Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Stars Align



Motivational Crap goes here.


Occasionally, the stars do align for me. It's still a rare enough occurrence to have to take a step back when it happens: today is a case in point. A blog post I wrote on the gaming site was mentioned by an AOL affiliate, and (quite possibly, not sure, need to check publication times) as a result of this got dragged onto one of the de facto huge traffic websites around the game. This means, as of 6pm tonight, I've had more hits in twelve hours than I'd probably see in a week. Even more ironically, I'd suspect very few people have actually read the post at all. That's one of the issues picking a subject matter which inevitably has 'contentious' written through it. It makes me wonder how many people might stay as a result. Time inevitably will tell.

What today did make me realise is that my website is, after nearly six years, beginning to creak from having had too much crap bolted onto it and not enough effort placed in organising it properly. As a result I suspect ALL my web content's coming up for a merger, this site included.

I went and registered alternativechat.net as a result today, and now it is mine.



Not often, but...

I have a number of things I would like to do next year. Quite apart from doing a fair bit of dancing at gigs (Elbow, Underworld and David Arnold so far on the list) I have half a plan to review all 23 Bond Films before the the most current one comes out for my birthday (cheers for that Mr Mendes.) There is other stuff too, but a girl likes to keep stuff something of a mystery, especially when trying to make more days when stars align and everyone gets to at least see her work on't t'internets. Needless to say, this site is likely to change this month, along with the other one, and it is probably possible there will be some kind of central portal to cover everything by the time we move into January 2015.

Consider it the first steps into a larger Universe. Or summat :D

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Sayers :: The Drawing of Plans (Two)



Introductions are over.


This is the latest instalment of my first long-form piece, The Sayers. You can find links to every chapter of the Novel at the dedicated page for this novel. If you notice any grammatical errors I have overlooked, or you have any observations to make on this piece, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.



For the previous part of the story, Click Here.
For the next part of the story, Click Here.


==



Max sits, marvelling at the world that has blossomed around him.

His mind revels in the clarity of every moment: myriad personalities as they move to assigned positions in the Palace, to begin chores for the day, drifting tantalisingly in and out of his consciousness. There is a temptation to pop every bubble of emotion as he senses it, but Max resists the urge, picking his moments. Most of the traffic past his spot near the Kitchen doorway are boys, no older than late teens, fetching and carrying items from one part of the Residence to another. They are single-minded to their tasks yet oddly vacant, no time to do anything more than recall their current destination. The occasional girl appears, her head bowed and covered as required by the Laws, taking scrolls or parchments from the Sisters or to the Physicians. He feels compelled to leave them alone: they are innocents, and he should know better.

A flash of familiar robe draws his eye away from where he sits before being called to breakfast, across the stone-floored courtyard: it takes a moment to associate uniform with profession. The woman, dressed in the dark purple and black robes of a Junta Apothecary, approaches from the west, deliberate gait and clearly agitated. As if on cue she looks up to him, eyes wide, and Max can't help but grasp the depth of frustration around her. Immediately the sensation shifts, unexpected sympathy for his situation: her disquiet for the people she works for is immediately apparent, before barely contained anger threatens to overload his mind, causing Max to withdraw in panic. He is clearly successful in hiding himself as she continues her progress unaffected, but he is chastised. Marion had told him to be careful, and he had already forgotten her warning. He would be better served focussing within than out, at least until more confident in his surroundings. 

He looks up the corridor, a fragment of discord attracting attention. Two men bicker at a small table, both dressed in the uniform of the Junta. This is a Signal Station, one of many such terminals being installed across the Palace. So much had changed since his last drug-free memories: new phosphorescent lamps had been installed, there was talk of a oil-fuelled stove to replace the wood-burning one in the Kitchens amongst the staff that morning. Isolationism does not mean stagnation! Max recalls the poster, white letters on a blue background, the Standard of the Military Council at its head. One is framed at the top of the stairwell he had just descended, following the Undermaid as she unlocked the door and brought him to eat. Mary's complicity in his escape has already been confirmed by Marion, and he's aware of her staring at him from the doorway.

He does need to focus on her to see the despair and anger swirl like smoke, feelings becoming increasingly apparent in many others: one of the bickering technicians, the Head Cook, two of the serving maids. Their surface impression is of quiet efficiency, but beneath so many are dispossessed, frustrated with the lives they have. No-one seems comfortable with the Military in charge, or indeed to be serving the High Priestess with anything. More worrying is the inevitability that every time he makes eye contact with anyone, the same spike of emotion is prevalent: sympathy. 

They all feel sorry for me, every single one. 

Even the youngest of the serving boys understand he is to be pitied. Max recedes further into himself, increasingly uncomfortable with his situation.

Inside the Breakfast Room the Sisters and the Senior Physicians are conducting the Ritual of Insertions. Max stumbled upon it once, a long time ago, before he was drugged, and was forbidden to ever enter the room again whilst it was taking place. With the benefit of clarity from the morning 'milking', understanding has simply happened without the need for context, more pieces of the complex puzzle sliding together. You've thought they were pleasuring you, but in reality they'd been harvesting your sperm and pouring it into your wife. That's why the Apothecary was here, purifying your seed in an attempt to create a pregnancy. Your wife is in the room behind you with her legs in the air and a tube inside her being blessed by the eldest surviving members of the Sisterhood, that this time might finally break the cycle.

You are no longer required for procreation.

