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(The sequel to "Dizzying Highs and Abysmal Lows" )


By Libby

I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII

1


Monday.

The dreams were the worst part of it. Vivid. Vibrant. Kaleidoscoping round her subconscious with neither sense nor reason. Feelings, which she could not even identify, swam up from the depths of her soul; an emotional tsunami surging through her body, until she woke, drenched in sweat and guilt.

Kyra Flynn lay for a moment, allowing the technicolour world to fade gradually into the drab, grey walls of her bedroom. She sat up, shivering, as the perspiration dried on her skin, chilling her even though the room was warm. The steely light of another Librian morning struggled through the translucent window and Father's patriarchal sermon thrummed against her eardrums. "Awake, Libria, to triumph..." Sadly, Kyra shook her head.

With dizzy footsteps, she padded the short distance to the bathroom, peering with hazy recognition at the pale, drawn face in the mirror. In the confines of the tiny shower cubicle, she hesitated before turning on the water, not because she thought it might be too hot or too cold, since the temperature was centrally regulated and controlled, but in a futile attempt to block the vague sense of uneasiness which always came now, when she turned the dial. She recognised the flaw in her thinking, but still wondered if the warmth of the water was boosted by the pre-dawn combustion of some unfortunate sense offender?

Kyra tried desperately to focus her concentration on something else, anything else. Big mistake. Glancing down her body, she idly observed the rivulets of water finding their way round the peaks and curves. Unbidden, treacherous thoughts sidled through a back door in her mind and before she could block them, she was bathed in an altogether different warmth that had nothing to do with the temperature of the water. Kyra slammed her hand against the control in pure disgust. Why did he always manage to find a way in?

She stomped out of the shower, flinging the towel around her, angry at the weakness. Again. Damn the man! Then she laughed, a strained, hollow sound. It wasn't as if it was Preston's fault. He was blameless. Dosed up to the eyeballs and blameless. Kyra dried herself with a degree of harshness that would have shamed a Flagellant, then, feeling suitably chastised, she dressed quickly: regulation black underwear, black shirt, straight black trousers. Kyra still preferred the conservative look. She was secretly relieved that her newfound feelings hadn't unleashed hidden cravings for gaudy clothing or desires for chintz lampshades and flowery wallpaper. She vowed that if she ever found herself coveting small ceramic animals she would demand to be put in the City Furnaces without trial!

Toast popped up just as the early morning interval siren sounded. Kyra sighed as she went through the now daily routine of deciding whether to inject now and ensure she was sufficiently numb for a possible morning A & R, or leave it, just in case she was in the car with the Clerics, when the next one was due. Was she happier when she was on the full dose? There was the paradox. She wasn't happy then, she wasn't anything. Another box to tick on the Errol Partridge list of "The Cost of Feeling". Father's serene voice drifted from the viewscreen, praising Libria's "triumph in adversity". Kyra repressed the urge to throw something.

Thoughtfully stirring a cup of herbal tea, she resolved to speak to Cleric Partridge as soon as she could, then immediately retracted the thought. He seemed rather preoccupied at the moment and she was convinced it was only a matter of time before he got careless and John had no option but to take official notice. Before Cleric Preston had no option, she corrected herself, crossly. Kyra cupped the steaming brew in both hands and reminded herself for the hundredth time, not to allow any feelings to get their proverbial feet under her mental table. And she must never, ever forget what Preston was...the Tetragrammaton's most perfect killing machine. Sipping the tea, she began her silent mantra. Gradually, she restored her equilibrium.

2


At the same time Kyra was juggling toast, tea and her Prozium problem, in a dismal, burnt-out corner of the Nethers, a determined group of men gathered around what long ago would have been considered a fine piece of furniture. Now it was scratched and stained, the legs repaired with whatever materials were to hand. Leaning against one of the legs was an advanced assault rifle. Slightly forward of the pivoting lever safety/selector switch was the ident of the TR58, the preferred weapon of the group. The acquisition of the firearm was one of their on-going priorities, since it was far superior to the older fault-prone models more easily available. It featured magazines with moulded-in studs, so that two or more could be clipped together and a right-folding, hinged stock. Spent cases ejected at a slightly downward angle which reduced visible and thermal signature. Access to such firepower was a constant source of confidence.

