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think its wise to keep a low profile for now'.
I changed my appearance before we
left his home. I decided to change it everywhere I went. If I
wanted to keep a low profile, it made sense to never be seen as
the same person at any place I went. No patterns to follow or
dots to connect. I couldnt be found and I wanted to keep
it that way.
council was housed at a structure that was larger than any building
I had ever seen. I had a handle on changing perspective, so I made a
note to get a better look at it later. We walked up a path toward an
entrance in a stone wall which rose up so high that I couldnt
see where it ended. We met a few others, but there were roads that I
could see in the distance that were much busier. We were stopped at
the entrance by two gargantuan guards. They were both armed to the teeth
and as forbidding as angels with flaming swords. After a brief exchange
with Urimaru, they let us pass giving me no more than a passing glance.
Just inside there was a map etched into the wall. Urimaru pointed to
a room on it.
"Go there and wait for me. We wont be long."
The room was small and cubical. There was a low rectangular table and
some mats in a symmetrical placement on the floor around it. I sat on
one and relaxed. I focused my mind on stretching out over the compound.
I reached a point after some effort that allowed me to see the overall
shape and size. The design was like nothing I had ever seen. The scale
was awe inspiring. Ive been in large cities that were a tenth
the size. There were wings and sections that branched off in the oddest
places and took the strangest shapes. It has been said that man is the
measure of all things. It appeared that in some instances, small furry
creatures from Alpha Centauri are the measure of all things.
I was still scanning over it when Urimaru came in followed by, so help
me, Mark Twain. He was dressed in a white suit with a Mississippi string
tie and a bush of wild white hair on his head with a smaller one over
each eye and one across his upper lip. He was smoking a cigar and smiling
pleasantly at me. He spoke with a heavy Missouri accent.
"Mr. Tucker I presume."
"Just Clemens will do. Its a pleasure sir." He put out
I shook it firmly. "The pleasure is mine. I love your stories.
The one about editing the agricultural paper makes me laugh like a little
girl every time I read it."
"Thank you son, but those arent really mine. Im just
borrowing this disguise."
"Because Mark Twain is someone you think I would take advice from."
He nodded and Urimaru smiled. Im not sure if Clemens caught it,
but I did. "I admit that was the idea. If it bothers you I can
"No, its fine. Its a nice touch."
We sat around the table in lotus position. None of us wore shoes. Geishas
rushed quietly in and out to serve drinks or other desired frivolous
oddities. I had a scotch and a steak sandwich.
"Well then," Clemens said after a while "lets get
down to it. Ive been over your unique situation with Urimaru,
and a few others. He has informed me that youve finished your
training. I think its wise to keep a low profile for now. It is
also wise to enlist our aid. The resources at our disposal are considerable
to say the least. As of now, the three of us are all that know that
you are here. There are ways of recognizing someone that go deeper than
appearance, but even the most clever of enemies will have difficulty
with those. We know, because our abilities are at least the equal of
our enemies, and we simply cannot pinpoint your location or see
what needs to be seen to find you. Most certainly not from a lack of
trying. In coming here you have shown a tremendous amount of trust in
me, so I will try to earn it. None but the three of us will meet here
unless we decide otherwise later. When you return, report to no one
but me. If you are ever asked to meet anywhere other than a place we
agree upon before hand, or if anyone else tries to interview you or
intercede on my behalf, run. Get the hell out and dont look back.
Dont let anything stop you. Urimaru will have told you about a
few here who would use you without your consent if they could. I dont
intend to let them. You are strong now. I can see it and Urimaru can
attest to it. Even so, the strength of one of the elders could easily
trap you under the right circumstances. Some are stronger alone than
the three of us together. With time, the danger will decrease as your
skills and experience increase. I will give you instructions later on
procedures to contact me at the entrance. Is this satisfactory?"
I nodded that it was. I decided that I liked the old guy, even if he
wasnt really Mark Twain.
"Very well then, I understand you want to dispatch your murderers.
May I ask why?"
"To ensure the safety of the ones I left behind." I replied
"How altruistic of you. You know, Twain said that altruism does
not exist. Is he right?"
I hesitated before I answered him. "There is a wide streak of revenge
across it, but even so I wont be able to rest comfortably knowing
they might be used as bait for me. Then there is the matter of the timelines
that were snuffed out."
