Monday, April 24, 2017

Urbem Conclamare

     “Look!” Brimley pointed in the general direction of Raven’s Drop.
     Forcing himself to remove his lingering gaze from Brimley’s extraordinarily long legs to the search lights, Santos yelled, “holy fuck!” as he leapt up and nearly fell off the roof. If Brimley hadn’t grabbed the back of his pants, he would have fallen to his death on the cobblestone below. The near-death experience didn’t slow him at all; he jumped over the still sitting Brimley, hollering, “come on!” while dashing through the door leading into the heart of the Templus de Ambros.
     “What’s the rush?” Brimley called after him.
     “Those aren’t searchlights,” he practically screamed from the stairwell. “Something’s wrong!”
     That last bit was all she needed to light a fire under her ass. Within a few strides, Brimley had caught up to Santos. Had she wanted, she easily could have passed him up; instead, she followed him down the tower stairs and by the time they reached the bottom they both were sweating.
     “This way,” Santos ordered as he ran past the main entrance to the Templus Ministrae where Officer Brimley was inclined to slow down. She glanced at the entryway, sighed, and then sped off after Santos. Five minutes later they were midway through the underground passage that led from the Templus de Ambros to Mercury’s Headquarters. When they reached the beat-up beige security door, Santos swiped his thumb into the reader, cursed, and then swiped again. It took a few tries before he finally got the damned door open. They ran through the emergency tunnel, passed by the Trauma Unit, and up another set of stairs before they were inside Merc HQ. Santos slid to a stop in the middle of the hallway. His sudden stop caused Brimley to slam into him. The two tumbled to the floor in a tangled heap of arms and legs, from which they were laboriously attempting to untangle themselves from when one of the on-duty Mercs stumbled upon them.
     “Uh, what are you doing, sir?” the young Merc practically shouted, her voice echoing through the empty hall.
     “Well, don’t just stand their gawking, Ensign! Go get the Duty Officer!” Santos ordered from under Brimley. “Like she’s never seen people on the ground before,” he scoffed as he got to his feet.
     “I’m sure she was just surprised,” Brimley defended her fellow woman.
     “Doesn’t matter,” Santos grumbled as he headed after the ensign.
     “You don’t have to be a dick about it,” Brimley said.
     As they sped down the hall Santos shot her a dirty look, before saying, “if you think that’s being a dick, you’ve got another thing coming. I haven’t even shown you the tip of my vast dickiness.”
     “I really hope that wasn’t your idea of a come on,” Brimley said, rolling her eyes while trying not to trip.
     “I’ll cum on you later,” Santos promised.
     “Sick fuck!” Brimley punched him.
     Before he could respond the Duty Officer and the ensign turned the corner. “1st Lieutenant!” the Duty Officer exclaimed.
     “Ensign Ford, get on the squawk box. Something’s going down at the Drop.”
     “Sir?” Ensign Ford asked.
     “You got a hearing problem, mister?” Santos snapped.
     “No, sir. But, what should I tell them?”
     “All hands on deck. Sound the alarms. Make haste, boyo!”
     With that Ensign Ford slammed his fists against his thighs twice and grunted, “aye, aye!”

     General Sherry Cranston was in her office at the Regular Militia’s Command Center, down the road from Merc HQ, when she heard air raid sirens screeching. She lowered the intelligence report that she’d been reading for the umpteenth time, exhaled in frustration, and wondered aloud, “what in the blue blazes?” Dropping the report on her desk, she got up, and then walked to her 4th story window. From where she stood she could see all the way to the Forum Publicos; well, she might have been able to, if the forsaken fog hadn’t covered everything. Unbeknownst to her, a plethora of curious government officials also stood at their office windows staring into the grey-white expanse. She hovered by the window and listened to the sirens, counting the seconds between blasts, dah-dit-dah-dit, pause, dah-dah-dit-dah, pause, dah-dit-dit. When the siren cycle began to repeat the CQD signal, she vacated her position at the window. Habitually, before leaving her office, she would have donned her uniform, straightened her gig-line, and situated her cover so that the rear band rested on her hair bun. Her theory being that women in power have a hard enough time without the lower ranks judging their appearance. Tonight, she grabbed her uniform jacket and cover from the rack by her office door, and then stormed through her secretary’s office. She was midway through the office when the phone rang. Spinning around to grab the call, she nearly lost her balance. In a huff she said into the receiver, “Cranston!” While listening to the caller she shook her head and muttered, “un-fucking-believable.”

