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So now it’s getting harder

07/11/2011

No new chapters this weekend. I needed to take some time out and have a life.

The next two weeks at work are scarily busy.

I’m already wondering if I started the novel in the wrong place and need to go back and fix it.

These are all flavours of the reasons why I’ve never written a novel before.

I’m hoping that NaNoWriMo will give me enough of a push to keep going anyway. Afterall, 50,000 words is a shortish novel, right.

According to the stats section on the NaNoWriMo site at this rate I won’t finish until December 14th and to catch up I need to write 1,753 words a day for the next 24 days.

Well I guess that’s good to know.

So now I have to stop procrastinating, get some work done and then make to time write some more of “Blood, Flesh and Fear”

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Chapter Five: “Bad Dog” w/c 2,369

04/11/2011

Chapter Five Bad Dog

Flon, Lausanne:  Evening of Monday 1st November 2066 First Day of the Full Moon

“You asked to see Lyra, Ma’am?”

Nathalie could tell by the boy’s body language that he had bad news to deliver. He was new to the SCP and knew her only by reputation. That would explain why he was afraid of her. Fear got in the way of following orders and destroyed the ability to use initiative. It was time to turn his fear into respect.

“How long ago did she escape?”

“How did you know…?”

“I asked to see her, not you. You were supposed to be guarding her. You have been sent here by your commanding officer so that I teach you the consequences of your action.”

He stood straight and looked her in the eye while she made him wait, two, three, five seconds.

“What is your name?”

“Jenkins, Ma’am.”

“A Brit. Like Lyra. Is that why you let her escape? Sympathy for a fellow Réfugié Anglais?”

Interesting, his fear was replaced with anger.

“Answer me, Jenkins.”

“I am not a refugee, Ma’am. My father was born here. I was born here.”

“But you’re not Swiss, are you Jenkins?”

“No Ma’am.”

“Because there’s something else different about you, isn’t there? Something standing between you and a sponsor for Swiss citizenship.”

“My Grandfather came to Switzerland in 45 because Cadmus had him on a death list as a race traitor. My grandmother was Indian.”

“And?”

“My Grandfather served in the Crescent War for British Military Intelligence as part of Operation Delphi. He was enhanced, Ma’am, at least that’s what they called it then. He was a Berserker”

Nathalie already knew all this. No one joined her team with her knowing everything about them. Andrew Jenkins had gone through one of the early gene-therapy treatments to enhance his natural aggression and his skill as a soldier by giving him the ability literally to go berserk. Berserkers knew no fear and showed no mercy. Their purpose was to kill so indiscriminately that they would break the spirit of the opposition.

“And you have inherited his Talent?”

“Yes Ma’am, except, I can’t swap out of Berserker mode once it’s triggered. I stay that way until I lose consciousness.”

“Some people would say that makes you a hard man to trust, Jenkins.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Well, Jenkins, that gives us something in common. Most people find it hard to trust a Lab-Brat who never sleeps and can master any task she’s seen done once.”

Jenkins did his best to hide his surprise at her directness and had the good sense to remain silent.

“So how did little Lyra escape from a fierce Berserker like you?”

“She drugged me, Ma’am.”

“With the drugs you were supposed to be giving her?”

“Yes, Ma’am,”

“Lyra is very pretty, isn’t she?”

“Yes, Ma’am. I mean no, Ma’am. I mean I’m sorry, Ma’am.”

The last comment was delivered with a hint of a grin. Jenkins was smart enough to know he was being played. He would do OK here. And of course, if he survived a nine year term of service in the SCP, he would qualify for Swiss Citizenship.

“Will you send a team after her, Ma’am?”

“No, Jenkins. You and I will deal with this.”

He stood straighter. She could tell that he wanted to salute and was glad that he didn’t.

“Now go and get the guns and let the locals know that we’ll be hitting Flon.”

“How do you know she’s in Flon Ma’am?”

“The place is infested with the worst elements of Les Réfugiés Anglais, violent, angry men with twisted pasts and no future. That’s exactly what she’s looking for.”

*

She had him now. He just didn’t know it yet. The grin on his face said that he still thought that this was about him and what he wanted. Well, that was OK. That was part of the game. Men ready to fuck were even dumber than usual and this one hadn’t been that smart to start with. When she’d picked him, she hadn’t been looking for an intellectual; she’d been looking for a big man with a fat cock and a strong desire to fuck her with it.

