An Angel Cycle
Story | Next
The world of City and the world of Trog and the world of the Angel and all are one, all are one layered and spliced among the levels of the world and the layers of the dream and bound tightly within the coiled bright lines of the Ride, the giving time the taking time, the time the Angel comes and laughs to its children, to those who brought it forth acting under a grander design than that which came from paper and Memory and Cadcam and Drafting and Love, that which came down the Web in the Ride and proclaimed its existence to a thin ragged boy with a Treasure; with a thing he had that was molded by chance and placed in his hand in pity and charity and given to him in love by the Smith to know the Angel.
Shan waited for the humming; it was almost audible. When he turned his gaze to the small circle of light, growing, he could see the hazing glow of the approaching time, bouncing from the hard bright darkened surface of his shades which, somehow, weren't that dark at all.
Some know the ride but do not Ride; this brings them pain when they spring from sleep or the little dead and scream at the loss as a Ride tears them from their closed-in worlds. They turn and toss and believe it is not a clarion; that it was merely a pale whisper called a dream, and roll back over again to lie on their backs, staring at the night and wondering deep in the secret places who the Angel has just touched.
Mtubi cried, felt the tears rolling down his cheeks, crumpled the sheet uselessly in his clawed hands and stared from his bed at the ceiling and wondered what had been done to him. Ached in his bones for the subharmonics that even then had lightly flexed his small square World locked into its bigger world, locked into the World above the City which is above the Web which is below the sky.
The world goes away in sections, Shan noted, amused as the Ride began. The wrenching in his shoulders signaled the recharge refill answerment of all his days, as the Angel danced backward past him laughing its shortwave song. The Web blurred to a grey composed of the myriad colors of the rainbow; additive color Klein-bottling itself into subtractive, unknown someone turning out the lights and mixing the paint of the world when noone else was looking
-the SLAM of subjective love and loss as the colors began to run in his head, to slide together into not the grey of of the web but the starbow of achieving superluminal on a wing and a prayer and a clear mind's eye; he felt himself drifting up through the roof the Web, through the floor of the World, the upabove, and touched for a moment the other one (the larger one) the (stronger) one and reached out a questing hand to find only a smear of purple. Looking back, Shan can see the dreams dripping from him, forgotten pigments of the imagination as he curves away through the pavement and the ground, feeling himself staring at the ring of the Angel sliding away from him to gently let him down and whisper in his ear with the scream of tortured metal that it was time it was time it was time and the colors came back with a SNAP to the same featureless grey of concrete that surrounded the spiderweb of Transit. Alone in the crowded City, Det. Sgt. Mtubi felt the snap of touch and dream and rushed forward to find himself lying awkwardly on the cold surface of Uptrans with his arms outstretched and no one in sight or sound but his own sobs reflected from the sides of buildings which even now watched him with patient empty eyes and waited for him to pick himself up.
He did. They made no move to help.
Looking about, Mtubi found himself two blocks from his apt, wearing only his nightclothes and a smear of asphalt and grime where his nightshirt had been lovingly abrading itself against the top of the bottom of the world. It wasn't raining. He walked home quickly, not for fear anyone might see him but that he would dream them.
Skylight and crystal, and time's arrow embedded in the heart of a lover of the beast. No way to tell the front of the arrow, save one: Shan felt his life sliding across the slippery plane of time with the single directional cue the decaying of a K-meson into pions, sometimes one, sometimes two, no one knew why. The only way. The only random slide in radon life and time and place with the touch of the little worlds cosmic raining down on your face, this is the kind of place where those who Ride live, to live their whole lives in the shadow of the newlife which you feel blooming around and between if only for a split fractured and technologic diced moment of the quantum foam. These, then, these are those with whom you must converse if you would find yourself behind/in front of the Angel.
