Ravenwatch: Heralds

Dead End Street

“Now, that…” a male voice from the darkness said, his accent an educated southern drawl, “… was an interestin’ dream.” Moments later the lights in the room flicked on. The naked woman on his left, an attractive and slender asian american with short hair, made a mutter of disapproval, and pulled the cover over her face. The african american woman on his other side, much taller than his other bedmate and more buxom, had slipped on panties at some stage before going to sleep; she stayed soundly asleep.

Mephistopheles didn’t need to sleep, a very useful little trick for a club owner, but he always liked to catch an hour or two. Being a gentleman, he only kept the light on for long enough to get dressed, and then left his two companions to slumber until they were rested enough. The lights clicked off as the door closed, despite the fact that no-one had pressed any switches.

As he walked down the corridor, he thought a single command, and moments later an impeccably dressed butler, who looked exactly like the actor who portrayed Jeeves in the late twentieth-century televisualisation of Wodehouse’s famous books, stepped out of the wall. He was holding a cup of tea, which he immediately passed to his master, who, after taking a sip, smiled at the ‘man’, “Why, thank you, Jeeves.” It hurt the poor thing to call it by its true name, and so (as a child) he’d given it the name of a character from a TV show he’d been watching. As the years passed, he slowly came to look (most of the time) like the character/actor.

“Not a problem, sir.” The creature said in a plummy English accent, “Shall I deal with your companions from last night in the usual fashion, sir?”

“Why, of course… but leave it until mid afternoon. I imagine the ladies are… somewhat tired.”

“As you say, sir.”

“Indeed. I also need you to set the table for guests this evening, Jeeves… four guests, to be precise.”

“As you request, sir. Are we expecting anyone in particular, sir?”

“Well….” He lengthened out the ‘e’ of the word as he considered, “I’ve only… met… one of them. They are definitely peculiar. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if they are particular.”

“And the poison, sir?”

Meph let out a laugh, “Ah, Jeeves… you’re such a worrier. No, I do not believe we are dealin’ with that sort.”

“Are you certain, sir? It’s just that last time you invited strangers to the club, the poison really would have been most useful.”

“We dealt with it, did we not?”

“Why… yes, sir, but there was so much to clean up – and blood really is a very persistent stain, and convincing their employers of our innocence really was a very tiresome chore…”

“Jeeves, there is a whole world of difference between these guests and our… ah… Eastern European friends. You know, I don’t remember your spiritual predecessor bein’ quite so worried. He just dealt with the problem, while his idiot master did his own thing.”

“Yes, sir, but if I might make note of the difference between dealing with the comically inbred scions of the British and American upper classes… and the somewhat more dangerous world that we inhabit…”

“I know, I know. I was just tryin’ to get you to lay off the whole poison thing without makin’ it an order. You know how little I enjoy impingin’ upon your free will, Jeeves.”

“Very true, sir… and I am very thankful.”

“So we’ll hear no more of poisonin’?”

“My lips are sealed, sir.”

“Good, good…”

City of Fallen Angels (Part 3)

Eduardo Rios sat behind the desk in his office, one hand gripped tightly around the handle of his coffee mug, staring in disbelief at the holoscreen mounted on the wall. All the news channels were showing Eufrasio’s mansion, but the LA1 news drone had the best shot; it had somehow gotten past the EMP screen that the police had deployed, and taken a video of the ice wall that ran across the grounds – they had even zoomed in on the name that had been inscribed across its surface.

All he could think of was video games at first. He’d never played them; never had the time, nor the money, to indulge when he was a child. His son, seeing the name twenty minutes earlier at the breakfast table, was the one who had made the connection. He knew weird shit went down in this world, stuff that most people just closed their eyes to, but he’d never heard of video game characters coming to life.

“So who the fuck did this?” He looked up at Adassa Salvana. She was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, as always, her short spiky black hair, orange-brown eyes, and elfin features giving her an almost cute appearance. People who made that mistake once usually didn’t get a chance to make it again… and right now she looked pissed off.

“It’s odd, Eduardo. The cameras didn’t actually get a good shot on most of them, but we did get this…” She ran a hand across the holopad in her hands, and the screen showing the news flashed to a captured camera image of a young man standing over the unconscious body of Vera.

“Do we know who he is?”

“Oh yes… cabron has a police record a mile long, and we have his currently registered address.”

“So what the fuck-”

“-am I still doing here? I got the boys assembled, and we’re just about to roll out, boss.”