His motivation had never been in doubt. His eyes had tracked her breasts from the moment she entered the Britannia Pub. When he realized she was heading straight for him he placed his back against the bar, thumbs in his belt at either side, one foot hooked back on the rail so that his jeans pulled tight across his cock, and grinned.

He was the kind of man that other men made room for: large, loud, and violent. She took in the thick black hair, the muscled forearms with the Free Britain tattoo, the big hands and the flat belly and decided to have him.

He said something when she was close enough to touch him. She wasn’t listening. She was focused on the smell of his sweat. It spoke of health and aggression and an absolute need to get laid. He was plague free, one hundred per cent human and was bursting with testosterone. Perfect.

He was still talking. Asking her something. She stayed silent but made eye contact. When her left hand slipped under his shirt and pushed through his chest hair, his pupils dilated. When her right hand closed around his jean-clad cock she felt his pulse explode and wondered if he’d come on the spot.

At last, he’d stopped talking. He was over a foot taller than her so she had to push up, almost climbing him, to reach his mouth. She sucked in his tongue, held it for half a second between her teeth and then turned and walked away.

She’d gone less than half a step when she heard him move. He reached for her but the alcohol had slowed him and his erection made him clumsy, so his first grab missed her.

She turned to face him but still kept moving away from him towards the door. He moved faster, trying to put his hand around her waist. She grabbed him by the wrist, pulled the flat of his hand up against her breast; let him feel the hardness of her nipple and the weight of her flesh for barely a second. When she let go of him, he stumbled. She laughed and moved out of reach.

“Come back here, you cock-teasing slag!”

He didn’t sound like a nice man. He sounded angry and violent. Her sex moistened. She pushed out of the Pub and ran, fast enough to be convincing but slowly enough to make sure he saw her head into an alley bathed in the dark shadows that pre-figured the setting of the sun. The moon was already hanging fat in the sky above her. Its presence made her heart race. She needed to have sex and she needed to have it now.

The big Brit bruiser was strutting towards her, licking the knuckles of his clenched fists, ready to show her what a real man does to a cock-teasing slag.

She pretended to stumble, letting him catch up. He was no longer interested in talking. She could hear his heart pounding, smell the tart acid of his hate even more strongly than the musk of his lust. She let him land a partial blow with his huge fist, sending her to the ground, filling her mouth with metallic heat of her own blood.

“Please, don’t hit me anymore,” she cried, apparently struggling to get up onto all fours and looking back at him over one shoulder.

“You can have me,” she said flipping her dress up to display her raised arse.

He bent over her, both fists raised. She could his desire to break bones and bruise flesh warring with his need to fuck.

“You can have me if you’re hard enough and big enough. I bet you’re very big and very hard.” she said, at the same time ripping off the string she wore and using both hands to spread her wet labia wide.

She could almost see her scent hit him. His hands unclenched and he started to tear at his belt and his jeans. Briefly she saw his flesh rise up and then he was on her, over her, entering her, hot and hard and violent. Riding her back like a dog. Slamming into her, mercilessly.

This is what she’d needed more than air tonight. To be crushed beneath angry, straining flesh. She concentrated completely on his hot hardness forcing its way in and out her, crying out with every inward stroke as if she was being murdered, was literally dying for it.

Already she could feel the pressure building inside her, searching for escape. The man above her was just an animal now, fucking not because he could but because he had to. His hips seemed to be working his mind. Pushing and tearing, digging for his come.

She felt the change start when the first hot spurt of sperm spat into her. Her muscles tightened around him, squeezing him, milking him, refusing to let him go. The big man grunted in pleasure. His mind was coming back to him and his words started to flow, more a conversation with himself then her:  “Yeh, you like being shagged by a real man, don’t ya? You like having British beef in ya. Slag like you can’t get enough. You don’t wanna let it go, do ya?”

Now it was her mind that was shutting down. The moment was upon her.

“What the buggering hell is this?”

The man’s arrogance was replaced by panic. He was struggling to pull out of her and not succeeding. When the change started, panic became fear in an instant.

She opened her mouth to howl her orgasm and felt her jaw lengthening. Her back stretched until it was arched at an impossible angle that allowed her to look up at the man above her.

