Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Lost days with the mysteries of the deep (part 1) - discovery

What a confused set of events I have wrapped myself up in once again and I see once more at what risk I place others in my reckless abandon.

It was some two week past now that I set off to investigate the rumours surrounding the human-like creatures, the so-called Mer-people of the Vernian sea. I have through accident and lack of foresight called too much upon the love of my friends, of one in particular who should by rights have walked away many months ago.

The events of the last fortnight have blurred and merged, both dragging out in interminable loneliness and yet with timelessness of the sun free underwater world, assisted by our murky smog filled sky, a near complete loss of the passing of day and night.

It was but a few hours after posting my last report to the Primgraph when I set sail. The sun was setting as I left, I had no plan, I had not in truth expected to find more than a pile of junk deposited by the currents of the void sea beyond the charted Vernian's limits. I had left from Aegir's hall, the Hippocampus had been docked there recently following a storm on the surface and recently serviced and cleaned was ready to sail.

Undocking from the airlock, I headed due east, rising over the tunnels and heading over the rising seabed towards the region known locally as the deep, the edge of the continental shelf beyond which the sea bed drops suddenly to unfathomable depths as part of the void sea rift. Sure enough, as had been rumoured, out of the gloom emerged what appeared to be a rough pile of man made junk, the jetsam of our cruise ships and I dare say our industrialists but there was something about this stack that struck the human observer attuned to organisation. The stack was no more a random deposit of junk than an ant hill is a pile of dirt, it had form and structure and whilst not aesthetically pleasing per se, a form of its own nonetheless. I skirted around the structure, structure being the best term I could determine for it, and letting my lamps light the many nooks and crannies, marvelling at the way that unrelated bric-a-brac had been fused together. The light at such depths, my gauges registered some 80 metres, is poor at best and I began to question my own observation as I saw shadows flit across my lamps. A dolphin, a seal perhaps but neither seemed quite right, the tail shape, the movement, it was like no cetacean, nor pinniped that I had ever known. A trick of the shadows I decided as I passed more encrusted metal walls that must once have been the hulls of ships.

I was moving clockwise around the structure, rising slowly and heading along the west flank of the structure when I came across the most incredible sight. Before me with shimmering scales and iridescent tail fins, swam a woman, both beguilingly beautiful and fearsome at once; her deep blue skin near lost in the gloom her brilliant white hair glowing in my lamp light. She cocked her head to watch me or more correctly my vessel, as I am convinced that she had not at that moment seen me inside but instead was curious about the machine itself. She swam alongside and I ventured to wave at her, an action which brought her up sharp, and with a flick of her tail she vanished.

I brought the sub to a halt in mid water. manipulating the side pods to turn myself slowly through a full circle, hunting through the gloom to find this mirage. I could deny this no longer, the rumours were correct, that was no mere trick of the light, Doctor Kaligawa's recent study had indeed accurately identified a new species, potentially a new Linnaean class, as this seemed neither wholly mammalia nor pisces an observation soon reinforced as many shapes emerged from beyond the reach of my lamps.

I was surrounded now by curious creatures of a beauty unseen in our world. Their skins of bright hues, oranges and blues, greens and reds. Their limbs part human in form, part alien, having the form of a fish's tail or the legs of an octopus. They moved closer, cautiously at first, and I held the vessel as steady as I could, with shaking hands as I watched in awe. With a few minutes the bolder individuals had reached out to touch and prod the craft and smiled in at me, their faces pressed to the glass as I waved nervously back.

All of a sudden there was an almighty cracking sound, the screech of metal on metal, the creatures scattered back into the murk as the submarine pitched to port, spinning out of control, water began to flood in and I panicked. I tried to open the hatches, but they were jammed, I know now of course that this was simply the pressure imbalance but in my confusion I just wanted to get out as the water rose, already above the knee and rapidly heading to my waist. The pitching and rolling of the Hippocampus was putting enormous strain on its structure, and I briefly battled to stabilise it, fighting with the controls as it crashed head long into the bedrock, my last memories of that incident, were of the crushing pressure of water and the sound of breaking glass as I was thrown around the small cabin. I believe I struck my head, the evidence supports this, in any event, I lost consciousness and by all reasonable expectations should have died.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

The Messenger, the Sycophant and the Bride

A carefully reassembled series of pages dated late December. ((Very long))

........hearing voices, I sniffed the air, my sense were more acute now, I could isolate individuals, there were two strangers here.

"Sorry brother, I am simply unfamiliar with your order.", a woman's voice, softly spoken. I entered the room and the speaker glanced up from where she was sat on the couch next to Nareth.

Nareth looked to the door and smiled.
"Miss Janus..."
"Nareth, we have guests"
"Yes, quite so. You've not met Lina, I see. And this is Brother....The name escapes me."
A man sat on a wooden seat, his back to me, dressed in a thick woollen cloak of natural wool, he looked over and nodded.

"Joshua Palubiki", his voice rich and melodic
"Palubiki...Yes. Brother Palubiki."
I smiled, his scent was strong and not at all unpleasant, "Brother Joshua, pleased to make your acquaintance.". He returned my greeting with a simple nod and I turned to smile at Lina, unsure of myself, her scent was an odd mixture, of flower and death, a corpse in a meadow and yet if this was confusing there was no mistaking her demeanour, impassive and cold she simply stared. Nareth continued smiling at me, and offered her hand up, guiding me to sit next to her on the couch. "and Lina too, I have heard so much.".

"And I have heard much about you, miss.", Lina replied curtly. Was this jealousy I could sense. Did she see me as invading?

"Please, Brother. Continue.", said Nareth, cutting back any further conversation with Lina. "You were saying.."
The priest nodded, "I believe you assistant had questions though."
"Lina? Did she? Oh yes about ...your...lord"
Lina Olaria nodded. "Yes, Professor-Sama."
"Very well, then carry on", Nareth glanced at me, watching my eyes, holding my hand tightly.
The priest started to answer, "Well, It's the same Lord we all pray too. There are just differing opinion. May I ask, are you Protestants?". Nareth laughed out loud. Lina Olaria smiled, shaking her head. Brother Joshua frown in confusion "I don't believe I understand how to help then.". My head was full of images, the priest dripping blood, they were not repulsive to me. His scent charmed me as his voice sang. Was this how it was now, my mind started to cry out as I was carried forward in waves of hunger. I squeezed Nareth's hand, licking my lips, to this day I think that if she had allowed me to follow my instincts, my resolve would have crumbled.

"Forgive me, Father. I have no faith, to speak of. I do not speak for the others.". I noticed, the attention of Lina focussed on me, seemingly watching me breath, peering at my mouth as I spoke. The priest continued to look confused

"None, or just been absent?", he replied staring at Nareth. Nareth paused, tying her hair back away from her face, before taking my hand in hers again.

"None.", she stated, challenging further response. There was silence for a moment. Before Lina continued.
"And I talk to the ancestors...to the Youkai...and the Oni."

"Well, even if you haven't been to church. You have faith, yes?", the priest seemed completely distracted by the thought.

"You have never met an unbeliever?", asked Nareth, a wry smile on her lips. Lina Olaria runs one finger along the rim of her tea bowl and glanced at Nareth.

"I've heard stories of them, but not actually met one. Typically they sound like anarchists trying to smash society."

"Oh, hardly. I was merely raised without a faith. And never adopted one thereafter."

"That sounds inconceivable in this day and age. Unless you were raised on the dark continent, I had thought the whole world would have become enlightened.".

Nareth laughed again, "There are very enlightened atheists, Brother. I assure you. But...we have not heard from Miss Janus."

I spluttered a little, mumbling not having expected to be dragged into such a conversation.

"I...err..u...I w..was brought up in a religious order of sorts, my faith was lost when I lived upon the streets and saw the acts of the "enlightened" world.

The priest looked up from his cup, "My apologies.", he offered, quickly sipping his tea.

"You were an orphan, yes?", asked Nareth, I could feel Lina's gaze fixed on me.

"Perhaps", I replied, as truthfully as I might, "my mother died in childbirth, my father was never known."

"Close enough.", sniffed Nareth.

"I was raised within the court of a state that no longer exists, my mother a Corigye to the court. I naturally was adopted into that family".

Lina Olaria sipped her tea. "A Corigye, Miss Janus?", and the priest cocked his head as if to second the question.
"An acolyte within a harem, Miss Olaria.", I smiled back.

"The Brother merely seeks a less delicate word.", added Nareth, "Whore, perhaps?". Nareth squeezed my hand. I looked to the priest and licked my lips.

Brother Joshua's hands shook as they held his tea cup, and he swallowed hard.
I smiled at him, "If the brother would prefer a whore then that he may have.". I smiled as Nareth sniggered.

"Or are you celibate?", Nareth probed and the priest made no reply, gazing fixedly in to the shadows. "Brother?"

Suddenly snapping back to life the priest rose from is seat, "I'm sorry. It's getting late and I still need to meet with the local inquisitor."

Nareth nodded. "Lina...please, show the Brother out. I trust you will return....Another time. Good day, Brother.". Lina Olaria rose and set her tea bowl down, offering to take the Brothers.

"This way please, Brother.", she nodded to the door. Nareth raised a hand, and the chair dissolved. "I trust you will visit us again, soon."

"Mistress...", Nareth turned to me as Lina walked back into the room taking the tea tin from the laboratory table, replacing it in the filing drawer. "He may be...someone I have been waiting for. Then again...it may be he is not. The dice are rolling.".

I Noticed now the tight know in my stomach, the hunger lust faded with the absence of the priest, replaced now my a cold empty hunger. "How will we know if he is the one?"

"Oh, I will know. As will he.", she finished. Nareth looked over to Lina and back to me. "The two of you should be properly introduced...Lina...Beq...". Lina nodded to me. I smiled and nodded back, squeezing Nareth's hand.

"He was not what I expected, Professor-Sama."
"Nor I, Lina."
"Not at all. There is a prophecy, that the Messenger will meet a Heretic. The Heretic will be a disciple, and then will betray me. It is only a prophecy, but sometimes they are not far off.", Lina step forward and knelt before the Professor, Japanese style, on the floor. Nareth smiled to Lina. "Please Beq. Make yourself more comfortable. "It is...", Nareth paused, searching for words. Nareth Nishi: ...it is almost as though we have become a family now. Three sisters, all Daughters of Lilith.", she stopped and looked at me. "Even if one still draws breath.". Lina Olaria smiled and Nareth reached up to removes her spectacles.

"Lina are you sure you won't sit up here?", I indicated back to where Lina had previously sat.

"She kneels, Beq. It is her place.". Lina lowered her head in assent.

"I see, how quaint"

"She is the Sycophant. We all must play our roles."
I settled back onto the cushions, feeling sure now that the priest had had a lucky escape this night. Nareth held out a hand, smoothing Lina's hair, which seemed to stir a bit at the Professor's touch. "Are you hungry, Lina?"