     Though they were in the middle of their 2nd game of Go, both Celatrix Verna and Bard Kent stood up from the table with their heads tilted as they listened. Around the time that the Celatrix realized what she was hearing, the Merc stationed outside of the Bard’s Quarters barged into the room, shouting, “get away from the windows.”
     For the first time in hours, Celatrix Verna looked out the window. Upon seeing the white mist, she cursed, “well shit a brick!” She glanced at Kent who remained with his head cocked to one side listening to the sirens. At which point she realized that the young man had no idea what he was hearing. As much as she would have loved to explain to him the emergency signal, she didn’t have time. Without knowing how long the fog had been in place, she was absolutely convinced that they had to get to Mercury’s Marshes to check on the Ignes Fatui. The Celatrix tapped Kent’s arm, “I need you to follow. Now.”
     Although curious, her tone compelled him to obey without question. The Merc fell in line behind them and as they exited the Bard’s Quarters a sullen, pimple-faced Ministrae Officer fell in, too. With the bleating siren as the only sound, the quartet marched through the Gryphon’s Gardens, passed the practically invisible Phoenix Rose with her ever circling sentry, and through a hidden entrance in the furthest corner of the temple compound. The Merc and the Officer hazarded surprised glances at one another but otherwise maintained their disciplined silence. By the time they reached the edge of Mercury’s Marshes, their clothing was damp and their exposed skin dripped.
     Flinging water off his hand, Kent whispered, “what are we doing?”
     Without acknowledging his question, Celatrix Verna continued forward. She finally stopped when they reached a series of knee-high stone markers, where she turned to their bodyguards and said, “no matter what you hear, you do not cross these,” she pointed to the nearest stone. “Understand?” Once they’d nodded their ascent, she said to Kent, “this is the only time you’ll come with me. Step where I step. Say what I say. Understand?”
     “Um. Sure,” Kent agreed.
     Thrice Celatrix Verna tapped the stone nearest her. A slow-building, dim, orange glow pulsed out from the stone she’d touched and lit up the barrier stones in series running away from the quartet.
     “Whoa,” Kent said.
     “You haven’t seen anything yet,” she promised. “Ready?”
     “I guess,” Kent replied.
     “Good. This is what you will say, ‘O’ Termine. Hoc dico ne urbs capiatur. Via mei doce.’” She smiled at the confounded youth, “say after me, ‘O’ Termine.’”

     Having moved inside after the fog fell upon the backyard, Patrick Field continued to play host to Praeceptor Archeleus Imler while his Merc bodyguard paced the house between front and back doors. If the man’s unstoppable pacing didn’t drive Patrick to heavier drinking, then the uncomfortable silence of Archel’s visit would certainly do the trick. Mercury, grant me the patience I need…Patrick prayed. He contemplated asking the boy king questions, but couldn’t wrap his mind around anything that he had a right to ask. So, he waited for Archel to speak.
     For Archel, there was no grand plan. The boy had seen the hedgerow and impulse had brought him to the door. He knew he could never go back to the way things had been when he was still a servant—not that he ever wanted to see Adonis again—but, somehow it all had been simpler. “Mr. Field, uh um. Patrick,” Archel began for the 20th time, “what… never mind.” So many questions rolled through his brain, but he didn’t know what he could rightfully ask. Each time he started, the would-be question sputtered out like a fuel-less fire. Without knowing enough about politics and proper kingly behavior, Archel didn’t only feel out of his element, he was hindered from otherwise normal conversation. He reached into the dirty underbelly of his subconscious and grasped for memories of their previous interactions. At the moment when Archel had finally lit upon some safe topic, the sirens had begun. The Merc dashed through the house, opened the front door, and let the wailing in. The awful noise was enough to banish the safe topic from Archel’s mind. “What is it?” he asked.
     “Shh,” the Merc whispered, his eyes were practically white as they rolled back while he listened. When the cycle began to repeat, the soldier closed the door. “That’s a distress call,” the Merc said as he looked around the room, frowned, and then added, “we can’t stay here. It isn’t safe.” To Archel, he said, “my liege, we must get you to safety.”
     Laughing, Archel choked out, “safety.”
     Uncertain what had caught Archel as funny, Patrick offered, “I have a basement.”
     “Thank you, but no. I have procedures,” the Merc motioned to the door, “Sir.”
     “Can I come back later?” Archel asked.
     “Of course,” Patrick answered, silently finishing the thought with, you’re the king. You can do whatever you want. When they were gone and the door shut behind them, Patrick let out a long sigh. Then, promptly went to the fridge, removed another beer, and then returned to his comfy chair. “Still early.”