He was trying to back away from her. Trying not to touch the thick pelt that now covered her. Only her grip on him held him in place.

The smell of his fear disgusted her. She released her hold on him. He fell backwards scrambling away from her.

Part of her wanted to be rid of him, to jump on his chest and rip out his throat. A smaller part of her knew that was wrong but couldn’t remember why.

With a graceful leap she landed on her prey’s chest. He turned his face away from her, exposing his neck. She could almost taste his blood. She opened her jaws, ready to rip and tear, when a high-pitched whistle sounded. She looked up. There were bright lights at the end of the alley. The sound of people running. Someone shouted “Lyra – don’t!”

Lyra. She remembered that name. It was her name some of the time.

Beneath her, the big man had fainted. He was no longer interesting. Except that she was suddenly very, very hungry.

“Lyra!” She looked up. Then someone shot her. Everything went black.

*

“Did I kill him?”

It was the first question Lyra asked when she woke. Her head ached and her mouth tasted like something had curled up and died there but she needed to know the answer.

“No,” Nathalie said, “He will have nightmares for a while and I doubt he’ll chase young women into alleys but he will live.”

Relief flooded through Lyra. Then another memory struck her.

“You shot me!” Lyra tried to sit up in bed but her head protested the effort.

“Actually, I shot you and then young Jenkins shot you,” Nathalie’s French accent made the word sound long and sexy, “We stunned you with a couple of darts.”

“A couple. More than one. No wonder my head is exploding.”

“Well, you looked hungry and you are always unpredictable after you have been laid.”

“I was not laid. The were-slut was laid. Which reminds me, how the hell did I get out? You knew I was in heat this week. I was supposed to be under guard.”

“You were. Jenkins was guarding you. You remember him. The clean cut young man who joined SCP last month.”

“The Berserker? The were-slut took on a Berserker?”

“No, even she would not do that. She was nice to him. He told me that you’d been so good the first few nights that he thought there was nothing to worry about. Apparently he’s never met a loup-garou before so he had no idea what a salope will do when she’s on heat, until you snatched the needle he was supposed to sedate you with and sent him into the arms of Morpheus.”

“Oh no. And he had to come and tell you that.”

“He did. And I did not kill him. And I let him shoot you. So everything is balanced.”

“Well thank God that that’s over for this month.”

“Get some sleep, wolfing. You’re off heat now but the moon will be at its fullest tomorrow. I will need you and your were shadow. We are going to hunt some monsters.”

Nathalie’s phone buzzed. She checked the message.

“I must go, “she said, heading towards the door, “Sleep well.”

Lyra’s body wanted to sleep but then, these days, Lyra’s body wanted all kinds of things that Lyra’s mind thought inappropriate.

Nathalie had been kind to make light of events in the alley but that both knew that if Lyra had killed the human without orders to do so, she would have woken in an SCP cell awaiting sentencing.

By necessity, the SCP was tolerant of the strange habits of its recruits but there were limits and Lyra had come uncomfortably close to breaching them. If she had done so, there would have been no trial, no publicity and no grave – just anonymous ashes thrown to the wind.

Before sleep claimed her, two thoughts occupied Lyra’s mind. The first was that she owed Nathalie and Jenkins a debt for those two darts. The second was that perhaps she-wolves only went on heat once a month because no one could survive having that much fun every day.

5 Good Things From My First 4 Days of NaNoWriMo 2011

04/11/2011

NaNoWriMo challenges you to write a 50,000 word novel from scratch in the 30 days of November. That means producing an average of 1,600 words a day, every day for a month. I’m on Day 4 (and smug about being slightly ahead of schedule) and I’ve already discovered a few things that make me glad I decided to do this insane thing.

The Joy of The First Draft

I’m a short story writer. I’ve never written anything longer than about 10,000 words. I write my short stories with love and care. There is no first draft there is just the text. I work on it and work on it, sometimes for weeks, trying to get the perfect 2,000 to 4,000 words that will tell my story in a way that gets under the skin of the reader. This is hand-crafted writing that is about making sure that there are no wasted words and no imperfect words. It is shaped and smoothed and varnished and then varnished again until, one day, often reluctantly, you have to admit that it is done and it’s time to move on.

I love that kind of writing and will never give it up but it doesn’t work for NaNoWriMo.

