It's cold in
fingers are almost numb; but it won't be long now. I suppose there's an
irony in ending my life in this God-forsaken place. Because that's what
I feel He's done… forsaken me.
placed the precious book on his knees and rubbed his hands together
briskly. His warm breath hung wraith-like in the frozen air. Partridge
regarded the ghostly swirl with amused detachment.
how my soul will leave this earth?
which he supposed now glided purposefully through the curfew-silenced
city towards the Nethers, Partridge felt strangely at peace. The burden
of knowledge and concealment would finally be lifted from his shoulders
and the danger of revelation eased.
through the jagged panes of stained glass to hide behind the timeworn
pews of what was once a magnificent cathedral. Now, small creatures
were its only congregation, their eerie calls and furtive scrabblings
its only choir. Partridge flicked his eyes down the jet-black topcoat.
The further irony of a Grammaton Cleric awaiting his execution in a
church was almost delicious.
The Cleric's eyes
shattered images of saints and martyrs, locked in perpetual adoration
or suffering. One particular group of supplicants caused him to gasp as
long-forgotten memories clamoured to be relived. Partridge was
surprised how easily the scenes unfolded...
how certain things remain so vivid one's memory, no matter how much
time passes. To this day I will never be sure why I acted the way I
Sector 5: Residential area: many years previously...
situation appears to be contained.'
captain was all
respect and efficiency. His team was spread out around the dingy little
building, rifles raised. Cleric Partridge moved briskly through the
door towards a group of dishevelled offenders huddled on their knees in
the dust. Just behind them lay several of their compatriots, sprawled
messily in bright arterial blood which was creeping in a viscous stream
towards his feet.
caused the foremost of the offenders to tear his eyes away from the
trail of sticky red liquid and fix them firmly on Partridge. The young
man's expression was fathomless, as devoid of emotion and feelings as
any Grammaton Cleric. The clear blue eyes were without a trace of fear.
Partridge was slightly curious. As a matter of course, just the sight
of the severe black uniforms instilled mind-numbing terror in those who
had ceased their interval and were 'feeling'.
His partner neatly
stepped the congealing mass and continued on into a small courtyard,
pistols cocked, leaving Partridge to oversee the prisoners as they were
led to the wagon which would speed them to the Palace of Justice and
their ultimate fiery demise.
been sufficiently vigilant, but Partridge had barely reached the door
when staccato bursts of gunfire, behind him, triggered an automatic and
deeply ingrained response. He raced back down the hallway, leaped over
the bodies and tucked into a roll, coming up into full Kata stance at
the entrance to the stone-flagged courtyard. At some point he had drawn
the twin signature pistols, but their use was rendered unnecessary by
the swift and lethal actions of his partner, who now stood motionless,
surrounded the bullet-ridden bodies of half-a-dozen offenders.
Cleric,' Partridge commented, idly observing the look of surprise
frozen on the greying faces of the dead offenders.
as he replaced the still warm pistols snugly in their pocket holster.
on his heel
to exit the courtyard. This raid was probably the last he would
undertake with his current partner. He wondered if he would be required
to supervise a new graduate...
His musings were
cut short by
a shout from the Sweeper team, followed by several shots. A number of
the offenders had broken away from the group being loaded into the
wagon and had bolted into the warren of small buildings and alleyways
which typified this part of the Nethers. One was dead but two others
had managed to evade the Sweepers.
immediate area and Partridge directed the Enforcement officers to
execute a standard search and retrieve. Their failure to contain the
prisoners would be dealt with on their return to the City. Partridge
skirted around the rubble-strewn frontage to the side of the building –
which had once been family residences – picking his way carefully
through the debris. His keen eyes glinted with awareness and although
his body seemed relaxed, a careful observer would notice the deliberate
placing of his feet, the perfect balance…
his peripheral vision caused Partridge to spin, sidearm raised and
ready. Clear blue eyes challenged him to fire and be damned. For what
seemed like aeons, the two men faced each other. Partridge increased
the pressure on the trigger...then abruptly lowered the pistol, never
taking his eyes off the other man.
'Go,' he said,
The blue eyes
surprise. However, the young man needed no further encouragement and
fled down the alley. At the corner, he turned and nodded briefly
towards the Cleric. Something deep within Partridge stirred. A long
repressed memory of another pair of blue eyes, crinkling in laughter...
bro, kick the damn ball!'
He shook his head
as if to
clear it of indecision, yet the enormity of his betrayal was
On the journey
back to the
City, confusion vied with certainty in the Cleric's mind. A sideways
glance towards his silent partner reassured Partridge that his action –
or rather inaction - had gone unnoticed. Partridge knew that he was
pretty much the last of the old order. The majority of the acolytes in
the Monastery, now, had been born into the system. Only the older
Clerics had vague memories of the Upheaval.
Partridge had been
when his parents, younger sister and older brother were killed in one
of the last terrorist attacks before the end of the Second Councillary
and establishment of the Tetragrammaton. His uncle was already a
leading figure and brought the shell-shocked boy into the Monastery. By
degrees, the New Order emerged, its birth pains relieved by the mass
opiate, Prozium. Partridge had embraced the drug with a zeal which even
he recognised as flawed, based as it was on a desire to forget tragedy.
Yet gradually, the daily injections and the words of Father – the
leader of the Third Councillary – suppressed his anxiety and fear,
replacing them with faith and allegiance to the cause. He had risen
swiftly through the ranks, acknowledged as an exceptional student.
there's a good word. Whenever one can't explain something, then one
must have Faith. Whenever there are awkward questions to be asked,
Faith is always the answer. I have Faith...just not in the
the book and
began to scan the pages, but the words seemed to flow together and
blur. He blinked once, then again. The page before him was suddenly
When was the last time I wept?