SO I’M BACK to square one.
Outside Twilight’s digs the Atlantic breeze picks up and I find myself all solitary and brooding and shit as the gulls ease out overhead, hanging over me like weird Chinese lanterns or Halloween decorations or more like some cosmic child’s mobile that is meant to pacify me as I cogitate on this latest mess of mine, alone in a thankless universe without even the sympathy of Twilight’s hard-bitten security minders as they swap anecdotes and cigarette smoke sotto voce and eye me nervelessly, waiting for me to get the hell out of there and leave them to their empty intertextual gangsterism, the sky glowering with lambent rainfall I have little urge to push aside as I angle back, twisting to look along the distant blinking coast and the road back to the seaboard-sprawling city that is my prison as much as my home and I fear will one day become my tomb.
THE HARD FLOOR of my old loft is no refuge, but a man, even one with the power of six bazillion light bulbs or whatever it is, he’s got to sleep some time. Besides, the floor of the roach-infested warehouse loft is more appealing than the bed I remember from happier times, back before someone lit a fire in the middle of where I used to fuck. I know I could make a bad pun about that, especially with my habit of sometimes igniting bed sheets while asleep, but it’s one of the bleakest moments in my life to wake in the shell of my fleetingly brief former life, a veritable cavalcade of the ghosts of hindsight tramping across the bare, trash-littered boards to remind me of how low I have sunk. Loren is gone along with a moment’s chance for happiness I suspect I squandered bitching and cussing and looking to a future that just hasn’t unfolded anyway close to how I imagined, though that’s the universal condition to be sure.
Daylight brings back the crowds. As I sip a mildewed glass of water, I eye the street from the broken doorway, a couple of the pawn shops open for business, tentative movement from the corner boys and the girls who know its too early to sell their pussies, just killing time, the beat of the day out of rhythm thanks to the events of the night.
DEEPER IN THE abyss that is the dimensional travellers’ old lair, Titan shows me the abandoned control room in which the Prime briefed his hand-picked elite on their strategy for taking overAmericaand later the world.
Feeling every inch the reject he appears to be, the big guy stands in the door of the sewage-stinking bunker, moving aside to let me enter, my eyes drinking in the diagrams and maps drawn directly upon the cinderblock with pieces of broken charcoal that litter the floor from another time when the city’s homeless used the place for sleepovers.
I look back to express my surprise and gratitude to Titan only to see he’s gone.
And at once I realise the clock is ticking.
I JUMP THE fence, literally, brazen in my shiny new jacket as I approach the gigantic factory complex-cum-industrial crypt.
I am relieved at the same time as unnerved to sense a weird, distorted, hair-raising hum that seems to be emanating from deeper within the ruins, whispering dark sweet nothings to my underlying senses. Within the cavernous space, the day finally dies, leaving me to my thoughts as I tread carefully over a landscape of broken plate glass and shattered tiles, the collective output of the old factory, it seems, buried in the dust ever since its workers must’ve fled in mad terror at the Kirlians’ approach.
The tinkling stutter of my footfalls echo inside the cathedral-like space. Scurrying as if to answer, rats and other feral creatures invisible to the naked eye make their presences known.
THE MONKS LET me off on the far side of the disaster zone, but I am on my toes, aware the air is peppered with my latest nemesis writ large across the skyline.
Every bit the fugitive, I am disgorged via some spectral means behind dumpsters like one of the cut-price science fiction action heroes I once so much admired, crouched in the tatters of yet another costume, the bleak day too cold for the week before summer. The city streets resound like a pained animal, horns, breaking glass, women and children crying, alarms going off, the rumbling and thundering noise of heavy vehicles bullying their way through gridlock as I scan the crowd pulsing past the end of the alleyway like corpuscles in a blood stream or if in fact Atlantic City had become just one gigantic theatrical set to represent a human body when under attack from a particularly virulent form of cancer.