“Okay, what’s up? This better me an emergency. I was just on my way home.” Doctor Benjamin Walker announced as he strode into the patient’s room. He glanced at the chart on the door, just to make sure he had the name right; everything else he remembered, but the names… that was for the psych consultants to worry about. He was just here to patch them up when they did something really stupid. “Now what’s wrong with Mr. Peterson?”

“Sorry, Doctor Walker!” The young latina nurse squeaked at him, “But he won’t wake up. He was having nightmares, like usual, and I was coming in to check on him… when all of a sudden he just… stopped.”

Mr. Peterson, or rather Colonel Peterson (retired), had been admitted to hospital eighteen years ago with severe symptoms of PTSD. Despite numerous different therapies, including the use of a powered healer, they had never gone away; they had been forced to resort to very old fashioned methods just to keep him from slipping even further away from the real world.

Benjamin wasn’t too concerned at first. He was on a very high dose of a whole number of drugs, but – annoyed that he couldn’t be annoyed at being called back – the nurse had done the right thing in this case. In eighteen years, the nightmares never just ‘stopped’.

He brought online a number of different screens, and they showed a number of worrying factors: first of all, his neural activity was spiking; he had been sweating quite profusely, but that was no surprise in the case of such serious night terrors, but even now – when his body looked relaxed – his heart beat was racing; lastly, his temperature seemed to be up – and was continuing its upward trend.

Benjamin had just finished giving orders for particular drugs, not to mention ice packs, when a portly male nurse burst into the room. He’d been sitting at the ward desk when the doctor had come in, “Doctor! There’s another one!”

Issue 2: City of Fallen Angels (Part 2)

Peregrino Alaniz did not wake up. Then again, he didn’t need to… nor did he want to. He was having far too much fun in the girl’s dream. She was a real looker, a freshman at UCLA and, unwilling though she might be to experiment in real life, he was making sure that she at least had something interesting to wake up to. He’d brought her room-mate and her boyfriend into the dreamscape, a cute looking redheaded neogoth and a depressingly strong-jawed jockesque white boy, and inserted himself straight into a lovely little menage a trois that the freshman girl was far too inhibited to realise she wanted.

Admittedly, he was taking the place of the girl’s boyfriend from back home in Oklahoma, but he really didn’t care about that; he got to have fun, and he got to start a new project – by the time that guy got to come see her in a couple of months, the two girls would barely be able to hold themselves back. Practically a public service, he thought to himself, before other matters most definitively distracted him.

He left the two ladies snuggling in the bed, leaving them both with only vague images full of desire to wake to, and stepped into the dreamscape. One more sideways step and he was in his ‘office’, a space he had constructed within the scape. It wasn’t fancy, but then again it didn’t need to be; first of all, he only ever used it for meetings, and, second, being a permanent structure in a very impermanent zone, fancy would consume too much energy.

Oh, he could throw up floating castles or underground caverns in the dreamscape with no problem, but they were ephemeral things that faded with the awakening of his chosen subject. His ‘office’, meanwhile, was permanent; hidden from other Dreamers (not to mention Nightmares), and more importantly was his connection to the ‘real’ world.

Sometimes he thought about closing up shop completely, but he owed Eduardo too much; he would have never survived childhood on the streets of Mexico City on his own, not the sickly thing that had been abandoned by his mother (Eduardo’s older sister), who had been spat on, called a devil by the Catholics, and a tool by the followers of the Old Ways… no, he owed Eduardo far too much, so he maintained the connection, made an enemy of the Dreamers, and was fully at home in neither world.

He focused momentarily, and then – with a jolt – felt the unwelcome touch of the real world. Looking down, he noticed the body that had been left for him by Eufrasio, sitting in the wheelchair as always, and the high of his activities with the two freshman left him with a jolt. The bastard. He always did it. Always tried to embarrass him; grossly obese women, hobos, children, strung out junkies… but this was one step too far. This was too close to the thing that he had been. This—

He took a deep breath, felt the pain that even that small act cost this poor beknighted frame, and calmed himself. Eufrasio was a monster in the truest sense of the word, old fashioned pandillero, and Eduardo’s hatchet man. If heads needed chopping, or an example needed to be made, Eufrasio was the one that was called. Peregrino did what he did because he owed Eduardo. Eufrasio did it for the sheer enjoyment of the thing… and he had also made it his business, since they were all children, to make Peregrino’s life as uncomfortable as he could get away with.

As always, he wouldn’t allow Eufrasio to see his pain. Eduardo had always said that Peregrino was in so much pain that he could allow others to see none of it. That was why he’d never told Eduardo about the things Eufrasio used to do, and it was why he laughed along with every little embarrassment that he tried to put him through nowadays. As to why he never tried to get revenge on him, he had tried. Once. Once and never again. The inside of Eufrasio’s head made Nightmares look gentle by comparison.

