Saturday, October 6, 2012

The City: In Dialogue (Chapter 1)

Chapter 1

In order to be king, one must be merciful and kind, for fear he be found out a tyrant. Although, for a king to be loved, he must be heavy handed, for people love a strong leader who keeps order as well as prosperity. While doing so, a king must be mindful of God, for He is king among kings and ruler of all who rule. Being king is an arduous task, a feat most men cannot accomplish with any longevity. So it is that a king must respect the devil, for Satan is ruler of all those who fail.

“Ugh! Why do you read this blather to me, Jepsin?” I inquired dryly.

“I read it, Magistrate, because your cousin is gaining much support by doing the same, and you need to be aware of it,” he responded.

“He gains support with the working plebes,” I snapped. “I still command the full loyalty of the army—not to mention the Managers.”

“The Managers are not to be trusted,” he scowled. “Their loyalties would shift in a slight breeze, if it suited their needs. And as far as the army is concerned, they’re not allowed within the wall, and he controls the defense force.”

“What the hell is Thason so mad about,” I shouted, pushing the papers Jepsin slid toward me straight off the other side of my desk. “The motto of the city is right there, etched in the forum. ‘First, always, the wellbeing of the city and its people.’ Does the city do anything but prosper and, by default, the people too?”

“Yes, Magistrate,” he scurried over and crouched to reassemble the scattered papers. “I believe he is upset that some citizens appear to be prospering better than others.”

“Piss on him,” I spat the words, as if they left a bitter taste in my mouth. “He cares nothing for the plight of others. It’s arguable; he lives better than I do. You don’t see him offering to part with any of his estate to help equalize any perceived discrepancies.” I contemplated for a moment, strumming my fingers on the desk. “No, this is about that religious nonsense he’s gotten into his head; he wants a state religion.”

“Your Fathers did come from a religious background,” Jepsin chimed in. “I think, primarily, he’s…”

“No!” I asserted. “Neither one of the Fathers wanted this city to be run by the influence of dogmatic nonsense weakly passing itself off as morality. And even though my ancestors have been dead for generations, I won’t have the likes of you sullying their memory by suggesting otherwise.”

“No, Magistrate, of course not,” he backpedaled. “I’m merely trying to…”

I held a hand up, cutting him off again. “Wait,” I ordered. “Bear with me, Jepsin.” That was the closest I could come to apologizing to him, given the difference in our status. “I know what you were trying to do, and it is appreciated. You are very good at your job, but for now I need no further advice.”

I stood up, grabbing and twirling my jacket off the back of my chair and around my shoulders in one skillfully swift maneuver, and I headed for the door.

“Where are you going?” Jepsin called.

I stopped, turned my head to face him, and cocked an eyebrow.

“I…eh…I…ahem…must…notify your detail,” he recovered, ever so graceful.

“You needn’t bother,” I resumed my stride. “I’m just retrieving the kids from their lessons. Besides, no one would dare harm me.”

The large, ornately carved, doors to my office closed behind me—further punctuating the end of our conversation.

“You think that now,” Jepsin mumbled under his breath.


In a small, but lavishly decorated, room an elderly professorial figure stood pontificating instruction to three seated boys.

“Through specific recruitment and selective allowance, they populated the city to its first-phase capacity. And, for a pre-set period of time, they maintained an isolationist policy, so the city—and her inhabitants—could adjust and grow without negative influences. And so it was, the two brothers, their children, and their children’s children, built our wonderful city of Renace.”

“Mr. Battista,” the oldest of the three boys inquired, “what happened to those other governments the Fathers had to negotiate with?”

“Well Remus,” frustrated with the interruption, the teacher turned to speak directly to his inquisitor, “after a few generations, the city was still isolated within its great wall—further protected by its superior defensive technologies. A growing number of inhabitants were beginning to protest until the world fell victim to a plague. News reports attributed the sickness to a special vaccination for a new flu strain.”

“Are they sure it was the flu?” the boy said wide-eyed.

Though he certainly did not appreciate being repeatedly interrupted, the teacher continued lecturing, “Whatever the cause, the world’s population was devastated. Wherever people had gathered in close number there was no chance for survival; the disease worked very quickly. Towns and cities around the world were abandoned as their streets filled with bodies.”