I feel like a cabinet maker who has agreed to build a house. My priority is to get the frame up and roof on and get everything in place that makes it a house and then finish it with love and care. But I still want the design of my house to be original and functional and to be somewhere people want to live in.

To my surprise the First Draft in 30 days thing is very liberating. I know I can make these chapters better. I can labour over them to improve the language, to ensure imagery that reflects the right mood, to deepen characterisation, sharpen dialog, and ensure plot continuity BUT I can do all of that LATER

Right now I need to pour the concrete, get the footings and the plumbing in place, raise the walls and get the damn roof on. Why? Because that’s the only way I’ll know I have a house and not a woodwork project.

I’m enjoying the freedom to discover what happens next and the pressure to move on. I have four chapters. I know I will have more. Every day.

That is a new source of joy to me.

The Linked Short Story view

It turns out that not everything about trying to write a novel is different from writing short stories. I’m starting see this novel as a set of linked short stories. I have three sets of characters that I’m following. Each one of them is a short story in their own right. I also want each Chapter to have a beginning, middle and an end. It’s kind of like I get to write a short story everyday but set in the same milieu

Writing out of sequence

I had intended to start this novel on a chapter I haven’t written yet. It will probably turn out to be Chapter 6. I’m enjoying this. It gives me that – so that’s how this scene that popped into my head two years ago came about. Who knew? I think that’s great fun.

Yesterday, I should have written Chapter 3. Except the character introduced in Chapter 3 wouldn’t talk to me. Not a word. Complete sulk. So I wrote Chapter 4.

I was amazed at how liberating that was.  I allowed myself to write the chapter my imagination was ready for. And of course, as soon as I finished that, the character in Chapter 3 woke up and demanded that I write her chapter right now. This is a fun way to work

An obsessive desire for backstory

So I’m doing my best to hit the word target each day (as well as get my work done and have a life) so you’d think that I’d focus on the text and get on with it. It turns out that I need more and more details on the backstory. I need a calendar for the years between now and 2066 when the story is set. I need a time line for key historical events. I need a back story for every character. Yet, instead of feeling like a burden, it feels like I’ve reached the next level in a video game.

The addictive effect of hitting the target

Each day I wake up and think about how I hit the number today. It may not be the first thing that I do something about but it will be in my day. It is time I’m gifting to myself. Every night I sleep knowing that I looked after myself by giving time to write. AND the word total keeps getting higher; you can’t stop when that’s happening – right?

I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks’ time

Chapter 3 Sleepless in Ouchy w/c 992

03/11/2011

Chapter 3 Sleepless in Ouchy

Château d’Ouchy, Lausanne, Switzerland: Sunday 31st October 2066

 

 

Nathalie Morel stood at the window of her room at the top of the tower of Château d’Ouchy and looked out at the sun setting at the Western end of Lac Léman. It was Halloween tonight and soon the young and those who watched over the young would walk the quayside, carrying Chinese Lanterns and dressed in the costumes of various monsters and supernatural entities.

 

The Château, with its ancient central tower and the gothic roofs with tiles that looked like they were made of Dragon’s scales, was just the sort of Addams Family structure that ought to be at the heart of any Halloween celebration, but Nathalie knew that not even the bravest of the costumed children would come here tonight.

 

The Château had been many things over the years, a Bishop’s Palace, a military base, even a rather fine boutique hotel, but for the last fourty years it had been home to La Section Criminelle et Paranormal an organization that was feared rather than trusted, tolerated rather celebrated. The Château was were the freaks and monsters lived, every child in Switzerland knew that.

 

Nathalie believed in monsters. When she was four years old, monsters had come for her, and everyone she had ever loved, everyone she had ever known, had died. It had been Halloween Night, the Feast of All Souls but the monsters had not been supernatural. Like most of the monsters she had met since then, these ones had been human.

 

Under the terms of the Bratislava Accord, Nathalie was not human. She had once been the property of a  L’Avenir a BioTech company that ran a black lab for the French government in the hills above Cannes. She was what the Brits used to call Lab-Brat; custom-cloned to have attributes that her owners thought would be useful.

 

Nathalie had been constructed with industrial espionage in mind. She had a perfect memory, excellent language skills, an intuitive understanding of computer systems and absolutely no need for sleep. She was also small and fine-boned, almost elfen, which meant that people did not find her threatening and where often inclined to help or even protect her. That is, until they discovered that she was a freak who understood and remembered everything ever said in her presence and who was always awake.

