Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Real World

It all started with a hole.

I'd always been obsessed with the end of the world. Or maybe it was just the lack of responsibility, the ability to hide away and do nothing but survive, as if that was enough for a successful life. As work was getting the best of me, and the people who were meant to keep me up were just dragging me down, this little obsession grew into an overwhelming hobby. So I started making a shelter.

You couldnt really call it a shelter, though. It was a hole. It had some support beams and some garbage carpet I'd driven past one day on the way home, and decided to take. It was filthy and smelly and stupid, but it took me weeks just to dig the hole, to reinforce the tunnel.

The first rainfall it collapsed.

Not just the tunnel, but the whole garden. We went from a grassy field with swings and a slide to this muddy hole 5 foot down and exposed to the elements. My family cried looking at the mess. My Mom looked devastated. But this just strengthened my resolves.

I had gone in half-hearted, as I had with everything in my life up until that point. And this half-heartedness had not only ruined whatever it was I was trying to create, but also, everything my family had worked so hard to cultivate; a nice garden; flower-beds surrounding it; a quaint stone wall to edge it off; a play area for the kids. I had not only ruined the weeks I'd worked on this, but the years my family had put into that garden. Only the apple-tree survived my ruin.

Before that moment I was only hurting myself. My time was worthless, I told myself in my head, so what does it matter if it fails. What does it matter if its made of stolen wood and compacted dirt. What does it matter if there's nothing really behind it, no science or math or thought. Maybe it'll collapse on me. Hopefully.

But seeing my families distraught faces, it tweaked that hollow in my chest.

So, I did some research. When I wasnt at work (and, to be honest, often when I was) I research basic architecture. I didn't watch films, but educational shows about tunneling, and the occasional black and white 'escape from the PoW camp' themed film. Anything that would give me ideas. Gone were the fantasy or sci-fi books my escapist mind hungered for; now it was basic physics, carpentry, construction. I spent months just... reading. Watching. Thinking.

No one had repaired the garden. No one had the heart. It was the dark spot in the extremes of all of our periphery just haunting us. 'This is what your son has become', it whispered to my Mother. 'A waste of space, good for nothing', it said to my Nan. They hoped by not mentioning it they wouldnt have to deal with those thoughts they had whenever they looked me in the eye and saw... nothing.

With a spade and a pick I set out, in all my free time, to try again. I made canopies to help stop water getting into the delicate areas, and rather than just tunnel downwards like some game of Minecraft, I expanded outwards. I went down 15 feet, a massive opening almost the length and width of the garden itself, before I'd even considered what I was going to put in there.

I looked at that empty hole. I stared long and hard, night after night. I wish I could say I saw my life, hollow but full of potential and hope, but my life was still black and stormy. I still struggling with work, and my friends, if I could still call them that, had barely noticed when I stopped going out with them, stopped showing up online, stopped sending them messages they never replied to anyway.

I didn't see my life in that hole, but that hole had somehow became my life. When I was at work, it was all I thought about. When I was at home, I spent all my time, tweaking and perfecting every inch of it.

My research went further. Construction recommendations for an underground bunker. Wood or steel, iron or tin. Where did I have to place support beams, how did I distribute the weight, and what sort of oxygen intakes did I need to survive?

I dont know what apocalypse I was preparing for. The world was fine around me. There was no real war. No virus spreading the populace. No.. anything, really.

It took months to get the raw materials. I went through three construction designs before picking one that worked, even made scale models to make sure they would work. The last time I put this much effort into anything, I was learning my ABC's in preschool (and I still struggling with my R's).

And the work was hard. I used more sick days in those months than I ever had before. Sometimes I was hurt, sometimes I ached, but sometimes I worked through the night and time just caught up with me. I think I slept every few days, and even then I dreamt about laying foundations, installing mounts, embedding support beams.

Nobody came to visit me. Or to see what I was doing. My Mom would bring me water and ice when it was hot, warm tea when I was cold, and a close hug when I could do nothing but cry and shake in the corner of my hole. Only she seemed to understand why I was doing this, and even then it was tenuous. I couldnt talk to anybody about it. How could I? I was that weirdo with the hole. I was always dirty. I was always tired.