Shan wandered through the Web, watching the Dreams play themselves out on the crystalline surfaces of his world through the filter of his shades, which brightened them and dimmed them in different shifting segments as they swam and danced past his laughter, shot through with the delicious chromatics of the others, of Marren, of her song. He reached-
-the wind was sweet, tasting of cold and the time of day that one who sleeps when one doesn't want to never finds, and the Angel rushing ahead of her skipped as it ran unreal hands over her body, playing in lines of isotropic force, feeling the picture of the Ride which bore here forth. With a sudden glaring slit of Silver, the Circle opened beside her and Shan painted himself into existence in the midst of the slipstream blasting of the Angel's grip.
-after they have finished, and the Angel has once more receded in to the forwardwhere it lives on another plane from them, one that recedes at something less than thought and more than light, they roll to their feet and move from the Web into the grey and iron and rust and soil of the World that holds their dreams within itself to touch and wonder and wish, and the stroll down the tunnel is a silent screaming one of aching colors and glowing love and two disparate hands gripped tightly against the yanking splayed futilely prying fingers of the nighttime darkness.
Mtubi sat in the colorless brown office and watched the colorless tan and brown and yellow and multishade people walk by outside his door, and wondered where his life had gone.
It wasn't, he decided, a thing that had happened with any sort of suddenness or warning. It was more a morphing of character over the time period of a midlife crisis. Of course if it was that easy; if it was a midlfe crisis, then he would have absolutely no trouble simply turning to another line of work or leaving his job and taking a long vacation or getting married or any one of the thousand and one things that men do, are meant to do, or are rumored to do in order to deal with such shifts in their lively priorities.
Being single, Mtubi reflected, was a disadvantage. He couldn't just leave his wife.
He contemplated his pencil. It was, unsurprisingly, in exactly the same place as it had been when he'd put it down about two minutes before.
It wasn't, he reflected, as if he didn't like his job. In fact he rather enjoyed it. This didn't help, but made things worse; another potential solution gone from an already short list of answers to a poorly defined problem. Mtubi didn't like losing options; it made him irritable. Twelve o'clock noon and midday. Lunch.
"Hey, Mister Policeman! Long time, no see. Sandwich, hah?" Velasco greeted him with a wide grin as he crossed the plaza to the hotcart which stood as it had for as long as he could remember underneath the large drooping elm tree that spread two-thirds of its canopy protectively over the short wall and benches below. His customary lunch stop, Velasco's cart had been the first lunch he'd eaten on the job as a beat rookie.
"Hi, Velasco. Yah, um...a falafel please. White sauce."
"Coming up. Been busy? Haven't seen you around in a while."
"Well, you know, man has his work if nothing else, right?"
Velasco shrugged. "Maybe." He deftly forked three of the chick-pea balls into a pita pocket with the ease of years of practice. Mtubi found that even if he watched closely, he still couldn't quite make out exactly what the other was doing. His fingers and the food flew with precision and grace; in the dance Mtubi saw the seventeen years of the work that had settled into the long fingers as a salve - easing the motino and smoothing the actions into a long hypnotic pastiche of kinetics and poetry and - in the end - his lunch.
Mtubi fingered the bills in his hand and waited as the white sauce was smoothly laid over the top of the sandwich, the paper wrap brought out.
"Work been keeping you that busy?" Velasco obviously hadn't finished his conversation.
"Hmm. Well, occupied, if not busy."
"I don't see you going in and out, like you do most of the time. You got promoted?"
"No. Just...shuffled. I'm doing paperwork for the moment. Too damn much paper."
Velasco handed him his lunch and took the proffered currency, making change without really noticing. "You take care, Mister Policeman. You look like that paper don't agree with you." He smiled, turning to the next customer.
Mtubi walked a short distance down the wall and sat, opening his soda and placing it on top of his paper napkins to keep them from blowing away in the brisk breeze that was caressing the plaza. As always, before biting into the sandwich, he made the futile gesture of examining it to see if there was a way to eat it without it coming apart when he was halfway through, but he'd been trying that for fifteen years and he still hadn't managed it, so it was unlikely he would today. He bit into the bread-wrapped salad-
-noticing as he did so the younger man across the plaza speeding up slightly and hunching his shoulders as he came up behind another pedestrian, noticed the cosh come up, and was on his feet and moving, the sandwich lying in the dust near the base of the wall as the cosh came down on the other's head, and the figure crumpled and the assailant turned to see Mtubi some fifty feet from him, then bolted, legs pumping as he ran from the plaza.