On the surface were sheets of paper and several maps, heavily annotated with red pen. A laptop took centre stage and it was the display on the screen which held the men’s attention.

A manicured fingernail tapped the screen. "Raw materials are far too low. We’re goin' to have serious problems meetin' demand," The fingernail's owner tapped the screen again. "We need to make a decision...today."

‘We've bin workin' our butts off to plug the hole Cyrus left when 'e got 'imself plugged.’ His compatriot snickered at his own play on words. He looked round at the others and grinned lopsidedly, distorting even further, the livid scar which ran down his left cheek.

"Oh, for Father's Sake, Ellis...Cyrus was a frickin' idiot!" The first man retorted. He straightened the collar of his latest find, a black leather jacket with the faded words, 'Elvis lives!' embroidered on the back. "He was playin' it his way, skimmin' off the top. Then he got stupid and kidnapped that frickin' blonde! Could've jeopardised the whole operation."

"But it didn't, Jared," a third man commented, icily, "Because Watchdog made sure the right information reached the right people at the right time."

Jared glared at the screen. "All I'm sayin’ Vasily, is that we're prob'ly gonna have to move up the action in Industrial Sector 3. Should be pretty straightforward, given our 'Sweepers' are used to the routine. Still gives me the creeps tho', seein' them black helmets. Carson, you got that frickin' diversion organised yet?"

The fourth member of the group was now engrossed in a route scrawled on the nearest map. He looked up at the mention of his name. "Yeah, pretty much. There's a whole bunch of Clancy's Acquisitions people foaming at the mouth over those 'new' artefacts we...er...found. Lots of abstract stuff. Can't see much in it m'self. Much prefer art when you know what it is. There's this one painting, though, by a guy called Da Vinci...really got something...portrait of a woman..." He grinned sheepishly as he realised the others were glaring at him. "Anyways, wasn't difficult to get the word out. Jus' have to tip them off when it's 'safe' to try and smuggle the stuff out of Sector 7. All Watchdog has to do is set the Clerics on 'em."

The other three men nodded. Once out of the City, they needed the Tetragrammaton's attention directed elsewhere. Jared inspected his fingernails for a few seconds, then turned to Vasily.

"Only thing that's really pullin' my chain, is how the frickin' hell are we s'pposed to know where the Chemist is, if he's movin' around every few days?"

Vasily waited a few heartbeats before he flicked his eyes towards the other men.

"It isn't your concern. The less you know about it the better. I won't take the slightest risk with his security. This is our biggest haul yet and we can't afford to screw up. I won't even decide where the stuff's going until we’re clear of the City. Once it's secure, then the Chemist'll get to work."

Ellis leaned back on his chair, scratching his unkempt head and still chuckling to himself, seemingly unaware of the disdainful looks from the other three men. They tolerated him simply because he was the best Source they had. Otherwise, they'd have fed the scruffy, pathetic excuse for a man to the Sweepers months ago.

Vasily slammed the lid of the laptop shut. His steel-grey eyes narrowed, his gaze raking the room.

"We'll stick to the original plan. No sense in getting spooked and making errors. Things'll be a little tight at the production end but we'll manage. Once the Chemist has finished, we should have a full run of 'White Magic' which'll meet demand for quite a while." He waved his hand to dismiss any arguments. "Raid in IS3 still goes ahead Wednesday. Jared, Carson, you two get our little diversion locked down. Ellis, find out whether the Sweeper patterns are changing….they've been too stable recently. And for Libria's sake get the bikes fuelled! We'll meet up in Sector 4 tomorrow at 17:30. Don't forget I've arranged a little trial run for later this morning, so we can discuss any alterations then. I'll confirm the storage arrangements once we're out of the City."

The four men stood. Jared collected up the paperwork, Carson took the maps. Vasily picked up the laptop and the rifle. The three men slipped out through a door at the back of the room and were gone. Ellis waited quietly for a few moments, listening intently. Satisfied that he was alone, he stood, his body shrugging off its shambling posture. The lacklustre eyes now glinted with a feral intelligence and despite the scar, the irregular features rearranged themselves to become almost pleasantly uniform. He smiled thinly. Time to set the trap.