However many Titans remain in DC, there’s clearly dozens here as well. The Prime, as they call him, must’ve been a busy boy, but I’m not going to find out any more about that squatting here like a homeless dude looking for somewhere to shit. I fish out my phone as I check both ends of the alley and then the sky overhead, thumbing in the number from the scrunched piece of paper I’m thanking my lucky stars I still possess.
MY INSTRUCTIONS BOIL down to getting everyone else the hell out of Dodge as I hurriedly snap my fingers, hoping those around me will just follow the plan a little better than Tessa. Syzygy hangs at my elbow like she’s just found a father figure and isn’t letting go, but the determined look on my face and the evidently stark doom into which I’m about to walk give even she pause, and I glance back to basically see them all hanging back and wishing me luck. I nod to Chamber and Volt, the nominal leaders of the party in my wake.
“Get everyone you can to the fortress and get out of here, got it?”
They nod and I throw myself out of the windows and up and across the city as fast as I can under the blanket of the Titans’ creepy robot-like army, the flying phalanx of about two hundred generally identical superhumans descending on the grounds around the Capitol building.
I never knew my daughter had such a strong interest in politics, let alone a warm humanitarian streak for the lowest species known to mankind.
I STALK OFF a distance, ready to acknowledge to no one but myself that I’m uneasy about the state of play as well. I killed one of these men in cold blood just hours ago, but that was in the heat of battle and not like some rebel army executing the Opposition once victory’s assured, hearts hardened, Nietzschean parables all coming true. It’s hard to reconcile, but the sounds of ongoing combat ring out across the city and we don’t have the luxury these philosophical debates require. I find myself oddly fixated on the image of a metal weathervane protruding like a thrown spear from the engine block of a parked government limo, the silver cockerel on the end like some harbinger of an ancient and most resolute doom.
Snapping my eyes away, I look to the other members of my squad caught in their own awkwardness and introspection. I scan Volt and Lynx.
Reviews are crucial to getting my Zephyr books out to a wider readership. If any of you have read the volumes published on Amazon (see the ubiquitous sidebar) it would be a huge help and support to me if you were able to publish short honest reviews. I especially need reviews of the later volumes Phase Two, Three and Four. If you haven’t got any of the Zephyr books (Phase One is discounted to something ridiculous like 96c at the moment) contact me on my wereviking AT hotmail.com email address and I’m happy to provide a copy.
Reviews are a really solid way to help the books up their rankings within their genre. The Zephyr books are languishing just a tiny bit at the moment. If you’ve enjoyed my work, please consider if you can leave reviews on Amazon for all the volumes you’ve read and not just Phase One. There’s also a mailing list if you’re interested in signing up.
I’m working on Zephyr Phase Five as we speak (about halfway through), but future volumes will be slower if the book sales also slow. Your support (again) hugely appreciated. Thanks all!
THE WALLACHIAN FORTRESS materialises over the Capitol building.
The drawbridge gapes above a scene like from Dante’s Inferno, a dozen civic buildings alight, the main drawcard itself a ruin, the burning air spotted with floating debris and the odd flying figure, streets in all directions overrun with mortal police and soldiers trying to hold their own with scant back-up. There is no disaster plan in place for a contingency like this, which strikes me at once as both inevitable and appalling.
At my lead, the flyers and those others able to hitch a ride descend like a swarm of gnats from the castle gateway, a few of the heavy hitters like Coalface simply dive-bombing to the ground in a noise akin to rolling thunder. There’s a dusty mushroom cloud where he lands and a sound like a thousands’ hornet’s nests buzzing in displeasure. But I am in default warlord mode, my troops around me, the younger ones and those clearly out of their depths like the Lark, no hard feelings from last time I punched him, I hope, drifting on the thermals as we close to the ground more like a bunch of tandem skydivers than the clarion call of the country’s last line of defence.
I turn to Heracleon beside me, a sheen of sweat on the Adonis’ gold-headbanded face. He looks like he should’ve changed into his brown spandex, if you know what I mean.