"Yes, Professor-Sama. I am."
"Then, let us show Beq how you feed.", Nareth pulled her hand away as I looked from Nareth to Lina, puzzled. "Kneel before *her*, Lina. As you would me.". Lina nodded and turned away from the Professor, facing me as I watched her intently. "Now...Beq...you will place your hand on top of Lina's head. A finger will suffice.". Nervously as if being dared I leant out placing my right hand upon Miss Olaria's head, fanning my fingers through her hair. Nareth sat back watching with pleasure. Lina turned her head slightly so the back of her hair could be seen and to my shock and surprise, the hair begins to move of its own accord, parting.

"Fascinating...isn't it? Do not be startled, Beq.", I edged back in my seat but left the hand in place, nodding to Nareth.

"If you insist Nareth". The hair waved away from Lina's shoulders, and wraps itself around my arm, pulling it slightly forward as Lina's skull spilt open, forming lips, teeth, and a tongue. Nareth laughed loudly with a sort of delight as I gasped and instinctively pulled away, only to find I was held fast.

"Oh Really, Beq.", dismissed Nareth, "It is only a mouth. Only teeth.". I frowned, tugging still. Lina's hair wrapped tight around my arm, like a serpent, winding. Then a long tongue reached out seeking my hand, flicking and tickling my fingers as the hair pulls my fingertips toward the mouth. "We must learn not to be squeamish.". I stared, mouth agape, my hand was dragged toward the vicious looking mouth, entering the mouth. Without warning sharp rows of teeth bit down upon it, scissoring. The lips began to suck.

There was no sensation of pain, but a sensation of tingling, electricity, like the touch of another's tongue on your own. "You see?", Said Nareth, reading my thoughts, "It is only another form of the kiss.". I murmured, a soft moan, closing my eyes. "It was a surprise to me, as well. There are so many...surprises...".

The mouth at the back of Lina's head began to gnaw on the fingers and flesh of my hand. A little blood trickling down Lina's scalp and neck.

"Nothing is simple.", mused Nareth, "I thought I would make two like me...You are both....", her voice trailed off. The hair began to loosen around my arm. "Have you had you fill, Lina?". I withdrew my hand, examining my fingers. A lacerated mess of skin sucked pale pink-white, a trace of red blood now starting to reappear. "It will heal, quickly enough. You know that."

I nodded as Lina spoke, both mouths speaking in unison, "We are full, Professor-Sama."

"Nareth?", I offered out my hand as the blood drips formed. "before it heals?". Nareth smiled. It would be rude of me to refuse, Mistress. Lina's hair began to swirl back over her shoulders, the teeth and lips drawing back in her skull, a flap of skin sealing both in as her hair waves back in place. She turned her head around again and gazed at the Professor and I.

Nareth took my hand in both of hers, and drew the mutilated flesh to her mouth. I groaned as the rough tongue caressed my fingers, as Nareth took my warm blood into her mouth. Nareth bit down, lightly..as I closed my eyes once more breathing deeply. Nareth opened her eyes, and let the fingers slip from her mouth. "Kind of you...Mistress". She looked at me with an air of suspicion. I brushed Nareth's cheek with my good hand, feeling the warmth entering her skin and smiled, noticing a flicker of desire in Lina's eyes. Nareth lay back again on the couch staring up at the ceiling, wiping blood and spittle from her lips and chin. "We are a circle now. As we must be. The Messenger...the Sycophant...the Bride."

"The bride, Nareth?"

"Yes...", she stared at me, Lina Olaria bowed her head slightly at the Professor's words and watched for my reaction. "There must be a bride, Mistress. Our Lady will require one.

"There is always a Bride.", added Lina.

"Each must play their role", I mused, recalling her earlier words.

"Precisely.", Nareth grinned. "Even Mr. Wirefly and his orchid. We all have much to learn. I am filled every instant with revelation. You breathe, Beq Janus. I never guessed at that."

"It was somewhat of a welcome surprise to me Nareth", I smirked.

"Yes...I thought so. Though..I have thought..should the amulet...break. or *be* broken.". I looked hard at Nareth. "Would that not be a blessing? To be released... Completely released..

"I am not convinced Nareth, I quite like the ..... warmth"

"Of course. But then...it is all you have known."

Lina Olaria looked up at me. "May I see the amulet?" she asked politely. "I have heard of this thing....". Nareth watched Lina closely.

"Lina...there is something I should explain, in case it is not clear.", Nareth's voice is firm, but not harsh. Lina Olaria tilted her head toward the Professor, listening. "Through a sort of...technicality...I serve Miss Janus. She is my Mistress. It was ..... necessary. But it lays certain strictures upon me...The amulet is a grey area, for example". I looked down at my hand and watch as the tips of my fingers reunite and form new tissue. I giggle a little at the tickling sensation of renewed life. "Were I not so bound, I would have destroyed it long since.", I looked up sharply.

I am not certain I understand, Professor-Sama.

"Before you arrived, Lina...I had to battle a beast...It threatened both our lady's plans *and* this city. Miss Janus was given the chance to choose between...evils, shall we say. She chose me, as her champion. But in being chosen, I was bound to her, irrevocably". Lina Olaria nodded, listening. "The bond can not be undone. She is not bound to obey me. Though I must, in many ways, obey her. This will all seem strange to you, Lina. You came looking for the Black Pharaoh...". Nareth trails off and looked back at me. "It is an odd arrangement. Lina nodded, slowly, considering what the Professor had explained.

Lina looked up at me. "Then surely it is a small thing to allow me to examine the amulet, Miss. I serve the Professor-Sama. She serves you.". Nareth narrowed her eyes. "What harm could come of it?"

"It is kept under lock and key, away from here.". My thoughts turned to Dr Dayafter and moreover to Jed, I tried hard to push them out of my mind. Nareth nodded slowly.

"There you have it, Lina".

Lina Olaria gazed evenly at me. "Yes, Professor-Sama. I do."

"The amulet is...protected. It has a name...Harmonia.". Lina turned her head slightly toward the Professor.

"May I ask, who named it? And what the name portends? I am merely...curious, Professor-Sama."

"Beq? Would you wish to answer?"

"It is an ancient name, it was the name that it had when I heard of it. It came to me not more than 6 months ago."

"A drowned girl..." Nareth added, Lina's eyes moving from the Professor to me.

"It came to you, Miss?"

"Something the sea spat up.", Nareth, continued. "Flotsam. A more fitting name.". I frowned at the apparent mockery and at Nareth's face, her features stern now.

"It was a gift to Harmonia daughter of Aphrodite by the seed of Ares. A gift from Hephaistos", I blurted. Nareth laughed softly. "Old gods...But not old enough. Dead gods. Forgotten."

Lina Olaria grins. "Not so old at all. And there is much that lies beneath the sea.". Nareth made a scoffing noise.

"Yes...There is always a siren...Isn't that so, Mistress? Is that not what the Impaler told you?", I nodded, recalling that night. "I thought as much, though those echoes are closed to me. He told me...that night I was sealed. And yes, Lina knows. She has seen. When the day comes, it will be the Sycophant...Lina...who cuts the relics from my belly. Then, she will deliver them to the Bride. Your dowry, Beq."

"I was never a fan of arranged marriages Nareth", I interjected.

"Without it, you would not survive our Lady's sight.". Lina looked at the Professor with surprise, but nodded, unquestioning. "Oh...it is not quiet that simple. But..the dice are rolling. You may yet refuse. I may be slain by the Hunter. All may fail."

"We must not fail," Lina said quietly.

"The Hunter, another role, but what of this ...Brother.. what is his part?"

"He is, if I am correct, the Heretic. It may be he who delivers me unto the Hunter. Or it may not. The Hunter may be slain. This is a game that has been played a million times. Lina looked up at Nareth, the professor, the Messenger.

But...there is a little time...I think.

"Professor-Sama...if the Heretic betrays you...."


"Or...attempts to betray you.... Will you give him to me?

"No. But you may take him of your own accord. Once we know. But not before.". A closed smile crossed Lina's face as she saw swallow as earlier thoughts burned briefly once again, reminding me of my hunger.

"Nareth?", I ventured, nervously, not wanting the taunting and provocation that would now ensue.
"Yes, Beq?", she replied not reading my thoughts as I had hoped, I sighed, "Yes?"

"I have not yet eaten".

"No, you have not, Mistress."

"Would you remedy that?"

"I feel a hunger gnawing at me".

"Imagine...if it could not be sated.", Nareth, looked away nonchalantly. "The Impaler left me in that tower a week...". Nareth stopped, as if reconsidering her view. "Lina...would you provide for my Mistress' needs? Lina Olaria nodded, then unbuttoning the sleeve at her wrist she lifted her wrist up.

"If you wish, Miss Janus...or there is pig's blood.". I looked down at Lina, a fire of hunger burning now. She watched me as my tongue passed across my lips.

"Oh, we do not offer *her* sow's blood."
"Yes, Professor-Sama."
"Not the Bride.", Lina pulled her sleeve back from her wrist as I took her hand, looking shyly at Nareth, glancing back to the pale white flesh. Nareth smiled...ready to mock once more. "Your teeth, Mistress? Do you require assistance?". I looked up embarrassed.

"yes please Nareth".

!It is a small matter...", she smiled sweetly, leaning forward, and with her sharp nails, opening Lina's wrist before leaning back licking her fingers.

I raised Lina's wrist to my lips, watching Lina's eyes as I did so.

"Serve her, Lina, as you serve me.". Lina's eyes met mine her dark eyes, intense. I licked gently at the tear, before sucking deeply, my lips pressed firmly over her veins. Lina shuffled closer, her head tilted back slightly, her eyes focused, her lips parting. As Nareth watched, her own hunger stirring again. "Ahhhh", she sighed, "What beauties we must make...What gems.". I drank Lina's blood, relaxing as I felt it flow into me. "When they finally see us, and *know* us for what we are...", Nareth snorted, licking her dry lips. I studied Lina intently, studying her face, her lips, and her neck as I sucked hard at her wrist, lapping with my tongue at flap of skin that had sealed her vein. She breathed deeply, a slight shiver running through her. Her thrill at "the kiss" as evident as my own. We were indeed of a similar kind now.

"She is yours, Mistress. If you wish her.", Nareth broke in. "As she is mine.". Nareth settled back into the cushions as I looked to Nareth then back to Lina. "The monk, though...something is not...as I thought it would be. I shall have the think hard on this". Nareth stood.

Lina Olaria lowered her head in a slight bow of deference to Miss Janus. A little blood dribbled from her wrist and dripped to the floor as I stopped drinking, my hunger sated. Watching Lina I ran my tongue along her arm from her palm to her elbow, cleaning the wound. Watching Lina's eye's close at my touch.

"Thank you Lina.", I nodded my gratitude, unsure now whether gratitude and manners were in the right place.
"you are welcome, Miss".