3


By 09:00, Kyra had attended the morning progress meeting, dealt with various EC-10 items handed down by the Chief Administrator and even had time to begin transcribing the Cleric reports from the previous day. No sign of Partridge or Preston, although she did note Cleric Brandt was hovering near the Section's main entrance, waiting for his partner, Cleric Nelson. There was something about him she could not pinpoint, a vague suspicion which crept around the shadows of her mind, studiously avoiding the light of realisation. Any tenuous strands of connection were severed by a calm, cultured voice.

"It appears that some of the associates of the man, Cyrus, may still be active in Sector 5."

Kyra looked up sharply, as Cleric Partridge placed a small square of paper by her laptop. Co-ordinates were neatly printed in black ink on one side. On the other, written in faint grey pencil, was a vaguely familiar place in the City and a time. Kyra slotted the paper into a pocket in the laptop and closed the lid.

"I'll have the car outside in ten minutes. Will either you or Cleric Preston require extra ammunition?" Kyra hoped her voice was steady. She was still unsure whether to take the next step and meet some of Partridge's "friends". The decision was one which added to the myriad of other issues which increasingly occupied her thoughts in the day and disturbed her sleep patterns at night. She missed most of his reply.

"... with the Sweeper team that will already be in place, so it won't be necessary." Partridge nodded briefly and turned to leave.

With the engine running, listening for anything that might indicate possible mechanical failure, Kyra ruminated once again on her predicament. Partridge seemed to have no qualms about deceiving his partner, whereas she could not ignore the bitter reality, that they were both in some way betraying Preston's trust. It did not sit well with her sense of honour. On a conscious level, she recognised that it was her emotional attachment to the man which elicited this response, but that didn't change the outcome. She would and could never do anything to compromise his position. In truth, she was absolutely certain that she would still be capable of killing for him, a fact she sincerely hoped Partridge did not realise. He just couldn't understand why she remained resolutely isolated in her new state. Surely, she should be so full of the joy of feeling that she'd want to share it with as many like-minded people as possible?

Not that Partridge ever looked joyful, Kyra thought wryly. She had only observed him smile twice, once when she asked for his help in decreasing her interval and last week when he mentioned introducing her to someone called Mary.

Her train of thought was derailed by the heavy thud of the rear doors closing. Preston's expression was impassive as he outlined the format of the raid.

"Approximately 30 offenders in a small warehouse in Sector 5," he told Partridge, "Probably heavily armed. Routine approach and capture procedure."

Partridge nodded, but Kyra could see in the rear-view mirror that he was uncomfortable. She depressed the accelerator and moved off smoothly. If the offenders were indeed part of the more militant group, trading in illegal narcotics, guns and – she'd gained permission to look up the definition - prostitution, then they were fair game. Hell, she’d shoot a few herself! Angry memories of her incarceration flitted in and out of her thoughts as the car glided through the silent desolation of the Inner Nethers. The target sector was now just over an hour's drive and they soon caught up with the second of two Sweeper trucks. It was stretching resources, but if the group were as well-equipped as sources suggested, they might well need both teams.

Just before they reached their destination, three interval alarms sounded. Kyra pushed the 'off' button on her watch as Preston automatically reached forward to retrieve her PIU. For a brief moment, total panic scrambled her brain and she tried to recall whether she'd even put the unit in the centre console. Moments later, the familiar click as the ampoule loaded sent a wave of relief through her, instantly replaced by acute nausea as she sensed Preston holding the black delivery unit over her left shoulder. Inside her gloves, her knuckles were still white from gripping the wheel but she reached back to take the unit from him. As the Prozium sluiced into her veins, Kyra fought to retain her composure until it worked its anaesthetic alchemy, transmuting her emotional state, until she began to feel remote, detached and finally numb. Good thing she hadn’t dosed earlier.

Both Preston and Partridge were pocketing their units as they reach the warehouse. All its windows had been blown out, indicating the Sweepers had encountered resistance. She stood by the car, weapon drawn, as the two Clerics walked towards the building. The Sweeper Captain emerged and spoke quietly and respectfully. Preston stopped and turned his head slightly in Kyra's direction.

