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Written by: Darren ‘The Wolf’ Pearce  

“The Cleric is our last line of defence, not our first form of attack.”
~ John Preston ~

 John Preston, avenger, killer and saviour of New Libria had finally been allowed to rest. After faking his own death to trap Ezekiel Kayne and bring an end to the machinations of Father’s best, he had gone above and beyond his call of duty and even the Governess had understood the need for such an act – though she did not agree with it.

Preston’s life had been turned upside down and inside out, the man had dealt with terrible events and demons that had robbed him of the two links to his wife, he barely thought about her of course due to the iron-grip Prozium had managed to take on his body during the reign of the Tetragrammaton Order. But as the drug had worn off, been purged from his system he discovered a plethora of emotions that he could hardly suppress.

Six months of rest, recuperation and he still felt like a mannequin in a man’s body. The deaths of Robbie and Lisa had burned deeply at his soul and he spent the majority of his time wandering the Nethers looking for stragglers from Father’s regime. If there were any, they had gone to ground and slipped right under the radar.

Tonight he walked the Halls of the New Grammaton Order and paused at the training room, memories of DuPont’s classic rote-training and mastery speech sparked in his subconscious.

"The Gun Katas: Through analysis of thousands of recorded gun fights, the Cleric has determined that the geometric distribution of antagonists in any gun battle is a statistically predictable element.

The Gun Kata treats the gun as a total weapon. Each new position representing a maximum kill zone; inflicting maximum damage on the maximum number of opponents, while keeping the defendant clear of the statistically traditional trajectories of return fire.

By the rote mastery of this art, your firing efficiency will rise by no less than one hundred and twenty percent, the difference of a sixty three percent increase to lethal proficiency, makes the master of the Gun Katas, an adversary not to be taken lightly."

He remembered that speech and it spurred feelings of hate towards DuPont, towards the Grammaton itself and the whole misguided Order. Preston was shocked to find how quickly that particular feeling burned at the forefront of his skull and he sat down on one of the many lecture chairs.

The Hall of the New Grammaton resembled the old in the way it had been laid out, the arches casting somnambulant shadows across the metallic and unfeeling décor; it mirrored the regime of emotionless stagnant government perfectly. It was uncompromising in every way; there was nothing that redeemed this place of death.

It was here that he taught others how to kill; ironic thoughts spiralled out of control in Preston’s mind as he contemplated this. To defend and to safeguard New Libria from outside threats and possible internal struggles, he would have to keep on teaching the Grammaton Arts to new aspiring Clerics until old age caught up with him, for a bitter moment he realised – he had not ended a war, but simply diverted the final battle.

For many years the outside world, the other cities, had taken no real notice of Libria because it was caught in Father’s grip, in his carefully constructed spider’s web of sense-offenders and ‘feeling’ Clerics. He had played everyone against each other and kept the truth hidden, that his regime was as corrupt as those he sentenced to death in the Nethers.

But now that was all gone and the news would spread to the outside world, New Libria had awoke from slumber and people were feeling emotions across a broad spectrum, at the moment these emotions were happiness and an awe at how free they truly were – but with the illumination of shadows, comes a darker side.

The free range of emotions had no check, no counter and no balance to keep them under control. Anger, hate, fear, jealousy would be the next of the Four Horsemen to ride out from New Libria’s fledgling order – regardless of the best intentions, he had recently read a line in a book he’d saved.

“The best laid plans of mice and men…”

How apt that particular piece seemed now as he took the book from the inside of his jacket, noting the author’s name: John Steinbeck, he tapped it with a finger before putting it back safely. He was broken from his reverie by the swift movement of another into the Hall.

Tara Night had been his constant companion, almost like his shadow and the only person to truly see him through the hell of his last sixth months. He’d grown to like the woman a great deal, and as per usual she arrived when he was at his most thoughtful.

“John,” he voice questioned in the shadows as she found him sitting amongst the remnants of his memories. “This is starting to become a habit.”

“I know,” he replied and patted one of the seats. “I like to come here, when the training is over and just sit – to think, there’s a lot to think about.”

“Care to share?”

“You’ve heard it all before Tara,” he offered the barest of slim smiles and folded his hands together. “There’s nothing different in my thoughts, the same hopes, frustrations and fears still haunt me like ever present wraiths.”

“I know, but it doesn’t stop me asking. We’re worried about you John, six months down the line and you’re still pretty much – John Preston, you cried what, three times over Robbie and Lisa’s deaths.”

“I cry inside,” he shook his head. “One day I’ll shed enough tears to drown the city in my emotions. I haven’t really got the time for or the luxury of sorrow.”

“Don’t forget who you are,” she chided a little and touched his cheek, he didn’t flinch.

“I never do,” Preston met her eyes with his own, defiant to the core but soft and almost liquid in their depths. “I am indebted to you Tara, more than I could ever hope to repay.”

“There’s no need for repayment, but you need to focus on something more than brooding.”

“I do,” he lied and then bit his lip. “Sometimes,” the admission was enough to rectify the falsehood and he smiled genuinely. “I thought that I was simple, but I guess I am more complex than I give myself credit for.”

“You can say that again,” a rare whisper of a chuckle passed her lips and her features softened before she spoke up again. “So, what is your biggest problem – what is that number one nagging trouble you can’t get out of your head?”

“I have to pick just one?”

“For now,” she winked.

“That we haven’t seen the last of our good friend,” he said that word with as much sarcasm as he could manage, experimenting with the newfound emotions and words. “Ezekiel Kayne, the man might be dead but as you know – fanatics live on when they’re a martyr to a cause.”

“So you’re wary of the dead?”

“Aren’t you?”