 

Although she looked child-like, Nathalie had never actually been a child. There was no profit for L’Avenir in spending years on nurturing and educating an asset that could already be earning them money.  Nathalie grew up in a “family” of made to order freaks who all looked like adult but where the oldest of them had seven years of memories, but had been in the world for no more than seven years.

 

The mob came for them after midnight. Nathalie’s family was asleep. The staff were mysteriously absent. Only Nathalie, the sleepless one, was awake.

 

If Nathalie had been longer in the world, she would have behaved differently that night and more of her family would have lived but at four years old her understanding of human brutality was too limited for her to anticipate the actions of the mob.

 

She was outside when they arrived. They were trying to be stealthy but the Dominion Party

had fed their fear and superstition with alcohol and many of the men were drunk. She had anticipated the possibility of an attack on Halloween. She had been using the hours of darkness to learn about politics and economics and law. This was an election year and the Dominion Party had come up with an election winning slogan: “Humans first, Humans last, Humans only”. The Dominion Party had turned her people into targets so that they could win votes.

 

Nathalie had not shared her understanding with the others. She was concerned that she might be wrong. She had also wanted to play the hero if she was right. She had used her learning abilities to teach herself unarmed combat and the basic use of weapons. She was confident from her reading that, if she killed a few of the mob early in the proceedings, the rest would flee, her family would be safe and she would be a hero.

 

Unfortunately her reading had not acquainted her with the concept of highly trained agent provocateurs who used the mob for cover.

 

While Nathlie was killing her first half-dozen humans, two men had slipped away from the mob and set up charges that turned the lab into an inferno in seconds.

 

Nathalie remembered their faces. She remember all of their faces. The ones she killed that night. The ones she returned to kill later. The ones, like the agent provocateurs, that she hadn’t found yet.

 

Nathalie ended that night by running away. By choosing to live now so that she could kill later. It was a hard decision then but she knew it was the first sensible thing she’d done all night.

 

The Director often told her that violence solved nothing. Killing just caused death. Nathalie never argued with him. Death was all she expected and until she found hers she would continue to hunt down the others and take their lives from them.

 

That was one of the reasons that she had become the Head of Security for the SCP. The Director was the second reason.

 

Her phone rang.

 

She listened to a colleague who was both sleepy and anxious. Not a basis for effective communication.

 

“Tell the Director that I will meet him in the Tactics Room. No you didn’t wake me. No you don’t have to apologise for forgetting that I don’t sleep. You do have to get off the phone and let me work”

 

Nathalie put the phone down and allowed herself a moments thought.

 

Something had frightened Cassandra. Something was coming. Something monstrous. This time she would be ready. This time she would kill the monster dead.

Chapter 4 “Lilith” w/c 1751

03/11/2011

Chapter Four: Lilith

Lausanne Gare: Monday 1st November 2066 All Saints Day

At 11.45 Adam stood by the lifts to the parking at the rear of Lausanne Gare. From here he could see anyone walking down the main underground corridor that led to the platforms. This part of Switzerland celebrated All Saints Day so it was Sunday-quiet but the Coop was open, people were coming back and forth, he would not be too conspicuous.

Leaning up against a wall, Adam raised his hand to his nose. He could still smell the Border Guards on his fingers. It had been a truly splendid Halloween. They had turned tricks and he had given them treats. Two athletic young women in uniform; who could resist? They’d even brought their own handcuffs. Of course the Boss’s “No marks, no memories” instruction had limited Adam’s fun but he’d still found a way. He’d made them the focus on pleasuring each other and then ridden them to exhaustion.

It had helped that the older Guard was a natural submissive, married to a man of very conventional tastes. That had given him a deep seam of need to mine. Adam couldn’t directly control people but he could influence their behaviour if he had enough time. At the point of orgasm, Adam could implant a suggestion. If the suggestion was repeated orgasm after orgasm in a single night, the suggestions integrated themselves into the woman’s beliefs and memories.

He had suggested to both women that they had spent the night along together, that they should spend as many nights as possible alone together and that nothing was more important than their passion for each other. It had made the night spicier and it made it likely that the couple would be so publicly ardent in their hunger for one another that he doubted they would be allowed to remain Border Guards. They would certainly not be witnesses that any investigator would believe.

