This story emerged as I thought about the role of women in the
EQniverse. I didn't want to get inside the head of a female Cleric, but
I wanted a woman to be in an important position. I also wondered about
the nature of offenders. This Prequilibrium story is set not too far
before the events in the film.
The purposeful crowd came to unified halt as the interval
siren sounded. In the main square, five hundred people simultaneously
took out their PIUs and injected the amber liquid into their veins.
Around them and above them, Father's soothing voice gave reason to
'Libria, I commend you. You have embraced the ideals which
make our society great. You have relinquished your desires and pursued
our cause with strength and tenacity. You are the.....'
Kyra Flynn listened intently as she made her way across the
square to Cleric Headquarters, a grey forbidding building and an
ever-present reminder of the power of the Tetragrammaton. She was a
little later this morning because of an incident at her apartment
block, which had caught her attention.
A Sweeper team had been dealing with a small group of
offenders who had tried to steal provisions from one of the Nutrition
Stores near the entrance. Normally, this would have elicited little
more than a casual glance, but the aggression of the lead offender was
unusual. He had actually killed or injured several Sweepers before
being put down. She decided to enter this observation in her morning
report. It was not an isolated incident and as such could be indicative
of a more serious problem.
Over recent months, the so-called resistance had changed its
tactics. Whilst many of the raids were still unearthing explosive
equipment destined for the Prozium factories or Equilibrium,
small groups of offenders were actually stealing the base chemicals
used to manufacture Prozium. It was disturbing.
As Kyra entered the building and strode towards her offices,
she passed by the Hall of Precision, where the acolytes were deep in
their morning Gun Kata drills. Slowing her pace, she observed the
fluidity of their movements. She pushed her fingers through short
blonde hair, smoothed her black topcoat and continued on down the
Nodding to the heavily armed security guard at the entrance
to the section where she worked, Kyra waited for clearance.
"Good Morning, Administrator." There was no inflexion in the
guards voice, it was simply a habitual response..
"Good Morning." Her reply was equally flat.
Administration Section 7 was gearing up for another busy
day. Men and women moved quietly from area to area or concentrated on
their screens. The lighting was subdued. The patter of keystrokes was
almost subliminal. As always, Father's gentle benediction reinforced
their resolve, his benign countenance overseeing their every action.
As Kyra approached her desk, several grey-coated individuals
slowed almost imperceptibly to allow her through, a tacit
acknowledgement of her superior status. She took her seat, flipped up
the screen and scanned the day's provisional schedule with a practised
08:00: Progress meeting
08:30: A&R Sector 15
14:00: EC-10 reporting
15:30: Security matters:
items missing from stores.
Of course, this was just a guideline. The day could pan out
completely differently and usually did. As an Administrator First
Class, Kyra's prime responsibility was to her assigned Clerics,
everything else was secondary. In fact, glancing up, she could already
see that she would not even make the progress meeting.
Striding between the rows of desks, oblivious to the number
of greycoats who backed respectfully out of his way, Cleric John
Preston dispensed with any formal greeting.
"The A&R has been brought forward. Intelligence suggests
they have a substantial weapons hoard. We are possibly dealing with the
new faction, so we'll need two Sweeper teams."
"Yes, Cleric." Kyra was already putting the Sweeper request
through to dispatch. "Shall I put extra ammunition in the trunk?"
Preston considered for a moment. "Yes, of course. We should
He nodded briefly, spun on his heel to leave and added,
"Cleric Partridge and I will be ready to go in ten minutes."
As he left, Kyra rose and headed towards the stairs. She
checked with the automotive technicians that the problem with the car
had been solved successfully. It would not be prudent to be in the
Nethers with a faulty transmission. She signed out the standard extra
ammo kit and placed it in the trunk.
Listening to the engine as she exited the parking bays, Kyra
could no longer detect the metallic grinding sound first noticed by
Cleric Partridge, last week. Satisfied, she pulled up in front of the
steps and the two black-coated Clerics got in.