The room moves, a subtle shift, page turned this time without permission, to a memory he can grasp is actually his own. A red-bricked building, high windows with a view across the river. A lesson, rows of other teenage boys, drawings of bodies garnering giggles from his classmates. A man and a woman conjoined, but a view more persuasive tempts Max outside. The boats on the Estuary, tall masts and coloured silks, moving elegantly in the late spring breeze. Procreation. No interest when there were horses to ride and boats to sail, until he met the daughter of the Brewer on an evening errand. The days he'd deliberately go to the orchard hoping to catch a glimpse of her. The girl with flame-red hair, softness and warmth, a chaste kiss under the tree in late summer, that became so much more. A heady Autumn evening when she covered him with her skirts and he discovered her nakedness, the heat of her body as she sank down and swallowed him...

'Your breakfast is ready, sir.'

Griffiths, the Table Servant, stands at his elbow with her piercing blue eyes as well as the full red lips that Max knows are painted for his benefit. The past slips away but his desire remains, desperation mixed with a sudden optimism. Every woman he sees may be presented as enticing possibility, but he now knows better.

He is regaining control of his own body.

Slowly does it.

Max smiles at Marion's voice, back inside his mind, making his manhood twitch, an erection begun in his own past and solidified with her presence. Tight dress trousers balloon and stretch, abundantly obvious to the woman who ignores his face and stares at his crotch. Griffiths' smile widens as Max grasps that as long as he acts like everything female is something to fuck no-one is going to realise he's drug-free.

You're learning.

Max focusses on the woman in his mind, detaching himself completely from the one who takes his arm and guides him towards his destination.

The doors to the Breakfast Room are finally open, shabby opulence apparent without the softness of intoxication. Max is able to see the screens to one side, off white frames surrounding the stirrups he knows his wife will have been placed in moments earlier. Korrina sits at a vast table's end, wrapped in white linen, her brown hair piled high upon her head, without makeup or the ritual trappings of her station. We were happy once, Max dimly grasps, but I hate you now without knowing why. That part of his past must be buried deep, because there is no reaction to the feeling, simply the acknowledgement of its existence. She chews absent-mindedly at the toasted bread on her plate, completely oblivious to Max's presence. Deposited by Griffiths at her side, finally she stops and registers him: not meeting his gaze but focussing all interest at trouser level. Her mouth breaks into the thinnest of smiles, making her face looks odd, strangely frozen. This was true beauty once, now pressed and trapped behind skin and bones that seem to not match her body.

'The Physician tells me you were particularly effulgent this morning, darling.'

Max has a sudden desire to turn and run from this mannequin of a woman, but instead he smiles weakly and attempts to chase the memories of their past in his mind. This bitter nausea is nothing to do with drug withdrawl, instead wrapped around a desperate situation: he laughed with this woman, genuine happiness and contentment, but something unspeakable happened. He has no idea what he has become even though he understands implicitly he's bound to her, that their marriage was supposed to be the beginning of a new world. They shared a bed until the day she had become pregnant for the first time, and then he had been removed, forcibly separated. 

Locked away. 

He stares at the bacon and eggs that arrive on his plate, then to the scars on his wrists, where he broke the windows and tried to end his own life. They tied him to the bed while the bars were fitted. He injured two guards, blood across white sheets, silk curtains removed and replaced with sad efficiency. Breakfast has become singularly unappetising from the recollection.

Korrina puts down her toast and reaches across to Max's hand, but doesn't linger, instead moving down to between his legs, seeking out his erection. She spends a few moments examining him, with no love and clearly no interest in his pleasure, before going back to nibbling, seemingly satisfied with what she has felt.

'I see the new mixture the Apothecary bought has returned you to your correct state. I was concerned yesterday that you might be sickening further.'

Max has difficulty holding back his disgust: memories are jostling in his head, the catalogue of her abuse finally demanding attention. He's been locked in the cells in the basement of the Palace, and restrained in another room, across from where he currently resides. His heart deadens further when he remembers stopping eating altogether for a time, refusing to give his wife what she needed when another pregnancy failed. Then came the drugs, his life disintegrating into horror.

Don't think.

Marion's warning stops his train of thought, distracting him with the reprise of their earlier embrace. Max watches his past being distanced, immediately resenting the interference. The door to the right of him opens and there is the chatter of young female voices as the High Priestess' entourage arrives, bringing with them fresh underclothing and her ritual robes for the day. Max stares, understanding that yesterday he'd have found these girls sexually arousing, and his own loathing forces his eyes closed. Marion attempts to sway his irritation, but he's tired, annoyed that the default state to derail him for so long has been physical. He focusses his displeasure directly at Marion with a strength of Direction that surprises him.

GO AWAY.

Immediately her presence vanishes, as a clatter and a crash brings Max back to reality: one of the entourage has knocked over a tray of instruments next to the physician's screens. Korinna is up in a flash, anger flaring white-hot as she goes to admonish the girl responsible while Griffiths tries ineffectively to calm her down. Max shuts off his mind to everything and decides to leave quietly, without fuss, and without eating anything. He has no idea what in all of this might yet be drugged or doctored, and working on the theory that anything could currently be conspiring against him, it would be an idea to remain hungry.

Marion said he was to be rescued. Maybe this also meant a decent meal.

From an alcove across from the Breakfast Room, Rudge watches Max return upstairs with a measure of satisfaction. The Seed has recovered from the drugs far faster than anyone had expected, and his annoyance at being controlled with Direction was more than apparent. Marion had sustained a nosebleed from his angry retort: if this man could be properly trained, he would be an immeasurable talent indeed. Rudge is satisfied he had been been right to force the issue with his superiors, and to insist on removal from the Palace as a matter of urgency.

