The Cold Inside (a serial novel) Chapter Forty-One part two
The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Thursday January 26, 1995
Alone now; the Hierophant had disappeared leaving behind the scent of dust and rose petals, Chimera had been sent off to secure the Red Offering. The boy sat on the floor of the penthouse with his back resting against the altar. All he had to do now was wait- retribution and sorcery were always best when performed by starlight.
Voices echoed up the stairwell – real voices this time and not the echoes of other worlds and times that seemed to cluster in the dark corners of this strange structure. They were a man and a woman and they spoke in stage whispers.
“I’ve never been this close before.”
“Just hang onto the railing, almost there.”
“Refracting on my senses… all this trouble over something so small?”
The pair of them stepped into the doorway, a man and a woman so perfect in appearance they seemed to have stepped right off a movie screen. The boy stood to greet them, “I had expected Mr. Kriely.”
The man spoke, his voice was deep and business-like, “Mr. Kriely now serves the Monarchs in another capacity.”
The woman nodded, “None of us would be here today without his efforts.”
“Indeed.” The boy took a moment to admire the new arrivals. Mr. Kriely had looked human enough but his expressions had been twitchy and his flesh waxen. “Am I to conclude that you are his replacements?”
The man gestured to the woman beside him, “This is Helen Ginnmett and my name is Piers Sauno.”
The boy nodded, “Enlightenment and Persuasion.”
A grim smile tugged at Persuasion’s lips as he adjusted his tie “We rarely use those symbolic names in our day to day affairs.”
“Of course after tonight,” Enlightenment said with an eager grin, “We can call ourselves whatever we damn well like.”
The boy stepped closer to Enlightenment and ran a finger along the slope of her chin. “The Monarchs certainly were not indolent during the last thirty five years were they?”
“There have been numerous upgrades since Kriely’s time.” Persuasion bragged, “Ceramic endoskeletons, improved corium responsiveness, polymerized tegument…”
Enlightenment caught the boy’s hand and gave it a playful squeeze, “And silicon, you can’t go wrong with a little silicon.”
“Indeed.” The boy pulled his fingers away, “And am I to also infer there have been other improvements as well?”
“Very perceptive.” Persuasion said, “Gene splicing and selective breeding have allowed us to progress from Platyhelminthes to complex Cephalopods.”
The boy smiled, “Impressive but allow me to speak with candor- this is not by any means the comprehensive translation the Monarchs had endeavored for is it?”
“We… the Monarchs… were never so close to this world as we were that night.” Enlightenment closed her eyes, “Even now the memory is almost too much to bear.”
“Who could have foreseen that I would be betrayed by one of my own?” the boy strolled casually to the gap in the wall and stared out at the parking lot. He sensed the mind of an assassin on a nearby rooftop, the resonance of his thoughts betrayed him as a follower of the Hanged Man. The boy smiled at how insignificant he was, clutching a long barreled rifle for comfort.
Persuasion stepped up beside him, “You must understand that being here is distressing to us, the feedback is almost blinding.”
“I am certain you made numerous attempts to open the way during my somnolence.”
The boy watched Persuasion study the streets and building around them. Marveling that the Hanged Man’s assassin could not see in nor could the Monarchs Avatars see out. Almost forty years later and his incantation still held, the boy was almost giddy with pride.
“Our primary goal has been to shift the ranks of the Monarchs followers to a more mainstream demographic.”
Enlightenment lingered near the door, “You can’t fault the isolated and the inbred for their devotion but they don’t really bring a lot of useful skills to the table. For the next phase we needed technicians, scientists and artists.”
“Not too many artists though.” Persuasion said, “The question we must ask now is, what can we do to help you tonight Victor Kovach?”
The boy nodded to the altar, “The Red Offering is on its way. All I require now is that you don’t get underfoot.”
“You must understand…” Persuasion said, “the Monarchs are reluctant to leave you to your own devices now.”
“Better safe than sorry.” Enlightenment said. “We already have agents out in the streets surrounding the building. No one will get close enough to interrupt.”
“I feel safer already.” The boy replied dryly.
Persuasion nodded, “We also discovered that an old adversary of ours - Clive Bastable alias August Zabladowski alias Noah alias Benjamin Zachary alias Jason Magwier – hiding in a motel near here with an accomplice. He has been taken care of.”
Enlightenment grinned, “The Monarchs have wanted him dead for generations. I smell big bonuses.”
The boy glanced back outside, “Assuming of course that you actually kill him.”
Persuasion said, “Like you we leave nothing to chance.”
“Indeed.” The boy said, “Am I to assume that you two personally will get well clear of here before I begin? You are free to remain of course but I worry that being in the proximity of the breach might be perilous for your corporeal and spiritual well being.”
“We will defer to your experience in such matters.” Persuasion walked back to Enlightenment, “But of course I must mention that if you should fail or attempt to betray the Monarchs…”
Enlightenment waved her hands, “Not that we suspect anything.”
“All the same, if you fail the Monarchs we will find you and we will process you.”
“That’s really standard boilerplate in these kinds of situations, practically a cliché.”
The boy dismissed them with a gesture and sat back down with his back to the altar. His listened to them as they walked back down the stairs, chattering self-consciously all the way.
“I thought that went very well.”
“There is something odd about that new body of his.”
“The whole time I was there, I felt like I was falling.”
“We need more operatives in the surrounding streets.”
The boy sneered and closed his eyes, any moment now the gunfire would begin.