There was little conversation during the journey, but that
was nothing unusual. Kyra reflected that the two First Class Clerics
had been partners for years and had the highest kill-rate. They were
both exceptionally intuitive and worked in perfect unison. She had been
their Administrator for almost two years and following the Council's
decree had also been their driver and back-up for six months. It was a
sign of the difficulties facing the Tetragrammaton from terrorists and
other offenders, that she was being given additional, modified
Kyra's formative years had been spent in the College of
Administration, a career chosen for her by the Tetragrammaton. She had
been raised by them since the death of her parents when she was four
years old. Very few girls were accorded the privilege, but with careful
conditioning she was considered an acceptable risk and allowed, with
one or two others, to be schooled with the boys, as an affiliate, until
she was eight. Kyra recalled attending mathematics and Librian history
with the young John Preston. Only graduates of the College could be
Now she considered that her contribution to Librian society
was increasing and that gave her satisfaction. Her thoughts were
interrupted by the sound of gunfire. Ahead, smoke suddenly billowed
from the ground floor window of the targeted building. Kyra swung the
car left into an area behind the Sweeper teams. One wagon was already
on fire and there were several Sweepers down. All three got out.
"In the future, it may be advisable for the teams to wait
until we arrive, before attempting a sweep." Preston was grim-faced as
he surveyed the scene.
"This really is not the usual pattern for offenders,"
commented Partridge. Preston shot him a glance.
The two men looked up as the Lead Sweeper approached. He
seemed baffled. "They appear to have prisoners or hostages, it isn't
clear. We've driven them into the back of the building. What do you
want us to do, Clerics?"
"Move the remaining wagon forward, direct the hoses into
that area, sweep the ground floor. We'll clear." Preston was already
formulating the most effective plan as he and Partridge took up the
dual Kata stance, back-to-back, weapons drawn, functioning as one.
Circling slowly, relaxing into the mind-set, both men were almost
preternaturally aware of any movement, however small. Only a true
threat would elicit any response. That threat came from an open first
floor window. The offender made the immediately fatal error of trying
to take aim. The single bullet lanced through his forehead and he fell
back out of sight. Preston did not even break his stride.
The two Clerics disappeared into the building and shortly
after, Kyra heard the unmistakeable sound of the Gun Katas, She could
distinguish two distinct patterns, recognising Partridge's staccato
Kata 19 and Preston's smoother Kata 27, both totally lethal. She leaned
against the hood and waited, considering that it had been some time
since she had heard Cleric Partridge's fire patterns.
Sweepers and Clerics emerged from the side of the building,
hauling three bedraggled women, who were alternately sobbing and
pleading. At this distance, Kyra could pick up only odd words from the
hysterical trio and experienced a twinge of disgust at the spectacle.
Others Sweepers were carrying out various boxes, some of which appeared
to be weapons. Certain boxes were familiar, others were not.
She was trying to identify them, when her focus was pulled
back. The man slid over the hood and managed to get his arms around
her. That he had no plan after that was obvious as Kyra bent smoothly
forward at the waist, hurling the offender over her right shoulder. He
landed with a heavy thud. Any attempt he was about to make to get up
was ended by a roundhouse kick to the side of his head.
Reacting on reflex, Preston and Partridge had already
covered most of the distance to the car. A popping sound above them
caused both men to spin and fire at the same time. The dead sniper
performed an almost ballistic swandive from the roof, landing feet from
the pure white vehicle. Preston noted that there were three bullet
holes in the man's head. Partridge looked over to Kyra, who was still
holding her gun double-handed. He raised his eyebrows slightly. Preston
turned and acknowledged her shot with the briefest of nods.
He sighed audibly. Observing the Sweepers loading the still
sobbing women and confiscated weapons in to the wagon, he commented,
"The women will taken for processing. They claim they were abducted
from the city. The technicians at The Palace of justice will ascertain
the truth. Some boxes carry the mark of the Tetragrammaton, the rest
seem to be filled with an indeterminate substance, mainly a white
He nodded at the Sweeper dragging Kyra's unconscious
attacker away, glanced at Partridge and continued, "You are absolutely
right, Cleric. This is a disturbing trend. There were no EC-10 items in
evidence, only weapons, the powder and those women. What are they
They headed back to the City in silence, each contemplating
the behaviour they had witnessed. Kyra had some thoughts, but she would
not voice them unless her views were specifically sought by the
While they were still some distance from the City, three
synchronous alarms buzzed. Preston took out his PIU, quickly injected
his interval, then reached forward. With a practised movement, he
flipped the console between the front seats, removed another PIU,
loaded it, then handed it to Kyra. She took her hands off the wheel
briefly, to inject. Preston replaced the unit. Kyra looked in the
mirror and nodded her thanks. Partridge was already replacing his unit
in his pocket.
