Thursday, October 15, 2009

Asael XIII

This is part of my ongoing novel. Think of it as Killer Angels taking place in a musket and magic fantasy world with characters that combine the religious sensibilities of American revivalism with Beowulf-like blood feuds. All this while engaging in Talmudic style dialectics. “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition” is about to take on a whole new meaning.

Introduction, A Note from the Author, Prologue, I, II, III,IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII

Marcellus clapped his hands. “A fine performance; you would do well debating theology in the Agora coffee house.”

Caxton bowed. “I have done so on occasion, but, in my newly converted sophistry, my employer has opened my eyes to scorn such idle behavior. Now that you are purchasing my employer’s sophistry, I would add that such places have been empirically proven to be detrimental to one’s health.”

“And yet you and your employer, in your pride, seem to believe that you can betray us to the Senate,” came a voice from the far corner of the basement.

Caxton greeted this new charge with a smile. “Helvetius Tyranaco. I would expect no one, but a snake like you, to sling his mouth from the shadows. No disrespect to you Marcellus for the company you keep.”

“All your sophistry cannot hide the facts that for the past few months, ever since our band of freedom fighters has started doing business with you, the Senate’s military has gained the uncanny ability to predict our movements.” Helvetius turned to Marcellus. “I warned you about this man. Without a doubt this very meeting is a trap. He has probably already alerted Senate troops to our location. They will be on the move this very moment.”

The thought struck Asael. “Helvetius was right; this meeting was a trap, but not one set by Caxton or his employer.” This was the first time Asael had been in this dream so he was not certain how he knew this. Then the thought hit him: “Caxton knows this is a trap for him yet he has walked right into it.”

Marcellus reached into his pocket to pull out a device that had begun to give a buzzing sound. “You are remarkably prescient as usual Helvetius. According to our little friend at headquarters, they just sent out orders. We have company coming to this neighborhood. By the looks of it, this is not urban police; we have full federal military forces of the Senate with armor and zeppelins.”
Helvetius smiled. “Well that settles it, shoot the man.”

A trio of guns were raised in Caxton’s direction, but were waved down by Marcellus, who tossed the device to Helvetius. “Apparently there are people who are equally as fond of Mr. Bragg as you are.”

Caxton craned his neck in Helvetius’ direction. “So are we back to people making death threats with guns to me again?”

Helvetius grimaced as he turned the device in Caxton’s direction revealing to everyone else in the room a picture of Caxton with the caption “priority target, shoot upon any sign of resistance.”

Marcellus clapped his hands and his men sprang into action. Caxton brushed past Helvetius before dropping in behind Gin. They had barely exited the building when Caxton heard the sound of zeppelin airships overhead. There was something else he sensed. Whatever it was Asael was certain that, whatever trap Caxton had planned on walking into, this new thing was unexpected as Caxton just stood there for several seconds gawking. Gin pushed him aside as someone shouted “zeppelin attack platforms.” A missile tore apart a building down the block. The blast had knocked everyone in the party still standing off of their feet. Several of Marcellus’ men were wounded, quite badly Caxton was certain. He helped Gin to her feet. “Apparently the Senate is no longer allowing you people to hide behind civilians.” Caxton grabbed her hand and led her in a trot down a side alley. Nearby they could hear the sound of returning fire. “It is at times like this that I am glad I lack any moral qualms about selling shoulder fired anti-aircraft guns to civilians, the lead to take out a zeppelin.”

Gin rolled her eyes at the attempt at humor, but followed after him. “When we get out of this you are going to owe Marcellus an explanation and if Marcellus does not get out you are going to owe me one.”

“What do you mean fem?”

“I am not brainless enough to be your fem or to think that there is nothing more to this than you are telling us. You are not being targeted because you sold guns to us. We are being targeted because we bought guns from you.”

“Does not seem rational, but then again neither does torching a neighborhood in order to catch freedom fighters like you. This is simply too chaotic.”