Adam felt relaxed, content even. Madame Huron had been creative and enthusiastic without being demanding. The two Border Guards had been tiring but rewarding. Even Sophie Baxter had been fun at first.

He shouldn’t have thought of Sophie. He could still see the final expression on her face as she waited for her messy, humiliating death.

He refused to dwell on that. Instead he let himself wonder who the Boss would send as the messenger this time. The Boss had excellent taste in women, although the women normally regretted being tasted.

Monsieur?”

The voice was soft and sexy, with only a trace of a Brit accent. Adam had let himself become so distracted that he hadn’t notice the whore approach him.

She stepped closer to him, tilting her head to look at him through long lashes. When she spoke it was somewhere between a sigh and a whisper.

Vous amaiez un baiser Brit, Monsieur? Pas pressée. Sans tabou.”

She was offering to let him beat her while they fucked. She was offering to let him do anything he wanted for as long as he wanted.

She was a Réfugiés Anglais whore of Bengali descent: coffee-coloured skin,  waist-length dark hair, tall, slim but with good curves. She was wearing the latest fashions in whore-ware: heavy Motorcycle boots on long legs that were topped with a short plaid skirt and a thin tight white T-shirt printed with the image of a soiled New Union Jack. It was an ensemble to freeze in at this time of year.

To his surprise, the whore leaned up against Adam without waiting for an answer. She seemed aroused at more than a professional level. Adam smiled. He must have opened his Talent while reprising his time with the Border Guards and the whore had gotten caught up in it. It was probably the first time she’d actually wanted to have sex with a punter. Soon the want would turn to need. Already she was reaching for him, trying to open where she thought his talent lay. She was persistent and attractive and so, so vulnerable. Alan felt his own hunger stir. He still had a few minutes before the meet. Time enough to sample some dark meat.

She had him in her hand now, long fingers cupping his balls, the cool skin of her forearm trapping his erection against his belly. This close up he could see the black trefoil that disfigured her neck. Devised as a warning it had become a fashion accessory for every girl who wanted to flag her availability in a trendy club. This one didn’t look like it would wash off. Still, she was there and she wanted it so badly. Where was the harm?

“Where?” he said in English.

“I know a place,” she said, giving him a smile that made him twitch in her hand.

Her accent was very upper class Brit. Not that that mattered to anyone anymore, but Adam still found in amusing.

Without letting go, the whore pushed him against an unmarked door. The door clicked open when she touched it with her free hand.

He should have paid attention to that. Doors like that are always locked. Instead he let her push  him through the door and up against the wall. She flipped the light on in passing. It was a storage room for cleaning equipment and she’d clearly known where the light-switch was.

The tiny alarm sounding in his head was silence when she squatted in front of him, without releasing her grip on his attention. She brought her mouth close enough that he could feel her breath, then she looked up at him, and, reverting to her French sales pitch said. “Vous aimez, Monsieur?

Adam nodded, breathless at just how much he did aimez this unexpected encounter.

“Peu je?”

May I. Adam loved that. Totally loved it.

Then she said. “Avec ou Sans, Monsieur?”

Adam thought of the trefoil on her neck. “Avec” he said.

Volonte” and gave Adam a playful squeeze as she reached down to her pull out the latex condom spray from her motorcycle boot.

Adam closed his eyes, waiting for the cold touch of the spray across his hot flesh. Instead he felt cold steel.

“Hello Adam.”

The needy faux-playful whore was gone now. The woman squatting in front of him and holding a wicked flick-knife against the base of his sex looked like she would geld him in an instant and enjoy watching him bleed out afterwards. What the hell had he gotten himself into?

“The Boss said I should give you a message. She didn’t say how I should deliver it.”

Adam understood that he might live to see the end of the day. Getting the tone exactly right he used the trigger phrase: “You have a message for me.”

The woman stood, folded her blade in an action almost too rapid to see and tucked Adam back into his jeans. He face went blank.

Adam smiled. Calmly he said, “Give me the message.”

The woman’s laugh had all the charm of a wolf’s growl.

“Seriously, Adam? Do I look like a throwaway toy to you? Isn’t there something you should have noticed by now? Apart from the fact that you go limp under pressure, which frankly, is a little disappointing.”

Adam understood it then. His day had just gotten a lot worse. She was immune to his Talent. She was strong enough to break the lock on a door with one hand. She could move a knife faster than his eye could follow.