It is time to prepare the man’s escape from the compound.



==



For the previous part of the story, Click Here.
For the next part of the story, Click Here.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Christmas Wrapping


HO HO OH BAH HUMBUG ^^

I may just have had the greatest Christmas Present idea in the History of Ever.

Buying gifts each year, at least for me, is an exercise in mental torture. What to buy, who to miss, who should get the 'I spent the money I WOULD have used on a Gift giving Oxfam the chance to save needy people's lives' cards that are forming an increasing number of my seasonal 'purchases' because frankly, you don't need more crap from me. Making this Festival mean something may seem easy to other people, but I struggle, and when people talk about the 'true meaning' of the Season I end up feeling more Scrooge than Cringle because I don't have religion as a fallback and I'm just fed up of consumerism.

So, I have found my own personal salvation. I'm going to actually write to people for Christmas.

This isn't that picture of my kids to show off to college mates, or the Pages-produced 'newsletter' detailing what a great year it has been for my family. I'm setting myself a specific brief: one page of handwritten A4. which needs to do the following:


1. Thank the person concerned for being awesome in 2014 (because they were, or else I'd not be sending them the letter.)

2. One thing I think they helped me improve in the last 12 months.

3. One think I think maybe they could improve on too (because it's about being better as a person too.)

4. Some random witty banter but NO POINTLESS PADDING because they'll know.

5. A request that maybe next year they'd like to write me a letter because nobody does this any more.


In case the Royal Mail stuff up hugely, I will scan the pages I hand write and save them for posterity, but the plan is simple: if you're the kind of person who would expect a present from me this year, you're going to get a Letter instead. It's worth more than me getting you summat off Amazon, it has my effort poured into it, and it will be by far the best way I have of telling you what matters to me this year. If you'd *like* a letter off me, you need to start making yourself a friend in 2015, and that's your choice.

If you'd like to borrow this idea, feel free, but do me a lemon and link people back to this original post and give me the gift of more traffic on my personal site and the chance that some Publisher might happen upon my work and want to sign me up.

Stranger things have happened over Christmas, after all.

Monday, 8 December 2014

The Sayers :: The Drawing of Plans (One)


Introductions are over.


This is the latest instalment of my first long-form piece, The Sayers. You can find links to every chapter of the Novel at the dedicated page for this novel. If you notice any grammatical errors I have overlooked, or you have any observations to make on this piece, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.



For the previous part of the story, Click Here.
For the next part of the story, Click Here.


==


The Drawing of Plans.



Alexa will never forget how to properly dispose of an unwanted body.

She watches the lifeless corpse of Thomas Riverman tumble down the side of the ravine, bouncing off an exposed promontory before coming to rest at the valley floor. No-one will find him now the area is in spring bloom, effectively swallowed by the rapidly expanding carpet of grass and moss. By the time the body is exposed, in the darker days of Winter, the poisons in his system will have dissolved the last of his flesh and heavier organs, leaving nothing but skeletal remains. Looking up, the first streaks of orange light are spilling across the valley, the prospect of another joyous spring day ahead. Alexa will miss the life she leaves: regret as much of a luxury as honey or fresh cheese, but there is no time to consider what has been lost. Time is now the most precious of commodities, and not a single moment must be wasted.

Disposing of the bike Riverman had travelled on was a different proposition altogether. Oil-driven vehicles were still rare enough in this part of the country to attract significant attention, which had forced her to travel to this spot in darkness. When the assassin failed to return, his superiors would send people to find him, and as he was a showy bastard it wasn't simply a case of letting his horse loose and selling the tack. This was an expensive and very obvious legacy to discard. 

She could simply just dump the thing and for a while this had been her plan, until Alexa realised how woefully unprepared she was to return back into combat. Her unmarked ammunition was nonexistent, poisons remaining unreliable and the understanding of the current political climate far below what it needed to be to survive. Talk of revolution was real and decisive, events moving to a head even this far from their origin. Being ready for anything meant a subtle redefinition, the anticipation of everything that might transpire.

Instead of running away from the problem, she chose to point the bike straight at it.

She effortlessly inhabits the uniform of a Landhand, borrowed from a neighbour's washing line the afternoon before. The boots are her own, unworn since those last days as an Assassin, as is the belt, a trophy from a Noble who had taken it from an innocent man found stealing game from his land and executed in front of his family. The removal of that particular landed gentry had been both a good and bad thing, Alexa decides, as she swings onto the bike and starts the engine. She is amazed at how quietly it runs, efficient smoothness handling both potholes and lumps in the path as she drives back down the hillside. A Colonial import, currently far beyond the ability of anyone on this island to produce. It will be a shame to have to part with it.

She stops at the crossroads and looks back down towards the village, where the fire set in her own kitchen reaches rapidly upwards up to mix with the lightening dawn: a red sky of warning sounded by the rapid toll of the church bell, the signal calling village to pump and buckets. Already the house is an open wound, and one day Alexa will return for the two boxes that contain what remains of her life, hidden safely away from prying eyes and the elements. Her future is north-west, away from comfort and into the unknown.

Looking in the wing mirror she doesn't recognise herself: auburn hair died black, green eyes hidden behind Riverman's own tiny black glasses. She wears the trappings of an Assassin with an ease that is momentarily disconcerting.  How easy it has been to return to her old ways, more depressing that she is forced to do so. 

Someone would pay: individuals hunted down and held to account.

