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The Pen is Mightier than the Sword
Ozymandias

Man and Superman

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'The loud wind never reached the ship,

Yet now the ship moved on !

Beneath the lightning and the Moon

The dead men gave a groan.

 

They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,

Nor spake, nor moved their eyes ;

It had been strange, even in a dream,

To have seen those dead men rise.'

 

-"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

 

----------------------------

 

 

Wednesday, January 13th, 4:20 PM, EST 1999

 

 

The subject line of the e-mail was just enough to distract an already whirling mind. The act of clicking on it quickly brought distracting variety, including but not limited to the fact that the immediate presentation was not one of text, but a very grainy video of a fellow in full canary yellow mask and black sunglasses.

 

His message is even more striking. "HEY! YOU!", he actually shouts, jabbing a blue-gloved finger fully into the camera lens, rocking the picture a bit. "Listen up, sweetcheeks. Today's your lucky day. Bored? Wishing for something a little different? Well, Edgelad.JPEG's your man. For what I am here to do is open your eyes with the mother#$%^&*@ jaws of life! I am about to jerk your chain like noone else ever has, or ever will."

 

He gives the eerie impression of smiling through the yellow spandex.

 

"Weird Al was right. None of this matters. None of it! This job, this house, this computer, money, politics, clothes, toys...NONE! You know that discomfort you feel at night when you can't sleep, and don't know why? You ever have that intense feeling of deja vu? You ever feel like these hands, that face, those feet, this life, isn't yours?

 

You know how your skin doesn't feel like a part of you sometimes?"

 

He leans in far too close, his face becoming shadowed and filling the frame.

 

"You've been right every time. And I'm here to help you with that, but time's run out for lesson one. Here's your travel info:"

 

Edgelad.JPEG leans back again, bringing a note card into the picture now. It has a list of names and addresses. The names seem to be those of people and of airlines. The addresses correspond with the airlines.

 

"You'll notice that your name's on here, complete with airline." There's the smirk again. "I booked you and all the rest in coach, as package carriers for the companies' whose names'll be on your ticket printout. It's less conspicuous that way, and cheaper. All the same-" He removes the note card just ong enough to lean in far too close again. "I do hope you can lie your way out of a paper bag." He replaces the note card.

 

"Write these down; don't try to print them out- you can't. The worm virus that I've tossed onto your rig'll frag it beyond all repair in thirty seconds. You. Need. These.

 

Exactly five minutes after your computer dies (maybe four minutes, thirty seconds, maybe thirty seconds more), They'll be busting down your door, and you will NOT be seen again.

 

It's because'a this e-mail. Sorry.

 

Exactly three minutes after you disembark from your plane, you will get a PA notice of a telephone call on one of the courtesy phones. Vaya con Dios, pal. Five seconds."

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Anya blinked as the worm virus ate its way into the core of the computer, thoughts racing as she feverishly scrabbled down the info she had.

 

I will figure it out later...

 

She looked at the clock -- 4:22 pm.

 

Who the hell is that, what is happening, and who is going to bang in my door?

 

Without knowing exactly why, she grabbed a bag under the desktop table -- why did she had the emergency bag in there? -- and casted eyes about her.

 

4:23 pm.

 

F***, why am I acting as if that email was real?

 

But if genetics had taught her something, it was that sometimes -- just sometimes, but maybe the right times -- a very random, chaotic mutation was the nudge needed to turn a failed line into a promising one.

 

She glanced at her brother's room on her way to the window, saw him staring at the computer.

 

Sometimes I think he leads more of a life in there than out!

 

4:24, and she opened the window. She appraised the fire exit stairs, and hesitated just a moment.

 

Why not? Chaos is my name...

 

Instead of going down, she went up. As she entered the top-floor apartment through the open window, she heard muffled shouts somewhere below. Ignoring the startled gasp of the child in whose room she was, Anya quickly and silently left that apartment, crossed the corridor to the window that opened to the opposite set of fire exit stairs, and quickly went down. She crouched at the window above her floor, made sure there was no noise coming from the inside, and went back into the building.