All three boys’ mouths were open but remained silent.

“Within a few years there seemed to be no more sign of sickness, and—though there is no way to be sure—the population of the world had to be down in the few hundred million range.”

“Is that when we started to expand the republic?” Remus asked.

“No,” the teacher paused briefly at the outburst. “The city was self-sufficient and safe from the sickness, so there was no rush to break the timeline for the second-phase, but soon after that expansion the population grew too quickly. Incorporation of new territory was required. At this point, of course, several generations had come and gone, so none of the previous claims to land outside of ours existed anymore.”

“That’s when the army was created!” one of the younger boys exclaimed.

“Telemachus,” the teacher scolded, “your cousin has developed some bad habits; you’d do well to discourage the same behavior in yourself.”

There was a short silence as the boys turned back and forth to look at each other in awe.

The teacher started up again, “When men of proper decorum want to address a superior or, in this instance, a mentor, they do so by sounding said superior’s name and then waiting for the acknowledging approval to go on.”

There was another brief pause.

“Mr. Battista,” sounded the voice of one, now timid, Telemachus.

“Yes, Telemachus.”

“Is that when the army was created?”

“Yes. And so started the days of the republic.”

“Mr. Battista,” Remus hissed, clearly being upset at the not-so-subtle admonishment.

“Yes, Remus,” the teacher grinned, being pleased with the reestablished order.

“If there were no more cities or governments, and the people scattered into the wilderness, how, then, are there so many kingdoms and nations now that the army constantly has to control or conquer them?”

“Good question,” the teacher encouraged. “As I had said, several generations had gone by, and—though nature had reclaimed almost all of what we refer to as the Old Civilization—people did eventually start to gather into groups again. They, of course, were having children just like we did, and they began building their respective societies.”

“Societies, huh,” Remus sneered.

I had entered the room just as professor Battista was finishing his statement and well in time to hear Remus’ outburst.

“Remus,” I shouted.

The boys all jumped and turned to face me; the teacher sharpened his stance as well.

“Yes father,” he snapped cautiously.

“Though I deal with barbarians on a regular basis, I have no patience for it in my own home,” I stepped further into the room. “When your professor is speaking, you do not interject at will.”

As I casually strolled around the back of the room, not looking at its occupants but scanning it as if taking some sort of inventory, I continued, “Just because other nations are primitive does not mean we must lower ourselves to their level when learning about them.”

“Executive Magistrate,” the teacher appealed.

I held a ceasing hand up, “Upon entering, I did not notice my cousin’s sons behaving like animals.” I dropped my hand, “Tell me professor, is this my son’s natural state?”

“Of course not, Magistrate,” the teacher said confidently. “He was merely taken over with zeal. He gets that way—on occasion, as young boys do—when learning the history of our great city.”

Professor Battista, then, leveled an almost blatantly accusatory stare at me and continued, “Many of the boys under my tutelage over the years have had the very same issues to overcome. It always seems to pass with a little gentle encouragement.”

“Ah, of course, it does.” I replied, knowing full well what he was insinuating. “Well, that’s settled then.”

I crouched down and extended my arms. “Come here boys,” I called to my eight and ten year old nephews in an exaggeratedly excited tone. “We’ve got to get you back to your father. Remus, thank your professor for his instruction,” I nodded to my old teacher.

The two boys ran to my embrace, and Remus turned to face his teacher.

“Thank you, professor Battista,” Remus said in a sincerely humble voice.

“You are quite welcome, young sir,” Battista winked at Remus.

The boy smiled, turned, and quickly joined our little mock marching group, and we headed off down the hallway.

(End of Chapter 1)

Sons of Perdition (Chapter 1)

Chapter 1

The Double Jacks is a seedy bar, owned and patronized solely by members of the motorcycle gang known as the One Eyed Jacks. Among a long list of nefarious and malicious deeds, this particular gang is managing a fairly lucrative drug smuggling operation.

One night, during the party that is customarily held after the club leadership meets, five dark figures enter the bar through the main entrance—slamming the doors behind them. Whether it was this last action, or the fact that five strangers had just entered, that captured the attention of everyone present in the bar is neither here nor there. The fact remains, each of the previous occupants of the bar are now glowering hard at the five intruders. The music, and all other activity, has ceased.