The sun slowly rises over fields of barley and rapeseed, wheat and corn, illuminating the chrome horse driven by a woman solely focussed on her task. Paying the surroundings scant attention, mind constantly shifting and shuffling possibilities, myriad options are weighed and considered as she drives down the dirt track the Military use for their convoys of goods from the local villages. Somewhere on this road will be a carrier, doing a daily collection of perishables from this quadrant back to the Base. Once located, it will be time to hitch a ride. 

Driving over the crest of a small hill she finally spots the large black horse-pulled box on wheels, Gold Military Standard affixed to the rear, reflecting the sunlight from the east. Alexa can feel her heartrate elevate: no time to panic, to change your mind: take your plan and commit fully. Gather fast and efficiently, then move on. Hope the Direction hasn't left you either, or this could be over very fast.

Pray one more time to the Protector of Assassins, even if you never believed the possibility.

Alexa sounds the bike’s horn, shrill blast of compressed gas: as expected, the Carrier quickly slows. Pulling up level with the covered cab she assesses the two Grunts inside, both heavily armoured. The thin plating on their upper bodies is new, as are the helmets, and neither strike her as simply for show. Both men regard her with quiet amazement, an opportunity she immediately exploits, a means to slip into two minds simultaneously. One is fascinated with the bike and other with her: Left Grunt stares at the chrome while Right Grunt's lust is purely for Alexa. It is time for her to spin her fiction to them both, and to see if they bite.

'Well met, officers. I found this machine in a lane about a mile away from here, on its side in a field. I assume it has been stolen from your base?'

The Grunts exchange a cursory glance: Alexa can sense that neither of them are yet considering her a thief. Left Grunt's never encountered a steel horse this sophisticated before and is increasingly fascinated at coming to take a closer look. Right Grunt is now imagining how Alexa will look naked, riding his cock. She pushes both flavours of arousal to the back of her head and continues her tale.

'I'm working in the top fields, like I have for the last three days. I get there early this morning, just before dawn and there it is, just lying there with the keys still in it, like whoever had ridden it just dropped it where it was and walked away. I spent an hour looking around seeing if I could find any trace of anything but there was nothing, and then I saw the crest on the side and it occurred to me that it looked like someone had taken it and maybe they'd fallen off in the dark or something. Anyway, I know you guys reward citizens who look after stuff and it occurs to me that something this impressive might have a sizeable reward attached to it, so I thought I'd try and find you. I know you do the pickups here every day, figured it wouldn't take long to ride into each other.'

I can't be a thief, because if I were, finding you guys would be stupid. I'm a concerned citizen who knows the value of looking after Military Property. The thought is subtly reinforced inside both men's brains, and Alexa is reassured they suspect nothing unusual. The story has been successfully swallowed.

Left Grunt suddenly springs to life and extends the small aerial on the top of the carrier's roof, and begins to Sound Signal the information Alexa has provided back to the base, the rapid stream of taps and gaps giving a surprisingly accurate version of the speech just given. She'd learnt the language during the last war, back when it was still in its infancy. It had quickly become the de facto communication standard for the Military. She listens for the response but takes care not to make eye contact with either man, choosing instead to release her bunched hair and to shake it in the breeze. Visual distractions conceal the truth. Right Grunt is suitably unbalanced, she senses with satisfaction, it is only the Left Grunt who needs attention, once he has been given his instructions.

The Sound Signal response returns and Alexa quickly decodes: Bike left yesterday (new) Failed to return as scheduled (new) Check bike and woman (new) Escort both to base (end)

Left Grunt requires no further instruction and emerges from the cockpit, a clatter of metal pieces as he does. He is well over six feet tall with arms thicker than the saplings that line the road, and Alexa dismounts from the bike as he approaches. He extends his hand for the keys, which she removes and hands over without a word. He peers at them, her, then back to the bike. When he speaks, the assassin is surprised by the softness and warmth of his tone.

'You saw no-one near this bike, Missy?'

'No sir, not a soul.'

Right Grunt takes over Signalling duty and relays this information with considerably less grace than his partner, as Left Grunt wanders around the bike, looking at it with clear appreciation, occasionally reaching out to caress a panel or a switch. He then stops less than six inches from Alexa, looking down on her with eyes consumed with barely contained lust. She smiles back, beautiful yet somehow unattainable. I am standing inches from his face, unbuttoning my tunic, under which I am completely naked. He is torn between his twin desires. Does he ride me or the bike?

The conflict is born, moulded in his own mind, created to exploit for control. 

Alexa must link both men to her with distraction, insinuated into the first mind to connect them together when they lock her in the back. With no time for subtlety, she defers to the lowest common denominator, because inevitably it always does the job. Her smile is incandescent, distraction and deception combined as she plants one line of Direction, straight into the pleasure centre of his brain.

Take care of us both.

Left Grunt blinks: desire blossoms into reality around him. His partner is fucking the landhand from behind, inside the darkened carrier, while she fellates him as he sits astride the bike. The image is tantalisingly brief yet so utterly real he can feel soft tongue circling his glans, eyes rapidly widening with undeniable arousal. The man moves without thinking, needing to get her inside the Carrier so the imagined may yet become real: Alexa follows him, burrowing deeper into his subconscious with every movement.

