"Legacy of Dust and Stone" (Fantasy/Cyberpunk) - Page 3

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  1. #21
    Thanks, marrow - I will go take a look
    "Fair enough, but to some people, getting Sherlock Holmes wrong is like offering
    a Bacon Butty to a Rabbi."
    -- Pilgrim

  2. #22
    Here is the 4th chapter - my pen is still cooling I only read through it once, so there might be lots of little mistakes. I hope you enjoy it though, as the story is gaining quite a bit of momentum now. Please comment, thanks! Criticism is even more welcome! ^^

    IV. Quickening

    Central District: Calico Bombing Site

    Jim Borne flashed his photoactive ID once more as he crossed the last of the three cordons around what had been several office buildings. Now little more remained than burned-out ruins and a pervading stink of burned plastics with luckily only a hint of charred bacon. Still, he would probably have to change his breakfast habits for a while.

    As he reached the edge of the blast radius he felt rather than saw the eyes of the CSI team. It was the all-time-classic "Get off our turf", which had not needed language ever since the first cluster of bacteria had decided to get territorial and bumped off the neighbors. He ignored them. A great part of police work required ignoring people who could only cause you trouble if you paid attention to them.

    He really wished his partner had come as well. It was so much easier if one of them kept the ghouls busy, while the other looked for anything that might give them a general idea of where to start with their investigation. But then he was usually the one taking all the abuse so it wasn't so bad after all. Maybe he could actually find something, before the Agency took over and all bits of evidence would vanish like pre-election promises on a hot summer's night.

    One did not have to be much of an expert to see what had happened here. That was probably why they tried to keep civilians at such a distance. In some places, small explosions had taken place. The fire that swept through the entire complex afterward must have had a completely separate source. Its epicenter of molten concrete was more than 50 meters away from the nearest detonation.

    So who would have the resources and access level to plant bombs not only underneath the Calico office building, but equidistantly throughout the complex? The list of suspect wasn't very long. In fact, he could only think of two organizations powerful enough: the Agency itself or the Exodus freaks with their space station in high orbit.

    Calico Corp was actually largely owned by Exodus, so it was unlikely they would destroy their own equipment. On the other hand, the Agency was New London's very own intelligence service. Unless a third, as yet unknown party, was involved in the matter, things were turning bad very quickly.

    Having satisfied his curiosity, he decided to leave before somebody decided to have him killed. Kell would want to know as well. If he wasn't too busy turning the whole of New London upside down to find out what had happened to Elza.

    "Damn it", he mumbled, "He would never admit it, but he loves that crazy girl."

    * * *

    The stars seemed strange tonight, Tara thought. They were bright, but seemed to flicker. There was also only two of them on the ceiling above. The meadow she was lying on seemed strangely smooth, as if the stalks of grass didn't even touch her arms and back.

    Then her world turned cold. A blast of icy wind assaulted her face and she screamed. The next moment her mouth was full of air as thick as water and her cry was cut off before it had time to gain volume. Tendrils of it pushed up her sinuses and down her throat.

    When she was sure that she would die from suffocation, the assault subsided and she blinked with tears in her eyes. Raril was sitting next to her in almost-human form. There was a white sheet underneath him, just like the walls and the ceiling were white. Something in Tara's mind still insisted on being on an open field under a starry sky, but the spell was broken.

    "Thanks", she murmured, "But couldn't you have simply pushed away the illusion rather than dousing me in a blizzard?"

    He just looked at her with amusement. Yes, she knew. He never touched the minds of humans except to teach them things they wanted to know, things they should know. And even then he did so with the utmost caution. According to him, it was a matter of pride. Too many of his former brethren had become parasites and he loathed the idea of joining their ranks.

    "Where am I?", Tara finally asked as the silence continued for a minute longer, "Some kind of hospital?"

    "A place that smells of despair", he answered with disgust, "The very air is stagnant with it. There is death as well, but I think they keep it in the rooms further down."

    She resisted asking him what he meant by that and focused on the immediate future:

    "You wouldn't be here unless I was in mortal danger. So how do I get out?"

    He smiled:

    "Maybe you are learning from me after all. A few months ago you would have wanted to know everything about this place first and by the time you started moving, your body would have already been ended. Well, follow me."

    He stood and walked, or rather levitated, to the door and walked through it. The metal it consisted of cracked and groaned, then it crumbled to ice-rimmed shards. Tara got to her feet with some difficulty and almost cut her bare feet when she stepped through into the corridor beyond.

    He was already halfway towards the door at the far end and the icy corpses of a nurse and a security guard lay slumped against the walls. It was the first time that she had seen Raril actually kill somebody, but she knew that he hadn't taken their life force. It was almost a waste, but he had his principles.

    Her progress through the facility felt like it was happening to someone else. She barely remembered taking the shoes off a nurse and grabbing a bunch of random clothes from a hospital bed they passed. A fallen guard donated a device that looked like a cross between a flashlight and a cattle prod and she made liberal use of it. Raril approved as he had to do less killing now. They would wake up a few hours later with only a bit of pain.