"Lina, you will sleep with me. Miss Janus takes the bed. The casket is not to her liking.". Nareth turned towards the casket. As I stood stretching.

"As you wish, Professor-Sama. Let me remove the tea things."

"Yes...I will be waiting.", Nareth lifted the heavy lid of the casket, a black mist escaping. Nareth paused and turned towards the bed. "Mistress...Soon...he will speak with you.". Lina gathered up the pot and the three tea bowls, then took them downstairs. "There are things he wishes you to know, that must not be known to me."

"I shall expect him then", I replied, not understanding any of this. Nareth turned back to the casket and slipped inside, almost seeming to *flow*.

Lina paused at the threshold of the door, before coming inside, shutting the door behind her. "Rest well, Miss Janus". I smiled back at her, removing my boots and sitting on the edge of the bed.

"and you Lina". I watched as Lina climbed into the coffin beside Nareth, laying on one side to face her, Nareth reached up, pulling down the casket's lid with a thud. I watched the solid stone casket from across the room, as I slowly undressed before climbing on to the bed facing the wall.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Every little helps

Last night I took my boldest steps so far to aid the resistance. I have still to meet their leaders and will do so in my overt role of news correspondent. They will undoubtedly have a mistrust of me. I have been out of town for their suffering, and since my return I have been seen to collude perhaps with the forces of the overlord. I hope that my reports will be read in the manner to which I wish them, no collusion.

I took a great risk though tonight. I used a contact in the printers down in the Canals. I've used him in the past for small run print tasks for business purposes and I met him in a bar, bad mouthing the regime. Together we colluded to print a small run of fake notices, the official stamp of the overlord but defaced with a battered hat adorning an oppressive sounding notice. I bet the goons will never realise that this is not from the governor, yet if they were to read, if indeed they can read, the odd numbered lines they would find the message we have hidden.

A public  announcement:-

To the hard working and loyal citizens of
Obolenskidonia, who refute the past name
New Babbage. Please take heed your
overlord, Doctor Obolenski has denied that
Clockwinder Tenk is alive and returning
All rumour mongering is to cease completely
by the end of this week
or the overlord will demonstrate his enormous
power to the citizens.

And yes it is true. I have seen and heard enough to convince me now that the Clockwinder is alive and more than that will be returning to the City soon. I far however that what is obvious to an observer such as I is not going unnoticed to the powers that rule here. The ships amassing in the Vernian Sea attest to this concern. There will be more blood and iron lost before this chapter closes. I am confident that Babbage will prevail of course, what could possibly go wrong?

I donned my cloak and wore my most dreary working clothes, heading out into the night to post the notices. I have placed them all about the town, no doubt the wiser goons will tear them down, but I need only do enough to get the message of hope to my friends. Towards this goal I am now about to head into more dangerous territory. I am going to deliberately seed these posters and the truth of their content. I am off to the bars and taverns, no one can know it is I. With luck I will write more when I return.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Interviewing the general

The interview with the general was a nerve wrcking trial. The man is a puzzle, constantly threatened and challenged he seems tired of power, of conflict.

I installed myself in one of the comfortable cubicles at the window overlooking the old theatre. Loki's absinthe bar at least was relatively unchanged by the new leadership.

I looked at my watch, sipping a small absinthe, watching the condensation dribble down the outside as the crushed ice melted slowly. It was almost half past three, a quarer of an hour late. I should
expect no less. I began towonder if the general would appear at all. Just then the door opened.

Ashiko Kuroe sighed as he entered, "Dreadfully sorry I am late...I had some business to oversee..."

"Captain Kuroe. A pleasure to see you again. Or is it general now?", I had not noticed Lans Starsider until he spoke, he was nursing a bottle on the far side of the bar.

"General... Captain... Commodore...it does depend on the situation doesn't it?", replied the General, "General of the Obolenskidonian air Corps for the time being.". I looked up and waved to the
general. "Head of police and anti -revolutionary forces in our fair city."

"Mademoiselle Beq." "General.", I smiled up as the general bowed, "please join me"

 "To be honest I care little about the title so much as after I say 'By the  authority granted me by Obolensky' people do what I say.", he stated, completing his previous conversation and sliding into
 the booth.

"Do you know the other fellow at the table there very well?", he asked, indicating to the table where Mr. Starsider was sat. For a moment I feared that my earlier trust had been misplaced, or that we
had been observed. I pulled out my pen and a notepad, and looked around as nonchalantly as I could.

"No, sir , can't say as I do.", It was not entirely a lie. "He is not a Babbager, I know most of our residents. An Obolenskidonian I mean."

Ashiko Kuroe nodded, "Ah... a socialite as well.". I had sat watching the door deliberately, and saw Wiggy Undertone enter. I was pleased to see a familiar face at last but I could see by the set of
his frown that he was not happy, nor here for a quiet drink. It was obvious how this must look. I began the interview being sure that he overheard my opening statement.

"So..General, I am so pleased that you agreed to give me this interview. May I start by checking how you would wish to be addressed for the purposes of publication?"

Wiggy Undertone strode up to the table and nodded tersely, "Hello. Mr. Kuroe... Surprise seeing you here.. alone."

I looked over to Wiggy worried that this was about to escalate. Wiggy stood and folded his arms. The general ignored Wiggy and nodded to me, "My pleasure... and General does seem fitting...". he
turned to Wiggy, "Oh good evening... I would arrest you but I am a tad occupied. I would shoot you as well but it is a lovely carpet."

"Well, I'm glad for small favors....", replied Wigggy, nonplussed, "very small....", I could feel his stare as I scribbled notes. "I ducked in here to get away from an airship piloted by one of your
cohorts no doubt and I'm very surprised to see you here with him Beq...."

I frowned, the disgust he felt, palpable in his words. The general seemed amused by this and grinnned broadly, "Ah... and how are you liking ducking in alleyways? It's such an invigorating exercise."

"Wiggy, its been a while." I looked up meeting his gaze. "Yes." "I returned today, to find, a few changes. I am working for the Primgraph, Miss Widdershins has asked me to report on the new regime.".
Wiggy raised an eyebrow, "Ah, that's good to know! I don't want to say what I thought at first....", I shot a glare at Wiggy, I could do without being undermined but I had no way to allay his
suspicions. I returned to look at the general with a smile. Wiggy looked out of the window and turned to leave.

I tried to make remarks in defence of Wiggy, how useful he was as an engineer, how stubborn he could be. Kuroe, stared back, "It is his choice", he said, and I returned to the interview.

"So is it fair to say then that in Obolenskidonia, the new administration supports freedom to choose? You seem to tolerate the anger of certain elements."

Kuroe sighed, slumping onto the table. "I have people with guns shooting at my men...I would rather focus my attentions towards them."

"I see"

"You must forgive my ignorance in these matters, I have returned today and I am still catching up with rumours and news"

General Kuroe nodded. "Should I bring you up to speed?"

"That would be wonderful"

Kuroe's mouth curled into what might have been a smile, his cigarette holder bobbing. "Obolensky disposed of the horrible drunkard of a Mayor... and shipped in his clanks or robots or what have
you...And... of course hired myself and my fleet to oversee the dismantling of the militia and securing of the skyways. I nodded, scribbling frantically We set at once to taking the former militia
headquarters... there was resistance but superior weaponry and a well placed gatling cannon shoed the lot off...

I swallowed. "Were there many casualties?". My mind turned to those many friends as yet unseen, missing.

"I suffered a shot to the shoulder...and another was slashed badly. Oh... Oh you mean for the resistance? We didn't count anything... just dumped what we could in the canal". I sat staring at the
general for a moment, he did not show emotion just tiredness.

"So the Obolensky regime is holding fast now?"

"Obolenskidonia is holding strong."

"Are there any plans that you are able to share? This report wil be read by many of your citizens."

"Aside from the scone factory?"

"ahh yes the scone factory. Gainful employment for the children as I recall

Ashiko Kuroe nodded. "A charming endeavour...personally... I would rather see the militia heads stand trial and the rest of the lot shipped off to... oh I haven't a clue some slave labour."

"stand trial.....shipped off". I parrot as  I scribble at my notepad. "But, yes, beyond the scone factory, what plans can the doctors' favoured general share.", I smiled.

The general looked about. On the other side of the bar, Lans Starsider seemed engrossed in his endeavour to get drunk. Ashiko Kuroe cleared his throat, "Well such things... are a tad bit secret... but
I can leak it out that the aether program is well underway."

"the aether program? that sounds ambitous indeed."

"Well our proud nation is forming alliances and rivalries every day... we must do something. And if... said something happens to expand our borders... well... all the more better."

"expands our borders....", I tapped the pad with my pencil. "Quite so. May I ask why the Doctor picked the city of Bababge?"

"Opportunity presented itself? I cannot entirely speak for the man."

"I see"

"I can say why I have returned to New Babbage... or Obolenskidonia as it is now called... but the Doctor...the man's mind is as a steel trap..."

"then I put the question to you directly. We have after all met in other circumstances. What is it that brings you back here?"

The general grins, a broad, teethed grin, reaching up to his face and touching the brass prosthetic eye. "Revenge, of course... During a previous visit... I had lost my eye."

"and this revenge, do you feel it is now met, through your elevation to general, your status in the city". I glanced out the window at a movement, before snapping my attention back to the general.
Outside listening against the glass was young Jimmy.

Ashiko Kuroe reached for a cup of green liquor taking a sip shaking my head "Oh my status? I am a pawn in the grand scheme of things..."

"A well rewarded pawn, I would anticipate"

"Yes my coffers in Armada are swelling... but to be perfectly honest with each poster defiled and each scribbling on the wall I must confess... it is a tad grading..."

"Loyalty does not come cheap, the doctor must recognise this?"

"Yes... but I do take liberties in my power... Taxes for wearing mismatched socks. and the like."

I nodded, scribbling. "sartorial taxation....very good. General, I must depart, and I am sure you have important busines to be getting on with. Thank you for taking the time to answer a few

The general nodded, "Yes... I do hope this was helpful to you."

"very much so. Good day."

I left the bar, as I went Lans Starsider seemed to salute me, a half drunken
hiccup, disguising a nod.

Obolenskidonia - Babbage under siege, meeting general Kuroe

I alluded previously to an interview, I should perhaps recount the events that led to that. As the boy Skyler has since contacted me. I am to call out to him and thus meet the resistance.

Things are dangerous here. I do not think I am under suspicion but at the same time I do not think I can assume that I am not watched. Above all else I have to take care in my reports not to betray my
friends. Some friends may themselves be doubting of my values too, not pausing to consider my position and simply concluding that I am a collaborator based upon their observations.