"It would be prudent if you stood guard by this door. A number of offenders were captured attempting escape. It's possible there are a few more not actually inside."

Nodding assent, Kyra took position at the entrance, holding her pistol double-handed. It was an upgraded weapon, a TPV92, issued to her after she had proved her competence by taking out a roof-top sniper. She tested its balance, feeling the weight and the steely coldness of the metal even through her gloves. It had the traditional single/double-action with half-cock notch and a 125mm barrel with accurising bushing for maximum shot precision and was hammer-armed and combat-ready. The grip was re-profiled to suit her smaller hand. Dedicated hours at the practice range had ensured her familiarity and precision and she had to admit, it was a handsome beast. She flicked the safety off, setting the weapon to semi-automatic.

Sunlight skittered down the dingy corridor, bouncing nervously off the walls until it came to an agitated halt against a door at the far end. Sweepers lined the corridor as the two Clerics surveyed the scene in a silent standoff. Seconds passed, then there was a strangled shout from behind the door...

Even as it flew open, Preston was sinking into the mind-set fundamental to the Gun Katas and stood in utter stillness, his twin pistols pointing down at 30 degrees. Yelling incoherently, a man barrelled through the opening, firing indiscriminately. Unperturbed, the Cleric instantly dropped to one knee to lead into a forward roll, felled the man with a single head shot, then rose to his feet in perfect balance, inside the room. The remaining offenders, arranged in a semi-circle at the far side, opened fire. Preston exploded into a blur of light and sound. Despite the effects of the dose, Kyra was transfixed by the awesome spectacle of the Gun Kata, flawlessly performed by one of its absolute masters, the most senior of the Grammaton Clerics. The offenders never stood a chance; most were dead before they even knew they’d been shot.

In the smoke-filled silence which followed, no-one moved for what seemed an age, then Preston slowly raised his head, surfacing from the deep well of concentration. Around him, nine bodies lay cooling in the uncaring morning light. He regarded them dispassionately for a moment, then turned abruptly, leaving the Sweepers to deal with the human wreckage.

Hours later, curled up in tight ball of misery in her darkened bedroom, Kyra replayed over and over again the scene which followed the massacre in the sun-stippled room, desperately searching for a vindication of her actions.

Partridge had preceded his partner out of the building and had reached the car, an almost imperceptible twitch in his right cheek the only indication of his inner turmoil. Preston followed, his brow slightly furrowed in thought. Kyra had remained by the door, observing the Sweeper team as it collected firearms and other evidence from the building.

Rather than document the raid at the scene the Clerics decided to leave at once. Kyra turned to join them, raising the pistol to flick on the safety lock. She never managed it. Perhaps if she had, she wouldn't have fired so quickly and the young boy might still be alive. As it was, he blind-sided her, cannoning out from the shadow side of the building, waving what she perceived to be a gun. She acted on reflex, discharging the pistol at near point-blank range. The bullet ripped through his throat, releasing a torrent of crimson which splattered against her black topcoat. The force of the impact hurled him back against the wall. Seconds from death, the boy's accusing eyes fixed on hers, as he slid downwards leaving a slick coating of blood on the grey brickwork behind him. A small wooden stick fell from his grasp. Kyra continued to stare as his life pumped out in a bright red stream, mounting revulsion overcoming Prozium induced indifference.

"Good call, Administrator Flynn." Kyra almost vomited as Preston’s acknowledgement of the kill reached her ears. She rapidly concealed her distress and confusion by making a show of unbuttoning her blood soaked topcoat. She wanted to hurl the murderous weapon as far away as possible, but managed somehow to replace it in the pocket holster. In her peripheral vision, she could see Partridge visibly paling. He probably thought she was about to book herself a terminal visit to the City Furnaces. She inhaled so deeply that her chest began to hurt. Expelling the air in a steady stream, she folded the coat over her arm, and making her way to the car, placed it in the trunk. Partridge had been holding his breath, too. Relieved at her recovery, he regained his own composure and climbed into the car. Preston was still deep in thought, however, and he stood by the rear door for a few moments, left hand raised to his lips, eyes on the middle distance, his sharply analytical mind sifting through every detail of the raid.