    She remembered asking him about his feelings when ending lives, something he had always disapproved of so fervently. His answer had made her shiver:

    "Most of their Mei has already been eaten and what is left is so tainted, it needs to be purged. I'm not eager to do it, but I would feel more regret killing flies."

    The rest of their flight was spent in silence, lights and voices flashing by without leaving lasting impressions in Tara's mind. When she finally threw open the last door and bright daylight streamed through, she was winded and bewildered, but felt more alive than ever before.

    Raril had disappeared. She hadn't expected anything else. He had done his part, now it was up to her. He didn't believe in meddling any more than necessary. She found herself in a deserted side street, having left what looked like a run-down lower district apartement. There were no guards and no cameras that she could see, even though she was pretty sure there had to be some.

    When she had run for several minutes and rounded the third corner without meeting any opposition, she finally allowed herself to slow and breathe. Someone stepped out of the alley to her left and turned toward her. Only now did a suspicion rise inside of her. There had been no people. Even in this part of town there had to be people.

    Turning around, she noticed several more figures that had somehow sidled up to her from all directions. She was cornered like an animal. Cursing, she crouched and brandished her weapon. The woman in front of her just smiled amicably:

    "Don't be alarmed. I can't exactly say that we are your friends, but we are not the ones who put you into that clinic. After the bombing, we extracted as many people as possible, but the Agency arrived before we could get everyone. They so hate it when people are left to talk."

    When Tara showed no sign of dropping her fighting pose, she waved and the three men on all sides slowly drew similar weapons, activating the electic tips.

    "I'm not asking you to trust us. You can choose between coming vertically or horizonzally, if you get my meaning. We will not cut you up and sell your organs like the Agency would have done, but there is no time for convincing you with words. It's now or never."

    In the distance Tara could here a siren, then more joined it and drew closer. She threw away the taser and hurried after the woman who had turned and rushed off immediately. The men quickly surrounded her, acting like protectors rather than abductors as they kept looking around for trouble, shielding her with their bodies.

    Their flight ended two blocks further at a small gate in a large wall. Tara knew this building: the Exodus embassy. How did the space freaks fit into all of this? The gate clanged shut behind her and two female guards began to pat her down and scanned her from head to toe. She understood the need for security, but felt a little annoyed nonetheless.

    "Can't have you spy on us without knowing", the woman who had brought her commented with an apologetic smile, "You will receive clothing and information inside the office and a technician will look you over for any signs of mind alteration."

    Tara shivered. There had been lots of alterations, but she was pretty sure Raril had made short work of them. He hadn't infiltrated her mind, but had given her what could only be called a "cold reset". Hopefully she would never have to experience anything like it again.

    She noticed the people they passed giving her strange glances and, following their gaze, realized that she was wearing a black leather jacket over a tattered blue-green petticoat. Her cheeks flushed and she was gratful when she found their first stop to be the clothing store. She felt like she owed these Exodus guys already. No matter what happened next, she wouldn't want to be seen dead in rags like that.

    For her mental examination, she simply had to go through a number of simple exercises and was soon released with a clean bill of health. She was left to wait in a corridor outside of a row of offices. There were few guards and she understood the message: We have no reason to treat you like a prisoner, so you shouldn't try to escape.

    She was just about to fall asleep in the comfortable chair, when the door next to her flew open and two people erupted from it in a cascade of shouted abuse.

    "...must be insane to bring a replicant here! That's what they have been waiting for all along! You have probably doomed us all! Get the guards right now!"

    "Hey, hey, calm down! Calm down. She's clean and she's no replicant. I was just as surprised as you when I picked up her signal outside of that butchery, but I wouldn't let anybody they are interested in go to waste."

    Tara felt like she was taking part in a badly-acted comedy. They knew she was sitting there. They knew she was listening. She wouldn't give them the satisfaction of showing surprise or anxiety. Instead she looked up calmly, the way an adult might watch two squabbling children.

    They noticed her gaze and her raised eyebrows. The man lowered the panic button he was holding and met her eyes. He was tall, well above 6 feet, and had a thin beard on his chin as well as just a hint of a mustache. Most peculiar were his eyes, though. They were milky white with no irises around the pupils. Cyborg, Tara thought.

    "When you two are done setting up your game of 'good cop, bad cop', maybe we can begin the interrogation. I know you are going to measure my vitals and responses to ascertain whether or not I am telling the truth. I'm also very tired, so let's get this over with."

    She was ushered into the office which was comfortably furnished and had several paintings on the walls, even though she didn't recognize the artist. There were even two potted yuccas in the corners next to the large frosted glass window that covered an entire wall. She sat down in a chair next to a large oakwood book case.