I had not been back in the City for long when I came upon the newly promoted General Kuroe. I had left my house in the palisades late in the afternoon and took the trolley bus through to the port,
alighting at Larklight Alley. Immediately ahead I saw the familiar figure of Kuroe, he was talking with a young lady, Miss Jaggernov, I believe her name. I had met her briefly in Viv Trafalgar's
store. she had alarmed me then, her trust or perhaps her naivety had led her to tell me of the resistance and I had since been concerned for her safety if she was so open to all she met. But now I saw
her talking amiably with the General. this brought further questions to mind. Had she been toying with me? Assessing the "loyalty" of this apparent "newcomer" to town? Or was she protecting herself by
building a bond with the enemy? They had noticed me so I had little choice by now than to approach.

Ashiko Kuroe nodded "Ah... well I look forward to hearing about it." "Good day Ma'am!", smiled Miss Jaggernov "Good day madam, general.", I replied. "As I believe is now the appropriate term of
address former Capt. Kuroe" "Former?", blinked the general as Miss Jaggernov raised an eyebrow. "It is said that in my absence things have changed, indeed the evidence around town certainly supports
that, and that you have been elevated".

Kuroe grinned his cigarette holder jutting "Ah... General of course...". Scarlet Jaggernov smiles in relief, I smiled in return. "Indeed... how may I assist you Citizen?", he continued.

"I have been out of the city. I am a loyal citizen of Babbage sir, I do hope you will not hold against me our previous altercations?"

General Kuroe looked at his hat shaking his head "No you took very good care of my hat... I cannot fault someone who is that considerate. Now that you have returned are you needing any permits
warrants or scones?"

The latter forced a gasp of surprise from Miss Jaggernov, and I can only conclude that the mere thought of such a delicacy in times where much of the population appear to be short of provisions. Miss
Jaggernov went on to ask about the factory and the conditions of employment. Genreal Kuroe remarked that it would be staffed by criminals and in a careless moment I retorted to the effect that
criminal was a subjective term. Luckily that error passed unnoticed and Genreal Kuroe explained that the fatory would be using children and criminals such as Mara Razor, that the conditions would be
as expected of Doctor Obolensky. Miss Jagger was quite upset at the implications and proceed tio get angry with the general.

This lady confuses me greatly, she may well be a resistnace supporter/sympathiser but she also demonstrates a remarkable closeness and frankness in interacting with the General. At that time I
realised that I could not without further knowledge trust this lady, but it is my aim to determine her true colours as I am in no doubt that her position of apparent trust could be useful if her enery
and volatility could be reined in somewhat.

Away to my right, a gentleman had taken up a nonchalant position leant against a lmapost and looking out across the harbour. I took him to be one of the General's secret guard.

I changed the subject. "Sir, I would love to interview you for the journal with which I have recently taken employment. You may have heard of it, The Primgraph."

The general adjusted his false eye as he weighed the options before briskly asking, "This isn't a trap is it?"

"The Primgraph is of course a balanced and fair publication, we have our reputation to think of. We would not wish to upset the standing or the sales of our publication within the City by slandering
its leaders."

"Ah... well then... I suppose I am available.", The general glanced over my shoulder as a young boy walked past hefting a large rifle upon his back.

"Skyler!", cried Miss Jaggernov, "Hello dear! How are you?" "'Ello Miss Scarlet. I'm doin' good. Jus'...wanderin' 'round town." "Come give me a hug, darling!", the young lad hugged Miss Jaggernov,
"Did you enjoy the ball?" "Aye... It was fun." "One of you future employees General", I probed. Miss Jaggernov shot a murderous look between us. "I think not! Mr Kuroe, how could you even look cruelly
on something so adorable!!" Ashiko Kuroe turned to the lad, eyeing the boy cautiously, "Who is he? And why is he armed?" Worried for the lad's safety I interjected, fabricating an excuse, "its just a
toy I expect, isn't it lad?". "Isn't it!", I asserted.

The you ng lad, Skyler stared at the general a moment before turning to me. "No miss... it's th' real deal." I sighed, and shook my head, you can't help some people it seems. "I've seen it work! It
is.", added Miss Jaggernov, compunding the damage. "I'm sure he means no harm with it General", I explained. The General blinked and sighed, "Child...When a man of authority asks you if the gun is
real... you say no... then shoot them in the back.". I grinned, the general had surprised me with this display of humour.

"But if a lady asks if it's real, I tell th' truth.", countered Skyler, whose mouth appears to know no sense of fear. Miss Jaggernov started giggling. "I may be an Urchin but I know me Manners."

Ashiko Kuroe chuckled holding out his hand "Ah...and so you do... I trust you will hand that over?". Skyler shook his head.

"I trust I will not.".

The general watched the boy as Miss Jaggernov smiled at Mr Kuroe appealing to his pride, "It would be a shame to so ruin such a well composed outfit. I daresay you'd look far less dashing without your
weapons. So do let him keep it.", Skyler nodded.

"An Urchin without a gun would be like a Pirate without a ship. It jus' wouldn' be right.". To my complete surprise the General seemed to accept this. I could not understand how this had passed the
way it had. why had Kuroe accepted a public affront to his authority?

Mercifully, Miss Jaggernov changed the subject. "What newspaper did you say you worked for, may I ask?" "The Primgraph I replied, smiling. "I thought so... How marvellous!" "I am their newly appointed
correspondent to New Babbage" "Nice ta meet ya miss.", piped in Skyler, doffing his cap to me. "Ah... You do mean Obolenskidonia...", said the General sternly, watching me closely. "oh yes sorry of
course...", I stammered, anoyed at my slip, but equally certain that I'd make the same mistake again. "My mistake, I have lived here since it was a tiny city state. Old habits die hard."

Skyler Gant smirked. "Still New Babbage ta me. Since... I can't for th' life o' me pronounce th' other." "Mr Kuroe, do we still have freedom of press?", asked Miss Jaggernov and I glanced nervously to
the General, once again wiondering whose side Miss Jaggernov was on, perhaps she did not trust me either, that would be a fair position.

"Why yes... Admiral Lupindo is free to press as many citizens as he wants.", chortled the general, laughjing aat his own joke. Miss Jaggernov giggled.

"Not people juice, silly! Do we still have freedom of press in Babbage? As in, publications?" "Publications... well not my sort to be honest... I suppose so..", replied the General, a little uncertain
as to what he was opening himself up to.

"I am glad to hear it sir. How better to get your message to the people, your loyal subjects". I bit my lip, suppressing the shudder that passed through me as I said those words.

"They aren't my subjects Mademoiselle Beq... They are Obolensky's"

"Spread th' message on Toilet Tissue an' use it ta wipe your bum. Tha' would be a better use ta spread th'O's message.", smirked the urchin. I sighed, this lad was asking for trouble that was clear. I
watched the general cautiously again as he momentarily lost his composure before gasping and straightening his cravate and stooping to the level of the childs humour.

"Ah... I wouldn't expect you to know of such things considering your scent", he retorted. Skyler Gant smirked again, enjoying his sparring match.

"Sure th' scent isn' comin' from you? After all... must be hard ta wash your fur after...doin' th'deed." I winced at the jibe. "General, I am sure this lad means nothing by his remarks, he is of no
concern to you. Or The Doctor Overlord", I wanted to kick the young lad in the shins make it clear he was out of line. I had to resort to a frown and pursed lips, a voiceless "shhhhh". I stared at
Skyler trying to catch his gaze, "Master Skyler, the general is a powerful man, you should take care not to upset him."

"Honestly mademoiselle... I have more important issues at hand than a mouthy child...", and with that the General seemed to dismiss the entire incident. It was clear now however that the young lad was
perhaps my way to find a trusted friend, anyone who  might know me in the resistance.

"Skyler do you attend school at all?", I asked. Skyler Gant shook his head. "No miss." "have youlearned your letters at all?", I added, hoping that he would be ablte to read a little. "The Doctor
could implement an education program!", laughed Miss Jaggernov laughed. I frowned at the thought of what this would entail. "Why the frown? Marvellous as it'd be, I doubt the Doctor is planning
enrichment and nurturing any time soon..." "frown? did I frown? oh my, just the sun reflecting from the ocean. I am sure the the Doctor would put a fine program of education in place", I replied, not
hiding my disdain. I feigned making note of the forthcoming interview, scribbliung in my notepad before surreptitiously tearing out a small note. Skyler shook his head in reply to my eralier question.
"Jus' a few from th'books people toss out." "Oliver Twist is not an easy book, dear.", added Miss Jaggernov, "I was quite impressed" "indeed so", I replied, incredulous. Skyler nodded. "But it is me
all time fav book, miss. It's how I took me Nickname, Artful Dodger. I...share a bit o'similarities to th' Character with tha' name in th' book."

I stooped down, my back to the general and pretending to straighten Skyler's jacket slipped a note inside. As I stood, I held a finger to my lips, hoping that the lad at least knew enough to hold his

"Pleased to meet you all. General I will return shortly". I noticed Skyler pocket the note quietly and smiled. Perhaps I can meet you in one of our bars, assuming we do not have prohibition here yet.
"Prohibition? You can imagine the pirates being refused drink?" "Oh dear heavens no... merely a recall on all wines made over 20 years ago..." I smiled at the thought of the general and the doctor
standing over a collection of confiscated fine vintage wines. "Then perhaps the Absinthe bar by the canals at 20 to three?" The general nodded and checked his watch "I suppose so...". He paused then
tapping his forehead as if he had overlooked something. "Actually... I am afraid that an hour later than that would be better if able." "There was a Jar of cookies placed in front of city hall for my
breakfast and I have yet to retreive it.

"A quarter past three then perhaps?" "that's acceptable...", nodded the general "wonderful, I will see you then."

I wandered off, heading down towards the ocean tunnel lift but soon became aware of foot steps on the cobbles behind me, keeping pace, but staying back. I paused outside Miss Frye's workshop and
walked out onto the new promenade there and stood staring out to sea, waiting for my pursuer to pass. The foosteps rapping against the stone cobbles halted and changed as their owner walked onto to
the wooden promenade. I tensed.

"Miss Janus was it?", a mans voice. I turned slowly. "Yes, sir. I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage. I do not believe we have been introduced." "Ah, I apologize. I am Lans Starsider.", the
stranger, Mr Starsider, bowed slightly

Shots rang out fromthe back streets of the port and a cry of "DEATH TO THE OPPRESSORS!"

Mr Starsider looked about. "I do believe that was gun fire", I muttered, stating the obvious. "Quite..." "Mr Starsider, pleased to meet you" "And you as well." "So, I overheard that you're a
reporter?", I nodded in affirmation "Tell me, what is your take on the recent occupation?"

I looked nervously about. "I...I am a long term resident of this City sir. I have been away for a time about a month or so. I am somewhat taken aback by the changes if I may be frank" Lans Starsider
sighed. "Look I'm not working for the "Truth" ministry or anyone like that, so please feel free to be honest."

"but then someone form such a ministry would say that wouldn't they? I am sorry sir, I do not wish to be obtuse trust is not easily earned. The general and I have met before. I have thwarted his plans
twice in the past."