This shell couldn’t walk, so he used its stubby pathetic arms to painfully push the wheelchair along – to the office where he usually met with Eduardo. This morning, however, there was no Eduardo, just an attractive woman in her late twenties with dark skin and surprisingly crystal blue eyes. She was wearing a very expensive suit, and looking at him without emotion. “You’re late.” Her Spanish was neutral, equally without emotion, and entirely uninflected. She could have leapt out of a Spanish language textbook.

“I… would have come… faster… but…” He rasped painfully, the malformed mouth making it difficult to even frame the words, and motioned at his withered form. “Where… is… Edu—”

“Gone.” She interrupted, “We just received word that unknown assailants attacked our factory in Westlake. If you look out of the window, you can still just about see the smoke.” She made a small moue of distaste, more at the idea that something had gotten in the way of carefully made plans as opposed to any human worry, “Pericles was not amongst the dead. You are to find him.”

Marching orders given, she didn’t even say farewell or dismiss him, but just turned and left the office. Peregrino stayed quiet for a moment, before his face (which he was glad he could not see) cracked in a horrible rictus of a smile. He had told Pericles that he was too exposed, and had been ignored. Even Eduardo had dismissed his concerns, telling him that he was too disconnected from ‘events on the ground’ and ‘the current state of play’… but you saw things in the Dreamscape… that was one of the reasons for all the rules that he broke… and maybe, in future, some of them would be more likely to listen.

Issue 1: The City of Fallen Angels

“You really think they’re ready?” Catherine made a small moue of distaste at the thought, “Couldn’t we wait a couple more years?”

“And give Eli a chance to get so bored he gets himself in trouble again?” Daniel looked up from the holopad that was lying on his desk, “I don’t think so. Anyway, darling, you know as well as I do that there’s only a limited amount you can learn in the safe confines of a practice room. If they’re going to reach their full potential, they need to get out on the streets.”

She sighed, crossing her legs and leaning back in the chair. She didn’t respond at once, instead turning to gaze out across the well-manicured grounds. She could see Kimiko sitting on the edge of the fountain, splashing her feet in the water, and the sight made her frown sadly. “It’s just… only one of these children actually had anything approaching a proper childhood. I just wish we had been able to step in sooner.”

“You remember what our instructions were, darling.”

Catherine’s frown turned into a smile, but it was still a sad expression, “That is why I said ‘wish’, D. It just seems like a lot to take on trust… I don’t understand how they could even….”

“I know, I know…” Daniel turned off the holopad, then pushed himself to his feet and walked round the desk to stand next to her chair. “If there’s one thing I understand…” Here he smiled in amused fashion, “It’s maths… and that includes odds. Nothing is guaranteed in this universe, but for just a moment I saw… or rather, I felt… the lines of chance that tangle around reality. This really was the best way.”

Catherine put his hand in hers, and then drew it up to her lips. She planted a gentle kiss on the back of his hand, and then nodded. “It’s not like we could do much more anyway.” She looked up at him, “Speaking of that… how are we doing?”

Daniel stared into the middle distance for just a moment, “0.000034%. Still well within our safe operating zone.” He made a small sound of disgust, “It would be far more easy if we could just tell them the whole truth.”

Catherine rolled her eyes, and this time her smile was a little less sad, “You know, I would have thought you’d have learnt a little more patience.”

“What can I say? Fatherhood changes a man. I would just like to know what ’you’ll know when the time is right’ actually means…”

The room itself didn’t strictly exist (at least, not in relation to the physical world). This didn’t seem obvious at first to those few who had been there, but if you stayed there long enough you began to feel its innate wrongness. None of the lines or the shapes were quite right, and after a while it began to eat away at the mind – the normal human mind, at any rate.

Neither of the two creatures currently in the room, however, were human; both had been, at one stage, but that had been a long time ago. One stood almost seven feet tall, with dead white skin, completely black eyes, futuristic armour coloured black and purple, and a long double-handed sword on his back. The other couldn’t even be properly seen; like the room, but even moreso, there was something in it that defied perception.

There was a feeling, though… fire and darkness, white hot rage and cold disdain, and a single glowing eye. At the thing’s command, screens all across the room flashed into existence – windows framed in ebony, that looked out across battlefields and cities across the solar system.

“They are distracted, my lord.” The pale figure said in a monotone, his head slightly bowed.

“Good.” A multitude of voices spoke as one, some screaming in pain, others little more than a whisper, adults and children, men and women, “Make sure they remain distracted. I have more a more important task to undertake…”


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