They had travelled several miles in silence before he spoke.

"We were given erroneous information. The intelligence indicated these offenders were part of the neo-militant group, the ones concentrating on stealing the base chemicals, not blowing them up." He shook his head slightly and went on, "There’s something...something not right here. This group had nothing more than a few antiquated shotguns. The others...they were armed with the latest Sweeper-issue T58s, like the ones seized in a raid earlier this year on a Munitions factory in the Industrial Sector."

"Didn't we recover some of those from the Sector 15 raid two months ago?" Partridge asked. "Part of the haul the Cyrus character had acquired?"

Preston was mentally ticking boxes. "Indeed. Curiously, those same weapons appear to have found their way back into the hands of the militants..." He let the implication hang in the air for a moment, inviting comment.

"So you think this is all somehow linked...the militants, the false call and the weapons?" Partridge, concerned for reasons his partner could never understand, was keen to pursue the premise. "This spirals us back to Flynn's hypothesis that we have an informer –or worse – in the Tetragrammaton itself." In silence, both men considered the ramifications. Mercifully unknown to Preston, there were many sympathisers within the ranks of the Tetragrammaton, but one who was undermining the Resistance was a dangerous adversary and Partridge would be right there with his partner to exterminate that threat.

It was taking all Kyra's nerve and concentration just to steer in a straight line. Combining driving and sensible discourse was not an option she cared to explore just then. Fortunately, as neither Cleric seemed interested in continuing the discussion, both remaining lost in their own thoughts, the rest of the journey was uneventful.

4


As Kyra Flynn reached the Hall of Enforcement, two men, a short distance away, were locked in conversation. The senior of the two spoke in a low and menacing tone.

"Having reviewed the information we have thus far, I have determined that additional investigation will be required to reveal the identity of Watchdog. Should the planned assault take place, we may then be in a position to pinpoint the refinery in Sector 6 in sufficient time to ensure containment. However, it will a close call and you may find yourself on your own."

The second man replied with just a trace of conceit. "Yes, I know, since I won't be able to get word to you. I do believe that once they receive confirmation of the morning's raid in Sector 5, which entailed pulling the Sweeper team from Sector 4, they'll be confident enough to go through with it. Following the move to wherever in Sector 6 on Wednesday, the Chemist should arrive the following day. I will apprehend him myself."

DuPont rose and walked deliberately around the polished desk, his fingers caressing the soothing blackness.

"I sincerely hope so, for your sake," retorted the Vice-Council. He paused theatrically, then continued, "I am determined to end all this once and for all. The capture of the Chemist and the eradication of this faction are fundamental to my plans. They and the Resistance have been undermining the stability of our great Society for too long. I will not allow it to continue." He looked directly at the other man. "Now...go!"

The man nodded briskly and exited, absently tracing the scar on his left cheek.

DuPont paused for a moment until the heavy door closed, then, returning to his desk, speculated on how far he could trust Lisle. The man was a sociopath, with neither need nor use for Prozium. He flatlined any polygraph he'd ever taken and would have made Cleric - if, during training, he hadn't snapped the neck of one fellow student and crippled another. DuPont considered him a useful, if expendable, tool. As the scruffy Ellis, he had easily infiltrated the militant group, supplying information. However, he was also a liability and the Vice-Council concluded that as soon as both Offender groups were quashed, Lisle would have to be eliminated.

5


Kyra studied her reflection in the mirror, then turned on the tap for the third time to splash her face with cold water. Patting it dry, she looked again, finally satisfied that the eyes which stared back were no longer red from the dam burst of guilty tears.

With some apprehension, she removed the slip of paper from her laptop, then scanned the pencilled address again before ripping it into shreds and flushing it away. She checked her watch. Plenty of time. To do what? Her injector unit lay on the surface next to the sink. It would be so easy just to load it and allow the Prozium to deaden her senses. The reflection in the mirror frowned back at her. What was done, was done. She leaned forward and hissed, "Crying yourself into oblivion won’t bring him back, so get a grip, girl! Move on!"

6


"Now that went like frickin' clockwork, didn't it, guys!" Jared was almost beside himself with delight. "They sent two Sweeper teams, jus' like we thought. It's goin' to be a breeze next week!"

