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Word Count: 2803
C/S: Canon
Characters: Conroy
Rating: AA (may contain emotional content)


    2:50 left

The overpass ended in a rough asphalt edge that was still molten from recent plasma cannon burns. The magrite tires didn’t even flutter temperature-wise as I peeled over the edge doing 70. Through I’m sure if the cyclone–grade motorcycle had any emotional capability it would have winced at the 30 ft drop into steel and concrete rubble. The air blasted across my face at this torrential speed. It felt as though my skin had frozen over everywhere but where the remnants of the advance scout’s lipstick painted my lips and cheek. There, the flesh was still warm and tingling. I wondered if it was specially designed to be cold-resistant given her deployment as a cycle-scout, or if it was the memory of that briefest moment we shared in the alley that kept the chill at bay. Maybe I was just hungry, but the thought of her silken green hair flowing over… Shit! Ground!

I pulled my weight back on the bike in time so that the wheels smashed into the asphalt slab at the same time and angle. The shocks were no doubt snapping and shorting, but I couldn’t hear them over the roar of the engine.  The damage was apparent however as I  leaned erratically to keep the bike moving and upright. This was made more difficult by the series of breaks in the various slabs and rails that made up what I figured was the best way to ride back down to the actual ground. Half leapfrogging, half richocheting from  broken piece of highway to bent guardrail, I tony hawked the cyclone down to street level. It wasn’t pretty, but the suburbs that lay before me were. The engine’s growl took on a decidedly demonic accent as the damage from the fall became more apparent. I raced through the row housing at suicidal velocity. Those few who had remained in the neighbourhood, looked out through their windows and were thankful to see it was a lone maniac on a motorcycle driving dangerously through the streets that they raised their children in. Standards had somewhat changed for the former middle-class community. If you heard a mechanical roar in the area and it wasn’t a 17 ton spider-mech bearing down with rail cannons, then everything was peachy keen.

1:55 left

I spotted the two story house on Green Valley Drive just as the braking systems light flashed red. At this speed even if I flew off the bike, it would still smash into the row of occupied townhouses at the rapidly approaching ninety degree bend. The explosion would not be pretty or preferable. Moreover I had chicken to contend with, chicken that I had ever so “wisely” packed into the armoured compartment on the back of the bike. Letting off on the gas wasn’t nearly enough to cut the momentum.  I did the best thing I could think of. I closed my eyes. 

The fabric along my shoulder blades tore away as I rocketed blindly towards the houses.  I felt the light from deep inside where no normal eye could see. The building energy always seemed something like an ecstatic sneeze, an indescribable and unstoppable energy rising until it culminated in an unbelievably joyous release.  White feathers hinted with shades of gold spilled out from my back arcing upwards and outwards.   The wind pulled hard against the cyclone bike like a parachute.  I gripped the handles tight, pressed my feet into the pedals and my thighs into the metal chassis, using the strength of my body to hold the two wheeled projectile back. I suppressed thoughts of the green-hair scout. The bike had slowed to merely a break neck velocity when I jerked the handles hard right and skidded us to a stop, metres from the driveway.  The intricate medieval coat seemed to have torn at almost intentional places along my side giving it a more gritty and urban look.

I stood up from the less than functional cycle and flexed my wings in the sunlight. Removing the unscathed bucket of chicken from the armoured compartment, I wasn’t sure whether I was the more peculiar vision in sight or if the neighbourhood itself eclipsed me in weirdness.  The city and the surrounding area was all pure post apocalyptic warzone. Everywhere one looked you could see the ravages of an advanced technological society turning in on itself chaotically and violently.  Yet amidst all of that destruction was this pleasant residential neighbourhood, completely untouched by the madness less than a klick away in any direction. It was like those eerie hurricane disaster zones, where everything has been ravaged and brought to utter ruin, save for a lone pristine house. “A reminder of what once was?  The whim of chance? A quirk of fate?”  I mused.
 
0:48

Wings slid into skin like water while feet pounded the pavement. I crossed the road, bucket in hand.

0:33

I rang the doorbell. No answer.

0:29

I rang again.  Cautious footsteps. Guns being cocked.

0:25

“Who is it?”