Inside are supplies as expected: boxes and bags bursting with fruit and vegetables. The man-mountain pushes various items aside and then goes to retrieve the bike, lifting it as if it were made of paper before placing it in the space he has made. Turning to Alexa, she watches him consider briefly the merits of picking her up too, before the possibility is quietly chastened. He has to take care of her first, there will be time for pleasure later. Motioning for her to climb inside, she complies without a word. Only as the door closes does Alexa relax, existing now simultaneously in the gloom and the head of the Grunt as he returns to the cockpit. As eyes adjust to her surroundings it becomes clear that the rounds for the morning are almost complete: the back of the transport is full. The assassin settles next to a couple of milk churns: contents quietly swoosh as the Carrier starts up, continuing back to the base.

The Signal springs into life almost immediately, and through the Grunt’s mind Alexa listens, concerned how communication speeds have improved. The news of the fire at her house has already reached the Base: there has been another explosion at a Supply Depot, the third that month. A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a woman matching Alexa's description, whilst Riverman’s disappearance is being described as 'cause for concern'. She efficiently processes everything whilst simultaneously locating the large wooden box that is a permanent fixture at the back of every carrier, slightly disappointed there is no lock to pick when she does.

These men are sloppy too. 

Inside are many reasons why this risk is already a reward: a pair of snub-nosed Military issue automatic pistols with a box of bullets, sharp knives and gougers in a small roll and most importantly, a set of current maps. Alexa is aware of how much cartography has improved, and that even this kind of vehicle will carry the best, regardless of its current task. Pride seemed be a military vice, the bike testament to apparent superiority. Merchants and traders cannot import from overseas, but if it's the best for the troops, no expense is spared. The items are packed away: she also grabs a still-warm loaf and some dried meats for the journey to supplement her meagre rations.

Alexa knows this route, having travelled it regularly. Once the track joins the main road there is only one major town, Durobrivis, before the carrier would be forced to turn east to head for the base. It would be difficult to escape after that point without attracting undue suspicion. There is a dip in the road after the carrier turns onto the major route into town, a small coppice of trees and bushes. Alexa closes her eyes and remembers the place, creates it complete inside her head, and wills herself to stand there, waiting for the carrier to join her.

The competent assassin has many strings to her bow: weaponry, poisons, the art of hiding in plain sight. The very best come with something more: Direction’s ability to warp the Earth allows them to travel without moving. It is the mastery of all things: to remember the places, to taste them and become them, to use the Earth to bring all the senses to one spot. As the Physician understands how the body reacts, the Apothecary knows how to adapt the body. An Assassin knows how to fracture and shift around the body, warping both to their will.

Her thoughts are wound tightly around the Grunts, smoke invading the cracks in their armour and the crevices of their brains, places where whispers become ideas and thoughts transform into action. Neither is watching the road any more, they are pleasured by her body, Earth wrapped around their roots, constricting sensation that slowly brings then to a single thought, the one she will shortly exploit.

She revels in existence, two places simultaneously: inside the container, and on the road as the twin horses crown the hill and begin their descent. They can taste the possibility of her, both of them, the Left controlling the Right. She holds them both, fuels desire for her and the bike, makes them ache at the possibility this fantasy will never come to pass, because they were foolish and sloppy. She's not in the back any more, you were supposed to lock the container and you didn't. It's open, and she's already gone...

The carriage comes to a sudden halt, the thought Alexa planted in both Grunts' heads simultaneously having exactly the required effect.

The prisoner has escaped!

They are falling over themselves, arguing as they do, that the lock was secure and she's still in there and he's not a fucking idiot for forgetting. Alexa has no idea if there will be anything behind the Carrier once the door opens: if there is, backpack will serve as a weapon to take one guard down before pulling the knife strapped to her left ribcage. Then she'll run, but it won't come to that. It's still early, just them on the road, but not for long. 

The bag is secured, prepared to swing. The knife comforts, close to her heart. 

Breathe. Relax. Prepare.

The latch is pulled and the door swings open: Alexa can see up to the brow of the hill, now bathed in early morning sunshine. The smell of rapeseed hits her nostrils, unmistakable odour of a field in bloom to her right. Both Grunts look surprised as their faces are stripped of all expression, whilst hers breaks into a smile. She needn't have worried: time may age the body, but her mind remains as it was when she signed her name and took the Florins.

Don't worry.

The two men stand motionless, staring into the container at the bike. Alexa closes her eyes and compels them back into their fantasy, allowing the pleasure to arouse her for the first time. Lower body and mouth grasping, squeezing blood-gorged flesh in a grip of sudden need. It has been far too long since it happened, a fact that might concern her if it this was yesterday, last week. Today however she is a wanted woman, and the last thing that should concern is pleasure... yet the sensations overlap so seamlessly. To seal their illusion, to cement the moment, she can linger within the feeling. Both men are close to climax. It is time.

I'm still here.

She whispers into their minds; raw seduction as she quietly drops herself off the container's edge and makes her way to the large overgrown bushes on the left of the roadside. Now they see a woman quietly snoozing in the back, blouse undone to expose just a little too much cleavage... and there is a change. The unmistakable sound of hooves echoes in the morning stillness: a lone rider is coming. She needs them on the move, and quickly.

Get me safe.

The final words of Direction have the required effect: the Grunts shift suddenly to life, resealing the container and walking back to the front of the Carrier, both now in animated discussion about how it would be wonderful to ride the bike, to feel the power of the oil-fuelled engine beneath them, and how they should both ask to punish the Landhand personally for her arrogance. Alexa crouches motionless as first the carrier sets off, and then the lone rider passes. It is a Postal Courier, the bright red of her uniform clearly visible through the thorny branches of what Alexa remembers is blackberry, bursting with hundreds of tiny white flowers. 