 

Nonchalantly, she called the elevator and then left the building, headed for the airport.

 

 

 

 

"Paging...Chaos?" the voice on the intercom sounded uncertain "Er...there's a call for 'Chaos' at booth 13."

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Amanda scribbled down as much of the message as she could keep up with, focussing mainly on the airport information, but also making small notes to everything else the strange man said. As she wrote, a detached part of her brain - the ever rational Alyssa - began to process and comprehend the message for what it was. The beginning to finding the answers she'd wanted for so very long, without quite knowing the questions.

A popping noise made her look up from her notes to see her computer staring back at her with a blank screen. Dead.

Five minutes, she thought to herself, getting up and running to her bedroom to pack a small bag. For a moment, Amanda hesitated. What about her students? Her friends? Granted she didn't have many of the latter but could she really just walk out on it all?

You don't have a choice, her rationality pointed out. Sighing agreement to herself, she grabbed a bag, a change of clothes, her wallet and passport, etc. Bag packed, she slung it over her shoulder and headed for the front door, before she thought better of it and headed back to her bedroom to climb out the window. Just in time, too. As she jumped off the balcony and landed on the soft grass in her backyard, she heard the door above her being broken into. Had it only been five minutes?!

Glancing to make sure no one could see her, Amanda slunk out of the backyard and hailed a taxi to the airport.

 

She approached the desk uncertainly, wondering what name she should give. The teller gave her a bored look when she hesitated.

"Uh, checking in? Miss Hall," she handed over her passport. The teller took it and began to look up the details on the computer.

"The only 'Hall' we have here is Alyssa. Says here you're name is Amanda."

Thinking quickly, she smiled ruefully at the teller.

"My friend booked the tickets. He has a cynical sense of humour. Alyssa's my...well...I prefer to go by it. I just haven't had time to change it legally yet."

Not interested in the backstory, the teller printed the ticket and handed it over.

"Better run. Plane leaves in five."

 

Alyssa got off the plane, Amanda left behind at the plane's boarding gates, it seemed. She'd barely gathered her bearings when the intercom buzzed.

"Paging Alyssa to the front desk? There's a call for you"

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"Oh sh**" Nathan whispered, echoing the sentiments that he had just written on a pad of paper, coming from the mouth of a black gangster. "I actually have years of work on that computer."

 

He wondered whether the message was just a prank by some of his friends who wanted to have a joke on him or whether- He saw his sister run by his door, barely glancing inside. His computer indicated 04:24. Did he really want to wait and find out whether...he did.

 

It was only when they knocked the door down and that a bullet had just missed his hair by less than an inch that he started running, grabbing only his wallet on the way.

 

He went down the fire escape, shivering in his jeans and t-shirt in the cold night. "Why the f*** did it have to be now?" he grumbled, sliding in among the alleyways he had used as a scene in one of his books. While running amongst piles of garbage he managed to step into vomit or blood, in the darkness he couldn't be sure and let out a stream of curses. A dozen bullets had followed, but none of them actually hit. After that he ran on in silence.

 

He bought an expensive suit at the airport, more against the cold than for looking good, but it also served to awe the girl at the ticket counter, who even forgot to ask why the ticket was for Nathan "Order" Lestrova. The flight was pretty bad, late at take off and late upon arrival and the food tasted awful, but it gave him time to think.

 

Someone had tried to kill him and if he could believe that yellow canary, it had been because of the message he had received. What did that make Mr. Edgelad.JPEG then? Someone who had tried to kill him? Or would they have come even if he hadn't received the email?

 

Nathan wished that he had listened to his IT technician friends and not clicked on a link in an email from an unknown sender...but had he had a choice? He must have fallen asleep sometime during the flight as he woke to the stewardess announcing the weather at the destination. Where the hell was he flying anyway? Nathan couldn't remember and had to look at his ticket. Houston, Texas of all places. He had never been there before.

 

"Call for Nathan Lestrova at the information desk. Señor Lestrova-" followed the same thing in Spanish, but Nathan wasn't listening any longer. He made his way through the throng of people to the information desk and after introductions was handed a phone.