The newcomer rolled his eye, "Yes I suppose, but with that sort of logic how the bloody heck to you expect me to prove it?"

"...Obolensky is a pompous ass. Satisfied?". I smiled and sighed, deciding to trust the man, they occupiers already had more than enough reason to detain me for my past involvement, they could hardly
need prof of my loyalty to Babbage. "Let's sit". I indicated to the benches and we sat, watching the sea.

"I have no love of these fiends sir, Babbage has been my home since I arrived here, some 2 months after its founding. I have property and friends here. I would not have it overrun by buffoons
masquerading as oppressors."

"I see. I must confess I am somewhat of a newcommer here myself. I've been trying to feel out the exact situation here.", he then grinned. "And yes, the doctor's henchmen aren't all that wise, are

"no, but it seems that they have the upper hand at present my reporting must remain fair and above board but I intend to assist the resistance, if they indeed exist. I have not yet seen a number of my
friends, I am worried for them. I hope they have gone to ground."

"I would say there is evidence. I recently heard news of some sort of strike against the doctor's forces. Though I would hope that that pistol weilding man we heard earlier is not among them. While
gallent, I'm afraid his tactics will get him killed."

"Yes,", I nodded, " and the young lad, Skyler. That tongue of his....." "Yes. Quite the fire in that one isn't there?", chuckled Mr Starsider.

"One hopes it can be channelled appropriately, the general seems too arrogant to be concerned with the urchins, but in our past they have always proven to be a stubborn and resilient force."

"Well, at least he chose the target of his heckling wisely, if only by chance. I'm afraid several of Obolensky's other minions might not have been so indulgent."

"es, the feline in particular needs to be watched and treated with caution", I leant forward and whispered "Zebratski, if I recall correctly" Lans Starsider nodded, "Yes I've encountered him before as
well. He seems to be the most competant of those I have met so far."

"A vile character, but, yes, quite effective. May I ask sir, what is your part in this. What brought you here in these troubled times?

"Well...to be honest I'm investigating some rumors about the doctor himself. I currently believe them to be false, but I need to be sure. I actually came here as part of my explorations though. Simple
bad timing on my part it seems. I smiled grimly, "yes, indeed. May I ask as to the nature of the rumours?

"Hmm...yes, I suppose. A few rumors have suggested that some of the sources of the doctor's technology may have been gathered via...temporal means. As I said, I currently believe this is false, and
that he is simply a brilliant, if twisted, man."

I nodded thoughtfully. "but...", I began, "I fear they may have some foundation in truth. There was an exhibtion, some months ago now, it took place in the library here in Babbage. One exhibit, was a
time machine, of course none of us believed it to be real." "Ah yes...I've seen those 'time machines.'", Mr Starsider, chuckled to himself, finding something amusing in that statement. "But still, you
believe Obolensky may have one of these machines?"

"Part way through the opening ceremony, a group of henchmen accompanied the doctor and using some form of key, managed to steal the exhibit. It vanished sir. Into thin air. I myself checked the very
solidity of the walls and floors there was no other way out."

"Yes...it appears quite clear that further investigations were warranted. Still, very interesting Ms Janus...and possibly most helpful. I'll have to do some research of my own into it.  May I
accompany you? I'm quite interested in listening to what the General might have to say."

"I am meeting the general in the absinthe bar by the old theatre"

"In the canal district, yes?"

"yes indeed. I would rather interview him alone, but I cannot prevent you from getting drunk in a stall nearby now can I?"

"No, that would be quite out of your control.", Mr Starsider grinned.

"I must depart I have some notes to make before he arrives"

"Good luck, miss."

"It was a pleasure meeting you sir. I am sorry for my rather frosty greeting."

"Understandable given the circumstances."

Since these events it has become apparent that the General was not as forgiving as it seemed, and though I have yet to confirm the facts, it is apparent that Skyler was kidnapped shortly after my meeting, and I believe it was this that delayed the general's arrival for my interview as recorded in the published article in the primgraph

Monday, 22 June 2009

Return to Babbage

It has been many weeks since I have walked the streets of my home. Many projects have kept me away overseas and so it was with a glad heart that I recently received a telegram from Ms Widdershins at the Primgraph. I became acquainted with Miss Widdershins through my good friends Miss Ceejay Writer and Miss Viv Trafalgar, and was thrilled to have my work featured in her periodical, the Primgraph. I offered my services for menial tasks, something to fill those twilight hours when away from my friends. The telegram, however, surpassed that expectation. Miss Widdershins asked me to report on the events in Babbage. "Events?", whatever was she speaking of. Did the balls and competitions of my fair city warrant the engagement of a press corresponent? It was the same morning, that I first received word from home, word that gave more meaning, and gravity to the situation. Things in Babbage were not as they should be.

And so, today I have returned. The sea is busy but my trusty sub was not troubled by such craft and I returned in the early afternoon to Aegir's hall. I shall recount in more detail later. For I must now head to Loki's bar, where I am to meet wit the proclaimed general of the air corps Ashiko Kuroe.

Friday, 12 June 2009

living under a shadow

Note affixed to the outside of an envelope which itself is stuck to a diary page, the pages prior to this page have been forcefully removed,only the ragged edges remain prior to an entry titled “Facing Orchid”

Herein I collect the shredded remains of my diary, pages lost not to flood, fire or mishap, nor through the malicious intent of another but through the destructive rage of the final stages of my descent, as the meticulous human recording her ordeal became an angry beast seeking nothing but to sate its desires. Some weeks had passed since the last remaining whole entry, and the desperation recorded in that entry had only increased, the continued meticulous recording that had maintained my connection to my former life had became ever more difficult, those few snatched moments, typically after feeding when Nareth would retire

and leave me unwatched, my own beast tempered and easily mastered, became ever rarer until the fateful day when I all but destroyed this record, the day that marked my departure from humanity mere days before my release, my redemption.

So strange the words that flow from your mind to the paper, “release”,“redemption”, they have sense of finality, the closure of a chapter, they suggest escape; yet can I even now say that it is over? How could I? How could anyone after so much deceit and distrust, layer upon layer of lies? Is it really over or have I simply peeled back one layer of lies to reveal a fresh layer beneath? I sit alone at night weeping, wondering when it will return, when this illusion of safety, of humanity, will once again dissolve into the bestial terror to visit disaster upon unsuspecting friends.

I have decided to seek help, final proof that there are no further layers, that I am released or perhaps the final acknowledgement that I am still tainted, a lurking threat, waiting for her to spring the trap. If no proof can be found then my course is clear and I am quite at peace with what I must do. It is no more and no less than I had previously known, was it not my naive commitment to self sacrifice, my life to save many, that brought me to this point? Babbage was saved, in that we were sucessful and history will record that Nareth Nishi (professor) was once again the hero who saved the City from certain doom, for my part perhaps a small footnote, that an unknown lady of babbage was cared for after fainting at the scene. I should have died then. That faint, my collapse as I gave up my own energy, my life to perpetuate Nareth's, to allow her to overcome Moriarty, it should have killed me, I do so wish it had been so, as it had been prophesied. Therein we see the nature of lies, how truth is mixed with untruth and presented to mislead, the terms of the bargain were that my life could be forfeit and I had taken that to mean death an end yet in truth it was but the start, my life was forfeit and became the property of the demon that had in its times before consumed many others, not least of whom was Nareth, my Nareth, Babbage's Nareth.

This maudlin mood progresses nothing, I should be plain. Nareth no more sought to save Babbage than to simply remove the competition. Mankind were hers, and no one was going to stand in her way. Yet the time was wrong, the intervention was needed but the time for the next stage has not yet come upon us. She has gone, left this town and will return when time demands it. So now I live with a shadow of fear. I fear she has not truly released me, but has left me dormant, hidden from the world, her weapon waiting patiently unheard of and unsuspected. I must disarm this weapon, I was once before ready to die to remove a threat from Babbage only to become the weapon of its doom. I will seek some final help but I am resolved in this matter. When modern science fails to convince me that I am clear of this shadow, that she is no longer in me, and in truth however can it succeed? So, if it fails, when it fails, only one path remains, the irrevocable, final and absolute removal of the threat, the weapon, known as Beq Janus.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Is there really no one left to hold onto?

I left the laboratory angry and confused, she was right, as I had lain there dying, beyond a brief visit by Orchid, my friends had abandoned me. They had known what was happening to me, that my best chance was for Nareth to be slain before I ... before I succumbed. Perhaps Rip saw it as easier if I was gone or left as something bestial and repulsive. Yes that would keep his pretty wife safe from temptation, I would be that vile creature that had taken poor sweet Beq away, my trespasses forgiven as the early acts of the beast that had ultimately led to my extinction. I slammed the iron door shut behind me the frame shaking with the force and sending a small cascade of loose mortar on its way to the ground. I stormed out of the front yard into the street and automatically turned down toward the Palisade. Nareth was right, I would have this out, Nareth had lied to me before, but this time? Well it all made sense now didn't it? But something inside was already turning the anger into emotional confusion and as I stormed across the cobbles of the rail yard the rage settled to a brooding anger, I was caught in between two factions, where was "I" in this? what had happened to Beq Janus? At what point did I give up all responsibility for my own welfare? I punched a brick pier as I left the yard, and sucking at the bloody knuckles turned down towards muses cottage.

As I passed through the gate my heart fluttered, I realised that I was nervous, actually scared. I feared the truth, if that was what it was. I sat on the step watching the broken skin of my knuckles reform, summoning the courage to face them again. With a deep breath, I stood and knocked at the door.

Orchid's voice called from inside. "Who is it?"

"Orchid! Its me.", I replied, "Beq".

The door swung opem and she stood before me, radiant, smiling, "Beq... how, well, are you doing alright?", she looked at me nervously, not sure quite how to speak to me.

I smiled back,"Its good to see you" I replied, not answering the question

"Come in, come in.. it's chilly out there.", she stepped back, motioning a welcome with her hands, a pressure that I had not noticed but that I guessed later to be holding me from entering, fell away at her words. Another part of vampire lore demonstrably proven.

"thank you", I stepped across the theshold and into the cottage. "are you well?", I looked around the room, listening. "No Rip?"

"No, no, he is not here. I'm alright, but, I'll admit I've spent much of the night worrying about you."

"really? worrying? That is touching.", I winced slightly at the spiteful cynicism in my own voice. Orchid raised an eyebrow, a touch of confusion on her face. "I have missed you these passed few days."

"I-all I wanted to do was help you, but, what was I to do?"

"help me? yes.", I nodded, a grim sincerity on my face. "Did you have any plans?"

Orchid shook her head slightly, "Plans? You mean... now?"

I walked over and sat down, the house was beautiful, new furniture set off the room, giving it a homely feel. "A new sofa? very nice", they had been busy clearly, the house was looking lovely.