"Get help!" Mtubi had time to yell as he passed Velasco, whom, he noticed, was already punching code into his phone. He skidded around the corner of the nearest building in pursuit, and saw his quarry perhaps seventy-five feet ahead and running hard. People about had stopped with that sort of curious interested look that he saw all too infrequently on folks nowadays, especially in everyday life, but he was past the first of them, shouting "Police!" at the top of his lungs. In response, those passers-by in his path began to draw back. For the first time there was a clear view of the other's back, dashing around another corner; Mtubi was gaining finally.
As he turned the corner he had time to throw himself flat as the gun spat live hatred, the air burning with the blue discharge which seared above his head, SSSSFAK. He heard the flat crack behind him as some piece of building facade, flash heated beyond tolerance, exploded.
Powergun. There was enough adrenaline left for a chill at that, and he tugged his own weapon from beneath his shoulder as he rolled up to one knee, seeing the gunman turn and make off again, gun clutched in his fist. It reflected sun back at Mtubi for a split second, seeming to wink with a malicious grin as it waved back and forth in its owner's grip.
There were no other people visible between them or beyond the runner. Mtubi raised his own weapon and fired twice, despite a range that was long for a running target. His quarry ducked reflexively, although of course too late, but both bullets missed in any case and chipped a wall thirty meters past him.
Mtubi regained his feet and moved back into a sprint. The other appeared to be losing his breath, but apparently realized the reason for his pursuer's selective fire and began dodging and weaving through clumps of people on his way down the street. Mtubi, still yelling for everyone to get down or out of the way, was less than twenty meters back when the gunman suddenly vanished down the yawning well of a Transit entrance. Mtubi skidded to a halt, looking quickly over the edge before dodging back. With a SSFAK of superheated air, the blue lance of a powergun bolt blazed up from the stairwell, burning one side of his face with its proximity. He waited two beats, then risked another brief look in a different spot. The stairway was empty, and Mtubi was on the verge of running down it when he stopped in memory and gasped at the sudden rush of intensity and color and space and time and dreams of speed, of void of rush of time and ride and he was taken to his knees to find himself in front of the Transit staircase with his gun pressed to the pavement beneath his palm. Sobbing, he dragged himself upright and shouted as he crashed through the fear and confusion to stumble down the stairs to the platform below.
Reaching the gates, he vaulted them while shouting "Police!" at the still stunned attendant. He landed on the platform side and frantically looked left, then right, then - there. Almost to the end of the platform, jacket flapping wildly, the mugger was running flat out, gun still waving. Mtubi turned to follow, screaming at the fifty or so bystanders to get back or down. Once past them, there was no-one but his target; enough time for a snap shot. The exulting shout of the gun bounced from the durasteel and ceramic, evoking an answer in the tinkling crash of shattered tile from the end of the platform. Without bothering to return fire, his quarry grabbed one of the support pillars which hid the station's Web rings and swung himself down to track level. Mtubi had time to see him duck beneath one of the supports of the track's guidelines before he vanished into the darkness of the tunnel itself.
Just as Mtubi was slowing for his own jump, there was a rush of air and bass as the bullet nose of a Transit capsule sighed to a halt next to him, effectively blocking the tunnel. The quartz windows at the front were dark and empty as he drew abreast of them; the machine was running on automatics. He leaned against a pillar, cursing and gasping in breath as passengers went through the ancient urban dance of the doors behind him.
Finally, as he was about to scream from sheer frustration and had just barely regained the breath to actually do so, the sensors decided that enough was enough and closed the doors. The capsule lifted perhaps a centimeter as the field came on; there was a slight wash of colored glare and the machine shivered and slid past him out of sight into the tunnel. Mtubi looked back, and not seeing another capsule, jumped down from the platform to swing into the Web. The running lights of the capsule were disappearing around a bend perhaps a half kilometer from the station as he began to run once more.
An Angel Cycle Story | Next-->