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Don sat back momentarily, stunned. He'd just walked into his apartment and started sorting through his e-mails, only to see this weird little man dancing around on his screen and offering answers to his questions. Answers...

 

The man's words came back to him with a jolt. He had to go. Now.

 

Don quickly re knotted his tie, threw on his sport coat, grabbed his fedora, and the paper on which he'd scribbled the information given by that "Edge". He quickly walked out his apartment's door, not bothering to lock it behind him. It didn't sound like he'd ever be coming back here.

 

He restrained himself from breaking into a jog, and strode along the apartment complex, away from his car and towards the bus stop. If Edge was right, they'd be coming any minute now. Don didn't stop to ponder why he was obeying the orders given to him by that man in yellow. They seemed true to him, unlike so many other things. He quickly boarded the bus, and only then took the time to glance back at the apartment complex, where the only out of place thing seemed to be that black car pulled up near his apartment. Pulling his had down over his eyes, he pretended to take a nap until he heard the airport stop being announced.

 

Everything was exactly like Edge had said; a ticket waited for him under the name of "Codex Black". Fortunately there wasn't much of a fuss when he told them that some fool had obviously messed up in ordering the ticket, giving the name of the disk he was carrying instead of his own. There were no further hassles, and he spent the flight wondering what exactly was happening.

 

The time to disembark came quickly, and Don was still rather disoriented when the announcement came that there was a call for "Codex Black" at the courtesy phones. Striding off to take his call, Don wondered exactly what was ahead of him. Hopefully the answers would come soon.

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Lindsey didn't even bother to write down the information the program was giving her. Taking it all and shifting it to the back of her mind, she stood and looked around her small programming cubicle to see if there was anything worth taking. The video jabbered in the background, ignored, and she only gave it a slight glare when it mentioned that her computer was going to go psycho in mere seconds. She grabbed her wallet, all the cash she had brought with her, and a single piece of old pizza.

 

Nonchalantly she slid her iPod in her pocket and strolled down the thin halls of the software building, headed for the bathroom. She locked the door behind her just as the elevator gave an insidious ping.

 

In silence she turned and slid the window open. Standing on the toilet, she slid her thin frame through and landed on the thick heap of trash two stories below. It jarred her, but seconds later she was up and walking down the sidewalk towards downtown, brushing dust off of her AC*DC t-shirt and cramming the pizza in her mouth. Stressful situations always made her hungry.

 

She supposed that her long, wavy brown hair and bright blue eyes were enough to convince the desk clerk that her middle name really was Alice, and that her father had placed that name on her ticket. A part of her, however, wished that it was simply her stunning intellect and quick wit that had gotten her onto this cramped and human-infested plane. It wasn't likely: for some reason people had always taken a while to get past her exterior to discover who she was.

 

The flight was painfully long and only halfway through her stomach began to growl audibly. She began to wish that she had taken two slices of the old pizza and politely asked for another bag of peanuts.

 

Exhausted, she exited the plane in a flurry. An assault of different airport restaraunt smells found her immidiately, but she remembered that she was expecting a call and stood still, counting the three seconds that seemed to take forever. Finally, the PA system crackled into life...."Ves, you have a call at the information desk. Ves, a call at the information desk."

 

She strode quickly towards the desk and answered the phone, turning away and hoping that the clerk wasn't listening in.

 

"Yes?"

Edited by Degorram

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Alex frowned at the e-mail, annoyed to have had his game interrupted. His mind was still at the strategy he was running on that world, when the information finally sunk in. Gasping, he now stared at the screen while taking quick notes. Flight number, time, destination. He never doubted one word of it, it just seemed as natural do him as the reactions he studied. Cause and effect, electron donor and electron receptor... he was just one electron around the nucleus of some element, and he was now being irresistibly attracted by a nearby atom.

 

Pushing chemistry thoughts away for the minutes he needed to get out of the house, Alex grabbed his Chemistry notebook, his PocketPC (called Pocky for short), and his guinea pig. He stuffed all of them in his backpack, tiptoed past his mother in the kitchen and took his usual way out when he wanted to be out secretly. In the pantry, he opened the window carefully, threw out his backpack, and then squirmed out himself.