“You’re…”

“A Lab-Brat”

“…not human.”

“Not in the traditional way, no. But who is these days?  The Boss designed me, grew me, trained me, played with me and then sent me to you.”

“With a message?”

“Yes, Adam, with a message.”

“What is the message?”

“You’re working for me now.”

This was not how it should be. He was Human. He was a Talent. He shouldn’t be working for something grown in a petri dish like mold. But Adam was a realist and the reality was that right now he had to go along with this if he wanted to keep breathing.

“What should I call you?”

“In public you can call me Lilith. In private you can call me Mistress.”

“Mistress?”

“Yes. Except without the question mark.”

She stepped closer to him and ran her long fingers down his cheek.

“I watched you with the Border Guards, Adam. You didn’t even have the sense to drop the blinds.”

She pushed her thumb into his mouth. He didn’t wait for her to tell him to suck. He knew what she wanted. This had been one of the first things he’d had the Border Guards do. It had excited him to have a thumb in each of them, feeling the warm urgency of their eagerness to please him. When he had finally moved lower, he’d made them suck each other’s thumbs until they reached their first orgasm. It was just something that amused him. He wasn’t amused any more.

“You like kissing the girls and making them cry, don’t you Adam? That’s OK. I like to watch them cry. I like to watch men cry too.”

Lilith pushed his head back hard against the wall then released him.

“Kneel, Adam.  Put your hands on your ankles. Tilt your head back. Good boy. Now ask me.”

It took him a second, then he understood.

Vous aimez, Maitresse? Peu Je?”

“Yes you may, Adam. And take your time.”

She sighed when his tongue first touched her, then she settled her weight on him, making him grunt.

“Do you know the story of Lilith, Adam? The Boss taught it to me. She was Adam’s first wife. She got thrown out of Paradise because she complained that Adam wouldn’t let her be on top. Lilith liked being on top. So do I. Slower. Don’t rush or I’ll hold your nostrils shut until you pass out.”

Adam applied himself but he wasn’t getting the usual response. This wasn’t fun. It was hard work.

Lilith stepped away. He could see that he had barely aroused her.

He reached up to wipe his mouth. Lilith slapped his hand away.

“Let it dry, Adam. Think of it as the leash I’m holding you on. I’ll renew it every day. It will remind you of who you serve and once it dries it leaves a DNA trail that I can follow in the dark. Now keep your hands in your pockets and follow me. We have work to do.”

Chapter 2: “The Sphere” w/c 1,389

03/11/2011

Chapter 2 The Sphere
General Guisan Research Centre, Rutli, Switzerland: Friday 29th October 2066

Elodie Chabloz switched on her monitor and watched the live feed of the new Empath, Lolien Schläppi. The girl practically glowed with youth, health and positive attitude. Her file said that was nineteen years old. Her father was from an old Swiss German family. Her mother was Han Chinese with a small precognitive Talent that she had used to help her husband build his stock portfolio in the late Forties, before the “Fair Play” legislation had made such things illegal.

 

Lolien’s mother had insisted on having her daughter tested at pre-school, which was probably fortunate; strong Empaths did not fare well in public schools. Lolien had been raised in a controlled environment in Glion, high above Lac Léman, in a gothic building that always reminded Elodie of “Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters” in the old X-Men movies.

 

Elodie told herself that she was not being reckless in letting Lolien work with Cassandra. The girl’s youth should make her resilient and the control she had had drilled into her in Glion should allow her to protect herself from emotional backlash. Neither argument was really convincing but there was no other choice. Without Empaths, Cassandra was mute and without Cassandra, Switzerland was vulnerable.

 

Elodie dampened her own emotions, switched off the monitor, and went to meet her newest assistant.

 

The lift journey that took them twelve floors down into the rock below Rutli Field did not take long, yet Lolien could not complete it in silence.

 

“It must be exciting, working here.” Lolien said, looking up at Elodie hopefully.

 

“Must it?”

 

“Well yes, I mean Cassandra is one of the most powerful Talents in the world. I mean she knows everything doesn’t she?”

 

Sometimes Elodie forgot the misinformation fed to the outside world about Cassandra. She had made the mistake of assuming that Lolien had been briefed about the real situation.

 

“Why do you think you are here, Lolien?”