"Thank you, Rip chose that.", Orchid looked at me smiling weakly. I returned to the questions, looking darkly at Orchid,

"Now?, then? anything? I was helpless Orchid. At her mercy. If you could have saved me you would have wouldn't you? Rip would have done something, come up with some scheme to rescue me."

"Of course I would have, Beq! We tried and tried to think of something, but had no idea what would work to help you...".

I sighed, stroking the sofa, frowning. I looked up to see Orchid's sombre look as she watched me, reading my thoughts.

Orchid swallowed, and whispering said, "You... you don' think we tried, do you?", her eyes filled with sorrow and regret.

"I don't know Orchid, I just don't know any more. I was sure, certain that you were out there looking for a way".

"I still am Beq..."

"...that you had looked but perhaps not found anything", I paused, "still are ..." I repeated, smiling briefly at her, drawing out the smallest of smiles in return.

"She told me Orchid"

"Told you what, Beq?"

"Told me that she offered to save me if you would spend a night with her, just as you had said. I would never have wanted you to accept such a deal but she also told you, told Rip, how to destroy her. Decapitation. Stake through the heart"

Orchid shook her head sighing. "First off, her offer to me... she laughed as soon as I gave her my answer. She had never meant it, she wanted to destroy the hope I had.", I watched the emotions on her face, the guilt she felt was evident, but her hgaze never wavered, she was not lying. "And, Beq, how am I to know that destroying her will save you? Does the binding not mean if one of you dies, the other will as well? I know of the amulet... but this will not keep you from turning, will it? If she is gone, I mean? It doesn't seem to be a viable solution, Beq... there are so many questions unanswered. I couldn't bear try something that further hurts you.", they had thought it through, though clearly they knew little of the cycle. At my death I had become the undead, I had Turned, the was no more. Yes I was not dead. My mind raced, was that the issue? I was neither vampire nor human now.

"turning....", I whispered, nodding. "Did she tell you? Did she imply that her death might save me?"

Orchis was emphatic at this, shaking her head resolutely, "She only told us how to destroy her, and that killing her would kill you as well."

My rage boiled up again. I was being cast from pillar to post. "argghhh!", I shouted, slamming my fist into the arm of the chesterfield making Orchid shudder and jump. "She lies", I spat through gritted teeth.

"To which of us, Beq?"

"I do not know, she told me that she had told you how to kill me, how to save me but", I shook my head, unable to think clearly. "When I asked her if you had been told that her death would free me, she said that it was clearly logical."

Orchid's eyes went wide at this she balled her own fists in angerillan goes wide-eyed, balling her hands in fists.

"So, the binding... her death would not mean yours as well? Are you certain she was not lying on that account?"

I stopped, in my mind I felt Nareth stirring. "She awakes"


In my mind I could see Nareth moving quickly, before long she was rising into the air.

"I do not know her lies from each other now." I threw my head back, looking to the sky, "Nareth! You anger me.". Orchid looked up quickly, watching intently, "...flying...", I muttered, answering the implicit question. Orchid whispered, as though she wished not for Nareth to hear her, "flying? "

"No matter"., I dismissed it, shaking my head. "She is playing with me trying to sever my connection with you, break my will"

"Don't let her win, Beq... she's done nothing but trick you, play with your mind."

"Beq, I promise you... we have more ideas now than we did before. We are never giving up on you."

"But she is my mind now, I am hers. I need to believe in you Orchid, but if my faith in you fails....please, please don't prove her right.", Orchid nodded at my warning, fear clearly on her face.

Mistress...was this wise? - Nareth's voice insinuated into my mind again.

"Wise! WISE!", I screamed into the air. Orchid stared at me unsure as to what to do. I dropped my head into my hands, massaging my forehead and temples in frustration, breathing heavily with frustration.

"Beq, are you alright?", asked Orchid, leaning towards me, I shot a dark look back, biting back a pointed answer, forcing a thin smile in its place.

You told me as much Nareth. 'ask them', you said

I saw Nareth land upon the snow covered cobbles...

Very well. So I did.
You twist my mind Nareths
I stand by what I have said, Mistress. Has she denied it?
more than that. You told her that your death would bring mine

And you know that she is not lying, because...you trust her. Circularity.

I had my doubts now, this much was clear. I small laugh echoed in my mind as Nareth sensed this.

of course I trust

You trust...because you trust.

because I know her.

Do you? Does she know you, even?

She is my best friend Nareth. Was..

So much assumption.

so much deceit


not hers, don't twist

I am not twisting.
They were told, Mistress. I can recall the memories verbatim, if you wish it.

and out of context no doubt

I offered them the opportunity. Admittedly, at great personal risk.

How generous.
How selfless

There was a soft knocking at the door.

Orchid looked up quickly, and jumping out of her seat headed to the door probably expecting Rip

"Let me.. get that.". She opened the door to find Nareth standing there. Nareth smiled. "Hello Nareth..."

"Miss McMillan."

"You're looking well."

"Sorry that I have not visited sooner."

"It's quite alright."


"Beq and I were just chatting, I suppose you'd care to join us?", Orchid stepped back inviting Nareth into the house,

"Thank you...", a wry grin spread across Nareth's face. She looked about the room, "Such a beautiful home. Good evening, Beq.". Orchid returned back to her seat and turned to watch Nareth. "Shall I sit, perhaps?"

I remained as I was, glaring at Nareth

"If you wish.", responded Orchid, with little attempt to hide her dislike of Nareth.

"You are too gracious a host, Miss McMillan.", Nareth turned and smiled at each of us in turn, "Am I interrupting?"

"Of course", I sneered.

"I should hope I am not.", Nareth sat upon the sofa one arm resting on the cushioned arm.

"Nareth, as you well know, I was just discussing the matter of friendship with Orchid"

"Indeed. A very dear friendship."

Orchid'd eyes narrowed. "A true friendship.".

"True....There is so much talk of truth, of late.", Nareth's lips curled slighlty as she spoke.

"Yes, it seems so, Nareth.", nodded Orchid.

"....How as I lay dying, temptation and chance was laid before them...", I continued

"Precisely, Mistress. Tempatation..and chance. A shame they were not more..bold. But...this is not for me to judge."

"...but I am unclear on the facts, the minor nuances of logic and emotion that are so apt to be twisted and misrepresented.", I fixed my gaze upon Nareth as I spoke, looking only briefly to Orchid. Nareth and Orchid stared at one another across the room. Nareth intense but calm, Orchid enraged, grinding her teeth.

"Mistress, may I speak freely?"

"I have come to realise that nothing is truly free with you Nareth. Please, do continue."

"Have you denied, Miss McMillan, the offer that I made to you? One night with me for Miss Janus' freedom?", Orchid winced slightly at the reminder. "It was a simple offer. I was clear, there would be agony and pleasure.."

"I told Beq of it already. I hid nothing from her."

"I hid nothing also."

"Though, had you forgotten to mention to her your laughter at me after my response? That it was not possible to begin with?"

I shot an angry stare at Nareth.

"But...Miss McMillan...you did not know that when you said no. In fact, you still do not know it. So little is truly known."

Orchid nodded, "And I did not trust you from the start."

"Be that as it may...You declined an opportunity. No action was made to attempt to save your friend."

"Aye, I did, I will not deny it. I wrestle with the guilt of not accepting."

"None...Not even at the very end."

I shifted my weight from one leg to the other, fidgetting uncertainly. If roles had been reversed, would I have acted differently? I knew in my heart that I would. Was it not such a sacrifice that had brought us to that state? Yet it was easier for I, I who has no one, than for her, her life with Rip laid out before her; to weigh the worth of my own life against the happiness of her own was a terrible dilemma, but at the very least I would have fought the conditions, called her bluff, made her demonstrate that I could be released, tested the verascity of the offer. Though I would not on good conscience ask that she had accepted the offer, and she had made her choice of her own free will, I would not have it otherwise, though it trully tore my heart apart then to have my true worth evaluated so coldly before my eyes.

"Do you think I would not have tried, had I thought I had a chance of saving her?"

"Why *does* Mr. Wirefly carry that sword?", Nareth continued the attack, feeling my distress.

I looked searchingly at Orchid, looking in her eyes for a sign that would show me that Nareth was wrong.

"I think you are a coward, Orchid. Beq saved you.". Orchid averted her gaze, staring up at the ceiling, biting her tongue. "You did not even try to exchange the favour. The mere attempt...Failure is irrelvant.

I dropped my head back into my hands, staring down at my feet.

"It is an ugly, unsightly truth. But...I am accustomed to ugliness."

Orchid McMillan turned back, staring straight at Nareth. "If anything, my guilt over not saving her so far has only hardened my resolve to make something work. If you think I've given up, think again."

"Oh...?", Nareth smiled, watching me as I shook my head, my despair giving way to anger as I was passed back and forth as some minor prize, some precious bauble to be fought over. I had brought myself to this, was it any surprise now to find myself alone. My thoughts turned to others, where now was Jed? Steadfast, straight talking Jed? Had she even noticed I had gone? She was busy...out of town a lot. I sighed.

"But why now, when all is lost? She is no longer even human."

"Have you ever known us to give up hope? To think all is truly lost? There is always a chance."

"I do not know you, Miss McMillan. This I will admit. I report what I have seen thus far."

"Each time we speak you attempt to break my resolve.", Orchid looked furtively at me, as I met her gaze.

"Do I? I was not aware. That is, I was not aware you possesed resolve."

I stood up angrily, this had to end, my mind roiled and twisted, my stomach yearned, "no! no! enough! I should never have come here. This toying, this game.", Nareth did not look at me but remained seated staring at Orchid, who closed her eyes, and slowly inhaled, seeking some calm.

"As you wish, Mistress. Though, I had hoped to relate to Miss McMillan our recent exploits...and your pleasure.". Orchid glanced back and forth between myself and Nareth.

"Nareth, this game is fun for you, just such fun", I waved a hand dismissing Nareth's attempt to undermine us further.

"No...Mistress. No *fun*. Joy."

Orchid looked back at me, whispering, "Don't give up Beq, please..."

"Mistress, even now, I see your hunger for her."

"Orchid, I am changed"

"You are starving.", interjected Nareth.

I sighed, shifting position slightly, leaning forward, "she is right". Orchid stared down at the floor. I hoped that perhaps she was beginning to understand the predicament.

"You could make it fast...Painless."

"No!", I leant towards Nareth, my fists clenched


"No! Nareth"

"She did not save you? She did not even try."

I stood up, pacing up and down, unconsciously licking my lips as images of lust, supported by a base, animal, instinctive desire to consume, to satiate my appetite, formed unbidden in my mind.

"The thrill of feeding, and to feed on such...."

to feed on such...tendernesss

"Beq... don't let her do this to you!", Orchid's voice called me back, driving down the stirring in my stomach.

"Or, she could join us.", added Nareth, leering, watching my every move, knowing my mind. I stopped pacing and stared at Orchid. "Lina would find her a delight.".