     Inside the kitchens, the steady thrum of banging pots and pans masked the sirens. Cassie, with the young cook’s help, had returned to Preston’s office couch where she promptly laid out and lost consciousness. The novice cook stood watch, pacing between Preston’s desk and the doorway where she could watch the kitchen staff flit around like hummingbirds. She thought about the work she needed to get done, glanced at the couch where the Messenger lay snoring, and contemplated returning to her station. But, every time she put a toe outside the door, she heard Preston’s voice bellowing orders. There was no way she’d risk his ire by leaving the Messenger’s side.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Spem Alere

     The scent of pine cleaner burned her nose hair and made her eyes water. Clara “Chondee” Darin blinked at the eggshell white, pock-tiled ceiling, then rolled her eyes around. A hideous pink and yellow flower print privacy curtain looped out of the wall to surround her. Though its proximity encroached on her space, she wasn’t ready to face the shadows that passed by. The left side of her head felt as if some asshole had taken a jackhammer to it. Between the throbbing bursts of deep nerve pain, her throat ached. She vaguely recalled someone choking her. That’s what you get, Chondee told herself. Should have kept walking. Should have… She groaned under the weight of her lips. No. No. No. Repeating in her mind as she sent command after command to her uncommunicative lips. Dear Mercury, please not paralyzed. Not paralyzed. To her great dismay and infinite joy, her ocular muscles functioned normally.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Convenire Aliquem

     He hadn’t had a destination in mind when he’d left the Templus de Ambros for the Gryphon’s Gardens. After 10 minutes of wandering aimlessly, he’d realized that the Mercury’s Elite Guardsman would always be nearby. Upon sighting the disheveled hedgerow that marked the border of the groundskeeper’s home, he sped up. The last time that Praeceptor Archeleus Imler stood inside Patrick Field’s house he was stuck in griffin form, struck by the horror of death, and fucked by circumstances outside his control. As he rounded the hedge, a wave of memory slapped him in the face. Bowing into it, he closed his eyes and blindly forced himself onward. After three or four steps, the mental hurricane died out. Opening his eyes, Archel focused on the sidewalk and slowly made his way to the door. Weak, he silently spat at the hollow sound of his knock. He tried again, but with a little extra weight thrown in. Not much better. He shrugged off the urge to continue beating on the door and opted for shifting from foot to foot while he waited.
     “Stop there!” the guard yelled.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Manus Inicere

     He threw his head back, rolled his eyes, and then sharply focused on the speaker whom he asked, “what? Not interested in excuses.” Shaking his manacled wrist and pointing his finger around the room, Adonis said, “well, look around. I don’t know where the fuck we are or how the fuck I got like this,” he shook the chains holding both wrists to the hospital bed. “So tell me. How the fuck am I supposed to care?”
     “How? How? This is your fault!” the irate pock-faced man yelled from his bed. “You set us up!”
     Tapping his keys on the bars, the guard grunted, “shut up, Gorrie.”
     “Wasn’t me, boss,” Gorrie called from his rack across the room.
     “Sure,” the guard nodded, “and, I’m a rainbow butterfly unicorn kitten. Shut your trap!”
     “Didn’t know animals could talk,” Gorrie muttered.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Mala Cognitio