Finally, Partridge spoke. "Consider this. A man ceases his
interval and becomes an offender. What if his motives are not governed
by a need for intellectual or spiritual enhancement, or to experience
feelings simply for their own sake. What if he feels he can profit from
it, from trafficking in weapons and human life. Perhaps it is about
supply and demand, about power and wealth?"
Kyra looked in her mirror. This wasn't the first time she
had heard Cleric Partridge give what amounted to an impassioned speech.
She glanced at Preston. He seemed unconcerned.
Instead, he turned to his partner. "The women claimed a man
called Cyrus was intending to sell them to someone, although they could
not furnish a name. The weapons were still boxed and possibly had an
alternate destination. As yet, the powder is an unknown. Administrator
Flynn, what do think?"
Kyra was caught off-guard for a moment. When she spoke, her
response was measured. "I cannot comment on the women or the powder,
but several of the boxes looked identical to those reported missing
from Stores. The bar codes will confirm it. That means there must be
someone on the inside. I have a meeting at 16:00 relating to missing
items. I'll see what I can find out." She hesitated briefly, glanced in
the mirror. "Are we still on for practice?"
Preston looked up. "Of course, 17:00 in the Hall of
In a way, Kyra looked forward to the training sessions.
There was a calming simplicity to some of the opening sets and she was
able to clear her mind of the clutter of the day. Usually, she would
progress through to some of the easier Katas and even some practice
with the Katana. However, today was different and she was thrown three
times before Preston remarked on her lack of focus.
She sat on the floor and shook her head. "The meeting did
not go well. It appears those weapons were upgrades for the Sweepers.
We recovered less than half today. The Chief Administrator is
instigating a Level 5 investigation."
Preston nodded thoughtfully. "We'll be going into Sector 9
tomorrow. By then, the Technicians may have got something out of that
offender you levelled. Meanwhile, take position, Set 6."
Kyra got up. She was going to have a few bruises by morning.
Later, Preston was in the changing area, fastening the
buttons on his topcoat, when Partridge appeared.
"Useful session?" he asked.
"Fine," replied Preston. "Administrator Flynn is progressing
at an excellent rate. It was a good decision to train her further."
"Agreed," murmured Partridge. "That headshot was quite
Preston looked over at his partner, ignoring the comment.
"What have you discovered ?"
"According to the chemists, the white powder is actually a
narcotic derived from the base chemicals which make up Prozium. Some
offenders apparently use it as a .....mmm...re-cre-a-tional drug."
Partridge sounded out the term. "The man Flynn kicked in the head was
full of the stuff, which probably explains his foolhardiness."
Preston pursed his lips, shaking his head. "We'll be taking
two teams into Sector 9 tomorrow. Clerics Morgan and Ryan will be our
back-up. Flynn will pick us up at 08:00."
The journey to Sector 9 was not as Kyra had envisioned.
There was a great deal of talking. She drove steadily while Preston
confirmed their situation.
"So far, we have a name, Cyrus, three female offenders with
no further usable information and an unco-operative accomplice with a
"Not a good start," agreed Partridge. He looked thoughtful.
Kyra was about to ask about the powder, but at that moment,
the supposedly repaired transmission began to shudder and the car
ground to a halt. The second white car drew alongside, black tinted
window already dropping. Both Preston and Partridge got out of the now
"We will continue with Clerics Ryan and Morgan," Preston
told Kyra. He flagged down the nearest Sweeper Truck. "Two Sweepers
will remain with you. We'll pick you up on the way back."
Without a backward glance the two Clerics got into the other
car and sped away. The Sweepers watched as Kyra popped the hood and
peered at the slightly smoking engine.
The intelligence for the Sector 9 raid indicated it would be
a full-scale operation. It was correct. Partridge volunteered to stand
guard by the entrance, whilst the other three followed the Sweeper
During the next fifteen minutes, the three Clerics were
engaged in several high-level Katas. The building was a single storey
warehouse, packed with fuel and explosives. However, those offenders
captured appeared to be of the 'regular' sort. There was no evidence of
upgraded weapons or white powder.
