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This is the final story in the 'trilogy'. It takes place several months after the events in the film and concludes the journey of Kyra Flynn. I have assumed that readers are familiar with the other stories and also with the events in
'
Mortal Thoughts'.
- Libby



(This story will be completed in a series of installments)

   1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
 

Chapter 1

 

'If that dog pees on my shoe one more time, I swear I'm going to shoot him!'

Preston gingerly carried the offending item of footwear into the kitchen area, past the suitably mortified canine that obviously recognised it had finally gone that little bit too far. The huge brown eyes followed their master and the gentlest of whimpers escaped its throat. Claws skittered as the dog sought to find a purchase on the smooth, featureless flooring. It nudged apologetically against Preston's legs, leaving a trail of fine hairs on the man's sharply pressed trousers. Preston looked down and scowled at the brown and white bundle, now sniffing studiously around his bare feet.

'Beethoven! Come here, you bad dog!'

Lisa stifled a giggle and sought to look stern as 28lbs of unruly fur and muscle hurled itself away from Preston and towards the outstretched arms of its beloved mistress.

 


Muffled by the sound of the tap running and vigorous scrubbing, Preston muttered that he should never have brought the puppy home. Puppy! The thing was taking on elephantine proportions.

'I should have listened to Kyra…'

'What did you say, Dad?' Lisa was scratching vigorously behind the dog's ears, causing it to emit yelps of pure puppy pleasure.

'I said, I should have listened to Kyra. She warned me that the size of a puppy's feet gives a good indication of the final size of the adult dog.'

Preston turned off the tap and snatched up a cloth. He marched over to his daughter, who was now sprawled on the floor, wrestling with the besotted animal.

'Here. The least you can do is dry my shoe…'

Lisa looked up cautiously and reached for the shoe and the cloth. For a brief moment her lower lip trembled, until she caught the slight upturn of her father's mouth and the barely suppressed amusement dancing in his eyes. She smiled. Unable to maintain his aura of disapproval in the face of such radiance, Preston placed his hand gently on Lisa's shoulder.

'Just try to teach him some good manners, OK?'

'OK, Dad,'

'And keep him away from my shoes!'



'Will I ever get the hang of this…parenting thing?'

Preston frowned and rubbed a finger thoughtfully against his lips. It was essentially a rhetorical question but Kyra Flynn rolled amused eyes at him and waved the question away.

'Don't look at me,' she smiled. 'Never going to be one of my life experiences!'

'You shouldn't underestimate yourself, you know. Seems you have Robbie and Lisa pretty well pegged.'

'You think so? I'm more inclined to believe it's the other way round!'

Preston regarded her with one of his more enigmatic smiles before returning to the closely typed sheets in his lap. Kyra stared out of the car window, aware that her body language was probably bordering on the defensive, hoping that John was sufficiently engrossed not to notice.

The Cleric sighed and laid down the papers.

'It will probably be a difficult meeting this morning. There's bound to be major opposition to the increase in armed patrols in Sector 15. I shall need your support. No matter how much I try, they still see me as a Cleric of the Tetragrammaton.'

Kyra's eyes followed the droplets of steel-grey rain as they crawled miserably down the window. She inhaled slowly, held the breath for a moment, then released it equally as slowly. She swivelled her body to face John, forcing her expression to neutral.

'Why try to be anything different? If it wasn't for the Free Cleric, the 'opposition' would be non-existent!'

Preston nodded. His intuitive nature had indeed picked up on Kyra's well-concealed discomfort and he was pleased that she had simply put away whatever was troubling her to concentrate on the day's business. He admired her professionalism and her ability to cut through to what was important. The past few months had not been easy for either of them and in many ways, personally and professionally, they were still in a state of transition.

During the remainder of the short journey to the Free Librian HQ, temporarily housed in the former Equilibrium Centre in Sector 8, Preston and Kyra reviewed the morning's agenda. Occasionally, sirens from the accompanying cortege disturbed their concentration. It was a necessary yet uncomfortable reminder of the still perilous times in which they now lived.

To anyone who had no idea of the momentous changes brought about by the Amber Revolution, the sight of a white car gliding through the grey Librian streets, flanked by motorcycles and Sweeper patrols, would seem nothing out of the ordinary…merely Clerics going about the relentless business of the all-powerful Tetragrammaton. As it was, the escort was now there purely for their continued protection against as yet unidentified, but not unexpected hostility from those who rejected outright the tenets of Free Libria and who sought to re-establish the old regime in all its Prozium-fuelled intensity.

Assassination attempts and indiscriminate bombings cratered the fragile path along which Free Libria now stumbled. Indeed, her journey towards lasting peace was fraught with all manner of dangers. It was a measure of the desperation of her plight that those Clerics and Enforcement troops loyal to Preston were now needed as much for her preservation in the newly formed Free Librian Security, as the Third Councillary had employed them in its crusade to annihilate her.

