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The International Writers Magazine
The Great Beyond: a serialised novel about life beyond death
If you haven't read the previous thirteen chapters start at Chapter One here

The Great Beyond - Chapter XIV
Brodie parker

"That was close." I said. "They were right on top of us." I could feel the resistance from the other side as I closed the breech. I couldn’t tell who they were but there were plenty of them. We couldn’t sit still for very long. There would people on this side looking for us soon if there weren’t already. The obvious targets would be my family and friends, so we had to plan quickly and act immediately.

"We need to split up. Are you sure we can handle anything they send at us here?" My companions were sitting in a slight daze. I had an easier time crossing through the breech than they did. I waited patiently for them to collect themselves.
"Yes," said Clemens, "we can easily overpower anyone from either side here. Even if they send huge numbers of enemies at us. But before we go any farther we need a plan. We need to return as soon as possible to the other side. We can hide here for now but eventually we have to go back and make some serious changes. The council will be in chaos for a while. The larger faction will still operate with their typical heavy handedness to try to placate or subdue any of our sympathizers. We have to find them and either bring them here or find a way to hide them on the other side. The more the merrier. For now we should look after Sloan’s family. They will undoubtedly try to use them to bring us out. Once we’ve established wards and other guards and defenses we can begin contacting others from the council and the Gray Area." He stopped suddenly. Then we all felt something sweep over us and move away, then reverse itself and come back towards us. He gestured and as it passed over us again I couldn’t feel it.
"Someone is searching for us already." Urimaru spoke up. "They’re working fast. We’d better wrap things up here and move out."
"There will be two primary targets and several secondary targets. Gloria and May will be the primaries. Your friends will come second. I assume you want to guard Gloria, so I’ll watch over May and Urimaru will guard your friends until we can bring others in on it, or they get the point and stop sending their people after them."
By May he meant my mother. There was only one person I had ever know who called her May. I suddenly understood what Clemens meant when he said we were blood. "Uncle Jerry." I said. "I should have caught on sooner."

He smiled and suddenly he looked like himself again. Like he did the last time I saw him alive but better; more alive than ever. "I thought you would have, but you’ve had a lot on your mind. I’m proud of you kid. You’ve surpassed all my expectations of you, and I had many. When I was murdered they thought they were taking you out. They confused us and it set them back for years. I tried to keep up the subterfuge as long as possible, but shortly after I joined with the council they knew they had the wrong man. I did everything I could to ensure your safety but I suppose it was only a matter of time. I’m sorry."
"Don’t be. I know you did everything you could. You always did. Even for those ungrateful brats you died saving. If I have to be in this situation, I’m glad I’m in it with you."
"This is all very touching," Urimaru said "but we should finish here and leave as soon as possible."

The search continued as we spoke. The sweep had passed us over several times with only Clemens’ web keeping us off the radar. "I think they spotted us on the first pass. They’ll send in someone soon."
Clemens nodded in agreement. "I’ll set up watch over May. After a couple of days, if nothing happens I’ll contact the two of you and we’ll discuss what should be done next.
"I would rather send Urimaru to guard Gloria." I said. "I’ll go see after the guys and wait there for your signal." Clemens looked startled but didn’t argue.
"Very well. Try to keep a low profile and be ready for anything." With that, he was gone. I felt the field that shielded us leave with him, and tried to duplicate it. It took some time to get it right, and it felt like there was something clinging to me as the sweep continued. It sloughed off as I figured out the web and followed Urimaru out of the alley we were in.
"Take good care of her."
"Naturally." He replied with his playful smile, then he was gone too.

I took a moment to make my hair darker, as well as my skin pigmentation. I looked nothing like myself as I boarded the bus that would take me to the studio where my friends would eventually congregate. I couldn’t spare any time to watch them individually and I needed my hands free to move on Clemens’ orders at the drop of a hat. I would have to warn them off and convince them that they needed to be cautious. I knew them all well enough to know that a leap of faith would not do. They would need proof, and I would have to prove it to them. I was still thinking it over as the bus stopped a few blocks from the building. I looked through the walls as I approached and found it empty except for Thomas. That would make things easier. If I could convince one I could convince all of them. Thomas would be as good a place to start as any.

