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Jonthom
July 24th, 2018, 07:50 PM
23rd July, 2318 AD/350 AA


The Fist of God


Reuss pulled his jacket tight against him, head bowed, glancing up every few seconds. The street was almost empty - curfew would be in effect in a few minutes. The few passersby were all wrapped up in their own affairs, anxious to be home or at least out of sight.


He turned the corner, made his way onwards, counting down his progress step by step. Reuss fingered the data crystal in his pocket, getting ready for the moment. Four, three, two -


Now.


He pulled the crystal from his pocket, just as the man approached. He passed the crystal and continued on his way, the two of them not stopping or even pausing on their way.


The same routine every week. Data on goings on in the neighbourhood, who was talking to who, who was speaking out of turn, uttering blasphemies. Who had shown signs of altruism and compassion, deviance, rebellion and other social crimes.


As far as what would happen to them -


Reuss shook his head violently, dislodging the thought as soon as it entered. Don't. Just don't.


He turned once more, making his way home, desperate as anyone to be safely indoors before curfew. Still a couple of minutes to go. Just down this side street, careful to avoid the mounting rubbish in the twilight, then -


“Reuss.”


The voice came out of the gloom in the alleyway. He squinted; two people, maybe three. Dressed in black, from head to tie, faces covered. Some kind of symbol on their chests, an arcane sigil. He turned, and behind him, two more had appeared out of nowhere.


His voice shook. “I...look, I know it's nearly curfew, I'm just on my way -”


“We are not Guardsmen, as you are well aware.”


“Look. If you know who I am you should know, I have friends in high -”


“We are aware of this.”


The words hung in the air. Reuss could not make out which of the figures in black was speaking. He glanced from one end of the alleyway to the other; nobody in sight. High above, the ever-present surveillance cameras looked on apathetically.


The voice came again, from one of them. Maybe all of them.


“Reuss. Born and raised in this city. Without any visible work for the past year, yet somehow untouched by the Pinkertons. You live alone.


“Each day you go out, make the same tours of your neighborhood and those surrounding, always wearing the same sapphire pendant. Each day, the same times and places - yet sometimes, you will visit one area more than others.


“Each week, the same walk down this same street, bumping into the same man. And the day after, those areas contaminated by your presence receive a visit from the Guardsmen. Another few corpses for the Coliseum.


“How on earth do you sleep at night?”


The voice was filled with contempt. Reuss swallowed nervously, glanced from one to another. To hell with it. If I'm going down, I'll go down with my head held high.


“What of it?” he retorted with a sneer. “So I help the Guardsmen with their enquiries, receive a small renumeration for my troubles. They only target the guilty. Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.”


“Then tell us, Reuss. Are you afraid?”


He looked at those surrounding him. Reuss bowed his head.


“If you're going to do this, make it quick. Just tell me one thing. Who are you?”


“Our names are unimportant,” said the voice, as one of the masked figures withdrew a small blade. “You can call us the Fist of God.”

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Theglasshouse
July 27th, 2018, 10:29 PM
Maybe this was too descriptive for me. For a story to work there needs to be some events to make sure we can follow some of the beginning, middle,and ending. That is just my opinion.

NeoKukulza
July 31st, 2018, 05:01 AM
It's a pretty good short story, gets the point across without excessive detail. I would almost like to see a bit more of it.

Tatami_Matt
July 31st, 2018, 09:10 PM
I agree with Neo. If this was the first chapter, I'd certainly read the second. Something about the mention of a coliseum, as well as this character's grim defiance in the face of death (the fact that he didn't cower makes me like him), as well as the apparent dystopian atmosphere, makes me interested in whatever comes next.

I say good work!

Jonthom
August 5th, 2018, 05:41 PM
Thanks for the feedback!

This is the first part of a longer story. The remaining is below :)


The Inspector


The Inspector cautiously approached the body, taking care not to disturb the scene too much. Everything about this case seemed wrong, and he was going to find out why. Around him, Guardsmen bustled, keeping the area clear of onlookers.

The body lay face up, eyes closed. But for the single, clean knife wound across the neck, he would almost seem serene. Wait. Something more. The Inspector unbuttoned the dead man’s shirt and immediately regretted it. Carved into his chest was a huge, grotesque symbol, glyph-like in appearance. It reminded him of something, something important, just out of reach. A sense of disturbing familiarity that pricked at something just behind the point of memory.

Shuddering inwardly, he reached to pull the shirt back. As he did so, an envelope fell out. He opened it.

“Dear Inspector,” he read. “The enclosed documents may be of use to you. Please take this as notice that your services in maintaining order, fickle as they were, are no longer required. We are able to manage our own problems and would encourage you to handle yours.


