April 30, 1998
Able’s fists were clenched hard enough to draw blood from his palms. He couldn’t hear beyond the tomb, but he knew there were people outside.
He had to kill them. His body felt ready to snap from tension. It was ready to kill, needing to kill as mortal bodies needed to eat and breathe. The urge gnawed at his gut, worse than the hunger of a starving man.
Of late, he had managed to resist for a few minutes each time he was summoned to speak with his brother, but now with freedom so close…
He would wait until his body tore itself apart if need be.
In total, the ritual called for eight greater seals of protection, twenty-four minor seals of protection, three Wards of Rath-Ba, and a Matrix of Sav connecting a nodal system of forty-four augmented summoner’s circles. The tomb sat in the center of the design, its own sides coated in more crimson runes. The Directors watched from their safe room several hundred feet above. With a button press they could activate Ukelele: with another, they could simply flood and collapse the chamber.
The blood had been easy enough to come by: a mandatory blood drive easily replaced the ritual slaughter of several hundred slaves. More difficult was constructing the actual ritual: it had been cobbled together from fragments of ancient texts and reverse-engineered spell rites millennia old. Enough material had been found in the last four months to triple the number of Daevite artifacts in storage, and that didn’t include those items yet to be cataloged, propelling knowledge of the Daevas forward near as far as the Rosetta Stone propelled understanding of the Egyptians.
The chanting began. A full tenth of the Coalition’s practicing occultists stood in their circles, swaying along with the undulating, intermeshing words. The tone was haunting, almost melancholy, though tinged with an uglier undercurrent.
Agent Alto Clef stood in his own protective circle, twenty feet in front of the door. His knowledge of Daevic was limited to scraps of the lower tongue, and he knew little of magic. He focused on the door. When it opened, he would be the one to deal with Able, for better or for worse.
The chanting picked up its pace, the words spilling forth with greater power and urgency. A glow filled the chamber, shadows flickering wild and rampant against the walls in a wild dance. Wind whistled in unmoving air, building up to a roar that filled the cavern. The intensity crescendoed into a maddening height, burning and swirling and crashing, and then it stopped. The chant, the glow, and the wind ended as one, like an extinguished candle.
It was done.
It was done.
The urge was gone. The knot in his stomach untied, the tension in his muscles loosened. He felt weak, weaker than he had been for a very long time. Confusion roiled in his mind: everything was coming back to him, and it was unfamiliar. Cold, hunger, fear…Had he spent so much time a tool that he had forgotten what it was like to be a man?
Perhaps. If it was so, he would learn again.
Able stood up, and for the first time in over ten thousand years his steps were unsteady.
He pushed open the door of his tomb for the last time.
The door of the tomb swung open. Able stepped out, tottering and wobbling like a paralytic learning to walk again. He reached the border of the first ward and stopped.
Clef stepped out of his own circle and walked towards the Neolithic man.
[Looks like we did it.]
Able nodded. He swung his arm sharply, as if swinging a knife. No weapon appeared in his hand.
[Yes. We did.]
Able smiled, turned to the men and women standing at the margins of the circle, and spread his arms in triumph.
[Know this, tribe of Clef! Before you stands a man freed! By all the gods of the River and the Mountain be blessed, and know that I am your kin from this day forward!]
O5 SPECIAL ORDER 1998-04-30
In accordance with the original agreement of Project Greenhouse, Agent Alto Clef and all materials related therein is to return to the Foundation on May the second, 1998. In addition, the remains of LTE-9927, custody of KTE-9927-Prime, and custody of KTE-0706 are likewise handed over to Foundation jurisdiction for further study and containment.
BY THE ORDER OF
Foundation A4 Advisory Board
European Field Operations Director LaForte
European General Operations Director Fontaine
United Kingdom General Operations Director Cast
United Kingdom Assistant Director Burr
American General Operations Director Henderson
American Assistant Director Zane
“Zane, I don’t care what the records say. I never signed that order.”
O5 GENERAL ORDER 1998-04-20
Due to recent events involving a change of species, Dr. Adam Crow has been relieved of his position as Administrator. A new Administrator will be appointed by the O5 Board.
BY ORDER OF:
Dr. Gerry sat meditating by the Clockwork, letting the metronomic ticking and clicking fill his ears and clear his mind. Thoughts settled into place in time with the music. He was part of the Machine, the Machine was part of him, as Crom and Nala and Grape were of the Machine. Man did not create the Machine: man created machines so that the Machine might inhabit them. The computers he had created with the Clockwork were mere vessels for fragments of the Machine.
A true vessel, proper for the Machine in its fullness and perfection of Logic and Reason, would come in time.