 

He turned the corner at the same time a car stopped in their driveway.

 

 

 

It wasn't too hard to convince the guy at the check-in counter that someone had messed up completely his middle name, turning Alex Hamilton Scott into Hassium Scott. By the time he boarded the plane, he had managed to hide Pig from security checks by passing him from one pocket to another, either in the backpack or in his jacket. More difficult was to pretend he didn't see the stare of the flight attendant when he tucked a leaf of lettuce from his dinner into his pocket, and he sighed. At least the flight was long enough to allow him to have dinner...

 

 

 

"Phone call for Hassium, please contact Information Desk. Mr. Hassium please, contact Information Desk."

 

Alex squared his shoulder, patted his pocket to make sure Pig was there, dropped some peanuts in said pocket, and walked to the Information Desk.

 

"I'm Hassium... there is a phone call for me."

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It had been so sudden. Alex's hand had came and tore him away from his sweet dreams about a certain female guinea pig he had been locked together with in the pet shop. And then the world had been moving around him and he found himself in that sweaty shirt pocket.

 

Pig was sure that the shirt had been washed too long ago. It certainly stank of human sweat and a corner of the pocket even faintly smelt of meat, meaning stains during a meal. And above all he was hungry. Luckily after what seemed like several hours he was given some lettuce and then some peanuts, but he longed to see his cage again. He was tired and moving about all the time in that pocket, where the temperature was too warm for him wasn't ideal for sleeping.

 

Strange, alien smells invaded his senses all along, myriad different perfumes, none coming from the older woman he usually smelt around the house. He couldn't make much of it, being just a small guinea pig in a dark pocket.

 

He wondered when he would get out...

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Alex could feel his little mascot squirming, and sighed. It wasn't certainly the treatment he was used to... of course, he hardly knew what Pig was used to besides being fed a couple times a day. But he had been doing the feeding since he had got the guinea pig, and was quite sure that someone in one of the worlds he used to play had a guinea pig as pet. And as far as he remembered, that guinea pig did not use to go into shirt pockets and be smuggled into a flight to an unknown place...

 

Alex forced himself to stop wondering as the woman repeated something to him, pointing to a telephone. Gulping, he forced his voice to be calm.

 

"Hello?"

 

Unfortunately, his calm voice came out as a high-pitched squeak.

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When the email first arrived Jarod opened it barely even registering that he was doing so, his attention taken by the article about computer terrorists open on his second monitor... but the article was quickly forgotten as the video began to play.

 

As Edgelad.JPEG brought the list of names up to the camera Jarod's eyes went wide at some of the names on the list accompanying his own - names he recognised from his hours trawling the net, names that made this message anything but a hoax.

 

Mesmerized by the screen he reached for a pen scrawling down name, airline, company and tearing the page off the notepad Jarod grabbed his bag and headed for the elevators leaving an article about cyber-terrorism slowly decaying in a virus storm on the computer behind him.

 

~~~

 

As he passed his workmates desk Jarod gave him a nod. "Just heading upstairs to get some food, you want anything?"

 

~~~

 

A chance comment, a moment of distraction... strange how all the elevators are on their way to this floor... oh $#!T.

 

Moments later Jarod was gone and Altor was jogging down the stairwell that he'd slipped into un-noticed hoping that his story about going upstairs for food would buy him a few minutes.