“I don’t know yet. I haven’t seen the dead get up and walk, well, apart from your,” she chose this next line carefully, “perfectly needed deception to put an end to his plans.”

“I did what I had to, it was the only way,” Preston’s voice dropped into a grumble and he began to tap his fingers. “Now it is over – I keep on thinking that it will all blow up again.”

A low beep sounded at Tara’s belt and she hooked the communicator off it with a deft finger, flicking it into her ear. “Cleric Night?”

Preston watched her for a moment and then began to contemplate the shadows in the Hall again.

Tara finished her conversation and frowned. “There’s a minor riot over at the food court, do you want to stretch your legs?”
He shook his head and smiled for the last time. “I think I’m going to get some sleep, there’s a new batch of recruits coming in to the Monastery this morning and I need to have a clear head for tomorrow.”

“That sounds fun.”

“It should be interesting,” he chuckled. “Regardless, you can handle this – you’re a Cleric.”

“I learned from one of the best,” she winked at him and turned to leave. “I will be careful, before you ask.”

“How’d you know I was going to say that anyway?”

“It’s my job to tell what you’re thinking,” Tara echoed Brandt’s words and Preston felt a small shiver just for a moment. “Goodnight John.”

Tara left the Hall and passed down the darkened corridors, she nodded to the Weapons Clerk and requested the usual side-arms and a few other things. A small pair of high density ‘wobble’ clips and some speed-loader magazines were the next on her list.

As she stowed away her equipment, John Preston returned to his new home and sat before a monitor, the glow of the screen threw his features into stark relief.

Tara sat upon the motorbike and thrummed the engine; she twisted the throttle a couple of times and then under the cover of darkness roared out of the underground parking lot of the New Grammaton building. She relished the feel of the harsh wind on her face, the sensation of air deprived from her lungs and the sheer power of the bike as it growled through the streets.

New Libria at night was a very different place to the Libria of old, the streets were lit and often gangs of colourfully dressed men, women and children prowled them. Usually there was no trouble thanks to the lessons of the old city, and the ever present fair but sometimes deadly hand of the Sweepers and the Clerics.

The people of the city were content to live out their lives without the hand of Prozium on their shoulders, but some of them feared the same as John and the Government, a return to the ways of humanity prior to Father’s utopia.

Tara’s bike slowed and she stopped outside the food court, she swung off the vehicle and adjusted her coat already the business-like mask fell into place and she approached the first of the Sweeper teams.

In a clear voice she demanded, “Sweeper, report?”

He turned his helmeted head towards her and stepped away from his three companions. “Cleric,” he offered her a nod. “Numerous individuals have barricaded themselves into the court, with at least a hostage. They have some misguided notion that the Government is putting Prozium back into the food supply.”

She frowned and raised a single brow, elegantly. “Are they armed?”

“Not to our knowledge, we tried to use the hose but they evaded our team before we could bring the pacification device to bear.”

“Understood,” she replied and began to walk towards the door. “How many are there?”

The stalk was a definite reminder for the men of John Preston and his encounter in the Nethers, where they had seen him dispatch a room full of armed Resistance in the blink of an eye, and the pitch black.

“Six, Cleric,” the lead Sweeper answered and began to motion his men to follow. “What do you want us to do?”

“Cover the side and back entrances,” she reached the barricaded front door and pulled a small metal disc from her pocket. “Only shoot to incapacitate, if they are armed and offer significant resistance,” she ordered flatly.


The disc was placed and a small red LED began to pulse softly, Tara withdrew to a safe distance and began to count down from the moment she’d thumbed the activation stud on the explosive.

The Sweepers moved into their positions and the sound of their weapons being readied echoed through the night air.

Tara scrambled up onto a low wall, across the stonework and onto a narrow roof, with a small leap she landed on the flat surface of the food court. From there the Cleric moved quietly until she reached the back of the roof, where she found a skylight that allowed light into the building during the day.

Thirty seconds later there was a resounding bang and the front door was battered by an explosive force, the device shattered the wood and buckled the metal. At the same time this happened Tara blew out the skylight with her pistols and dropped through the opening.

Six Librian’s had taken refuge in the food court and they held a seventh (a man) hostage, a single revolver pointed at his head. The sudden appearance of a Grammaton Cleric dropping into their midst, panicked the woman holding the gun and she turned, aimed and reflexively fired.

Four of the Librian’s moved quickly, they went towards the back door and away from the dealer of death, the image of Father’s ultimate enforcer still locked in their mind – man or woman, the image of the Cleric was enough to make them break and run.

Tara’s knowledge of the Gun Kata saved her life as she turned to the side and dropped low, both pistols hammered out a reply to the woman’s shot, taking her in the kneecaps and forcing the air from her lungs as she hit the floor hard. The second male suspect threw up his hands and remained absolutely still, while his injured companion scrabbled for the revolver in a desperate attempt to get even.

A second shot sounded and the gun whipped away across the floor, the bullets missed the female suspect’s fingers by mere inches.

Sweeper Harris stationed at the back door wasn’t so lucky; the man took a stomach full of shotgun at close range as the four men ran past him. The leader of this group kicked the man’s body out of the way and growled, “Get to the van!”

The Sweeper’s body slumped and the other two Sweepers made entry into the building, blasting the locks of the side doors. The converged in the main food court area and found Tara cuffing both the man and woman, her fingers snapped the metal onto the man’s hands and she was off and moving again.

“Deal with these two,” her order was like ice and she sprinted from the room, just in time to see a van screaming off around the corner. She radioed in to the Sweepers and informed them of the current situation, called in a MedEvac for Harris and then sprinted off towards her bike.

Part 2 coming soon...

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