That last statement seemed to trigger a thought in Clemens head,
and he gestured at the white tabletop. A grid similar to the one Urimaru
showed me rose out of the surface. There were none of the blue lines
left. My life had ended in every line. "How many escaped?"
I asked quietly.
"That we know of," Clemens began, "only you." He
let the following silence hang in the air for a moment. "We managed
to save many of the lines that were threatened, but we lost thousands
more. The first fight is over. It seems that you were the only incarnation
that made it out with your soul. It was a disaster. There were so many
variables, and so much at stake that we were completely unprepared for
the assault. Our victories saved many billions of lives, but with only
you remaining we have been thoroughly humbled. The only thing we have
left to redeem us of our arrogance and our pride is you. I sincerely
hoped that you would come to us. I must admit a wide streak of revenge
in my own motives. But hatred clouds judgment as surely as arrogance,
and we have to be precise and calculating in our actions. Now more than
ever. I can help you find the man who killed you. His name is Sharper.
He is a servant to a slave of a thing whose name I will not utter here.
You need not know it. To know it is dangerous; it gives you the potential
to speak it, and to speak it invites doom."
Urimaru pulled a slip of folded paper from the air. It was the piece
he was writing on before I started training. Still folded to conceal
what was written on it, he held it in front of him. "Read it, but
dont say it.."
I studied the inside of the folded page between his finger and thumb,
and read the word written across it. It was a single syllable: SHUGG.
I nodded and the paper disappeared. "Thats the one who directed
the whole operation. His servants sacrificed an uncountable number of
lives to destroy you. Under his orders, which come piecemeal from his
master he has orchestrated a wave of malevolence unlike anything accomplished
by anyone with his limited power. He is constantly growing stronger.
He undoubtedly wants revenge on his master for enslaving him, and he
is dangerously close to reaching his goal. We fear that speaking his
name will draw his attention. The powerful often have that particular
quirk, and we are being overly cautious in light of the recent laxity
on our part. He is one to be feared. If you face him, dont believe
anything he tells you, and suspicious of anything he shows you. He lies
by telling just enough of the truth to hook you, then he uses you, then
he ends you. If you can manage it, kill him quickly. If you cant,
run immediately. We dont expect you to encounter him anytime soon.
Perhaps sometime after the smoke clears and we have some time to adapt.
First we will concentrate on Sharper. He placed the cage enchantment
on the museum display that would have bound your soul with your body.
He would make an excellent target for your first mission.
"I feel comfortable with giving you missions, but I wont
issue any orders. You dont owe me any kind of allegiance or duty.
I am not your superior or your commander. I will assist you because
you are willing and imminently able, and because we owe a debt of blood
to everyone we couldnt save. If assisting you can help repay that
debt I will provide you with anything I can."
"I understand. No traceable ties. No red tape. Free agent without
the burden of a contract. That suits me just fine. The more I hear the
more I want to stay anonymous. But what makes you different from the
other council members? Why dont you want to use me too?"
"There is no way to observe what effect you can have to any degree
on the flow of things. No recordable data. Nothing to reason with. If
you cant measure it, it aint science. Im no better
suited to guide you properly than they are, though Im damned eager
to see just what you can do. I think that your own judgment will suffice.
Then well sit back and see what happens."
"So how do I find Sharper?"
"You have to go back to the museum and find the trail." An
image of a small ugly man appeared on the table. I memorized the features.
"He will have left some trace of his power behind either at the
site of the spell or on your remains. From there the hunt is yours.
Taking someone with you will slow you down and draw unwanted attention.
Therefore, all of your missions will be solo unless circumstances require
different tactics." He stood up and stretched. "This is your
baptism by fire. Ive nothing left to leave you with except a warning.
Dont fool around with him. Sharper is crafty and strong. You can
kill him, but you must face him with exactly that intention. You have
the upper hand; he doesnt know youre coming. I suggest you
use it to your advantage." He turned to leave. "Urimaru will
tell you how to get through to me when you return. Oh, I almost forgot,"
he said looking back from the hallway. "Wade in deep water. Fierce
winds fury unfurling. The moon says the way."
Then he was gone.
"That was a haiku." I said.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
© Brodie Parker - December 2004
To be continued...
Chapters One & Two of our serialised novel - it begins here
Chapter Three here
Chapter Four here
Chapter five here
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