The Clerics left the clean-up to the Sweepers and headed
back via the broken-down car. Cleric Morgan, riding in the front seat,
next to his Administrator, was the first to notice the abandoned
vehicle and the two dead Sweepers. The extra ammo kit in the trunk was
missing. There was no sign of Kyra Flynn.
Preston carefully examined the ground around the car.
Bending down, he reached behind front offside wheel.
"What have you found?" queried Partridge.
"Administrator Flynn's PIU."
Partridge's eyes flickered. He turned away.
"If we're to find her," continued Preston, "We need to gain
information. I suspect she has been taken by the other faction. We have
the opportunity to put an end to this, once and for all."
had returned to consciousness several minutes earlier, Kyra remained
still, her eyes closed, listening. She could hear male voices some
distance away and female voices much closer. The floor was cold, hard
and smelled vaguely musty. She opened her eyes.
meters away, slumped on an old, dilapidated couch, two women were
watching her intently.
One of them,
dark haired, wearing a shabby blue dress, raised her head and sniffed,
"You must've put up a hell of a fight for them to use the knock-out
stuff on you! I can see why Cyrus fancies you. Don't get many City
types around here."
woman, equally grubby in a red sweater and green pants, refastened her
untidy brown hair with a black band, swung her legs around and
sniggered, "I'll bet that's why Marty's limping. She prob'ly kicked his
herself into sitting position. A nylon rope round her right ankle
tethered her to an old radiator fixed to the wall. She checked for any
damage, but apart from a few bruises and an odd taste in her mouth, she
determined she was uninjured.
hurt you any more than they have to," the first woman commented and
then, obviously mimicking someone continued, "Don't touch the
merchandise!" Both women laughed.
did not speak. She looked at her wrist, but her watch was gone.
is it?" she asked, a chilling thought half forming in her mind. Her
topcoat was gone ,too.
snickered the second woman. "Prob'ly about dinner time 'cos I'm hungry.
You hungry, Suze?"
got up and went to the door. She called out, "Hey, Cyrus! Your package
is awake and Tash and me are hungry!"
snapped up at the name, but she said nothing. The door opened further
and a man entered. Kyra observed him with a trained eye. He was not
what she had expected. Cyrus was tall, immaculately dressed in a black
suit, black shirt and black tie. His hair was well groomed -although
the style was definitely not one the City's Personal Appearance
Technicians would consider appropriate. His smile showed perfect
dentition and Kyra thought she could detect a scented smell. The man
was a walking EC-10 violation.
her with dark, cold eyes. "Well, you're quite a bonus, I must say.
You'll fetch a fine price. I have just the client?." His voice trailed
off and an unpleasant smile crossed his clean-shaven face.
He pushed a
chair across to Kyra and motioned for her to sit. She ignored the
chair. Cyrus shrugged. "You'll be our guest for a few days until I can
make arrangements. Pity that flashy car of yours was broken. Could've
got quite a bit for that. The stuff in the trunk was a nice surprise
A flurry of
replies raced through Kyra's mind, mostly based on what the Grammaton
Clerics - and an image of Preston in full Kata stance rose up - would
do to Cyrus and his EC-10 friends. However, she kept her counsel and
simply stared at him.
ordered the woman called Tash to fetch some food. He warned Suze to
keep an eye on their guest. He had things to attend to in Sector 12 and
would be back later. He left, whistling.
her pockets, then turned to Suze. "Where is my coat?"
She definitely did not have perfect dentition. "What d'you want a coat
for, sweetie? You're not going anywhere just yet." She leaned forward
and hissed, "You want your little black unit, don't you? Well it's not
here. Is it time to dose? I haven't a clue - haven't dosed for years.
Gonna enjoy the next few days, watching you come down...." She sat
the first stir of panic. How long since her last interval? She couldn't
remember. What would happen to her? She didn't want this. Her entire
existence was predicated on being free from the 'dizzying highs' and
'abysmal lows' of human emotion. She couldn't do this. Fighting nausea,
she began a silent mantra, the one Cleric Preston made her recite
before each practice. Gradually, she restored her equilibrium.
& Abysmal Lows - TII