But when I saw it, I smiled. For the first time in.. well, too long.

Loading the dirt back into what remained of the hole was the single scariest thing I'd ever done. At first I was so gentle, every creak and moan made me stop, made my eyes water, made me want to throw the whole thing in and leave it as it is, pristine and unchallenged.

But I didn't. And slowly, over the course of days, I loaded that dirt in shovel by shovel, until the only thing remaining in view was the top of the entrance chute, the opening that led to the ladder that led to the small compound underground. Climbing down there for the first time was like being born again. The tight ladder tunnel, the thud when you first set your foot on the metal floor, the archway, and then the room, as wide as the garden and equally as long.

I wish I could say it changed my life.

But it certainly changed my garden.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Flames for the Moth

One by one, the blinking icons in prime position on the monitor flashed once, twice, a third time, before blinking out. For a short while only one remained. This one, more than an icon, a 3d image built by a dozen static photos. A relief of a young woman. Before fading away, like the rest.

The information had been acquired. For all the resistance, taking it had been met with little struggle. And the file wasn't even locked. How fortuitous.

The true value of information was always underestimated, he found.

But although the icon had faded, he kept the render of the young woman. Her and her team had been everywhere lately, on every screen, in every message. Strange. So many tracks had been swept clear, so many trails removed, all for what?

"Remember when we used to play, dear brother? I was so lost, and you would always save me."

What was left of him sighed. He brushed his hand against the monitor, just for a moment pretending he could still feel, before closing the connection, at least, for now.

"We can't all be heroes. You taught me that. We need victims, as much as we need villains."

And he dilligently returned to his work.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Glass Dreams

"I sing the song of aeons," he muses to me. "My brothers looked upon the world and decided, no, demanded that it would be shaped by our whim. We turn reality to sand, to mold in our hands with the water of our voice, to purify with the fires of language." He turns back to the war raging in open, empty space behind him. "We build our dreams out of glass," he sighs, "And expect others not to break them."

Friday, August 15, 2014

There at the Beginning, There at the End

Five days had passed since the Scales of Judgement had attacked the Cradle once again.

Five days had passed since the ship had endured that battle, silent and unyielding, as Alexander and his team broke into the darkest regions of the Cradle, beneath the wards, beneath the maintenance slums, and into the Arc itself. Five days since they had set eyes on Anubis, and decided that his life, his power, was too great for this galaxy to witness.

Alexander remembered those words he had spoken to his team. Remembered them like honey dripped into his ear, sweetening his thoughts.

“The Unreal itself crowd around him, aware of its threat. Just seeing him, I can feel his tremendous power, and that is something we cannot release. It is beyond my control. Far beyond it. I come to realize that what Indrafil was saying is true; we’re not the bearers of our own destiny. Or, we weren’t. We were souls thrust into motion by Anubis, by the Scales and their desires. But Indrafil should have won. He should have released the God I’ve worshipped for so long and rained a mighty annihilation upon Drex, that was his animus, the very purpose he was created for, and he failed. If his direction can fail so radically, then we can change ours by hand, define our own fate.

“My purpose has been revitalized. Anubis was never the goal, and this just confirms that fact. We hunt the Archangels, and with renewed vigour. All we need is a sample of each one, the tiniest sliver, that will be enough. 12 fragments. 12 shards. And then…”

Alexander clenched his fist tight. Clothed only in dark trousers, he stood looking at open space, letting its emptiness soothe him. They had fled after that. Fled through the legions of Erratics waiting beyond them, through the security teams and private armies waiting for them on the ground. On that day, Alexander’s intensity had frightened those around him. Worse still, it had frightened him.

With Indrafil’s body draped on his back, he’d made a tomb of that place.