If however you should wish to obey the dictates of your conscience, to rebel against this of all worlds. You know where to find us.


And we know where to find you.


Yours with love and rage,


The Fist of God.”

The Inspector hurriedly replaced the body’s shirt and stuffed the envelope into his briefcase, the rest of its contents unread. His later half-hearted attempt to investigate further would be predictably rejected. In the meantime he had work to do.


The Inspector made his way back to the station, cramped inside a van alongside a dozen Guardsmen. Just enough time to file a report, then the day would be done. His superiors could wait till the morning.


As they moved on, his mind began to wander.

The Inspector still remembered one of the first cases he had been assigned. An arson in the outer neighbourhoods of the City of Dis, the enormous, walled City that had been the Institute's home and capital of the Amoral world these past three hundred years.


Cameras along the whole street, a dozen witnesses. It had been with tears in his eyes that he left the family, determined to bring those responsible to justice.

It had been with some surprise, two weeks later, that he received his superior’s command to halt the investigation.

“But, Sir -” he had protested.


“But nothing. You know what these neighbourhoods are like - the seventh circle. We get a dozen of these every week. We simply don’t have the resources to deal with all of them.”


“What about the fire just a week ago?”


“That was in the third. Those in the seventh are criminals, anti-socials and law breakers by nature – it is why they are there. Those in the third are lawful, socially responsible men and women, and those who are not are removed. Is it not fair that those who honour the law should benefit more from its protection?”


“But surely…”


“Is that a note of compassion I hear in your voice? Justice, even?”


He stiffened. “No sir. Of course not. Only a desire to see antisocial elements dealt with.”

And that had been that. The soon-to-be Inspector had returned to his duties and learned not to question, learned not to speak out, and did what he could to make his heart turn cold.



The Bar


“Same again?”


The Inspector nodded by way of reply. Report submitted, he had gone straight from the station in the fifth circle back to his home in the fourth, just in time to avoid his pass expiring. Even as one of the Watchers, an officer in that part of law enforcement dedicated to investigation and surveillance, he was still restricted by curfew same as anyone else.


The bartender brought over a glass of unidentifiable green liquid. It had a strange, almost metallic taste, mixed with a faintly sickly sweetness, but it did the job. “The job”, in this case, meaning the purchase of a few moments respite.


Suddenly, a thought struck him. The Inspector reached into his briefcase, pulled out the envelope he had found on the dead man's body. Opened it up, put aside the covering letter. Tried to ignore the spots of blood that marked it like raindrops.


Images, three to a page, printed on digitised paper.


First image. A man reaches into a large bag, withdraws a sandwich and bottle of drink, hands it to another. Nearby, a woman and child stand, seemingly waiting their turn.


Second image. Guardsmen raid the same area - the following day according to the timestamp. Same man, led away in chains.


Third image. The Coliseum. The same man, torn limb from limb, his flesh shredded and raw.


The Inspector stated at the images dispassionately, taking in their meaning. Next page.


Midnight, the fifth circle, a man stands nude in a circle of candles hurling abuse at a statue of the Elect. The same man, dragged away by Guardsmen. And last, in the Coliseum, battered and bruised and covered in blood.


Page after page of the same. A crime, a raid, and the aftermath in the Coliseum.


“He was working for us”, the Inspector muttered under his breath. “He was a mark.”


The Watchers and Guardsmen had long relied on the work of “marks”, collaborators, those who would infiltrate communities and gather intelligence that would later be used to punish the guilty.


Their identities were a closely guarded secret; should one be exposed, both the mark and all witnesses would be sent to the Coliseum as a matter of course.


Yet somehow…


The Inspector glanced through the rest of the papers. More of the same; crime, raid, Coliseum.


The final page was headed by an image. The Inspector squinted; it was the same occult glyph he had seen carved into the unfortunate man's body earlier that day.


Beneath the glyph, writing.


“PEOPLE OF THE CITY OF DIS - TAKE HEED!


THE FIST OF GOD DWELLS AMONGST YOU. DAY BY DAY WE GROW IN NUMBERS AND IN STRENGTH.


OUR GOALS ARE THIS: THE COMPLETE AND TOTAL OVERTHROW OF ALL SYSTEMS OF OPPRESSION AND DOMINATION, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.


OUR ENEMY IS NOT ONLY THE INSTITUTE, NOR ITS SUBSIDIARIES - THE GUARDSMEN, THE WATCHERS, THE PINKERTONS, OSA AND THEIR CRIMES.