    A slight scent of incense clung to the air and she soon recognized the joss sticks in front of a small statue in a corner. So he was a progressionist, one of those looneys that worshipped the power of the ancients and Radinov as their prophet. He saw her look of disgust and gave her what was surely intended as a comforting smile:

    "We are living in times of great change. A man needs something to hold on to, someone to look up to."

    "Why not simply worship god? I mean... I understand how people don't believe in him, but who would be so stupid to pray to some long-dead human? That's like jumping into a puddle of mud right next to a clean lake, isn't it?"

    Tara didn't know very much about spiritual things, but maybe she could unbalance the man a little. Raril kept talking about "The First" and he had been around since... well... practically forever. Knowing him, most religions seemed as transient to her now as yesterday's laundry.

    "You will understand, when you see the promised land."

    He was still smiling, but it no longer reached his eyes. The woman standing next to him was obviously somewhat displeased with him and her glare silenced him immediately. So that's how it is, Tara thought. She is the in charge after all.

    "Well, we haven't introduced ourselves. My name is Jane Langdon and my colleage is..."

    "John. Simply John."

    Both of them shook Tara's hand and her sense of unreality only increased. These people, she thought with rising dread, are completely bonkers. Knowing that she was completely at their mercy, she gave them her best smile. The woman, seeming encouraged to go ahead, placed a small box on the table between them. Through the transparent cover, Tara could see a large syringe filled with a clear blue liquid.

    "How would you like to take a trip to space?"

    She shut her eyes. That's it, she thought. The world has gone mad or I have died and gone to hell. It was probably just an auditory hallucination, but she thought she could hear Raril chuckle.
    "Fair enough, but to some people, getting Sherlock Holmes wrong is like offering
    a Bacon Butty to a Rabbi."
    -- Pilgrim

  3. #23
    I just updated the ebook file as well, correcting various small mistakes. For reasons of convenience I won't update the posts on the forum, so if you want the latest version, you should use the PRC-file, which is better to read anyway. Here is the link once more:

    "Fair enough, but to some people, getting Sherlock Holmes wrong is like offering
    a Bacon Butty to a Rabbi."
    -- Pilgrim

  4. #24
    Member QDOS's Avatar
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    Oct 2011
    Blog Entries
    Hi MadBen
    This is my first view of your work. I found the concept intriguing, however the storyline jumps from one scene to another. Your ploy may be deliberate but it leaves me somewhat unfulfilled. I feel the main characters need more definition and by that I donít necessarily mean characterisation but their purpose.

    Void - The Beginning of Time
    I think you could work this to have a bit more of a flow. For me the static statements donít quite gel. The first the first, the first, sound like your ringing a bell and the dramatic command that I feel your trying to give it, a Geneses opening is lost.

    Mesopotamia - Deep Prehistory
    I guess this is a likeness to the tower of Babel. Although Iím not quite sure what the outcome is in this case. In fact the whole function of Raril is a bit vague Iíd like to know more. This section I feel needs to be expanded.

    New London - 17th of March 2191
    Tara could hardly believe her eyes when she watched the news that morning.

    What was the news ? Reading on I thought the discovery of cold fusion and the lighting of permanent sunlight, only to discover that had already been achieved in 2141. Ah! The Dawn of Ages is that it.
    Then Raril is revealed as death and maybe Tara has sold her soul to the devil and a pupil of his teaching.

    II Lower New London - 17th of March 2191
    A strange creature that looked like a cross between a giant fly and an octopus disentangled itself from the Meta control node they had just used. It felt entirely pleased with its handiwork. The master would also be pleased.

    Iím now wondering if this is developing into a twist on Alien. And then are humans surviving by continually replacing body parts and harvesting daemons as alter egos.

    III New London, Central District
    Tara Caine being called to account, then we switch to Elza confronting a wolf in some sort of mental mind game. Then ends with:-

    "Welcome to hell. Please make yourself at home, because you are now officially dead."

    IV Quickening
    Central District: Calico Bombing Site a filler that might have had some importance my only clue is possibly:-
    "Damn it", he mumbled, "He would never admit it, but he loves that crazy girl." I assume a reference to Tara

    Tara waking up in some sort of hospital facility then escapes with the help of Raril. Then taken to the Exodus Embassy and moves to;- "How would you like to take a trip to space?"

    You have the story in your head I can only make my assumptions from what Iíve read. It may be totally wrong. My I hope this gives you some understanding as to where you might tighten up or provide more explanation to make it easier for the reader to follow.


  5. #25
    First off, thanks for your detailed comment, QDOS.

    It shows me very well which parts caught your eye and which (guessed from the strange interpretations in places that could only be caused by reading three lines at a time) you skimmed.

    The first section is actually what you might call "doing the Robert Jordan". In his world-famous series "The Wheel of Time" he has this ever-recurring cryptic opening theme you might know.

    I will make sure to peruse your comment when doing the next cycle of proofreading, thanks again for your time!
    "Fair enough, but to some people, getting Sherlock Holmes wrong is like offering
    a Bacon Butty to a Rabbi."
    -- Pilgrim

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