He turns, and looks at the granite slab in the centre of the room. Aside from a tray of tools and unguents, this room was dominated by that slab, and that slab dominated in turn by the battered body of Indrafil, his first General, the traitor who had turned him in for a chance of power, a chance that failed. When they found him in the Arc, he was shocked at how far Indrafil had fallen. He had not only witnessed his God, broken and trapped, but had discovered the reason for his birth, his creation, and his existence.
It had left him broken, too.

Alexander approached the body, and ran one errant finger up Indrafil’s cold arm.

“Air and earth are my horizons. What lies between is what I am.“

Alexander reaches over to the tray of tools, and draws a wicked curved saw, its serrated edge gleaming in the rooms low light. He lowers it to Indrafil’s chest, and with one powerful push, the sound of slicing flesh and snapping ribs echoes through the room.

“O infinite form of being: beast and stone and vegetable; the way a man may stand in his garden or dance by the river while wakes of small boats rock the reeds.“

He continues to saw, deeper and harder, until all of the ribs are broken, speaking loud his prayer. He has no need for cleanliness or care here, and simply reaches into the chest, and pulls out the now-detached ribcage, slivers of skin draping like wires between the body and the piece removed. With a tug, they too snap free, draping Indrafil’s body with blood and strips of flesh. He places it to one side.

“The cities and the people in them, gods who walk in white linen, like women under the blue stone of heaven.”

He places the saw back down, and picks up a small, sharp scalpel. With it, he severs what is left of the skin and muscle around the now-open chest, and then goes to work, peeling away the muscle and fat protecting the organs, tearing off layers and discarding them as if he was peeling an orange.

“I am the priest in a hidden house, guide to inner worlds. I am the idea of myself in my mother's belly, a bright trembling star in the memory of morning, a grain of sand blown east.“

Finally, they were revealed. With the organ sac cut away, Alexander gazed upon the silvery-flesh of Indrafil’s organs. With a larger scalpel in hand, and with considerably more care, he began to cut at the flesh holding the organs in place, cut through the muscle and vein holding them down. He was covered in gore up to his elbows, his shirtly torso splashed in blood.

“I am the husband of Isis: woman, and widow, and witch. To embrace her is to dream of ripening wheat. To sleep in her arms is to dream of honey. “

One by one, he lifted them out of the body, as careful as a midwife with a freshly-born child. The heart. The lungs. The stomach. The liver. Each of them, in turn, he placed to one side, gentle and careful. They were his ward, his children, and his goal.

“With a word she drives the snakes from the river. The boats sail far to its mouth.”

He lifts the chest cavity, and beginning to hurry, places it back over the gap in Indrafils torso. It sits unsteady, with little inside to hold it in place. With the delicate hands of a man well adjusted to such a grisly task, Alexander begins sewing delicate threads around the edge of the wound, repairing what damage had been done. Only now, looking this close and working this carefully, could he see the other scars. There was only a slight variance in each one, each tracing the lines of the other. This had been done before. Many times.

“Air is what I breathe. Earth is where I stand. I have given my face to Amenta. It is white with heat. The world is bright as bronze.”

With Indrafil sealed, Alexander now reached for his last tools. Four canoptic jars sat on the side of the tool tray. Each was a foot high, made of stone and gold, like a glorious curved jar with a very specific lid – each of the lids had a carving, generous with detail and pristine in condition. He lifted the first, the lid of a Crocodile, and placed the stomach inside it. The second, with the lid of a falcon, he placed the liver. The third, with the lid of a cat, he placed the lungs. And finally, with the lid of a jackal, he placed the heart. In each corner of the stone slab sat a small indentation, each just large enough to slot one of these canoptic jars in, to hold steadfast and steady. Each corner held a jar, with Indrafil’s gory body in the centre.

“The dead rise up to see me, breathe the air and look into my face, a yellow disk on the eastern horizon.”

A loud gasp echoes the room.

Indrafil sits up with a start.

He looks around, frantic. He scratches at the blood on his chest, pulls at the slivers of flesh draping from his torso, until they snap free. He rubs his hands over his chest, until he can outline his freshly-sewn wounds, until his eyes lock onto Alexander. Then, he begins to calm.