WE FIGHT NOT ONLY AGAINST TYRANTS, BUT AGAINST A WORLD WHICH GRANTS TYRANTS POWER.


YOU WHO COLLABORATE WITH FORCES OF EXPLOITATION AND CORRUPTION, YOU WHO GRANT OPPRESSORS THEIR POWER, YOU WHO BELIEVE THEIR LIES AND PRACTICE THEIR BLASPHEMIES, KNOW THIS.


YOU ARE NOT SAFE.


YOU CANNOT HIDE.


WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE. WE KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE.


CONSIDER THIS MAN A WARNING. PRAY THAT YOU DO NOT NEED ANOTHER.”


“Put that away.”


The Inspector jumped, lost in what he was reading. The bartender stood at his side, staring at the piece of paper in his hands.


“Look, I...I'm not involved with this, I'm an Inspector. I was -”


The bartender shook his head. “Not interested. Please just drink up and leave. I don't want trouble and those lot -”


“Wait, you've heard of this group? The Fist of God?”


“Like I said. I don't want to get involved. Please.”


The bartender's eyes met those of the Inspector. He paused a moment, shrugged, downed the last of his drink and made his way into the night.


As he left, he glanced into the window, catching the bartender's reflection as he whispered into his shirt.



The Meeting


“Cancelled?”


The Inspector tried his hardest to make the surprise in his voice seem genuine. His superior sat across the table, likewise feigning disappointment.


“I'm afraid so. We just don't have the resources.” His superior paused. “Still. Tell me. What do you make of this?”


The Inspector paused, weighed up his options. To hell with it. “He was...unpopular in his community”, he said, choosing his words carefully. “I'm not sure people trusted him, if you know what I mean.”


“And with good reason”.


The Inspector paused. “Sir?”


His superior threw down a brown folder. The Inspector glanced through it. The dead man, meeting with vagrants and dissidents, the compassionate, the disobedient. Dregs of society.


“The dead man, Reuss, had been on our radar for some time,” his supervisor continued. “He was spotted a couple of months ago, a mark informed us that he routinely failed to bow his head when passing statues of the Elect - statues of the Founder, even.


“We had been keeping tabs on him, waiting to see if he was alone in his blasphemy or part of some wider movement. It would seem he got on the wrong side of the wrong person, one of the scum he was known to associate with. No great loss. Walk with rabid dogs, expect to be bitten.”


“Sir, with respect. I have reason to believe this was a targeted killing. That the dead man was a mark, and -”


“Yes”, said the supervisor, snorting in clear distaste. “I am aware of your reading material. Hand it over please.”


The Inspector handed over the envelope. His supervisor glanced through the pages, pausing briefly on the written statement, before placing the lot into a shredder.


“The man was a fantasist, nothing more. This so-called group is a fiction, the delusion of a sick individual struck with a hatred of society. This investigation is over.”


Predictable.


The Inspector bowed his head, stood, offered his supervisor the special handshake due his rank and received the same in return.


And that, once more, was that.


Today he was to return to the fifth circle, this time to investigate allegations of the use of unauthorised magick. The Inspector got his pass, made his way to the Guardsmen's van, thought better of it and opted for the subway.


He made his way to the station, down the stairs to one of the huge subway tunnels that wound through the city like intestines. Scanned his pass, boarded the next train to the fifth and out he went.


The carriage was almost empty. A woman and child sat at the far end, faces turned away, eager to avoid attention. An old man sat alone, either asleep, passed out or dead. And the Inspector.


He closed his eyes, spoke softly. “SIERRA ECHO ROMEO PETER INDIA CHARLIE OSCAR”.


His neural implant activated. In his mind's eye he saw the first, the Watcher, the one who had founded the Watchers and defined their purpose. That each would spy on all, a society in which secrecy was both a way of life for the state and non-existent for the individual.


<<What brings you here?>>


“Information”, the Inspector said softly. “A group. Terrorists, dissidents. They call themselves the Fist of God.”


<<I have records on this group.>>


“Can I see them?”


<<No.>>


Predictable. Something else?


“There was a murder two nights ago, in the fifth circle. A man by the name of Reuss. You have records on this?”


<<Yes.>>


“Can I see them?”


<<Yes.>>


The Watcher disappeared. In his place was a scene from the fifth circle, the main street. One man - Reuss - walked down the street, passed by another, bumped into him, kept moving. The Inspector watched as Reuss went down one street, then another, finally ducking into a side street. And then…


Nothing.