She doesn't move for a long time, waiting until the Carrier shimmers out of her consciousness and another cart has made its way down the hill. That one was heading towards Durobrivis, market-bound with chickens and milk: if she had felt inclined Alexa could have flagged it down. Instead she finally relaxes and sits on the edge of the field, pulling out bread and meat plus the last canteen of water she ever drew from the well of her cottage. 

For now, she is safe, by her own hand.

Much had changed in five summers, placing her at a sizeable disadvantage. Travelling with such a deficit of knowledge could yet prove deadly. She had been lucky to escape, and would need to be better prepared before she moved further north. In daylight there is time to check her spoils: the pistols are light and compact, and one is loaded before strapping it to her right ribcage. Her own weapons remain hidden until the ammunition is used in these, to deflect the truth of her activity. The maps liberated are printed, on a parchment she's not familiar with, light yet robust. Locating her position, quietly considering the next move, Alexa knows that being alone will soon become a disadvantage.

It might yet be a wise idea to travel into Durobrivis and not straight to the Capitol as she had initially intended.

She eats, trying to forget the threesome she recalled in her mind, but the itch of its remembrance remains. Her lover in her mouth, as he watched his friend pleasure her and arouse all three minds, the wine changing fear to need, desire sublimated into ecstasy. The reality of the moment used as fuel hovers, of a life lived often too much to the full, a past that at a distance could have belonged to someone else. The people Alexa deserted and the career she shunned had never been far from her mind, despite her assertions to the contrary. She wonders how many of her brethren remained, whether Boyd still lived. If Daniel had returned to the Earth she would know, simply by instinct. His presence was always too close for her comfort, especially now.

She has saved her gardening hat for traveling, knowing it would afford good protection from the sun: as she pulls it from her bag another pang of sadness rises to obliterate past desire. I was happy. Whoever decided to force me away from my home will be reminded of this fact, shortly before they grasp the depth of my displeasure. The first order of business however was not revenge, but survival. As soon as the carrier hit the Base and the men discovered her gone, the Junta would know Riverman's disappearance was no accident. Her bounty would rise and resurrection would have many consequences, not simply for her.

Hilltop's life would be in danger, and for that fact alone she must keep moving.

Walking up the other side of the dip there is a decent view of the land ahead: Durobrivis lies over to her right, only a few hours walk if she cuts across fields. As a wanted woman, heading into any town carries its own risks, but if she is to understand what is going on… Her life is now a balance: assessing the situation, and shortening the odds. Keep off the roads, stick to the land, watch for dangers.

Always look behind you.

A flock of birds burst noisily from a tree and Alexa is temporarily startled: something odd, unsettling hovers just behind her vision. This same feeling had risen yesterday, as she'd cleaned the body of the boy, forced to deal with his weak bowels. She had put it down to nerves and anger then: now she is not so sure. There is no-one around for miles in every direction, that is certain. Yet, as she can exist in many places, so can others. The Third Eye hid their intentions in plain sight with no need for Assassin's guile, and they had forced her here. It would not be unreasonable to suppose, as a result, they too were on her trail.


If she is being watched, it is best to keep moving.



==




For the previous part of the story, Click Here.

For the next part of the story, Click Here.



Thursday, 4 December 2014

Nobody Does It Better


Well, there's a title.

Anyone who knows anything about me will know just how passionate I am about the 007 Franchise. Needless to say, this morning's announcement of the title of the new Bond movie has set a cold-infected brain buzzing. It's no 24, and the title is a killer, before we even get to the details of the movie itself. The reason they're using this? I suspect it has a lot to do with this one line of text you can find on Wikipedia:

'On November 15, 2013, MGM and the McClory estate had formally settled the issue with Danjaq, LLC and MGM acquiring the full copyright rights to the characters and concepts of Blofeld and SPECTRE.'

To summarise: Kevin McClory originally adapted Bond for the big screen. In 1961 there was a row, which in 1963 resulted in Ian Fleming giving McClory the rights to Thunderball, which was subsequently remade as Never Say Never Again in 1983. The organisation SPECTRE and Ernst Stavro Blofeld remained McClory's intellectual property until... well, 2013, when MGM bought them back. The organisation is synonymous with Bond, the 60's and countless imitations in the following half a century. The franchise famously 'killed' Blofeld off during the pre-title sequence of For Your Eyes Only but you know, if they went to all this trouble to settle the dispute...

Anyway, my concern isn't with Christoph Waltz's character being even the possibility of a relation to Blofeld. My interest is with the addition of a new member of supporting cast.


Who?


This is Andrew Scott. He'll be 39 when SPECTRE releases, and just about the absolute perfect age to take over from Daniel Craig. He has the looks for the part, has played Moriarty in 'Sherlock', possesses nearly 20 years of film credits and appears in the supporting cast in a role that I don't think is supposed to draw attention to him at all. However, his presence is considerable. Most excitingly for me, Scott is openly gay. There has been a lot of discussion for some time concerning the possibility of Bond being played by somebody other than a straight white guy, and although I'd say I'm unlikely to see Idris Elba do it (probably too old anyway, but I'd take it) and NO WAY would Bond ever be a woman... this could be a start, at least in terms of Eon accepting that diversity exists in the 21st Century. I for one will of course be rather sad to see Daniel Craig go, but he'll be 47 when SPECTRE is released and frankly, he was showing his age in Skyfall. It has to happen sometime, and if they're going to introduce a 21st Century Superthreat, why not use the one synonymous with the Franchise?

