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Equilibrium Fan Fiction by Judas Austin
Taking Sides

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"Write a diary, Preston" he said. "Start recording history, Preston" he said. "Note down the key events of New Libria and the relevant rehabilitation of its citizens, paying particular attention to the Clerics on our side and the so-called Second Resistance, Preston" he said. What does Jurgen think I am, an automaton? I don't have time to write down everything I do; I'm too busy doing it, to say nothing of the amount of time Robbie and Lisa take up. I'm a Grammaton Cleric, not a damned historian!

Well...alright, so maybe the Grammaton Cleric thing's a little out of date. I haven't dared show my face anywhere outside without an escort. I don't know if this Second Resistance exists (although it makes sense) but I'm not taking the chance.

What am I supposed to call this when it's done, anyway? My Life As A Sense Offender? The Underground Exposed? (hmm...actually, I quite like that) The Secret Diary of John Preston the Grammaton Cleric First Class Aged 32¼?

No. I'll pretend I never even thought of that one.

How am I supposed to write down history? I may have excelled at the physical side of my training, but history was never my strong point.

It's my own fault. I should never have made that comment about enjoying my free time while Jurgen was in the room. Jeez, Preston, feeling is all very well, but I can't help feeling (hah!) you traded some of your common sense along with those little vials of Prozium.

I 'borrowed' a book from the Archives earlier. It was a short book about a fat, four legged animal with stripes that seemed to do nothing but eat, sleep and kick another four legged animal. It was strangely humorous in places, and Lisa flatly refuses to put it down, but I was looking for something that would give me some idea of what goes on in these diaries. Three books later, I managed to find it. Some kid called Adrian Mole had got this woman to publish his diaries in book form…at least, I think that's how it worked back then. Richardson probably knows more about it than I do.

That's the other thing; why couldn't Jurgen have got Richardson to do this? The man's a Grammaton Cleric turned archaeologist, and he seems to be a lot more enthusiastic about the second job than the first. He'd probably enjoy writing crap like this.

I better finish here; Lisa's due back any second now and anyway, I'm about written out for the minute. I might do a little more tonight.

- John Preston, Grammaton Cleric First Class

Preston shut the diary with a snap and crossed over to his mattress, feeling around for the slit he'd made underneath it, then shoving the book - not particularly delicately - inside it. It was hardly ideal, at least from his point of view, but Jurgen had pointed out that the only people who would risk even breaking into Preston's apartment - let alone shoving their hand under him when he was asleep - were either insane or spies with a somewhat terminal dedication to their job. Either way, nobody in New Libria would miss them.

Preston somewhat resented being used as a human booby trap, but he couldn't deny that the other man had a point. Still, it got damn uncomfortable at times, particularly when he had to turn the mattress.

The door opened and Lisa's input device came flying through the air, closely followed by Lisa herself, who stamped in, slammed the door behind her and threw herself onto the sofa with arms folded and a scowl on her face.

After a pause, Preston remarked, "I suppose it would be somewhat redundant of me to ask if you had a good day."

Lisa glowered at him and didn't answer.

"Ah." Preston suppressed a sigh. Damn. Would one day, one simple, normal day, a day where there wasn't trouble of some kind, be too much to ask?

"You have to finger something," Lisa told him. Normally, anyone taking that kind of tone to Preston would be politely informed (usually at gunpoint) that in fact, he didn't have to do anything he objected to, but friends and immediate family tended to be exceptions to that rule.

Preston shot her a startled glance.

"Again?" He caught sight of the mulish expression on her face and grimaced. "What happened this time?"

"Nothing," Lisa mumbled.

"Besides nothing."

Lisa abruptly lost the stubborn expression and sighed.

"I slapped Norma Sands in maths today."

"Intentionally?" Preston said, then mentally kicked himself for asking such a stupid question. How could you unintentionally slap someone?

"She called me a Cleric-kid."

"You are a 'Cleric-kid'," Preston said bluntly, if somewhat unsympathetically.

"I know, but it sounded worse the way she said it." Lisa gave an exasperated sigh. "Anyway, the instructor sent home a note that you have to finger." She nodded towards her input device, which was still miraculously in one piece and, Preston was relieved to note, unharmed. Those things were expensive.

Curious, yet with a growing sense of dread, Preston retrieved it from the corner and started it up, tapping a finger on the section of the touch screen marked "Parent or Guardian" and reading aloud the brief paragraph that appeared there.