     Putting his shoulder to the brick wall, Jougs shoved and as he did so his boots slid across the cement. He quit shoving as he neared a 45ยบ angle to the wall. Pushing himself upright, he asked, “you sure it’s this wall?”
     Glancing from the map to Jougs, the annoyed Inquisitor replied, “use the tools,” and tapped the bag slung across Vorant’s back.    
     Shaking his head, Vorant unslung the duffle, unzipped the main compartment, and proceeded to dig around. After a moment, he held up a short handled sledge hammer. “Here,” he said before disappearing back into the bag to withdraw a rusted railroad spike.
     “Is that all you brought?” Jougs asked. “Seriously?”    
     “Nope,” Vorant said, extracting a hammer and an incredibly long screw driver, “brought this too.”
     “So, we’re just supposed to start banging on the wall?” Jougs’ doubt as to the sanity of the plan had grown exponentially since leaving the Interrogation Room. He asked, “don’t you think someone on the other side will hear us?”

Monday, March 20, 2017

Nunc Sciunt

     “What kind of beans are these?” Captain Dante, Jr. asked as he inhaled the delicious aroma wafting from his mug.
     The staff secretary adjusted her uniform shirt, straightened her shoulders, and met his curious gaze with a steely, “Donian Dark Roast.”
     Closing his eyes, Captain Dante sipped the coffee, and then said, “tastes more like Montisi Black.” He took another sip, “you may want to talk to your guy. If he can’t sort that out, let me know.”
     “You going to report me, sir?”
     “Listen carefully, Staff Sergeant: the best coffee in the world comes from just north of Baroport, Poterit Don. It’s the original Donian Dark Roast. Many knockoffs have been peddled across Dan and we, poor Danians, have been subject to every manner of black market treachery thanks to current import controls.” After taking another sip, he sighed, “our only problem is backwards law.”

Monday, March 13, 2017

Ergo Fornicationis

     After putting the Tesla-C2 Dune Rider in park, Tech Sergeant Rydel climbed out of the vehicle and walked to the back where he dropped the tailgate. He removed his service revolver from its holster and pointed it at Major Derrick Peters, saying, “sir, please get out of the vehicle.”
     “Sergeant, you don’t have to do this,” Major Peters said.
     “Get out of the vehicle, sir.”
     The major scootched to the edge of the Tesla-C2, dropped his legs off the tailgate, and stumbled down. He said, “if you do this, there’s no going back.”
     “You got that wrong, sir. Soon as I get you set up, I’m going back,” Rydel replied.
     “Why do you think we’re out here?” Peters asked.
     “Orders, sir,” Rydel answered.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Res Relinquebant

     “Oh, come on,” the bard whined as he stood up from the gaming table where a black stone had just been placed inside a square of his white stones.
     “What?” the old woman innocently asked.
     “Don’t ‘what’ me,” he scolded. Pointing at the Go board, he said, “you can’t do that.”
     “Who says?”
     “The rules.”
     “Oh? Do tell.”
     “You can’t commit suicide,” Bard Kent stated.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Bona Tempora

     Leaning her head against the arm of the small couch, Cassie kept her eyes closed. She deliberately took slow breaths, while holding on tightly to the couch cushion. Silently fighting to stay conscious as her world spun out of control, the only thought she managed, not really dignified behavior for Mercury’s Messenger, is it? As if she had any control over her sudden blackouts, ever-constant urge to blow chunks, and incredibly weakened body. Without opening her eyes, she croaked, “you here?”
     “Yes,” the novice line cook answered.
     “Water.” Cassie managed to lift her hand up a few inches off the couch.
     “Here,” she shoved the glass of sugar water into the Messenger’s wavering hand.
     Careful not to spill, Cassie got the cup to her face, but was incapable of drinking in that awkward position. “Take it,” she ordered as she attempted to push herself up onto one elbow. During the process, she forgot to keep her eyes closed, and nearly hurled for her efforts. “Oh, I can’t,” she muttered as she fell back into the couch arm.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ad Libitum