"Well, I'm glad someone's happy about it," Vasily declared sarcastically. "The problem was it was over too quickly. If the same happens on Monday, they'll have time to reroute the team back to Sector 6 and maybe catch us on our way to the refinery. That's something I can't risk. We have to make sure it's drawn out. Any suggestions?"

The other three men looked at each other blankly. Finally, Ellis wiped his nose on a grubby sleeve and yawned.

"P'raps we could...like...make sure they 'ad something' proper to fight with...y'know...put up a bit of a struggle."

Carson pulled a face at Jared, who snorted. Vasily, however, turned and regarded Ellis carefully. Ellis squirmed in his chair.

"I was only sayin'...I mean, we..."

"No, Ellis, you're quite right," Vasily pulled the laptop round and tapped furiously. "We can stand the loss of about 10 or 12 rifles, maybe the fixed stock TR47s. Since Watchdog managed to get the TR58s back to us, we don’t have as much need for the older ones."

"I can 'include' them in the art haul," offered Carson. "Clancy won't be any the wiser."

"OK," Vasily stood up. "Take note of Ellis's revised Sweeper routes. Carson, you get ready to sort out the call to Clancy, late Sunday. I'll let our friendly neighbourhood Clerics know where and when to go hunting. Jared, no screw-ups with the TR58 issue. Everyone's Involved in this job. If we pull it off, we won't need to restock for months, maybe a year."

"It's going to be a frickin' massacre!" whooped Jared.

"It certainly is," smiled Ellis.



7


Moonlight skulked into a small alleyway, casting a fretful shadow in front of Kyra as she approached a door halfway down. She had almost reached it when a tall figure detached itself from the deeper shadows by the wall. Kyra gave a slight shrug.

"You really thought I was furnace fuel today, didn't you?"

"There were a few moments...," breathed Partridge, opening the door.

"Give me some credit, please, Cleric," Kyra spat back, suddenly irritated. It had never occurred to her until now, that she had spent most of her life trying to prove herself to the all-male hierarchy in the Tetragrammaton: firstly to her Tutors, then to her superiors in Administration and most recently to her Clerics. Mentally, she checked herself...to one Cleric in particular. Weakness was never an option. If the day's events had accomplished anything, it was to steel her resolve. No more dosing. She would stand or fall by her strength of will.

They were walking down a drab hallway, towards a room which Kyra recognised as a distribution point for the many information leaflets on various aspects of Librian life. The last one had been yet another cheery little missive on how to report a possible sense offender. Partridge's expression was so apologetic, she permitted herself a small smile.

"So, why, exactly, did you bring me here, Cleric?"

"I thought it was time you saw that you can't hide inside your own head anymore. You're part of something much greater than you realise – even if you’re unwilling to be, right now."

"I’ll not be drawn into anything, Cleric. I have...loyalties."

"Oh, come on Kyra!" Partridge exploded in exasperation, "How long do you think you can fool him? Or have you got some romantic notion that somehow a senior Cleric is simply going to reject years of indoctrination and training?"

Stung by his words, Kyra replied simply, "You did."

The Cleric opened his mouth, but the reply did not come easily.

"I made a choice a long time ago and I've never regretted it. I've done what I can, but my time is running out. We both know that. He knows, Kyra, he knows. The truth is just out of conscious reach. It only needs one more little push, that's all."

Kyra closed her eyes and gently shook her head. Opening them again, she fixed her gaze on the resigned face of her friend. In the dim light, Kyra thought he appeared almost defeated.

"Then why do you insist on doing the pushing? Have you got some sort of a death wish?"

"Of course not, but do you call what we do every day, living?"

His tone was bitter, tinged with great sadness. Kyra felt he was about to add something important, but at that moment the room was filled with a heavy, rich scent as a dark haired woman appeared. She almost glided across the room to where Partridge was standing. Her arms slipped around his neck as she reached up on tiptoe to kiss him, arching her back slightly as Partridge encircled her narrow waist with one arm. His left hand gently brushed away some unruly strands of soft, wavy hair. He whispered something. She smiled. Her fingers briefly touched a red ribbon, pinned to her dress at the shoulder.