His breath is deep, panicked, and he struggles to talk. He mutters out a few words, but they are hollow, empty of form and meaning. Alexander simply smiles. He takes a towel from the tool tray, and begins wiping his hands, staining it with viscera.

“Take your time..” Alexander says, calmly. “It’s never easy.”

“You think..” Indrafil gasps. “It would get... easier...”

“How many times now? Ten? Eleven? And still you panic.”

“I didn’t... expect it... to be... so... soon...”

“Well,” Alexander tosses the towel to Indrafil, then turns back to the window. “I need you at your best. The last mission went well, but it’s only a foundation.”

Indrafil dabs at his body and face with the towel. He looks down, only to see the towel so soaked in gore, that it was all but useless to him. He tosses it to one side, begins slowing his breathing, glancing nervously at the canoptic jars.

“I’d hate to have been there the first time you realised you could do this..” he gasps, before swinging his legs round and off the side of the slab, perching on its edge.

“Lets just say it took some figuring out. Trial and error. But we don’t have the time to waste on conversation. We’re pulling near Cendra soon. I want you to take a ship and dispatched shortly after I send LORE and his team down to the surface. You know what you have to do.”

“So everyone here is convinced they know your plans, right? As if they’ve got it figured out?” Indrafil smiles. He had ridiculed Alexander’s plan at the beginning, but everything had come together flawlessly. “Hell, even Ran-Samot and his little coup seems to be working in your favour. They’re so caught up with distrusting Masquerade that they’re ignoring the letters between the lines, huh.”

Alexander clenches one fist tight. He restrains himself from expressing his anger, stops just short of punching something.

“And yet, they still have more Arc-angels than us.”

That response seemed to cow Indrafil, who visibly flinched at its venomous tone. He let a few moments pass in silence, then hopped off the table, and strode towards Alexander.

“Forget it. If we’re lucky, Ran-Samot will figure out where Masquerade is based, and our mole will leak the information and lead us straight to him. Then we’ve got the Arc-angels, the only man who can stop you, and those who turned against you.” He went to pat Alexander on the shoulder, but stopped for a second, then thought better of it.

“I’m afraid we can’t rely on luck. If you fulfil your end of the plan, then we’ll be fine, ‘O Angel of Judgement Day’. Now go. They can’t see you here, and frankly I’m tired of your snivelling..”

Indrafil fell silent, and span on his heels, rushing out of the room as fast as his weary body would take him, leaving Alexander alone.

“So many plans, Alexander..” he mused. “So many plans relying on others. Ran-Samot, LORE, Indrafil, Masquerade. Such a delicate house of cards, we’ve built.” He looks towards the Darkstar in the distance, then smiles wearily. “Oh, but it will be worth it, Master. It will be worth it...”

Saturday, June 14, 2014


I am ill.
I lie alone in my bed, tossing and turning, fever striking me hard as my stomach clenches. This might as well be virgin territory, as with delirious eyes I explore the rise and fall of my mattress, every nook and cranny of my discarded sheets, pushed aside like a worn out lover no longer needed.
I no longer sleep. Having to stand up and rush away makes it inefficient, even dangerous to rest too long unconsciously.
Instead, I undergo micro-sleeps. The clock I watch like a fanatic jumps erratically around the times my brain shuts down in the urgent need for rest. The onwards march of time no longer makes sense to me. I have fallen out of the continuum.
With my tiny naps come dreams, and with my fever they strike me like vivid, violent hallucinations. I panic, but my body is too exhausted to respond, and my panic feels empty, hollow.
In my dreams, I am tiny, a small man trapped by my giant bed. The sheets are now like mountains, insurmountable, and in the distance I see the rise of my pillows. I am nothing.
In my dreams, a mutated bird sits on my windowsill. It has two wings, black feathers, but three heads twitch from its single neck, one looking forward, one looking backwards, and one looking up. Beady eyes seem to watch me intently. It's endless caws try to warn me of a danger I will never understand, and then it is gone.
In my dreams, I am curled up on the floor. People surround me. They don't talk but I know they are disappointed. I try to shield myself from their scorn, but  I am weak and they are strong.
This dream lives with me longer than most.
I feel the potential of the day slip away. In my heat I wish I could melt away, lose shape and reform into something stronger, more flexible, more capable.  It it is only my tiredness talking, and the scorn I feel for my poor health will pass, even if my self hatred doesn't.
I am ill.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Valid Concern