     “Where did you learn to play?” Kent ‘the Bard’ Wheelock asked the old woman sitting across from him.
She looked up slyly, a slight smile slipping along her lips. “One does not become Archeireus et Celatrix Ministrae without learning a number of strategy games.”
     “Don’t become the Bard without it neither,” he muttered.
     Sizing him up, her grin faded, “oh, I do say.” She nodded sympathetically as she pushed her queen-side bishop into play.
     “A little premature, no?” he asked as he threatened the bishop with a pawn.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Iratae Voces

     Suddenly flooded with brilliant emerald light, the kitchen staff froze. Without giving a second thought to the sudden disco, Preston the Head Cook yelled, “snap to! Hungry people waiting! Go on!” His business as usual attitude hid his shock at seeing a young woman appear out of thin air. He spun towards her with a metal whisk in one hand, saying, “I don’t care who you are. You ever just pop in here like that again, I swear to Mercury, I’ll turn you over my knee! Do you know how close you came to making Scott drop the tray he’s carrying?” For his part, Scott had chosen that moment to disappear through the swinging doors leading into the Dining Hall. Regardless, Preston continued, “damned Royals, just come and go as they please. No consideration for those who slave away making sure they have all the luxuries they need. Ridiculous,” he shook his head as he turned back to the mixing bowl, “if you’re hungry, I suggest you find a seat out there,” he waved the whisk like a magic wand.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Pueris Problematis

     Standing in the foyer of the Chief Justice’s Chambers, Moira Thibodeaux once again stared at the depressing painting of the wrecked ship being pummeled on the rocks which served as its cause of destruction. “Osborne, do you think this place would make a good museum?”
     The young ensign looked at her quizzically, shrugged his shoulders and answered with, “yes ma’am, I believe it would. Might even quiet the rumors about it.” He smiled. “You do know your refusal to live here will cause an uproar. The papers will go nuts.”
     “I certainly hope so,” she said approvingly. “I’ve always been a simple, practical woman. I see nothing sensible about this,” she circled her forefinger, “palace.” She sighed. Turning away from the painting, she walked over to the door through which they’d originally entered. “When we get back to my house, I should like to speak with Colonel Dagon. Can that be quickly arranged?”

Monday, January 30, 2017

Vir Crudelissimus

     “Did you check everything out, first?” Jougs asked while perusing the refrigerator.
     “You fucking kidding?” Vorant spun toward Jougs and with vehemence continued, “when’d I have time, eh? Ain’t I been takin’ care of the mess?” He dropped the gore covered saw in the sink, turned on the hot water, and growled, “d’you?”
     “Did I what?” Jougs asked with his head inside the refrigerator.
     “Check the site. You were out. D’you?”
     He cracked open a can of Eagle’s Nest Cola, stood up, and slammed it down. After belching, Jougs said, “wasn’t on the way, now was it?” He grabbed a couple slices of lunch meat out of the package, closed the fridge door, and then pulled down a bag of bread. Quickly making a half-assed sandwich, he knotted the bag and tossed it back on top of the fridge.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Sanguine Manare

     Her head ached worse than her last migraine which had kept her bed ridden for three days. Completely unaware that the oozing pool of Sparks’ final heartbeat was mingling with her own spilt life fluids, Clara “Chondee” Darin bit her lip as she yanked the uncomfortable boiler plate out from under her shirt. Though she was already on the ground, the effort sent her falling back into the shelving unit. The impact of her head knocked down wooden cooking utensils which clattered to the linoleum and splattered blood on her thigh. When she came to she was horrified to find her body incapable of obeying the simplest commands. She lay there against the shelving unit in the kitchenware aisle of Chang’s Bazaar, staring at the dead body of her ex-boyfriend’s compatriot. Come on, Chondee! Get up girl. Get up! GET UP! MOVE YOUR ASS! Not that it mattered how loudly she chastised herself, her damnable limbs had gone on strike. Sinking further into the shelving unit, she closed her eyes and began sending motor commands to various parts of her body. She was midway through her body survey, when she heard the distinct sound of multiple foot falls and Tages’ all too familiar deep laughter coming from behind her.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Momento Mori