"Lina! never", I turned angrily, snarling at my tormentor. "Nareth, leave this place".

"Oh, but you so enjoy Lina.", Nareth paused for a minute, then recognising the command in my voice, acquiesced to my order. "Yes...Mistress. As you wish."

I remained standing, staring now at Orchid, fighting still the burning desires within me. Smelling her fear, riding on the rich sweet scent that betrayed her femininity and a faint note of exhillaration, a hint of excitement at the encounter, these subtle hints invisible to the "evolved" human that betrayed her own true feelings. Of course, Nareth, could sense these, and my own, even without her link into my mind she would know what I felt before I knew it.

"I'm sure you can find the door.", Orchid spat.

"Good evening, Miss McMillan. Do give my regards to your fiance"

Orchid watched the door and waited for it to shut, then looked up at me. I dropped into the seat, but immediately knew I could not stay. Through Nareth's eyes I saw the front of the house, she was waiting, watching to see if I lost the battle, if I would bend to her will and take Orchid as my own.

"Orchid, I must leave, she is right.", Orchid sat nervously, unable to look straight at me. "I am changed, there is a hunger that tears at me"

"Do you believe me Beq? Do you still trust me?"

I nodded though in truth, I could not say, I simply did not want to accept the apparent facts as the truth. Orchid smiled slightly.

"Please. I am losing this fight", I pleaded with her, the rich scent of her body filling me with the shared hungers for food and pleasure.

"Soon, I promise. We are trying.", she called as I jumped up and ran to the door, fleeing from the house and into the garden.

Consider, Mistress... She invited me in. She just destroyed a sanctuary. Soon, there will be no place left for them to hide.

I saw the blur of brickwork and roofline soon replaced by hte mottled gray blue hues of the sky as Nareth took to the air again.

No place to hide at all.

You cannot touch her, you will not! - The thoughts shouted, but clouded with my own desire, as I spoke more to myself than to Nareth. I would not harm Orchid, not knowingly, not willingly. I ran from the house as fast as I could. The hunger overwhelming, I had to feed and I had to get away from Orchid ....

No, I will not - her reply echoed back to me, a knowing, mockery in her tone. But what about you, Mistress? She invited *you* in. You are not bound. Poor Orchid...

but before you get that wish Nareth, you have to defeat me completely

Do not delude yourself, Mistress. It is unseeemly.

I got to the railway yard and dropping to my knees crawled around until I caught a rat. I dashed its brains against the cobblestones until it bled.

"A rat, Mistress?", Nareth dropped to the ground by my side and stood looking down at me, disgust and amusement mixed in her frown. "Filthy beasts"...

"but warm", I replied, raising the mangled rodent toward my mouth

Nareth held out her wrist, a sweeter smile, tinged with pity fixed upon her lips. "Not as warm...", she said, grinning briefly, I looked up meeting her gaze, then glancing down threw the rat into the snow immediatley hating my own weakness, my dependency. Nareth tore open her wrist with her sharp finger nails. "No one us watching.", she said as I took the wrist in her mouth, and collapsed to my knees again on the snowy ground. Slurping hungrily, sucking hard. Nareth looked down her nose at me.

"pitiable, poor Mistress.", she waited a moment before continuing, "I have another question, Mistress.". I looked up, still sucking at the wound, ", Nareth closed her eyes feeling the blood leave her body. "Why has *no one* called my bluff? If bluff it be."

"They do not trust you, they are not all as naive as me". Nareth looked away toward the laboratory, following her gaze I could see figure, a woman entering the laboratory..

"Oh, I think it may be more complicated. After all, this is an age of reason. Vampires? Indeed. Now, stand up and wipe your mouth. You look terrible.". Nareth pulled her wrist away. "We need to go inside...", I wiped my mouth on my fingers and then sucked them clean."You are not...well."

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Suspicion and doubt

The preceding night had been odd in a number of ways. To hav e died and been reborn, one would think a monumental point, uplifting, inspiring even and yet as an event which stood as a conclusion to the protracted period of fear, disillusion and pain, was somewhat of an anti-climax, the agonising return of circulation leading quickly into a hasy departure, sneaking away in fear.

I felt in myself no different, perhaps in many ways I felt better than I ever had, my whole person near glowing with the warmth of my renewed heart and of course it is in this that the problem lies. I felt sure that Nareth was both intrigued and threatened by me. She clearly did not understand what I had become and the multiple aspects of her being, those things she denies the existence of, were fighting. It worried me, it worries me still to this day, the mere fact that I retain some degree of free will, some fight, is evidence enough to her and this means I am not to be trusted. Yet in those first days I was stronger, the beast had been cowed and I had control for most of my waking hours.

That next day, I woke early my new body not needing an extensive sleep, I fretted and frowned thinking long on the events of the preceding night, the frenzied, lust filled feeding, this is as we are, this is our way, the way of this this thing that I am become and yet Nareth had not seemed herself, and neither had she, sadly, seemed to be the professor. At times she had a younger, innocence about her, something that the professor could never have been said to have had and then there was the other voice, a man's voice. What was it he had said? "You are something that must go before the coming of our lady", he/she/it feared me and I must fear him.

I had to get out of the building and resolved to take a walk in the late afternoon. It was wintery outside, but distracted and warmed by my own body's heat I stepped out without a coat.

I walked out by the stockyards and past the steamworks, whose powerful pumps drive the city's steam main. Onward down toward the canals. I stood upon the bridge their watching the waters flow by before the chill set in and I sought warmth. A walked back toward the lab and spied the soft light of the bakery in the late afternoon gloom. A cup of tea, what a delightful luxury, I did not even know if I could tolerate it now but I was committed then to finding out.

The little brass bell rang as I entered, the warmth of the ovens swelling out into the street as soon as the door opened, carrying with it the smells of cinnamon and cake, of fresh bread and pies. These scents though every bit as sweet and welcoming as ever, failed to fire any hunger as they would ever have done in the past. Instead, more subtle notes, meat hanging or laying on a slab, putrefying in the bins, a mild hunger entered me.

No one was drawn out by the bell, and I collected a cup of tea from the counter, leaving a handful of brass and copper in its place before taking up my favourite seat in the corner by the window.

Myrtil Igaly, the young proprietor of the cafe walked in and paused, looking over to me and smiling

"Hello Miss Janus!", I looked up at her, the gloom had advanced and I lifted my goggles off blinking away the rush of brightness. When my vision stabilised I saw Myrtil looking at me seemingly a bit confused

"Hello Myrtil, how nice to see you."

The door opened once more and young Jimmy Branagh came running in.

"Hoy Myrtil, Hoy Miss Beq"

Almost without noticing I sniffed the air catching the scent of the two youngsters, dominated by the warmth of young Jimmy following his run. I frowned slightly at the ripple of hunger that was set off at this, a churn like that one might feel when presented with the scent of a glorious meal after a day of work.

"Hello Jimmy", I returned, looking to his smiling face.

"You... Aren't you cold Miss Janus?" asked Myrtil

" Whoa, Oy think it's cold!", blurted Jimmy, keen to be part of the conversation, as is so often the case with the young ones here.

"Its a bit nippy out there, but to be quite honest Myrtil, I've felt a little stuffy lately and the fresh air is quite invigorating."

"Oh.", replied Myrtil, seemingly surprised at my reply. "I did feel it best to pop in here for a brief respite though, you always keep this place so warm.", She relaxed a little at this, smiling briefly.

"It is because of the oven!", she grinned.

"It always smells good in here too!", added Jimmy

"But still... I would dress warmer if I were you..", suggested Myrtil. There was movement outside in the street, a small crowd of people and I look round sharply fearing the worst to find it was simply the occupants of Mr Holmes house all leaving on a journey.

"You are wise beyond your years Myrtil, I will be sure to bring a scarf at the very least next time I am taken by a desire to roam.", Myrtil smiled proudly at this, but a cloud seemed to cross her face. Some suggestion of unease.

"'tis the kind of wisdom you gain in the streets Miss. In truth, I was worried about you Miss Janus"

"Yeh, Dr. Dayafter said she was a smartie.", Jimmy laughed. Myrtil turned pulling Jimmy's cap down over his eyes, "Shush you!!"

"Worried about me, Myrtil?"

"Something happened at the Tesla Machine." she nodded, keeping her eyes fixed on me.

"ahh, yes, that.",

"After Moriarty left and the Van Creed guy told us it was up there above the Port, we left too but I remember seeing you falling, and being taken care of by Miss Breezy and Miss Chernov. You didn't look right"

"I.. helped the professor nothing more. Though it did knock the wind out of my sails."

"You helped the Professor? You looked really weak... Like that time when Moriarty attacked us on the Port too", a real note of concern in her voice, which was rather touching really. "But actually you look really better today."

"Yes, she needed me, and they did help me too, I think in fact they may have saved me. I could hear their voices calling me, but it was so cold I just wanted to sleep."

"I'm relieved you are fine now.."

"This was not Moriarty's doing not this time, it was a ...", I paused, I couldn't explain to her the connection, the deal that we had struck, I chose my words with care. "It was an experiment of the professors to help with the fires that burned around her."

Jimmy perked up, at this "Wot sort of experiment?"

"Oh! To help Mr Rip?", added Myrtil, her mind leaping ahead making connections as she is wont to do. She really is a very sharp witted girl and therein lies the danger.

"I don't truly know, she has such a great mind.", I replied, not wishing to dispel any inappropriate connections, and Myrtil nodded seemingly happy with that turn of events.

"She tricked Moriarty once more."

"The heat and fire that engulfed her and Moriarty, she was burning. Together we joined our minds."

Myrtil stood her mouth agape "wow.. I didn't know you could do that.."

"like I say Myrtil, science, truly wondrous", she nodded vigorously. "But as you have observed I am much better now"

"Yes...", Myrtil frowned.

"No longer cold, in fact quite, quite the opposite." I rubbed my arms, it was true my refreshed body was radiant. Myrtil Igaly glanced at Jimmy, then back to where I sat, still observing watching me.

"That's dangerous though to be part of an experiment. Moriarty was part of one"

"Yeh, soyence can be very dyngerous too."

"And say... he didn't end well.."

"I completely agree, but I have always trusted the professor. She has been very good to New Babbage, to us all", I said, seeking to reassure them of my intentions but Myrtil was not ready to accept this, she raised her eyebrows."

"Oy don't think Babbage would be standin' without 'er, meself.", Jimmy agreed.

"I trust her too... I thought you didn't, or wasn't sure though. That day you showed us the Van Creed documents, you thought she may be betraying us.", Myrtil recalled the allegation of an interception by the Van Creed, it referred to a partner of Moriarty, a lover they suggested.

I looked around the room, lifting my tea to my lips and sipping thoughtfully.

Myrtil smiled softly, "I'm glad you changed your mind", I returned the smile, relieved that I seemed to be negotiating my way through her suspicions.