“Grandma Em’s Old-fashioned Chicken delivery. I have your party pack with extra dippers.” I chirped in a sing-song voice that often unnerved people who saw my Conroy form use it. In this case I’d lace it with so much positive emotional energy that it was hard to keep control of the tone.

I couldn’t make out the whispering through the door.

0:15

The locks were deactivated.  The door opened. They were a motley crew from across the once many tiers and cultures of Kandrian society.  Whether this was their home before the war wasn’t really important, it was their home now. This diverse and eclectic grouping of individuals were a family now. This refuge was their home in a world gone mad. They were bonded together in a way few others ever achieve. They were survivors. Whether they were dressed in dirtied finery of the upper business guilds or the colourful rags of the street tribes, they all held their improvised weaponry aside and looked at me in wonder. The mere idea of food delivery had become almost mythological in the short amount of time since the war had erupted. It was a fanciful thing from another time. Something you told the children about. “Way back then you used to be able to...”

I watched itchy trigger fingers, frazzled nerves and hearts so strung out on rage that they were ready to lash out at the slightest tick, I watched all of that fade away. Brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers that shared no blood, save that which they had seen spilled or spilled defending each other, sat down around the large bucket of fried poultry. It was like a campfire that warmed their spirits against the growing darkness.

The effect was palpable. This house had been filled with fear and dread and anger for so long, their sudden disappearance was mesmerizing. Conversations erupted that no longer centered around the terrors outside or mournful memories, but rather of hope and camaraderie. As they shared in the simple joy of fried chicken, they remember what it was to be family. Friends reconnected. Some friends would become lovers. It was going to be a wonderful party. A young girl with blonde spiky hair thought to invite the strange looking delivery boy to join them. It was the least they could do after he had brought so much to their house. Yet I was already down the street and out of view, whistling the theme from the littlest hobo.

As I made my way though the suburb, my curiosity wouldn’t leave the nature of the mission alone. House Psyche had often made bizarre requests of me before, but usually the manipulation or mind game was much more apparent. (at least to me) He usually let the true primary goal be apparent enough for those with the inclination to discover it. The many other motives that he layered into his missions were only discovered by the intensely curious and particularly clever.  I laid out the game board in mind. I imagined the pieces, the players and their motivations.  I wove together the elements of the mission  as if it was tale I was writing.  I imagined the feel and flow of the story until I could feel the pages beneath my fingertips. I reached for the pen and mused how the tale should end how it could end, how it would end. It’s a game of probabilities, dramatic potential and an understanding of localized theme. It touched on that mystical aspect of myself that felt so drawn to Fate. Ultimately though, it was my talent for House Muse that illustrated House Psyche’s machinations for me. I watched it all play out in my mind.

In a few hours, the suburban sanctuary would be assaulted by Coalition forces.  In the end there would be nothing left but rubble. In the world where I hadn’t made my delivery I watch those fear-gripped enraged survivors fight hopelessly against the war machines of the Coalition army.  They thought they had nothing left to lose.  In this world however they had reconnected with each other, rediscovered their humanity and their love for one another and life. The scent of 15 special herbs and spices had cleared their senses enough to find hope. When the mechs descend in this world however, the survivors will not give in to desperation. They will not try to make a futile final stand. For the love of each other and themselves, they will run.  They will not play at being warriors or rebels or heroes. They will flee for their lives. For life. Put in House Psyche’s twisted verbiage  “They are what they eat. They run like chickens” he would say with a smirk. They will flee and the mechs will gun them down just the same. Those are their orders.  So what’s the difference? Why send me here? House Psyche didn’t do this to give a few survivors a final taste of happiness.  For the answer, my perspective pulls back through the pilots of the mechs, devoted to their cause and loyal to their faction. It pulls back to the eyes of the hardened general on the bridge of a nearby warblimp, who made his choice long ago over fresh graves to make a difference whatever it took.  The eyes of that general would not see the enemy in that peaceful yet familiar suburb as he watched the footage of the battle. Instead he would see what they truly were, innocents trying to escape slaughter.  The warrior he had become, would watch this family of spirit gunned down with ruthless efficiency and for the first time since he began this campaign for the Coalition leaders, he would feel doubt. All because of a bucket of chicken.The rest gets hazy and indistinct. No details, just feelings and impressions. Yet there are moments long before the final blow of any conflict is struck when the outcome of the war is decided. As the bright young girl with blonde spike hair is skewered by the spider mech’s leg displayed in high definition on a vid-screen before one general in a vast army, the direction of Kandras’s fate was altered.