“Whatever you say, but I am sticking to you until I get a rational explanation from you.”
Caxton smiled. “Then you better stick close. I may not be the safest ticket out.” He unlocked the briefcase from his handcuff and took out the rifle. “You back me up with that door-jammer of yours.” The pair was soon greeted by the gunfire of a squad of black masked Senate troops backed by an armored vehicle. The men were flaming anyone foolish enough to try escape into the streets. Caxton whispered to Gin: “I’ll draw their fire. You plumb guy in the halftrack than head to the roof. I will meet you on top. Head in the direction of the station; I have reservations for the nine o’clock, hopefully it will be at its usual two minutes late.”

With a gleeful laugh, Caxton slid across the opening of the alley, taking two men down with head shots. He scampered up a pile of garbage and leaped onto a fire-escape. The halftrack stopped at the bottom, leaving the backside open for Gin’s blast, which punched a fist sized hole through the left side of the gunner’s torso, splattering the remaining three soldiers in the street. The men returned fire as Gin dived through a window.

Caxton was heading to the roof of his building when he looked down to see the one he had sensed earlier in the street. He took the form of a tall man, though Caxton knew that this was no man, with a pair of tattoos pulling the skin underneath his eyes. Caxton cursed himself for being so focused on getting Gin and himself away from Marcellus’ party that he had not paid closer attention to this other threat. “Damn you Paleface; what brings you to this place?” Paleface, wearing an officer’s uniform, waved the surviving men off before heading into the building after Gin. Caxton began muttering underneath his breath. Asael was not certain what language Caxton was speaking in, but Asael was certain that it was something involving the violation of numerous incest taboos.

Caxton reached the top of the building. The site of looking down more than ten stories to the pavement gave Asael the shivers or was that Caxton who was shivering. Instead of heading in the direction of the station, Caxton headed toward the other side of the building. He saw Gin immerge several buildings away. Biting her lip, she leaped the narrow gaps to get the building next to Caxton. Gin looked at Caxton and then glanced nervously at the gap to be jumped and the drop below. Caxton motioned her to jump. Gin trotted several steps backward before going into a running jump. Paleface emerged from the building which Gin had come out of a minute earlier. Caxton fired a sniper shot at their assailant before slinging the rifle over his back and dropping to his knees. Gin’s feet kicked off the side wall at the top of the building; the brick wall briefly caught her as her hands flailed up into the air. Caxton leaned outward, grabbed Gin and flipped her onto the rooftop.

“Hollow shell, alenium explosives, what a waste!” were the thoughts that rang in Asael’s mind.

“Ready to run Gin” and the two of them ran. Below them, Asael saw an alien city ablaze in the nighttime’s destruction. On this night there were more things to be feared than heights or the soldier’s below. Gin snuck a glance backward as Paleface easily jumped the gap behind them.
More thoughts flashed through Asael’s mind. They were not his own and they arrayed themselves as incoherent bits as if they were the left over gleanings of faded thoughts. Worse his own thoughts seemed to be out of his reach as if bound by the mind he dwelt in. Even his own name seemed to now be beyond him. Whatever pursued him carried no weapons, ancient or modern.

“He does not defile his hands with mortal weapons. In the Oraitha it says: ‘An alter shall you make for me of stone and earth. No blade of iron shall hew it.’ To which the Sages asked: ‘Why no iron?’ Their answer: ‘So says Rachmana: my alter, which brings peace to the world, shall be fashioned using iron, which is used to make swords?’” If the Sages of old could only see the creature that followed they would have raised their hands in approval. Even the Oraitha had allowed iron implements to be used for sacrifice. “The ways of the Lord are pleasant.”

“This creature offers sacrifice with no iron; a pure sacrifice, untainted by any concessions to mortal needs.”

Asael was not certain whose thoughts they were, his or Caxton’s? Why would Caxton know to quote the Oraitha?

“As they ran Caxton felt Paleface gain on them with purposeful strides, but never a run. “The enemy that could not be killed, but would one day kill him.” This was the object of his hatred, his fear, but also his love. Who was this thing that came for him? It seemed right off the corner of his tongue. In other dreams it came to him. Other dreams, in other bodies, in other times and places.

Caxton stopped at the edge of a building; both he and Gin turned to face their hunter. Paleface smiled at them, swinging his long arms back and forth in a purposeful motion, and spoke to Gin. “You have no idea what you have with you.” In the distance a train whistle could be heard. Caxton flicked the open cuff onto Gin’s wrist. “No she does not.” And with that he jumped into the darkness, pulling Gin down with him.

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