 


 

Sotto voce comments, coupled with a variety of expressions ranging from the merely curious to the downright suspicious, greeted the Cleric and his Administrator as they entered the still makeshift Council Chamber and took their seats to the left of the Senior Council Members. Several of them smiled and Preston nodded pleasantly in return. Others were not so forthcoming, deliberately choosing to focus on the printed sheets in front of them. Kyra shook her head and muttered something inaudible, before noisily shuffling her papers and stacking them neatly on the drab green table.

After the last of the Councillors had filed in, a tall grey-haired woman, who had afforded Preston the warmest smile, rose gracefully, then brought an ancient gavel down onto a well-worn sound block, bringing the meeting to order. A few coughs. Some impatient whispers. Silence.

'Thank you, Council Members, Free Clerics and Associates. Once again there are a great many items on the Agenda for this week and we shall try to address all of them in order. However, due to recent developments, it will necessary to make a few changes. Please be patient.'

Senior Council Member Tatiana Volkov was highly respected amongst the fledgling Council of Free Libria. She had been the calm voice of reason during the almost unbearable years before the fall of the Third Councillary and was an indispensable Advisor to the First Council Member. The fact she was also his Aunt was often forgotten.

Whilst Preston listened to her outline amendments to the proceedings, his mind effortlessly recalled his first view of her as, eyes closed, she climbed serenely up the subway stairs, several steps ahead of him. It was the morning he had deliberately let the ampoules of Prozium slip from his fingers, to be crushed underfoot, releasing forever his allegiance to the liquid amber.




Unconsciously, he touched the palm of his right hand, the same hand which had been drawn to experience the smooth coldness of the guide-rail and which instead had been shocked by the residual warmth from the hand of another.

Somewhat abruptly, the Cleric was dragged from his reverie by a different voice, powerful in its conviction, yet burdened with the true knowledge of the human cost of Libria's rebirth. He felt the concerned pressure of Kyra's hand on his arm as Jurgen addressed the Council.

'I know that many of you are worried by the recent upturn in violence in your Sectors and concerned at the increased deployment of Enforcement officers. We lived for so long with the dream of a free Libria, that the reality of plunging our citizens into chaos in the name of liberty was virtually ignored in our struggle against Father and the Tetragrammaton. I remember saying…' Jurgen's eyes slid briefly to the Cleric, who was watching him intently. 'I said…that if we could disrupt the supply of Prozium for just one day, our cause would be won by Human Nature itself.

Well, we all know now how fickle that Nature is…how the success of winning the cause can be measured by the amount of food on the table, whether or not the electricity or water supply is constant…even by how regularly the trains are running.

Yes, people are feeling again, experiencing the highs and lows of human emotion. But they still need order, continuity. And at present, that order and continuity cannot be maintained without the visible presence of the Free Cleric and the controlled utilisation of the Police. Those of us instrumental in the destruction of the Old Order have to accept that we must use its crumbling and scarred foundations to build the New.

And we also have to accept that there are still many who, for their own warped purposes, seek to undermine those foundations, to strike at the very heart of our new society and render it impotent. We cannot show weakness. We must use whatever means available to protect and nourish this new society. We have already sacrificed so much. We must not fail Free Libria now!'

 



The ripple of applause grew into waves of enthusiastic clapping. Many members jumped to their feet in loud vocal support. Preston leaned forward, noting the knot of black-coated Clerics on the far right-hand side of the assembly. They neither stood, nor applauded, but all appeared outwardly respectful and every one of them was looking in his direction. He acknowledged them with a barely perceptible nod. They rose as one like some huge black carrion bird and exited silently through a nearby door. Even Preston had to admit their very presence had hung like a dark cloud of remembered menace over the proceedings. Their scheduled meeting with him, later that day, was likely to be somewhat frosty. The Cleric were almost universally hated, tolerated only because of Preston's position in the new Council and the undeniable fact that they were a dreadful necessity.

Once the Council members had settled themselves again, each Sector representative gave his or her report and highlighted any major issues. Mostly, the reports were identical: problems with supplies and lines of communication with the Industrial Sectors; sporadic violence, theft and defacement of public property. Absenteeism from the workplace was causing particular headaches.

Equilibrium Centres were inundated with people needing help with Prozium-related complications. There were insufficient counsellors to cope with traumatised citizens desperate to find their emotional balance. Others still clung to Prozium, unwilling to cease their interval until stocks were depleted totally.

Preston maintained an aura of concerned interest, but inwardly he was fighting a losing battle against boredom. He visualised the stack of paperwork and e-messages awaiting him at Enforcement headquarters and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He realised that he loathed inactivity. Beside him, Kyra Flynn stifled a yawn. With her hand still covering her mouth, she whispered in the Cleric's ear.

'How much longer is this going to go on? We have so much to do!'