I held back the vomit from the gruesome scene as my mind cleared. I wanted to curse House Pysche for sending me here, but I knew I had just uncovered but one of his many reasons for orchestrating things as he had. The details of this mission and what other operatives he may have planted to further influence the minds of those at the heart of this war didn’t concern me. No, what truly concerned me was that this, like everything as of late seemed to speak to larger forces at work. There was some sort of grander scheme at play across the worlds and amongst the Houses and the Tresspassers. If you were so inclined, it was easy to see the pieces. The increase in Trespasser activities and the growing boldness of their threats was evidence of a much larger plan. Why had they wanted to completely cut off “Harold’s” world? Why so many political machinations on so many other worlds? Why now?  Within Axis Mundi were more questions and loose ends. What was behind the strange behaviour I’d continue to experience with House Upperworld and House Fate? Why has House Fate taken on so many new initiates as of late?  I could think of three that I knew personally.  The whole damned Great Tree seemed to be filled with the weight of more and more secrets. The Council was up to something and while they have been mysterious in the past (especially The Strange Three) this felt like something more somehow.  One of the most important clues has become blaringly obvious in direct proportion to the amount everyone is not talking about it.  For a very long time, individuals who had blessings in seven or more Houses were a rarity.  Yet now in my circle of friends alone there was a blossoming of ability and talents that was quickly rivalling any previous surge in recorded history and we were not alone. Why was no one talking about it? Why were the houses silent about what all this meant. It spoke to something beyond our supposed scope as agents of Axis Mundi. Yet I cannot help but feel that we are near the forefront of this change for some reason. Something is happening. It may seem slow to many; the growing power, the rising momentum of events, the escalation of conflict and activity, but in terms of history, we are racing towards events that will rock the foundations of …something.

It feels so close sometimes. Like a melody just out of reach, if I strain my senses enough I always think I’ll be able to hear it, recognize the tune, remember the lyrics. Before it would only happen sometimes, now it’s wherever I go. …in the background. …barely audible at all …but there.

The sonic boom of the jumpjet above brought me out of the Musing. That’s what she’d called it when the creative state begins to interact with the nature of reality.  All of the sudden, my senses seemed heightened as the senses that had been occupied with a massive amount of details and information across worlds and time were suddenly put to work processing only my immediate surroundings and situation.

The jet approached the city as laser fire drew and intricate web of deadly light to keep it from its target. Still reeling from the trance-state the flashes came in quick succession. Wax beneath the glow of the neon lights, the gaudy drapes, the dark hallways and the thrum of the tribal drumming from the sublevel far below the old wooden floorboards.  I heard a scream that twisted Boh’s voice into an incomprehensible and horrible noise. I felt them surround her body, but I could not see. I felt them watching me through my overactive imagination through a bond I thought had been cut. It was worse than I thought. I had to get to Hob, whatever he was doing would have to wait. We needed to get to New-New-Orleans now and we’d need all the help we could get.  I just hope I could slide there before they took advantage of his weakened state.

The jumpjet was far enough away that they wouldn’t pick up the energetic disturbance from my sliding out and I seem to have unconsciously walked to a pocket of space with particularly malleable consistency for a geis. I let the world glide over the skin as I focused on Fol and strummed on the energetic link between myself and Peregrine. It seemed a safer way to pinpoint a location then trying to connect with Hob directly right now.

My body spasmed in pain as I was twisted slowly into the erratic portal. There was something altered about the space that was throwing off my interdimensional sense of direction …and the pain wasn’t helping either. I tried to use Synth as a compass or to stabilize the portal, but the weight of  the tactical information from the mission had for some reason had an effect on its navigational capacity.  I tried to focus intently on my destination and awaken feelings and memories of Six-Spirit, but I was still spacey from the Musing. Memories of alternate pasts and futures were superimposed over my view of that space between spaces, the world between worlds.  The gravity of my slide and the strange energy infused from my mind, the pocket and Synth spun me out of control.  In a flash of rainbow light, I disappeared completely from Kandras. I left only a scream in my wake in that placeless expanse where none can hear.

I emerged from the portal.  ….far, far from Fol.  .