 

~~~

 

Despite the warning to the contrary getting the ticket and getting on the plane was almost easy, the overworked young airline clerk responding with a smile to the easy smile and lies flowing off Altor's tounge, grateful to have a customer who wasn't trying to make her life hell.

 

Halfway through the plane trip Altor started to wonder if perhaps it hadn't been all a bit easy, but no... his luck had been in this week on all his hacks - no reason why that wouldn't carry over into this greater game.

 

The plane was departed with more smooth smiles and security barely even glanced at the young man walking by in idle conversation with the white haired grandmotherly type - so they didn't notice when the two parted ways at the top of the disembarking area.

 

Exactly three minutes after disembarking Altor was striding towards the bank of courtesy phones even as a page came over the airport PA system... "Paging Mr Altor, call for you on courtesy phone 9."

 

Altor lifted the phone to his ear before the words had even finished echoing through the terminal and he spoke two words that might change his life forever:

"Altor here."

Edited by Gryphon
I was told I had to

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Anzu leaped to her feet with a small cry, her face flushed with mild anger. She was too worried to be truly angry. She grabbed one of her inking pens and scribbled the information upsidedown above her bellybutton, where no one would ever see it.

 

A shoulderbag filled with pens, brushes, pencils, and bottles of ink and acryllic paint was all she took with her. She patted her pocket: wallet, pocketwatch, chap-stick. For a split second she took a look around her large airy studio, her eyes resting on the computer one last time. The yellow-clad figure waved cheerily at her just before the screen went black and smoke began to rise from the monitor.

 

A hand hammered on her door. "Pizza delivery," was all that was called through the wood.

 

Anzu sneered as she opened the door to her greenhouse. She never ate pizza- she considered it vile, greasy food that only a complete fool or slob would eat. The hand slammed harder.

 

Just as Anzu slid into the fire-escape, a foot forcefully kicked her door in, splintering wood and sending paint flying. Anzu could not keep a shout of frustration from breaking from her lips as a canvas split.

 

"THERE!" one of the invaders yelled, pointing a gloved finger her way. Twelve helmeted heads and guns swung towards her. Anzu let go of the rungs she was holding onto and dropped.

 

They didn't see her when they poked their heads into the fire-escape. From her position clinging to the railing above the stairs, no one would have unless they had looked directly up.

 

She waited an hour after they left before dropping and sprinting to the airport. Her VIP pass got her through all security with an announcement that this was an 'emergency'.

 

Hours later, the PA system was crackling above her head. "Bob, you have a call at Security. Bob a call at Security."

 

I'm going to disembowel whoever is in charge of this, Anzu thought angrily as she slid towards the large search tables. A black phone attached to the wall blipped and rang.

 

Anzu picked up the reciever and listened without a word.

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The last day was pretty much a blur in Pico's mind. From the email, to the dashing escape from his own appartment, to the sorrow as he knew that his PC was now dead. At least his real work resided elsewhere, and should be safe, at least for now. Though Pico was a little upset that he had to do his share of running, which with his short legs, was more like a fast stride to everyone else.

 

But all that mattered not. He had said goodbye to "Zach" when he boarded that plane, and now he stood at the departure gate of an airport he had never been to before, with little more than the clothes on his back, his wallet with some money and all his knowledge in his head, somewhere.

 

Just as he starts walking from the gate, he hears his name paged over the airport's public announcement system, asking him to pick up a call on one of their numerous courtesy phones. Pico finds one that he'll be able to reach without any problems, picks up the receiver and puts it to his ear.

 

"Pico here..."

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At the tone, the time will be the first day of rest of your life, the scratchy baritone of an electronic voice scrambler declares.

You think you're safe-you're not. Go to gate A1. Pick up another ticket from there. This one will be under your birth name.

 

It almost seems as if the voice snorts after this comment.

 

Get on the plane. Do not stop for food, or bathroom, and especially no phone calls, e-mails, or text messages. Avoid all policemen.

 

If you see one man in a black suit with white shirt, black tie, and sunglasses, keep him under constant surveillance.

 

If you see more, run. By any means necessary. I mean any. Remember- explosive decompression isn't like the movies. Other folks will not be sucked out of a plane by it.

 

Keep that in mind.

 

CLICK.