The figures are draped in black hooded trench coats—that were clearly designed to look much more like monastic robes than they do a traditional rain coat. Their hoods are donned—hiding their faces—and their hands are concealed in pockets at their navels. Each of the five stand at different heights and have varied body types. Two are tall and large; two are average height—one of average build and the other is stocky—and the last is tall and slender—very tall.

With little to no hesitation, the five figures walk—shoulder to shoulder—up to the bar, with the tallest standing in the center.

The central of the hooded figures says to the bartender, “A Lutheran, a Mormon, two Catholics, and a Jew walk into a bar and tell the bartender they’re here to kill everyone in the place, and the bartender says…”

There is a short pause.

“Huh,” the bartender snarls. “Is this some sort a joke?”

“Only between me and my friend, here,” the central figure says.

Just as the bartender is about to respond, but before he has the chance, the central figure removes his left hand from the pocket of his coat and thrust it forward like a whip. Standing strong, holding the bartender’s gasping body up with a blade through its throat, the central figure shouts, “You have all been deemed worthy of expedited judgment, and we are here to end your mortal lives.”

“And so it shall be,” the other four figures shout in unison, as they turn and whip their hoods back.

Outside the bar, several similarly robed men are stepping over the bodies of the few dead bikers that lay sprawled across ground in order to barricade the door and windows.

A giant metal X is hoisted by two of the figures and held against the double door that gives entry to the bar. It spans all the way across to make contact with the wall at all four ends.

Another two men come walking up; the first one takes the pistol shaped tool he’s holding and slams it against the bottom left point of the X, and proceeds to fire an anchor into the wall. He quickly maneuvers over and repeats the process on the bottom right.

Without saying a word, the fourth figure squats on bended knee. The man holding the tool steps on the outstretched knee and hoists himself up on the shoulders of the other. The lower man rises, and, together, they secure the top two points of the X.

A similar process is being repeated—by similar teams—on each of the three windows. Only, for the windows, the teams are securing a somewhat screen-like mesh; still metal, but with much smaller gaps in its barricading abilities. After all, the doors are solid; no one’s crawling over or under the large bars holding them shut.

This is not a quiet performance, but, then, neither is the one taking place inside the bar. The screaming, the bottles breaking, the occasional gunshot, and the rarer body-sized smash against the windows—causing the mesh to bulge—could not be mistaken for anything but a slaughter.

The figures outside the bar have all lined up side-by-side, with about an arm’s span between them and their backs to the bar.

Finally, the noise from inside the bar tapers to a complete silence. It isn’t long after that the words, “It’s done,” are called out from behind the door.

The line of men break their formation and begin walking across the street to a couple of vans waiting on the other side. One of the figures removes a small device from his pocket, and he depresses the tiny protruding button.

The large metal X explodes off the wall and falls forward to the ground. The doors push open, and five hooded figures come slowly walking out.

“You owe me five dollars,” one of the five states. “He said, ‘Are you joking?’”

The tallest figure, without changing anything about his stride or where he is looking, says, “He said, ‘Is this some sort of joke?’ You get nothing,” he ended sharply.

The group continued to the vans.


The reporter on the television was recounting the known details of last night’s massacre, when I was alerted to Gideon’s presence in the room by the, now familiar, BAMF! sound—followed by the accompanying shock wave that tends to shatter anything glass within a couple meters and dishevels everything else.

I remember the first time the angel appeared to me. I was sitting in a rundown, low-life type, neighborhood bar—that was rarely ever populated with customers—attempting to drink away my memories. I had been a soldier, and had done some pretty terrible things.

People tried to tell me to comfort myself by saying it was for God and country, but therein laid the rub. I had nightmares about many of the horrible things I had done almost every time I closed my eyes, so I had plenty of opportunities to examine the situations. The fact was, my country was in no way benefitted by the bodies I left dead and brutally disfigured. No, vengeance was pretty much the only reason for me being there. And, as far as God was concerned, I never had any right to be killing in the first place.