"'To the parent or guardian of Lisa Preston. It is my sad duty to inform you that your daughter has deliberately' - "

The door buzzer went, cutting him off.

"I'll go," Lisa volunteered, already on her feet.

"You stay right where you are!" Preston crossed over to the door and opened it. "Oh. Hi."

"Now's not a good time, is it," Jurgen said rhetorically.

"Ask me again when I've read this communiqué," Preston said bluntly. "Come in, if you want, and if you don't mind waiting."

If Jurgen did mind, he gave no outward sign. Instead he said, "Thanks," and stepped inside, closing the door softly behind him. Looking at him, Preston was struck with the same strange sensation he always got when he saw Jurgen; that the man was just about to laugh or cry, or possibly both.

Preston kind of waved Jurgen towards the sofa and returned to perusing Lisa's screen.

"'It is my sad duty to inform you that your daughter has deliberately flaunted numerous rules and social conventions. For this reason, I have had no choice but to give her a week's suspension. Your fingerprint is required at the bottom of this document. This rebelling against the system will not be tolerated. Yours, M A Kirkley'." Preston stared at Lisa. "Exactly how many 'rules and social conventions' have you flaunted??"

Lisa shrugged, a gesture that could either be interpreted as "What's that to do with you?" or "I've lost count." Neither sounded particularly good to Preston.

"A week's suspension for 'rebelling against the system'," Preston said, rereading the communiqué for the third time, while Jurgen privately reflected that if Lisa didn't rebel against the system at least once, then in all probability it either meant that she wasn't Preston's daughter or the Cleric was drugging her water.

Preston glanced over at him.

"Would you excuse me for just one minute?" he said, in a somewhat glassy tone.

"By all means," Jurgen answered, while devoutly hoping that Preston hadn't picked up on that last thought.

"Thank you." Preston walked into his room, his every move giving the impression of iron control, then picked up the phone and dialled the number on Lisa's screen.

He'd just about decided that no one was home and was on the verge of hanging up when he heard a voice on the other end, a voice that sounded like the owner had been running.


"Dr Kirkley?"

"Yeah, that's me." Kirkley coughed a few times, a harsh, racking sound that set Preston's teeth on edge.

"This is John Preston. I understand you sent a communiqué home with - "

"Your daughter, yes, Mr Preston."

"Would you mind telling me exactly which of those rules you were referring to?" Preston said, somewhat coldly.

"Mr Preston, the infractions against your daughter are too numerous to list here."

"And too numerous to input on a device capable of storing up to two gigabytes worth of data?" Preston said, not bothering to keep the sarcastic bite out of his tones. "I didn't even know there were that many rules and conventions."

"It is more than possible to feel and to keep within the boundaries of socially acceptable behaviour." Kirkley coughed again, causing Preston to clench a fist in irritation. "Your daughter has yet to learn this, Mr Preston. I expect to see a significant change in her behaviour when she returns." Cough, cough.

Preston gritted his teeth and counted to ten. The tension on his end didn't seem to be filtering through to the other, judging from the way Kirkley ploughed on, oblivious.

"As an education official, I deserve respect. I worked long hours to earn my qualifications, and incidents such as these may put a severe curtail on my eligibility for promotion. Since you wanted more details of your daughter's offences, Mr Preston, I will tell you; Lisa and two others who will remain nameless not only welded my desk drawer shut but welded my chair to the floor as well."

Preston, who was now seriously regretting ever having picked up the phone, blinked.

"Did you say welded?"

"Affirmative, Mr Preston. The intense heat also melted the casing around a commemorative plaque that was awarded to me after fifty years as an education official. The casing itself was exceedingly valuable, and the award itself was one of a kind."

Preston couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"You're suspending my daughter because she broke your award?"

"The casing, Mr Preston. The award itself was fortunately unharmed, although with no protection, the question arises: where am I supposed to put it?"

"Do you really want me to tell you?" Preston grated.

"I beg your pardon, Mr Preston?"

"You heard me. Oh, and Dr Kirkley?"

"Yes?" Cough, wheeze.

"It's Cleric Preston," Preston told him, and hung up, the beginnings of a satisfied smile faintly playing at the corners of his mouth.

"I think I won that one," he said to himself. The smile vanished as he glanced back towards the door leading to the living room.

Now comes the tricky part, he thought, grimacing.

Chapter 2 >>>

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