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"What in...?", Alyssa muttered. She was suddenly aware of rushing feet behind her. There was no time for the favorite teacher in Lakeside Preschool to even cry out before she was borne violently into the wall by the sudden and painful twisting of her right arm behind her back unto the breaking point.

 

"Miss Amanda Hall, you are under arrest for fraud, grand larceny, idenitity theft..."

 

Alyssa tuned out the rest of the litany she'd been fearing since she started this quest, focussing instead on the blood in her mouth.

 

I hope I wasn't the only one. I hope the rest of you run faster and harder than I did.

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Anzu blinked and put the phone down slowly, her ears attuned to every noise around her. The mumble of passengers, the roll of wheel-on suitcases, the tramp of shiny dress shoes on the floor...

 

There...the dress shoes. Only a man dressed nicely would wear nice dress shoes. And they were headed towards her.

 

Anzu slowly, casually, turned away from the phone and hefted her shoulder bag, sliding a long pen knife into her hands. She would be jailed for sure if caught with it, but because she was considered VIP level they had not noticed it before. If she used it openly she would go down.

 

But...any means necessary? The rules were clear.

 

She sped up, making to catch an elevator before it closed, but a figure melted out of the crowd in front of her. A man dressed ambiguously in black and white, his eyes shielded by sunglasses, was moving towards her. Anzu glanced over her shoulder to see another behind. Crap.

 

Anzu shoved her shoulder into the nearest two people. Luggage went flying and a suitcase burst open. Immediately Anzu bent down, stammering apologies and attempting to help them stuff their scattered laundry back into the cases. A few other people bent down to help, adding to the chaos. In the pack of bodies, Anzu slipped away.

 

She stopped running when she reached the right terminal. There was a ticket, in her name as had been directed. This one was first class. She supposed that meant more room to run and an easier access to the emergency exit. Another glance revealed it was an exit seat. Figured.

 

A flight attendant came and brought her a drink and took an order for food. Anzu only half listened, not really caring what it was she was asking for or even if it mattered. When they brought a miniature, steaming pizza and put it on her food tray, she almost laughed out loud with the irony. Of course.

 

Anzu covered her eyes with a hand and sighed. Hours before she had had a normal life and a sense of security. Despite her desire for adventure, this was not what she had in mind. The plane surged under her and she drifted, every sense tingling for the sound of squeaky male dress shoes on the plastic plane isle...

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The calls came, the calls went. Plane follows plane, follows plane, follows plane. States and countries begin to blur together. The man known only as EJLAD.JPEG's resources become more and more mysterious.

 

As do men in black.

 

Until finally, landing at wildly varying hours of the day, the survivors of what is perhaps the most dizzying airborne itinerary in history disembark, take an extremely dusty jeep ride for hours more, and finally meet, all at the same longitude and latitude in the Australian outback.

 

To their surprise at being surprised again in this already surreal day, they find a campsite with fully stocked tents, coolers, and a TV and VCR. An aboriginal man looks up from the ten hot dogs he is roasting over a merry fire in a firepit. He waves.

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Over the hours, all who were called (who are left) finally trickle in.

 

"Oi! How you lads doin'? Long trip, eh?" These words are his first greeting beyond gestures, and polite nods. His mahogany eyes scan leisurely across the last to approach.

 

"Longer'n he hoped, eh? My condolences.", he continued, easy smile fading briefly into a frown. Sorrow too, crept into those fiery eyes, leaving near as soon as it arrived.

 

"Good to see you lot all the same- or maybe especially? We'll see!" He lets fly with a laugh like his eyes; warm, bright, and just dangerous enough to evoke caution as well as comfort.

 

"Dog?", he offers, motioning to his cooking.

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Anzu wearily took a hot dog, certain that she would have a major heart attack from all the greasy American food she'd been eating. She scanned the other weary, dirty, disgruntled looking people around her. Perhaps now, as the strange host cooked more hot dogs, they would get some answers.

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Lindsey had never seen a hotdog with a heavenly glow before. But at that second, with her insides practically eating themselves, the little pink sausages had never looked more perfect. With trembling hands she took the hotdog and ate it as slowly as she could manage: which was two bites.

 

She sighed in satisfaction and looked over at one of the others. The girl was fingering her food with disgust, practically green. "You going to eat that?" Lindsey asked.