The Inspector willed the video to change position, moving to a camera pointing at the side street. Rewind the video; play. The Inspector squinted; he could just make out the shadows of a group of people, four or five, tucked inside the side street. They were motionless, pressed against the walls, barely visible against the darkness. Reuss approached again, turned again; the figures stepped into action, their bodies suddenly blocking him from view.


“They knew he would be there”, he muttered.


The video faded away. The Inspector deactivated his neural implant, opened his eyes. The world rushed back in, suddenly bright and colourful. He sprung to his feet just in time to exit the carriage, across the platform, up the stairs. Out to face the day.



The Bartender


The Inspector made his way through the fifth circle. Residents passed him by, eyeing him with suspicion and fear. The large eye placed over his left breast served as both a form of surveillance, recording all it saw and sending the records to headquarters; and as a warning and a threat to any would be assailants. The sign of the Watcher.


The report of unauthorised magick was, predictably, nothing of the sort, merely the petty grievances of everyday life - a squabble between two neighbours over food, of all things. The Inspector issued them both with a a fine and went on his way.


Back to the fourth circle to write his report then onto the next case of the day. But first…


Almost subconsciously, blocking the thoughts from his mind, the Inspector found himself making his way through one side street after another, retracing the steps he had seen Reuss take the previous day. As he grew closer, he could hear the murmur of the crowd, voices muttering in speculation and anger and fear.


The crowd came into view as he reached the alleyway, bodies pushing past one another trying to get closer to the alley itself. Before he saw it, he knew, could smell that familiar smell of blood shed by the pint.


The crowd parted around him, some vanishing as they saw the sign of the Watcher, others retreating to watch in tense anticipation.


Just inside the alleyway, he saw him, spread out, nailed by the outstretched wrists and ankles to the wall like something the Inspector could not quite remember.


The Bartender.


His tongue was cut out, eyes and ears with them, arranged in a neat pile at his feet. The man's throat was slit, blood pooling at his feet. The Inspector undid the bartender's shirt, knowing before he opened it what it would reveal. That same glyph, carved into his chest with delicate precision.


On the wall, written in blood, a message.


“WE DID IT FOR YOU.”

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Winston
August 6th, 2018, 01:15 AM
I like dialogue driven stories, but this could use a bit more descriptive narrative.

This seems like a dark and oppressive world. I would drive home the dread with more vivid imagery.

An intriguing piece.

Ralph Rotten
August 6th, 2018, 02:54 PM
I liked the first section; it did a good job (for a rough draft) of painting the dystopian world in your story. It needs a little more development around Reuss (but you are off to a great start.)

But it all fell apart in the second section. Your character development completely dropped off and people just became The Inspector, or The Bartender.

Slow down, take your time to introduce those characters and their world. Never forget that in modern fiction the characters are more important than the story itself. What you did in the 2nd section was rush to tell the story.

If it were my story, I'd go back and give each character a paragraph of intro, followed by some subtle brush strokes to continually illustrate the characters & the world around them.

Keep writing; you have potential.

Jonthom
August 7th, 2018, 10:27 AM
Thank you for your feedback :) I will take this on board for future writings.

A few points. This is not a stand alone piece, but part of an ongoing story (or rather, series of stories) set in a fictional universe divided between the present day and this future sci-fi/fantasy setting. These characters will appear in future pieces, where their backstory, appearance and so on will be explored in depth. Think of this as an opening chapter in an ongoing story, not as a piece on its own.

On naming:

This world is run by the Spirit Science Research Institute. People have personal names, sometimes given to them from birth, sometimes adopted by choice. Reuss, for example, is named for Theodor Reuss (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodor_Reuss), an occultist and police spy. In a world infatuated with the occult, Reuss's story is well known, and this Reuss took on the name as a matter of pride.

People are also referred to by their role and their position in relation to the Institute, to the point that the role almost supercedes the person - encouraging people to only see themselves and one another in terms of their usefulness or otherwise to the Institute.

In the 2018 continuity for example, there is a character whose true name is Elijah. Within the Institute, however, he was known as the Prodigy, having been singled out by the Institute for his potential. On leaving, he was vilified as the Apostate.

Compare “The Inspector” to “The Doctor" from Doctor Who. While the Doctor does have a true name, the name he took on and is known by has grown to mean more than the one he was born with.

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Theglasshouse
August 8th, 2018, 02:21 AM
I liked the pacing and the plot and agreed with Winston's comments. I liked the second part more, and like the invention, you displayed in the story for the inspector. I see this could easily be a society at a later time in the future. Like the current events of terrorism. I like to be honest. It wasn't predictable, only a little, and it held my attention and hooked me. I write dialogue stories myself. Good work. Seems like the second part I needed to read.