I was raised in a Christian household. I had been forced to read the Bible. I can’t say I really remember all the particulars too well, but I did remember God saying vengeance is His. I remembered the commandment, thou shalt not kill, and I remembered Jesus being a total pacifist—telling us to offer no resistance to the wicked, and if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well. It took a few years, but I had since become well aware that I was beyond redemption.

At any rate, the drinking wasn’t really helping me forget, but the time spent in dimly lit, sparsely populated, third rate bars gave me momentary lapses in the nightmare that was, then, my life.

The evening Gideon appeared was no different. No different, that is, until a beautiful young woman walked into the bar.

She was alone, and from the look of it that was on purpose. She sauntered into the bar, her hips sashaying to and fro as if independent from her upper body. Her skirt was grey and tight and didn’t even drop halfway down her thighs. It hugged her hips and buttocks so tightly it could have been tattooed to her skin. Her waist was slender and breasts large and firm. The white button-up shirt she wore was short sleeved and struggled for all its worth to contain her torso. It seemed as if it would fail each time she inhaled. The shirt appeared to end exactly at the top of her skirt while exposing no flesh, for, if it was tucked in, it left no visible seam lines in the skirt—nor did any panties, if there were any. There was no need to imagine what her naked body would look like; it was veritably on display. There just seemed to be an additional layer of skin that didn’t happen to match the milky, supple skin of the rest of her body.

As she undulated over to a table near, but not quite in, the darkest section of the room she definitely gave the impression of one of those women who lives a pent up, proper lifestyle of higher society. From her confidence and mannerisms she could easily have been some mid to high level executive that is used to being treated with a certain degree of respect—something the saucy smirk on her lips was definitely not encouraging in this particular venue.

At the time she entered, not including myself and the bartender, there was only three other patrons. This wasn’t uncommon for this establishment, especially this late on a weeknight. There was the archetypical failed door-to-door salesman drinking at the bar—paying for his drinks with piles of change scrounged from the pockets of his tattered suit. There was the bald, bigger than average, late twenty-something man wearing a black leather jacket and torn blue jeans sitting two tables away from her—facing right towards her. It is not too farfetched to think she sat down facing him on purpose. And then, there was the difficult-to-describe ambiguous figure seated in the booth that was nestled furthest into the darkness of the room. I don’t know if the light bulbs in that section of the bar were perpetually burning out, or if the proprietor simply kept that section of the bar dark on purpose. At any rate, every time I came to the bar that guy was already ensconced in his dark little corner.

Even from my position, seated at the far end of the bar, away from everyone else, I could see the woman was here to fulfill some fantasy of being manhandled by some rough-and-tumble character—the likes of which she had read about in one of her trashy novels or had lusted after while watching some acted-out assault in a pornographic film. This was not difficult to discern, what with the way she was provocatively engaging the bald fellow in front of her.

Her sultry eyes were locked on her target as if there was no one else in the place. One hand was cupping and massaging the side of her breast, and the other was under the table. Her legs were spread and she was gliding her finger tips up and down her inner thigh. The big man was no more oblivious than I was, so, of course, he rose, walked over, and sat down beside her.

As I was no more concerned with her sexual endeavors as I was anything else in that shithole of a bar, I continued to lean headlong into my drink—ignoring their flirtatious interactions.

There were no upstanding citizens in the bar—a fact that became ever more noticeable when her seduction elevated to full blown fellatio, and not only did no one in the bar say anything to stop the performance, but everyone—the bartender included—seemed to be more than happy to watch.

Unfortunately for her, the big man was not fully sated when she decided she had taken the fantasy as far as she had desired. Though I hadn’t been looking, I did vaguely hear her say something along the lines of, “That’s it big boy. If you want the rest, you’ll just have to wait and see if I come in here again.” I do believe she may have been the only person in the bar to be surprised at how quickly the roles reversed—how quickly she went from predator to prey.

My training, as well as my survival instincts, forcibly made me aware of everything going on in any given room—whether I wanted to pay attention or not—so I could hear very distinctly when the woman had been thrown to one of the tables—knocking over the table and two of its chairs. Her blouse ripped audibly; I could hear a couple of the buttons bounce their way across the room.