I'm always concerned when I think of starting up a blog. Its a simple thing to do, but it requires hours of dedication and commitment, and I'm not great at that. I'm not great at many things, I'll be honest. But the real reason I always tremble in my boots is this;

"Am I enough of an egotist to believe that people care about what I have to say?"

This is the thought that bogs me down. The part of me that loves attention is pushing forward, screaming at the top of its lungs, and banging on the door out of my mind. But the awkward part in me - that part that was taught not to play up, not to draw attention to yourself, not to ask for attention because it'll take it away from others and that is selfish - that part of me is holding the door closed, quietly praying all this will pass so it can go back into the shadows and just... wait to die, I guess.

That was how I was raised. Everybody gets a chance, everybody gets a shot. If you want any more, you're taking it away from somebody else, and that's just not fair. At first I always thought it was an issue with equality, giving everybody an equal chance to prove themselves. "No man gets left behind!" a grizzled sergeant would shout, pulling someone onto the helicopter just in time for it to fly away, the enemy's guns chattering away at its feet.

Of course that isnt true. Not really.

(Not the equality part, I'm all for it, but the root of the behaviour.)

What it came from was a crippling self-hatred. "You're a horrible person" it would whisper when no one was looking, "you don't deserve it." And, all too often, I would listen to it, if only because it was the only voice there through thick and thin. During my success it would be there, lost in the crowds of people wanting to be around me, to lavish me with praise. But during the failures? During the darker times? It was just me and him, and he didn't have to shout to be heard. He could just say it casually, and it would be like the word of God.

And like with all big ego's (I like to believe..), they came with an equally as valid lack of self-confidence. They put on this act, this character, to hide the suffering. You hear of perfectionist actors and their hundred takes, artists who paint day after day but whose art is only ever seen in reserved quantities, stripping out what they believe is sub-par.

So it became a totally valid concern. Why would people want to hear what I had to say?

The change in character came gradually. It never improved, so don't come looking for a happy ending. I still hate the person I am with every inch of my being. It was more.. I became to realise that, sometimes, people do want to hear what you have to say, even if you thought it was worthless. Because the most worthless things, to you, might be the most important things in the world to someone else.

"One mans trash is another mans treasure."

And maybe, just maybe, my trash will be treasured by someone.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Elijah's New Garden

Elijah was not held in a cell, nor in a cage. Unlike his ‘brother’, Zacharael, he wasn’t locked away. At first they thought it was just because he was unable to move. After all, Elijah appeared to be carved out of a single piece of an unknown hyperalloy. His arms stretched out either side of him, his legs hung sullen below his body, as if dangling from his form, although entirely incapable of actually dangling or even moving. His head was turned downwards, his shoulders raised upwards, in a scene of immense sorrow. His face, although difficult to see in anything but direct light, was a picture of sadness, his closed eyes awash with disappointment, his closed mouth upturned in grief.

Whatever the Archangel of Innocence knew, it bore a heavy weight on him.

But after further discussion – and it was much more a discussion than a study – it was revealed that, although Elijah couldn’t really move, he had no intention of doing so.

The struggle that had took place to get him here had already passed through the lips of everybody in the facility. An attack on a Hypertech starship – a famous one, no less, the Scales of Judgement! – a mad dash to acquire the target in the belly of a downed Human Capital Ship – The Innocent Father, another famous name! – and an intense battle between two teams with totally different ideological stances. It was almost the plot for a mindless summer action film. And, true to form, the good guys won.