He answered the door with a boken still in hand. He looked like he had been practicing hard, and was just getting warmed up. Perfect. I introduced myself as a friend of Sloan’s and produced one of my old business cards. He invited me in and offered me a drink. We talked about the ‘accident’ and some of the swords that lined the mirrored walls of the section we used for sparring. I asked if he would like some help with training and he seemed eager to have someone else who knew their way around a sword to practice with. The wooden practice swords were kept on a rack in the corner. I picked out the one that had always been my favorite and faced him. He didn’t mention my selection or show any sign that it affected him, but after several passes he got a puzzled look on his face that became more and more pronounced as we went back and forth. Finally he stopped me in the middle of a spirited fight.
"How did you know Sloan? You weren’t just business associates. You knew him as well as I knew him. Fighting styles are like fingerprints. I know how Sloan fights and what you’re doing is no coincidence. Neither was the boken you picked up. That was Sloan’s favorite. What the hell is going on?" He was getting angry. He kept his sword raised.
I used my own voice to answer him. No accent or change in pitch. "It’s me T. It’s Sloan."
"You’re lying. Sloan died. He’s gone. I don’t know who you are or what you’re doing here but you should leave now." He turned started to walk over to the rack of swords that we kept mostly for decoration. They were all razor sharp so as a standing rule we never fought with them. He could still see my reflection as he put a hand out for one. I changed my appearance so that I looked like myself again. The change was immediate and he stopped without turning around. He just stared at my reflection in the mirror for a long time. His hand was still an inch from the hilt of one of the weapons and he seemed to have forgotten what he was doing.
"I’m sorry about the deception. I was pretty sure you would see through it. We have a lot to talk about." He turned around slowly and looked me over.
"Suppose I believe you. What then?" His face was unreadable.
"Then you have to change some of your ideas about the way the world works, then move on. I don’t like coming here like this, but it’s necessary now. I’m into something heavy and you and the others might be caught in the middle of it. I had to warn you." There was some noise from outside. The others were coming in. I didn’t change anything about my appearance. I was almost certain I had Thomas believing, and if I did I could convince the rest of them. "I need your help with the others. I was pretty sure I could prove it to you but they won’t be as easy. You have to help me show them. I’ll explain as soon as I can.

He nodded and kept quiet for a long moment. I couldn’t read him at all. His face was perfectly stoic. As they came through the door he motioned for me to wait and went into the other room. I replaced the boken and took in a deep breath. The hardest part was over.

The others took a little more time, but through whispered secrets that only I could know and a lot of beer and Thomas’ help, they all came around. I told them my story from beginning to end without leaving anything out. They were all very quiet for a while after I finished, but as the truth began to sink in they were all full of questions and they started to relax. Once I impressed upon them the urgency of the situation and the need for caution they started making plans of their own. Thomas and Bob started doing a security detail around the building while Anthony and Ryan made some phone calls. They insisted on checking in on May and Gloria every day even after I assured them that they were being taken care of. I asked about the guy I pulled off of Gloria and they told me he had disappeared after Bob had nearly beaten him to death. "Like a ghost." They said. That statement rolled around in my mind and wouldn’t let me settle down. After a while they finished making preparations for a full assault on the building and started discussing ways to keep in touch with each other throughout the day. I excused myself and promised to return to check in, then went to look in on the ‘ghost’.

He had moved as far from Gloria as he could while still remaining in the country and it took most of the evening to find him. When I did, I was totally unprepared for what I found. Surrounding his new home was the hint of a force I had only felt twice before. Once when I found Sharper, and then again when I faced Shugg.
More next month...
© Brodie Parker - Begun May 10th 2004 - this Chapter 5.05.05

Missed Chapters One & Two of our serialised novel - it begins here
Chapter Three here

Chapter Four here
Chapter five here

Chapter Six here
Chapter Seven here
Chapter Eight here
Chapter Nine here
Chapter Ten here
Chapter Eleven here
Chapter Twelve here
Chapter Thirteen here
Chapter Fourteen here
Chapter Fifteen here

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