'I don't know,' Preston whispered back. 'But Council Member Fraser looks set for the long haul. Don't forget that so far Sector 15 has the highest incidence of possibly organised crime, hence the increased Enforcement presence. And Fraser has jurisdiction over two of the Industrial Sectors…'

'I understand that. In fact that's what concerns me. So wouldn't it just be better if we…'

Preston had raised his hand slightly. Kyra closed her mouth.

'Listen,' he said quietly. 'This is…interesting.'

Council Member George Fraser ran the fingers of his left hand through salt and pepper hair, took a moment to sip some water from the plain glass in his right, then continued the sentence which had piqued the Cleric's interest.

'…so the equipment from Factory 4 never made it to the dismantling site on Tuesday. Both low-loaders simply vanished. Of course, we didn't know until this morning, when I got a call from the Officer-in-Charge. Baffling is what it is.'

Preston rose and placed both hands on the table. 'Forgive the interruption, Council member Fraser, but why has it taken 48hrs to discover that this equipment is missing?'

Fraser threw up his hands in exasperation. 'I don't want to appear rude Cleric Preston, but have you any idea just how much stuff has to be taken apart? The scale is just enormous… it all has to go somewhere and at the moment, that somewhere is the recycling plant in IS2. Basically, this shipment wasn't missed until it was missed…'

Preston acknowledged the information by raising both his hands off the table and looking directly at Fraser. He knew his next question was going to irritate the Council Member even further.

'Do you have any reason to suspect the OIC or any of his staff?'

Fraser closed his eyes briefly, then opened them again to look pointedly at the Cleric.

'Why should I?' he said coldly. 'The Officers who escorted the shipment from the Factory were from Free Librian Security!'

Suddenly, it seemed that everyone was talking at once. Preston sat down heavily. This was all he needed. Tatiana Volkov leaned forward and looked directly at him. She recognised the necessity of maintaining a high level of trust and knew this had to be cleared up immediately. She didn't miss anything and was privy to many secrets still too damaging to Free Libria's delicate stability to be allowed into the public domain.

After the Revolution, the Palace of Justice had been sealed off until Free Libria reached her own equilibrium. Many things which had not been burned, shredded or otherwise spirited away, were still concealed in its cold cavernous depths.

'Perhaps, Cleric Preston, you would look into the matter personally? And report to me or the First Council Member?'

'I will indeed, Senior Council Member Volkov. In fact, if you would excuse us, Administrator Flynn and I will arrange to visit the Factory at once and carry out a further investigation.'

Preston and Kyra had to edge past a number of Senior Council Members to reach the door. As they passed Tatiana, she winked at them, knowing full well why Preston had been so eager to leave and take up her suggestion. Then her bright grey eyes clouded suddenly and she gripped his sleeve.

'Be careful, John,' she cautioned softly. 'There are many forces at work in the City. I am fearful for Free Libria…and for you.'




The Cleric briefly covered her hand in reassurance.

'I was once reminded that I've trained all my life for just these kind of situations,' he responded gently, anxious to allay those fears. 'In some ways, my job hasn't really changed, just my reasons for doing it.'

He moved off to speak to Jurgen and Tatiana grasped the opportunity to have a word with Kyra, who felt a hot twinge of embarrassment, because she knew what the older woman was going to say. She had become a close friend during the frightful weeks after the Revolution, before a semblance of calm had descended. Kyra valued her counsel, but sometimes Tatiana saw too much.

'How are things?' Tatiana folded her arms in a matronly fashion and waited for the reply.

'Fine…thank you.'

'Fine? Hmmm. It can't be easy for you, I know, but he's a good man, Kyra, a decent man and…I've seen the way he looks at you sometimes. He's proud of you…of what you've accomplished. It will be all right.'

'How can things ever be truly right when I'm the reason he doesn't have a wife and his children don't have a mother? Tell me that!'

The older woman's expression hardened and she clasped Kyra's hands.

'If you don't deal with this now, it will poison any chance of happiness you may have. Personally, I doubt he ever gives it a thought. Have you even discussed it?'

Kyra shook her head, dumbly.

'So you just ignore it…hope it will go away. Like Mary O'Brien?'

Kyra felt her face colouring. She blinked hard and pulled her hands away.

'My problems are pretty insignificant compared to those of Free Libria. You know this, Tatiana. I did not spend 26 years in the soulless halls of the Tetragrammaton for nothing. I have to make the experience gained there count for something here.'

'I couldn't agree more. But you can't let your actions in the past affect your present…or your future. Because that's what we all have now, Kyra. A future. Talk to him. He'll understand how you feel. And he does care for you. You wouldn't be together if he didn't.'

Kyra turned to look at the Cleric, still deep in conversation with Jurgen. Tatiana had to strain to catch what Kyra murmured and it saddened her.

'I may be in his bed, but I'm not in his heart.'


Chapter 2










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