“There are no good guys in war..” Masqeurade would respond, when the story finally reached him. “Alexander is no more, no less malicious than I am. Now stop that silly story and get back to work..” And the connection was lost, simple as that.

When Elijah was brought here, carried on the back of a number of Humans and Machines that came in with him, he did little but weep and howl in grief. Those that brought him in were monuments to his power, the deceased souls of the crew of the Innocent Father resurrected through a concoction of natural plant growth, Hyperreal acceleration, and whatever gift Elijah possessed. But it appeared that his power had a source – the large tree growing in the centre of the Innocent Father, where Elijah had reached out from to Masquerades team, if the reports were to be believed – and as Elijah’s disciples grew further and further away from the tree, Elijah’s power began to falter, and they began to fall.

The last to fall was Nathaniel Barton, Commander of the Innocent Father, whose final gasps were used to carry Elijah on his back, alone, into this room, into this sanctuary, where he was safe from Alexander and the Scales of Judgement.

“You have survived..” Barton spoke, his eyes welling with tears, as he looked up into Elijah’s face. Barton forced a smile. “Then it was all worth it..” His body, less flesh and more plant-like material, began to falter and then fail completely. His whole form seemed to disintegrate and then collapse into a pile of ash and detritus. The last of Elijah’s disciples had fallen.

How he screamed in rage, that night.

The coming days were difficult. Elijah was grief-stricken. When they tried to speak to him, to ask him so many different questions, his responses were few, and always concerned the same topic.

“I saw their souls. Pulled them from the Loneliness. They died in such agony, and I knew they deserved better. Why did you come for me? Why did they have to die a second time?”

Weeks would pass before they would get anything more from him. They tried to provide him with food or sustenance, but he refused. Masquerade’s scientists performed every type of visual or theoretical test they could, trying to figure out what Elijah was, how he existed in this closed-off solid state, and if he could eat, how would it even happen. The biggest question was; could he move? If he wanted to, was he able? He was suspended on wires from the ceiling, with a small stand to hold him stable and aloft. Could he step down, if he so wished? Could he escape?

They tried to put security on the door, but Masquerade stepped in. They tried to lock Elijah in, but again Masquerade said no. Every scientist in the facility petitioned him time and time again to perform physical tests, elemental screening, mobility and form and function tests, but every time Masquerades thoughts were quite clear;

“He came with us, willingly. Give him time. Patience is our best chance here.”

Time and time again he turned them away.

It had been three weeks. No progress had been achieved. Most had returned to Zacharael, to the Jackal Virus, to dozens of other projects Masquerade has brought in over the recent months, all of them somehow related to Alexander. Elijah’s room would be unmonitored, unvisited, for days at a time.

It was a researcher, Sally Hughes, the first to enter Elijah’s room in a few days, that made the first real breakthrough. She arrived that day, content to check on Elijah when so many others wouldn’t waste their time. The room she entered, however, was not the room Elijah was originally brought in to. Over the course of a few unseen days, Elijah had blossomed. A single seed had dropped from his upturned mouth, and landed in the centre of this barren room.

The speed this seed had sprouted could be visibly measured, watched and followed as it moved visible to the naked eye. The first few tendrils were quiet, gentle moving things, but as they grew more confident, more vines began to sprout. In three days, half the room was covered with plant-life, each vine sprouting numerous bulbs, each bulbs sprouting beautiful flowers. This was all with no light, no water or moisture, no nutrients, growing across concrete and carpet.

And in the centre of the room, where that first seed had spread under Elijah’s feet, was a sapling. The tiny beginning of a massive tree.

It seems Elijah had got over his grief.

From then he was much more forthcoming with what he knew, although that information was still limited.

“I don’t know what I am..” he would say, as the sapling slowly grew to cover and conceal him. “I can tell you I was not born. I remember, before I took this form, that I was drifting through space. So cold, so alone, for so long. That loneliness would never leave me, it was embedded into my soul. That ship, the Innocent Father, I was there in its final moments, I was dragged into its Hyperreal core, and with it, forced into the core of the planet where you found me.