The woman didn’t scream. I can only assume she had gone into some sort of shock at the reality of her rapidly disintegrating circumstance. The salesman ran over to the door, but it turned out he was not planning to leave the scene of what was surely about to become a rape. He stood at the door, peered out the tiny circular window for an instant, then locked the door, and turned to continue watching the scenario as it unfolded.

By the time I had turned to look, the man had removed his leather jacket and hoisted the woman up on to a table adjacent to the one at which he had thrown her. He had bent her over the table, chest down, and hiked her skirt up to her waist. As I was watching, he grabbed the collar of her shirt and tore it completely free from her body—tossing it off to one side.

As I had suspected, she was wearing no panties. That detail mattered nothing to me as any kind of point of arousal; however, since her previous efforts had already made her attacker erect, it did mean it was mere seconds before she was being forcibly penetrated.

Admittedly, I was not as bothered by the fact that the woman was being raped as I was at the disruption to my wallowing, but nonetheless it bothered me. However impure her original intentions may have been, it was clear this was not what she had desired to happen. It was at this point I realized that since there was no hope for my salvation, it would cost me nothing to kill the man, right there and then, and stop his current, and any future, wrong doings.

It was that simple. The decision had been made. He was slightly bigger than me, but I was no slouch. Prior to the little bit of weight I had gained, due to drinking and lack of exercise, I was fairly muscular and well-built for a man standing at six feet tall. The bald man had a couple of inches on me, and probably forty pounds, but he had a much larger gut than me. His size didn’t really matter, though, because his back was to me.

I simply stood up, grabbed the neck of the bottle of vodka resting on the bar next to the shot glass I had been using as a delivery mechanism, and strode over to the man. It is unlikely he even heard me walk up behind him, given the grunting he was doing and the accompanying gasps from the woman he was holding face down on the table.

In one swift motion I simultaneously reached my left hand up over his left shoulder, and cupped his throat in my hand, while I swung the bottle and shattered its base over the back of a nearby chair. Before he could even have thought to do anything, I thrust the jagged melee weapon directly into the center of his spine—using the force of pulling back with my left hand on his throat to aid in driving the edges further in—and twisted it to sure of an instant kill.

As anticipated, the man slumped instantly, and then proceeded to fall forward on top of his victim. With that, she let out the slightest of high-pitched whimpers. It was slightly disconcerting to see the look on her face with his head dangling off to the back of hers, so I gave a measured kick to the man’s lifeless body and shoved it to the floor. This left the woman bent over the table, fully exposed.

I was in no mood to play nursemaid to some woman who had come begging for more than she could handle, but I was also unable to walk away and leave her in such a sexually provocative position. I glanced around at the other occupants of the room. The bartender was frozen, holding a dirty rag and wet glass he had been drying before I killed one of his patrons. The salesman had scrambled his way backward to a booth, as far from me as he could get. And, as always, the figure in the darkness was difficult to make out, but he didn’t seem to be moving. Regardless, it was clear, given their willingness to spectate, that I would have to be the one to remove her from this scene.

I attempted to pull her skirt down to cover her ass, but, due to the limp state of her body and the skirt being unreasonably tight, this proved to be a useless endeavor. Frustrated, I picked her up and hefted her up to my shoulder. As I walked to the door, I yelled over to the salesman, and ordered him to unlock the door. He did so with frightened but fervent speed.

As I left the bar, there was a very strange crashing noise inside almost immediately followed by a loud BAMF! in front of me on the street—the concussive force of which blew me back a half step. Before me, stood a very imposing figure.

Though I thought I was going crazy, I recognized him immediately as an angel. He was semi-transparent, hovering slightly off the ground, and had large, powerful wings attached to his back. Yep, it was an angel.

“Put the girl down, and come with me,” he said.

I hesitated. I’m not sure whether out of fear or concern for the girl, but I hesitated nonetheless.

“Put the girl down,” he repeated. “She is inconsequential to you now.”

There was a nearby bus bench, so I placed the woman on it and stepped toward the angel.

“My name is Gideon,” the angel said, “and I have a mission for you.”

Ever since that first encounter, I have come to enjoy his visits.

(End of Chapter 1)