Kyra experienced a strange sensation at this display of affection. She couldn’t really identify it, but presumed it was probably embarrassment. The woman finally disentangled herself from the embrace and turned to Kyra.

"Hi. I'm Mary." She proffered a hand, which Kyra, unused to such physicality, shook briefly. "Errol's told me a little about you. I understand you've only been off the dose for a few weeks?"

The woman's voice was light, yet hinted at a hidden strength. Her familiar use of the Cleric's first name jarred Kyra’s senses, but she met Mary's inquiring hazel eyes with ice-blue clarity.

"That's right. Strictly speaking, I'm not completely interval-free. My situation's a little...difficult. I..."

"Oh, don't worry about it. Errol's explained the basics. We all understand."

Somewhat vexed at the unaccustomed interruption, Kyra wondered exactly what Partridge had divulged to...

"Who’s 'we'?" she snapped.

Partridge sensed that he wasn't handling this particularly well. Flynn could be rather prickly if cornered. He walked over to where she now stood, arms crossed defiantly, his smile unreturned.

"Look, Kyra. I know this isn't easy for you. But I really want you to understand what it can be like. Let's go down to the basement, shall we? There are a few people you might like to meet. I don't ever want you to feel alone."

Mollified by his attempt at an apology, Kyra offered a grudging smile and nodded. Relieved, the Cleric motioned her through a door and down a narrow flight of stairs. Mary had already trotted down in front of them. They emerged into a large storage room, where half a dozen men and women were chatting and laughing, surrounded by enough EC-10 material to keep an Evidentiary team busy for weeks. Her gasp of surprise wasn't lost on the small group, who smiled warmly and invited her to sit with them. Names were not exchanged, but were also unnecessary.

For the next two hours, Kyra was saturated in sensations. Her ungloved fingers trailed over delicate objects and stroked rich fabrics. She listened to poetry, her lips parted in astonishment at the evocative imagery. Partridge read some of it, in his rich and expressive voice. She responded particularly to a verse from a poet named Andrew Marvell.

"But at my back I always hear
Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity."

She had never given the future much thought, Father and Prozium saw to that. Oddly, the paradox was that now she could consider the path her life might take, her hazardous dose-free existence might be relatively short.

From time to time, Mary placed grooved circles of plastic on a battered old box. Music. Kyra was entranced. During her time in Evidentiary, she had come across these strange items, but naturally had no inclination to discover their purpose. Now she laughed and clapped at the sounds of 'jazz' and the purity of an instrument called a violin. Mary came to sit next her and together they tapped out the rhythm of something called a 'waltz'.

"Music seems to be something everyone relates to," she smiled. "It's...immediate, visceral."

Kyra agreed. It certainly seemed to make her feel warm and uplifted.

Just before it was time to leave, Mary showed Kyra one last plastic circle. On the faded label, she could just make out the title 'Jerusalem'.

For Kyra, who had never applied her voice to anything other than speech, that moment was an epiphany. The glorious, soaring strains reverberated through her whole body, constricting her throat and gripping her heart in pure rapture. As the little group began to join in the final verse of the hymn, swelling the choir with their own defiant voices, amazed tears streaked Kyra's face. Through her blurred vision, she was aware that Partridge now seemed distant, removed from the circle of goodwill. It was also clear she wasn't the only one to observe this, as Mary soon went to kneel by him, laying her head in his lap.

During the journey back to her Complex with Partridge, ostensibly on Enforcement business, as it was almost Curfew, Kyra contemplated her future. With her intoxicated senses beginning to return to normal – whatever that was – Kyra's ingrained objectivity forced its way to the surface. She understood why Partridge had chosen a full-immersion technique; her belief system obviated all denial, so intense was the Tetragrammaton's indoctrination. However, his timing left much to be desired. Partridge stopped the car near the steps to the Complex, having been as silent as she, respectful of her needs. She hardly noticed that he drove off in the opposite direction to his own Complex.

That night, exhausted by the outpouring of emotions, Kyra drifted into a dreamless sleep with the powerful words she had heard still swirling round her mind:

"Bring me my bow of burning gold,
Bring me my arrows of desire;
Bring me my spear! O, clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand....."


Day II - Tuesday










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