“It molded me. I grew into this, the immense pressure forging me as hard as granite. But there was life down there, the ability to create and sustain, and where the planet grew cold and barren, I found I could cultivate it. As my tree grew, I found its tendrils reaching into the Hyperreal.

“When my vines reached upwards, out of the core and into the ship, I found myself appalled by what I had found. So many had been killed. And with that foul stench of death came a darker sensation, as if I had reached into a world beyond this one, a world of suffering and little else.

“I could feel them there, detached from their bodies, groping around in the darkness. Everyone who had died on that ship was there, so afraid, and so utterly alone. I forced myself to reach into the Loneliness, acted as a beacon, a light of salvation they could come towards. I began rebuilding them. Each soul that returned to its body was so grateful, and in return, that pleased me. So I continued doing it.

“Until those others showed up. Until they took me away from there. I need my tree, I need to save people from the Loneliness. It is my duty.”

Masquerade watched the recording with ennui, and soon cut it off. He leaned back in his chair, brought up a call to the head researcher on the project, which was answered immediately.

“I don’t have time for his life story. You know we’re on a tight deadline.”

Sally nodded. “I know, I thought it would interest you. Zacharael was established when we found him. He had been functioning for many years, had matured and grown stable, became extremely competent and intelligent. Elijah, though, is a different case. The Innocent Father was brought down only 18 months ago. With Elijah’s story, and measuring the growth of his plants, he couldn’t be more than a year old. And his mind and personality reflects that.”

“He’s child-like, I know. What does this mean for our project?”

“Its not that he’s child-like..” Sally continued, “..it’s more than he’s lacking in maturity. He hasn’t developed yet. This shows a clear developmental timeline within the Archangels. Zacharael was at least 4 years old - at least! - since his conception as Zacharael. We can establish that they have a primitive form, a pre-existential configuration we’re called a Shard. In this state, they’re aware of their existence, but only as a precursor to something greater, usually embodying some greater emotion or concept. Elijah was loneliness, whereas Zacharael was of surrender – he had given up on himself, and therefore was able to surrender his genetic material to create the Jackal Virus. The Virus is his way of surrendering to the world around him, was his lack of power manifesting itself.”

“You mean they have some sort of genetic conscience? Some.. fragmented attachment to reality.” Masquerade leaned forward. Something had finally caught his attention.

“More than that, Sir. They have a fragmented attachment to each other. They’re all pieces of a greater whole.”

“Huh. And you can prove this?”

“It’s only a theory. If you can get more Archangels, maybe. But there is something more troubling about this, Sir.”

“Go on..” Masquerade leaned back. The situation was troubling enough – he crossed his arms over his chest, and wondered how much worse it could reasonably get.

“Well, we’ve got two Archangel samples and are starting to track developmental indicators. If Elijah is like this at 1 year old, and Zacharael was that capable at 4, we could be dealing with a big problem. We know Indrafil-”

“Indrafil?” Masquerade interrupted. “We had confirmed reports that he was dead. No body, but enough footage and genetic traces to confirm he was gone.”

“I’m not here to debate that, Sir, just an example. Indrafil was considerably older and considerably more capable than Zacharael or Elijah. Our agents never established his abilities, but he broke into The Cradle, and Apogee like it was nothing, and he was smart enough to challenge Alexander at the most opportune time and steal the Scales of Judgement, and operate it completely alone. With these developmental profiles, we know that an Archangel gets significantly more powerful, and thus more dangerous, as it grows. It‘s practically exponential growth. If Zacharael was capable of releasing a virus that could take down whole cities, what would Indrafil be capable of? Worse still, there are other Archangels that we just don’t know about.”

“So you’re saying we have less time than we thought. Thank you. I expect your report within the next few days.”

“Thank you, Sir. Is there anything else?”

“Yes. Elijah’s tree..” Masquerade leans forward, out of the shadow that concealed him. His expression was dour, utterly serious and without any indication of emotion. Sally was, quite possibly, the first person to see his real face in a long time, although the power of that fact was clearly lost on her. “..I want it..”