Oh, and the premiere of this is on my birthday. GET IN.

What this does encourage me to do is to consider the possibility of doing a long form review of every Bond Film prior to the release, and get the piece of Fiction I wrote post-Skyfall to a state where people can read it. Because, frankly, I'm rather proud of it.

Leave that with me.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Reach for the Stars



OMG ADDICTION.

My writing has changed over the years, mostly (I know) as a result of being read by people who I don't know. There would be those that argue that this is all wrong, because the process shouldn't be about what other people want, but more about what you need to say, and this is of course correct. It is incredibly easy to offend people by being honest: this I know from personal experience. Then you have to sit down and perform what could easily be equated as spinning 250 plates on 249 sticks: except, of course, if you start off with that mindset, you'll never going to succeed to begin with. Writing isn't for anyone else's benefit than your own, and if you're doing it to make a point at a particular person, you're on a hiding to nothing before you begin.

If someone upsets you, this is your salutatory reminder that you're on the Internet and you should walk away.




Keep them coming...

The longer term issue, at least for me, is the understanding you're not taking things as seriously as maybe other people do. Using that word implies that you'll be doing your absolute best at all times to boot, because you don't live life by half measures. Yes, there are days like today when I'm cold and tired and wishing I could just shove my face full of chocolate, but this achieves nothing. Lying to myself or going back on commitments I have made to better health and long-term well-being are very easy to forget on days when you just want to roll up into a ball and wait for the Spring. It is being able to take a step back from the moment and find a bigger picture to grasp that is probably the hardest thing I've ever had to cope with as a writer. It is just so simple to get so utterly wrapped up in a narrative, to the point where you don't think about anything else, and that is the moment when your reality stops being just that, and becomes something else entirely. Even in a fantasy world, you need belief. There needs to be an understanding of limits and expectations.

Just because you can live life to extremes doesn't mean you actually should.



FULL SET GET IN.

Knowing when to walk away is a life skill I wish more people would practice, along with not just opening their mouth and spouting the first crap they come up with or deciding that their way is the only way anything ever gets better. From time to time I clear out my Twitter Mute List on Tweetdeck, only to inevitably add the exact same people back into the list the moment they appear, with the understanding that as my audience grows, I only feel comfortable with people who are actually listening. That means not objecting to the way I do things even if that clashes with their own ideologies, allowing me to have a difference of opinion without it becoming an International Incident, or simply just being decent. What I ought to do, and what I suspect will now start to happen, is that those who I mute that I actually follow will be quietly removed over time with the minimum amount of fuss, and by that I means I'll force them to unfollow me too. Yes, you can do this: blocking someone will make them unfollow you, and unblocking will then leave them none the wiser. Except, in this case, I just told you how it works. So, if you get that old 'Unfollower Bug' thing going on with me in the weeks that follow, you'll understand that I'm not just doing this for the numbers.

I'm here to enjoy this trip, and some people don't seem to get that.

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Sayers :: The Intentional Fugitive


Moving Onwards.

This is the latest instalment of my first long-form piece, The Sayers. You can find links to every chapter of the Novel at the dedicated page for this novel. If you notice any grammatical errors I have overlooked, or you have any observations to make on this piece, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.


For the previous part of the story, Click Here.
For the next part of the story, Click Here.


==


The Intentional Fugitive.


Destructive force breaks every remaining window in the building.

With eyes closed, Daniel becomes the wave radiating out through the walls of the abandoned farmhouse, across fields of ripening corn and down into the heavily-wooded valley. His body sings with the resonance of force, revelling in blistering heat and dust, breathing in the destruction of his partner's handiwork. Explosive molecules tingle on exposed taste buds: bitter sweetness and gritty hardness, obliterating the Military Carriers now burning uncontrollably to the north, licking across paint as it crackles and peels, exposing the bare wood and melting metal. Shards of glass behind him fall through his memories like snow, the final end to the longest of winters: fragments bouncing from stone, shattering many into thousands, glorious decomposition of the world around him as the detonation finally recedes.

Possessing Direction made such moments theatrical in their beauty, especially if your fellow saboteur made what he knows was a mistake with the explosive formula.

'Hmm. Think I may have overdone it on the Glycerin… again.'

Silas Darkworth is brushing dust and glass from his clothing, rising rapidly from his spot behind the wall to approach the now destroyed kitchen windows. Half a mile away, the alarms are beginning to sound, early morning slumbers of the compound's Transport Supply Depot rudely disturbed. Daniel Hilltop's mind rapidly replays the explosion backwards and forwards, from the moment of detonation, immersing himself in the raw power of the minute implosion that proceeded the massive destruction. The arousal it gives him is unmistakeable, breathless agony in that feeling of absolute power, and he is briefly chastised. Sickness rises at the understanding that he's taking extended pleasure from destruction, but this is all he has. Random acts of terrorism are what he's been forced into as a fugitive, and he'll grasp such moments whenever he can. 

Not for the first time that month, he misses one particular woman with bitter anguish. 

She'd tell me I should have been moving fifteen seconds ago...

'Time to leave.'

Darkworth nods at Hilltop's instruction and the pair depart the farmhouse at speed, running back down the hill away from the conflagration gaining strength behind them, to the two horses tethered by the edge of the farmhouse's wrecked front garden. Like so many other buildings in this area it lies abandoned and gutted, casualty of the Military crackdown, normally patrolled but at this early an hour exposed and ripe for exploitation. This is the third attack Hilltop has successfully masterminded over the last two weeks, resources stretched paper-thin across an area normally free of insurgency. By the time someone can be found to investigate they'll be long gone, and it won't matter anyway, because there will be more important issues to address and prepare for.

