regardless of how long that lasted, it needed to be up to snuff.

The light dimmed as he stepped in and flipped it on, stabbing his gut with the sign of things to come.

His servers were pulling more power than usual. Bad voltage. A shorted line, probably. Or a converter or conditioner. That meant a special supply run…

But getting to Ket would be impossible. She’d be next on Ozell’s shit-list. He might even survive it– if he wasn’t stupid enough to fuck with her. If not, well… she had connections, and the need to make examples. Above all, she was untouchable.

Even Ozell would be forced to bow.

If Riter and Dru had been mail-armored; Ket was layered in force-fields and body armor so futuristic it made Ozell’s State-of-the-Art Corp-Sec ceramics look like boys playing war in cardboard.

Fucking with her, fucked him.

*

Ozell lingered at the door, forced to wait. He needed a different touch here. Corp-sec’s castration at Riter’s had been enough to check their ego. They didn’t want this one broadcast. Not this one. They didn’t want it known what was happening now: that an off-the-books black-market dealer with fingers in every industries pies, and some of her own, was their last best hope.

They didn’t want people knowing Martin Black was being chased, hunted, that he had sympathizers, allies, and was continually evading them.

Most of all, they didn’t want the war being waged to be known yet.

As ridiculous as it felt, Ozell could do nothing. Not yet. He needed more before he could dick the Corps or Black that much. He had power but not enough. Not yet. N1T3 and his allies were exposing every weakness the corps had left to any and all onlookers. And as deftly and swiftly as possible. Seemingly, for no other reason than to show they could.

Corp-sec couldn’t put them down yet. Not with Anisa Blanc’s images still fresh in mind. They had to know what the hell was going on too. Blanc’s charred corpse. Ozell’s .40 caliber slug. Its wounds.

A flash of memory. A squeeze. Blanc crumpling forward. Slow-motion fall of shock from overloaded nerves. Still-fleeting terror in her face trembling over those last, rasping gasps.

The door opened. He fanned his men out around the perimeter. He wasn’t stupid. He knew Se’Ket. She’d long been on the tongue of every corp-sec commander. She was a Sphinx. A walking riddle, enigmatic in every sense.

And an absolute bombshell.

She stood like some Egyptian Goddess of her namesake’s land. Her chestnut hair streamed down the shoulders of her thin, flowing clothing like fine-drapery. Full-bodied shapes hinted themselves in the edges of her clothing, accenting perfect hips and breasts but hiding everything else as a come-hither for all to see but none to achieve.

None but Black. How he’d done it, Ozell’d never know. Married or not, and affiliations aside, he’d have pinned her to a bed and never stopped given half a chance. Or, if she were so inclined, allowed her the same. He knew too, he’d have loved every second of it.

That’s how she was; modern day legend. Mythical. Damn-near perfect.

She was also one of the most well-known, wanted criminals alive. No-one had proof of course, but no-one needed it. If something was going on somewhere, Se’Ket knew about it. If someone needed something, so long as the price was met, they got it. At some point, all of those transactions went through her.

Yet she was so much more.

Any pursuit for her was a facade. Everyone knew it. Ozell’d never met her before, but he knew her well enough by reputation. He also knew how to cut through bullshit. In her case, it didn’t leave much behind, but was enough for a vague image.

Ket was the same age as her former lover, Martin Black. They’d met in school, fallen madly in love, then aggressively out again. Ever since, she’d been floating from one mate to another, searching. For what, Ozell doubted she knew.

In the course of that floating, she met people. Using her nature and flagrant sexuality to cultivate connections. By 20, she was running drugs, guns, goods, anything. White, gray, black didn’t matter either. Money was the object.

Ozell admired her for that alone.

He knew what she was, why; as all predators knew their willing prey. Or would-be willing, he noticed as the door opened and she appraised him.

“We will speak privately or not at all.”

He eyed his nearest man– a woman named Michelle; all the same in armor, and nodded.

Ket led him in, to the fountain in the front room now stretched out like an accordion dressing wall with its surroundings decorated for a boudoir showing. The theme was something of ancient nature and sex meeting modern technology. Hints of granite and marble inflected themselves in shadow; lime and sandstone in the neutral warmth. Added to and reinvigorated by the sprightly ivy and verdant plant-life otherwise hung about, the fountain was everything N1T3 could have dreamed.

In that moment, Ozell knew everything and nothing.

Foremost, he knew all of the rumors about her were true. Somehow each was true, no matter their contradictions. He knew it in a heart-beat. It could be no other way with a creature so unbound. He knew, too, she was one of the unparalleled beauties. Even in her ruthlessness, she had the art of subtlety; in the gore of the kill, she had predatory grace.

Beyond everything else though, he knew being part of corp-sec meant one day putting a bullet in her. Trying to. Challenging this force of nature… a force he’d be have to extinguish or bottle. At least, attempting to.

It was impossible. He knew it even now. One could no more extinguish a force of nature than pull a star from the sky. He wasn’t sure which Ket was, but he felt her pull. He needed to know what she knew. Needed her. If only for a moment. And if only for a hint of understanding, of proper stimulation.

He never expected to walk away a changed man, but such was her power.

Poetry-Thing Thursday: Lean Upon the Wicked

Lean upon the wicked.
Trod upon the lame.
Chase them through the thicket.
Hang them without name.
If judgment comes to call,
say it was a game.

This is the creed of a motherless breed.
This is the soul-darkened human seed.
This is the eyrie of an immoral steed,
pregnant upon invirtuous deed.

Death is on your ticket.
Freedom’s in your name.
Never can be resown.
We fight but not in vain.
Eyes and minds alight.
And burning as one flame.

This is the song, of a petulant need.
This is the cry, that we cannot concede.
This is a wound, borne of gluttonous greed,
bending like, unbroken reed.

Cry of the fallen.
Breath of the flame.
Forget the calling.
Strike without shame.
For when at last,
the flotsam’s gone to claim,
and tidal waves roll,
cling to the innocents
and not your goal.

This is the sigh of the chaos gone by,
This is the reel of impossible cry.
This is the sound of the freewheel afly,
remembered long past the day that we die.