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Nathan took a hot dog, but after taking a couple of bites he was no longer hungry. His hunger was replaced by annoyance and curiosity at being thrust into a situation that had nearly killed him. He would have at least wanted an explanation that made sense. He could see his sister at the other side of the campsite and nodded at her when she looked his way.

 

"So, Mister...whoever you are," he said looking at the aboriginal man, "Mind telling us what the hell is going and why we were torn from our normal lives?" Is he even the one he should be asking the questions from? Nathan didn't know. Who the hell was in charge here?

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Anya looked quite surprised at seeing her brother in there. She would never understand why someone who loved order so much would be dragged into the same kind of chaotic events she was so keen to follow to the end. She walked in her brisk pace towards him, grabbing a hot dog on her way.

 

"Order and Chaos... will you tell me why you seem to always be tracking me to try and put some order in my life, dear brother?" She smiled, the easy banter coming off-handed and without stings after so long living under the same roof.

 

"And yes, dear sir..." she turned to the curious-looking man, "... would you mind telling us why these seeds of chaos were sown in our normal ordered lives?"

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Several more hours in that uncomfortable pocket passed, with an occasionnal bout of bouncy running and a single leaf of cabbage during the whole time. And of course, nothing to drink...was this a way for a pet to be treated?

 

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity and a half Pig was finally scooped from the pocket and was allowed to drink some water from Alex's hand in the plane's restroom. It felt absolutely gorgeous. Water had never tasted so good before. Pig drank long and deep and afterwards was allowed to nibble on another leaf of cabbage.

 

And then he went back into the pocket again for a couple of hours. When he was allowed out again, he could scamper onto Alex's shoulder, as the boy stood amongst a circle of unknown men and women, all smelling pretty weird. One of them seemed to be cooking something long and thin, that Pig had never seen before. It didn't smell good. But the fresh air was good and all around he could see only the open sky. No walls to confine him. Was this how his ancestors had lived before being owned by a petshop?

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He touched his forehead. "Dennis. M'mate Owen's here too, but he's off to the loo."

 

At the strange looks, he calmly indicated the sparse plant life behind them. "He's prolly done b'now." Dennis turned and called into the silent brush. "Oi! Owen! They're here!"

 

His answer was an odd VIPP noise. Dennis looked quizzically outward at the sound. He began to say something else, but stopped at the strangled cry from Nathan. Turning he too watche din horror as Anya toppled bonelessly into the dirt, a few spatters of blood ringing the neat hole inbetween her eyes.

 

"PULL YOUR SOCKS UP!", screamed Dennis, already nocking an arrow onto the bow none had seen a moment before. Soundlessly, he sprinted low to the bushes.

 

"It's under the tents!", he hissed at Nathan as he flew past.

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Alex gasped in shock, staring at the girl bleeding on the ground. He had just been on his way to greet the others, and the last thing he expected was to see someone dead. His stomach churned, and he tasted acid on his mouth.

 

HCl... strong acid, funny how it does not just melt away the cells in my mouth... or my stomach... His mind wandered, lost in reactions involving acids and bases and organic materials.

 

Someone pulled him by his arm, and he heard Pig's outrageous squeak as he struggled to not fall from his perch on his shoulder. Somehow, Alex found himself running, gasping for air and focused only on following whoever was just in front of him. His hand closed on Pig and tucked him into his shirt pocket.

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Nathan did not hear Dennis hiss at him. After his sister tumbling lifeless to the ground the world around him ceased to exist for him.

 

"Anya. Anya." he whispered over and over again, cradling his sister in his arm, his other arm pushing her bloody hair out of her ghastly pale face. There was an awful lot of blood. On the ground, on Anya's face, on her clothes, on his hands. As he wiped his tears away he smeared blood all over his face.

 

"I had wished to see Order see the end of Chaos, but not like this. Not like this." Watch what you wish for, for wishes can come true. His father's words, from two decades ago when both of them were still young children rang in his ears. He had scolded them for wishing a little too loudly that the fearsome dog in the neighbouring garden would die. You were right Dad.

 

Nathan bent down and kissed his sister's bloody forehead and pulled her eyes shut. Slowly, painfully, he forced himself to stand.

 

By the time he stood his hands were clenched into fists. His eyes screamed murder at anyone who would have looked at them. With his sister's blood smeared all over his face and hands Nathan ran after Dennis. He would kill whoever had done this. No, he would slaughter whoever had done this.

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