Civil War moves inevitably closer with each successful attack: not just here, but across the whole of the South East. Hilltop and Darkworth repeat the actions of countless sympathisers and rebels across countless prefectures: there are simply not enough Junta forces left in the smaller towns to suppress their actions. Marcus Maximus has already begun to pull his troops away from the provinces and is fortifying the Capitol, knowing a land war is a scenario he will never dominate. His only hope now is to defend a stronghold.

The Junta is well aware that a reckoning is approaching.

The unusually warm and dry late Spring weather will make tracking the horses difficult, and the two men ensure their route back to the drop-off point is long-winded enough as additional camouflage, but Hilltop knows that the military is in no position for targeted reprisal. The pair dump their horses with a sympathiser family on the outskirts of Durobrivis and walk the rest of the way into town, mixing with the throng of workers on their way to the first main shift of the day, and the talk is all about what has just transpired. Daniel notes with a measure of satisfaction the number of people who quietly agree with his actions, that change must come at whatever price. People work for the Junta here because there is nothing else to do until the Harvest, but he hopes by the time the crops are ready there will no longer be a Junta left to employ them. These are crucial days ahead, plans in action preparing the ground for one final and potentially liberating assault.

He also maintains that coming here when he did was absolutely the right choice, even if his real motives aren't entirely connected with revolution.

His current lover is beginning to suspect something is amiss, that the talk of revenge and reprisal is only part of this story. Her father's talents with explosives have undoubtedly been essential, the anonymity he's been able to maintain here remaining intact, at least for now. The truth is he's close to finding his quarry, that the whispers of the woman suggest that when she ran, it wasn't far. What he still doesn't know is why he waited this long to look: believing them reconciled in his mind, perhaps for the first time since the Junta came into power, the desire had simply refused to subside. As he watches the men and women talk and laugh around him he knows what is craved, more than anything else. 

He misses the best friend he ever found to complete him.

If there is even but the slightest chance of that feeling, the calm Alexa’s proximity could instil in him, he has at least to try and locate her before the Country descends into chaos.

The Apoth's shop is still closed as Darkworth and Hilltop enter via the back entrance, his daughter Olivia working diligently behind the counter: she looks up with a smile full of possibility and concern as the men enter. She hugs her father first and then Daniel, the kiss she presents a possibility, the chance his recent actions may yet be forgiven and his temporary desires with her finally assuaged. Hilltop tries to push away the last image he holds of them coupled but his lover's Direction catches the moment and holds onto it, desperate distraction with a whispered smile as he feels compelled to break the embrace.

I forgive you.

The reconciliation should tempt Hilltop away from memories but he can't devolve the past and the present any more, paths wrapped together and sealed by the leather satchel on the counter, his own crest on the surface. He already knows that events are in motion, this dispatch will provide the irrefutable proof. Daniel nods gratefully to the boy in the corner: Oliver Frances, one of the few freelance couriers that remain willing to work the road between here and the Capitol. The young redhead sits with tea, quietly awaiting orders from the man who remains the leader of the Assassin's Guild of Tamesta, despite the Military's efforts to extinguish its existence.

Darkworth too has a vested interest in events, especially in the weeks since he's turned saboteur, and  picks up Frances' missives, a wry grin forming as he finds a Proclamation amongst the routine reports.

‘The bounty for your arrest has been increased again. It's almost enough for me to consider turning you in…'

‘You’d rather be paid to stop than continue to take pleasure in elegant destruction?’

‘When you put it like that, blowing things up seems increasingly attractive.’

Daniel allows himself a smile as Darkworth hands the paperwork over: it is the usual range of communication, except today there is something extra. Wedged between two communiques on troop movements is the signal, and Hilltop palms the length of green ribbon without a word, gathering into his sleeve the acknowledgment that plans are in motion. 

They are already working to liberate the Seed.

'This is interesting. It appears that one of the brightest of Maximus' new Imperial Assassins was sent on a very important mission yesterday, for a senior member of the Sayer's High Council. His target lives south-east of here, under an assumed name...'

Daniel is a mask of impassivity at Darkworth’s prompt but a desperate heart stutters, inescapable frisson that always accompanied Greengrass drifting into his field of vision. The smell of her is on his tongue, sudden waft of something his current lover is brewing, a name struggling to form: honeysuckle. Summer evenings and rich warmth wound tightly around mind, buried deep and hard in body. If he focusses long enough the hint of her future will be found, approaching from the valley, walking across the fields. Paths slowly converging, if the Earth can be shifted…

A breeze moves through the shop; the Assassin does not need Direction to know that his current lover reacts. There are no windows open until her father returns from changing into work robes with the keys, but Olivia will understand, and forgiveness will be forgotten. Looking up from the distillation lab opened mouthed, she will see him eyes closed, as the motes in the air swirl and surround, proving he is undoubtedly the source. 

It has been many months since he has moved the Earth, and never with the Apothecary’s image.

This will only make matters worse between them.

Hilltop knows who Riverman had been sent to eliminate. He's also supremely confident that even after her five year absence, the younger man will have been no match for his target. Alexa will be on the defensive, and if she is where he believes her to be, that she is already on a path to his door.

If he waits long enough, he won't need to go find her at all.


==

For the previous part of the story, Click Here.
For the next part of the story, Click Here.