"Yes, I am always open to change my opinions. I confronted her, asked her straight, it had been a deception. I doubt her no more, but then after the other night, who could?"

Myrtil's face visibly relaxed "Oh, that is the best way. And yes, she saved us again!"

The two youngsters chuckled. "She fooled Moriarty twice.", laughed Jimmy.

"His Old gods don't make him a smartie", giggled Myrtil. I made no answer, returning to my tea. "Plus she's got a far more powerful g..". Myrtil stopped in mid-sentence, I looked at her lowering my tea, staring at Myrtil.

"In the end he was just a poor child who had been led astray", I added , seeking to divert the conversation but Jimmy was already looking quizzically at Myrtil.

"More powerful WHAT, Myrtil?", he challenged.

"science", I interjected, "the most powerful god of them all", I smiled at the two.

The conversation turned to old friends, Leon Susenko, Gloriana Maertens, Lucius Sin and Misi. In particular Mis, as Myrtil seemed to have a soft spot for her. I told her that Miss Paine had decided not to return to Babbage just now and was living overseas. This sheered Myrtil briefly but something still disturbed her. she looked up at me, forcing a smile.

"Would you like a slice of pie?"

"No, no I am fine thank you. I'll eat later.", I declined, licking my lips and looking over the two children, the thought of food, stirring a disturbing hunger in my stomach. I looked quickly away. Myrtil was observing me cautiously

"Do you mind if I leave you alone here? I have something to do outside", she smiled. I glanced out of the window, the sun was sinking fast now.

"Not at all. I should get back soon myself"

Myrtil Igaly smiled and nodded "It was nice to see you are fine".

Myrtil caught Jimmy by the arm, "Come on, I wanna show you something.", she pulled him out in to the street.

I watched out the window as Myrtil and Jimmy chattered excitedly, glancing back at me, suspiciously.

I finished my tea, and placing the cup upon the table, stood to leave.

As I walked to the door I saw Myrtil glance back and drag Jimmy further back. This unnerved me, she was suspicious and I had brought danger upon us. I ran back to the laboratory where I found Nareth just waking.

"Nareth, I think I may have made an error of judgement.", I puffed.

"An error of judgment?",She laughed, "Do you?". I frowned at her dismissal.

"I was in the cafe"

"What, precisely, are we discussing, Mistress?"

"Myrtil's cafe"

"I see.", Nareth, still had the veil of sleep hanging over her and struggling to wake fully she watched me closely.

"I went for a walk, and stopped for a drink"


"She was there, Myrtil, and that lad, Jimmy. Well we got to talking about things and she was worried about me, she had seen me fall during Moriarty's attack. I think I indulged her questions too much she is a bright young lady."

"Indeed. She was here, two days back, asking after you.",

"I think they suspect something, that I am ... different.", I continued, Nareth didn't respond, but continues to watch in silence. "but she said something too, something about your gods."

Nareth reached into a pocket and took out her spectacles, setting them on the bridge of her nose.

"Does she know about you?"

"My gods....Before I faced Moriarty, I came across him in the attic of the theatre. In order to accomplish the ends you desired, I needed him to believe that I was an ally. I said many things. Some of it was true...I did not know that Myrtil and a number of other children had crept into the shadows and were listening.", Nareth stopped and stared down at her fingertips as I sighed. "I have assured Myrtil it was a ruse, and she seemed to believe me. However..."

"Then I hope I have not undone that work."

"If this becomes...a problem...it is easily enough solved, Mistress.", Nareth glared at me through her spectacles.


"Who would miss them?"

"They are not wanted. They are homeless things."

"b.but, but you, you cannot truly.."


"even Myrtil?"

"They would be sweet..tender...", Nareth smiled softly, masking her true intent, though I have no doubt that she would do it.

"They did smell good", I replied, grinning slightly.

"Did they?"

"It is hard to explain, it sets off a churning feeling"

"You are conflicted. You have become one thing, and yet the ghost of you lingers. The ghost of that former you.

"In time, this will change.", I remained quiet, her words corresponded to the words of the voice from the previous night, that I must change, be changed. "You will move by instinct, not these illusions of morality. Memories fade..."

"Is that so professor?"

"That is quite so, Mistress. And I am done playing *that* game with you."

I must admit that it gives me solace to bait her, there is undoubtedly something that she is hiding, it may be true that there is no way back for the professor I knew but the reaction my jibes yield are evidence of a deeper conflict within her. I am stark evidence that this "process" is far from perfect, it stands to reason that with each consciousness consumed some remnants are left behind.

"She is dead.", Nareth glanced at the floor.

"aren't we all?", I asked, then reconsidering, "well with an exception".

"No..in fact. To my disappointment.", she looked coldly at me.

"So...what, exactly, did you say, Mistress? You appear as ever you have. You breathe. You are warm. You haven't even grown your milk teeth yet."

I knit my brows at this. "Yes, I had noticed that".

"I am growing impatient Mistress", Nareth stood up, pacing slightly "This would be easier if you simply told me what did, in fact, occur."

"I explained that we had used science to defeat him. That our minds had joined, that I'd helped you. They seemed to accept it. But there were other questions, I don't truly recall them and before I left they went outside, Myrtil dragged Jimmy with her, like you do when you are making an excuse to talk about someone."

"I never mentioned magic, they think it was an experiment".

"They are children, Mistress. I shall have Lina watch them, however. She is eager."

"Thank you Nareth, I am sorry."

"Somehow, I do doubt that, Mistress."

"I should not have gone there."

In the silence that followed we both sat staring at one another. Nareth sat herself down on the floor beside the divan.After a minute or so, I cleared my throat.

"The priest last night."


"He was conflicted too."

"Was he? I did not have time to form any clear impression."

"You asked about his celibacy. He very quickly left without making an answer as I recall."

"Well, yes...I suppose I was goading him."

"That was the nature of the game was it not?"

"We will discuss this further...but I think I should...walk.". I nodded, I had infuriated her, I could see her seething, she was actually worried about what I had said to the children. "You must learn secrecy. Secrecy is the one thing that we must endure. It is our law.". She stood, glaring at me for a moment then turned to leave.

"I understand, but it is not in my nature to lie."

"That will change. As has your Nature, Mistress."I was a Prince of Lies...It is not a shame."

"Have a pleasant walk Nareth", I called as she climbed down without another word.

I lay upon the couch, turning over things in my mind. I probably fell asleep, for the next thin I recall, I heard and felt Nareth ascending once more into the loft.

"Well...", she uttered, passing into the loft, she seemed calmer now.

"Nareth?", I sat up, "enjoyable walk?"

She moved the room and sat on the divan next to me.

"As it happens...I came across Myrtil and Jimmy outside the theatre."

"oh?", I asked nervously.

"They are never hard to find. I have told them they are not to enter the laboratory. I have made it clear that, if they do, I will involve the authorities.

I nodded, "Was that wise?"

"There are places for orphans, where they can..be more beneficial..."

"but..telling a child that they cannot go somewhere, well....."

"It was..rational, Beq. I merely suggested to them a real world threat, should they trespass. Would you have preferred I killed them?"

"A rhetorical question I presume?"

"No. It was my first instinct. Let's have no more talk of those infernal children."

"Yes Nareth, I think it would be better for us both."

"After I awoke, before I rose...something occurred to me, and I wished to bring it to your attention.", Nareth glanced at me.

"Mr. Wirefly and Miss McMillan..."


"Is it not true that they both knew that I had blessed you with the gift, and that you were dying, well before you actually did?"

I swallowed unsure of where this was going. "Yes"

"They knew, did they not, the jeopardy that you were in. Indeed, I met with them myself."

"They did Nareth"

"I had told them to leave me."

"So...here is my question...", She turned slightly, to stare directly.

"They knew what was happening, and, more than this, I told him how I could be destroyed."

"you did?"

"And yet..", she paused, staring at me, I moved my gaze down to the floor. "Instead of even attempting a rescue...they fretted over your supposed violation of their trust. "Now. These are friends? It vexes me...truly.". I glanced back at Nareth her eyes looking deep into me and unable to meet her gaze settled to look around the room. "I told them...how I might be destroyed, and that I *could* be destroyed. They did not even try. I was...surprised.", She laughed derisively, "He carries that bloody great sword about...", she snorted. "Perhaps it has some *other* function."

"What could they do? I would not wish for them to try to destroy you, they would have only perished in the act."

"No, Beq. I told them that it was not certain that they would perish, as it was, truly, not certain.". My emotions, as ever, betrayed me, I was torn between her lying nature and the presentation of the facts as they appeared. "None of this is certain. Regardless....is this not how moral beings behave, risking one's life to save the life...the soul...of a friend?".

"No,", I snapped, this is not true. they will save me. They will find a way, even now they will be seeking such."

"They have already walked away from at least one opportunity, Mistress.". I felt the anger rising in me, no doubt Nareth could feel it too and was keen to exploit it. "More than one, in truth.", Nareth's gaze never wavered, those dark eyes boring into me.

"Stop it! I can see what you are trying to do."

"And what would that be? What...exactly..*would* that be?"

"You wish to destroy the ghost, the grip that I have", her face remained impassive at my accusation.

"I would have you see the truth, Mistress. It seems to be the thing you value. You gave your life to save them, yes?"

"the truth."




"yes alright yes"

"I offered them each the opportunity to exchange the favour. Clearly, plainly and they turned away. They let me have you. I find this...remarkable.

"No! I can't believe, they , they wouldn't."

"Mistress...I gave Orchid the option of spending one night and one day with me, in exchange for your freedom. She said no. I told her man he might vanguish me by decapitaion or a stake...He wielded nothing. Ergo..", Nareth rose as tears welled up in my eyes and I dropped my face to my hands.

"The truth, Mistress. I will lie, if it pleases you better.", Nareth looked down at me, no trace of a smile upon her lips.

"I would not have you lie, I would not have half truths either.", I retorted, blinking away my tears.

"I have not offered half truths. I see no point, at this time.", Nareth opened her casket.

"You told them how to destroy you. But did you tell them that would save me? Would it save me?"

"I will rest for a time...It might have, yes. I am not indestructable. Not this vessel. We will talk after I have rested."

"You did not answer the questions! arrghh", I snarled with frustration and anger.

"Which question, Mistress?", I threw the nearest thing to hand at the casket, Nareth watched as the book struck the stone coffin and fell to the floor.

"Did you tell them that killing you would save me?"

"Yes.", I balled my fists and looked away at this. If true then she was right. After a short pause she continued, "Well, I'm quite certain that it was a logical conclusion, at the very least. It was plain that you *could* be freed.", with this she slipped into the casket and lay staring at the ceiling. "Ask them, if you wish.".

"Logical? To kill the only one who knows the answers? I think you misjudge them".

"Perhaps I do. Animal logic often escapes me.", Nareth closed her eyes.

"Sleep Nareth, I need time".

"Yes, Mistress."