      Her bewildered chuckle echoed in the dark. The brilliance of the bright green flash imprinted her vision with slowly fading hazel halos. Wherever she’d landed was chilly and dank like Mercury’s Cavern in the Iphigenia underground; she stood weaving in the pitch black. The absolute silence and lack of air movement unsettled her. Without moving her feet, she repeatedly clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth as she slowly moved her head from right to left. Putting her left hand out before taking a step forward, she quickly found the nearest wall. This would be so much easier, if I had some light, as the thought popped into her mind twin beams of red and green slowly grew from out of Mercury’s Bracelet. Refraining her giggles, she thought, if Ms. Darin had told me, I never would have believed. I love this stupid bracelet. She raised her left forearm and pointed the lights at the wall in front of her. Somehow she wasn’t surprised that it was just a wall. She swept the area with soft lights emanating off her bracelet. When her glowing wrist passed across the ground five feet to her right, she stopped and stared at the myriad red and green sparkles that illuminated the ground like rave glitter under a black light. What is that? she asked herself as she bent down to inspect the shimmering ground. “Glass?” the word escaped her mouth on the exhale. Once again standing, she returned her hand to the wall, but instantly removed it. Somehow, in the few feet she’d walked the wall had changed from cold and solid stone to cold and solid wood. A door, she hoped. Ignoring the glass covered ground, she used the lights to examine the wall. Though she couldn’t perceive the texture difference in the dual beams, she did see the very obvious division of wall, jamb, and door. She exhaled in relief when she found the doorknob. Where there’s a door and a wall, there should be…ah ha! clicking the light switch, she heard the low hum of an overhead light heating up.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Munere Fungor

     Ensign Osborne swung open the intricately carved oak door, revealing the mouse-like newly sworn-in Chief Justice Moira Thibodeaux who’d picked up the Fasces of the Antigone and stood holding the bundle defensively. “Whoa! Ma’am! Easy. Don’t hit me!” Ensign Osborne’s easy grin and light manner caused her to lower the fasces and relax a bit, though he could tell she still wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of entering what had—until recently—been the sole dominion of the Oathbreaker Fraunx Adonis. “I’ve checked the whole place. Don’t seem to be anyone hiding. But…you should know…” he paused searching for the right words, “…someone tore this place apart.” After once again taking the fasces from her, he stepped out of the doorway.
     She quickly walked up the three steps and entered the foyer where she was greeted with the solemn painting of a rock-wrecked ship being pummeled by fierce waves. Unable to peel her eyes from the depressing imagery, she muttered, “so typical of you, Fraunx.”

Monday, January 2, 2017

Sanguine Redundare

     Being in the middle of the Inquisitor’s workroom was like walking into a Heart of the Seven Faeries carnival – so many varieties of red splattered everywhere that it seemed no other colors existed. Knowing the sticky, brick colored drippings to be that miraculous fluid that somehow kept the body functioning was one thing; using a squeegee, an ice scrapper, and tons of alcohol to remove it from the floors, walls, and ceiling was a wholly different thing. Mr. Vorant stood in the basement stairwell staring at the crumpled carcass of the ancient justice, Levi Bayleaf. “What were you even doing there, eh, old man?” Vorant grumbled. Rolling his shoulders, one by one, Vorant prepared himself, thinking, always get the good jobs, don’t ya? He laughed, “o’course, ‘cause they’re a bunch o’silly bitches.” He set the cleaning supplies down next to the door, slipped on a pair of shoe covers, and entered the torture chamber. Quickly surveying the extent of the spatter, Vorant wondered, what does he do? Play in it? Vorant’s entire afternoon was blown. Not that he’d had other plans, just that he hadn’t woken with ‘clean up the Inquisitor’s mess’ on his agenda for the day. He lifted the dead man’s head by the chin, gave it a squeeze and a shake, and then, grabbed the forehead to make the man talk, “too bad for you,” Vorant mocked himself with a nasally West Donian accent. “Too bad for you,” he repeated in his own voice as he dropped the head.