 

“To speak for Cassandra, so that we can know her thoughts.”

 

“Almost. You are here because you can receive Cassandra’s emotions and help us understand what triggered them. Cassandra doesn’t know everything; she feels everything and out of those feelings she conjures possible futures, many of them very very scary.”

 

“But Cassandra’s predictions are important,” Lolien said, “She’s one of the reasons why Switzerland stays free.”

 

“Yes, Cassandra and the people in La Section Criminelle et Paranormal.”

 

“The SCP? Those people give me the creeps. I heard that SCP really means “Sang, Chair et Peur”, “Blood, Flesh and Fear.” You don’t have to be an Empath to know that there’s something wrong with that.”

 

“Well if you stay on here as an Empath, you’ll meet them from time to time. I suggest you play nice when you do.”

 

“What do you mean, if I stay on?”

 

“You haven’t been to the Sphere yet. Not everyone is cut out for being near the Sphere.”

 

The lift door opened. The two women entered the Sphere Room.

 

Lolien was completely silent. It was a common reaction when seeing the Sphere for the first time.

 

Elodie had been on the Cassandra Project when this room was built. The Sphere was a daily part of her life. Yet each time she saw it, it disturbed her. No one knew how the Sphere worked. It was built to Cassandra’s design and was the only one of its kind. Perhaps that was why Elodie always felt she was being confronted with something obscenely alien.

 

“It floats.” Lolien said, “What’s it floating on?”

 

Lolien was staring at the Sphere in wonder. She looked like a child who has just met Santa Claus.

 

“It’s suspended in an EM field. That’s why it’s so far below ground, a field like this needs to be shielded.”

 

Elodie waited for Lolien to ask the obvious question.

 

“I thought Cassandra would be in the Sphere.” Lolien said.

 

“She is.”

 

“But…”

 

“… the Sphere is only a metre in diameter. Cassandra isn’t human Lolien. She was an experiment in cognitive science. We grew her in a lab to help us to understand complex brain functions.  We didn’t need the body, so we only grew the brain. Cassandra was never meant to be conscious. Cassandra was meant to be a computer we could switch on and off.”

 

“What happened?”

 

I happened. Elodie thought  I had enough Empathy to hear Cassandra. I became her Helen Keller. And I’ve being paying the price for that ever since.

 

“We don’t know what happened, exactly. One day Cassandra started to show us her Talent. She predicted St. Paul’s but none of us knew enough back then to understand what she was showing us.”

 

Lolien walked towards the Sphere. This was normally a good sign.

 

“What does she do in there all day?”

 

“I hope she dreams. I hope the dreams are pleasant. Most days she’s quiet. It takes a lot to wake Cassandra. Now, let’s introduce you to her.  Focus on the colours moving across the surface of the Sphere and then open your Talent.

 

When they had entered the room, the Sphere had seemed to be covered in an ocean in different shades of blue, moving slowly as the Sphere turned.

 

Now the Sphere had stopped rotating and the surface facing Lolien had changed to resemble a wide open flower with petals that moved from through ranges of pastel colours.

 

Lolien laughed and said, “I can hear her. She’s singing. Not words. More like whale-song. It makes me feel… happy. Very very happy”

 

“She likes you.”

 

“She can sense me?”

 

“She can sense all of us. All the time. And All of the Times as far as we can tell. No one knows how.”

 

Elodie sensed the change in the Sphere, the way a sailor feels a storm that has not yet arrived but which he knows will put him to the test. She shut her own Empathy down tight. She would feel nothing.

 

“Lolien, be careful.”

 

Lolien was standing completely still and listening only to Cassandra.

 

In the centre of the Sphere a dark shape started to build. It looked a little like a hurricane on an old weather satellite. The blackness spread until it seemed to be a great mouth directly in front of Lolien.

 

“Lolien, you need to dampen your Empathy. You need to do it right now? Do you hear me?”

 

Lolien’s body stiffened, her head snapped back until her throat was in a straight line with the ceiling.

 

“CONTAGION. CONTAGION. CONTAGION. LAUSANNE. SOON. SOON. SOON.”

 

Lolien was shouting the words. Elodie could see the stress on the muscles of her neck. She wanted to pull the girl away but Cassandra’s message was too important.

 

“What kind of contagion is it, Lolien?”

 

“STRANGE. NEW. HYBRID? YES. YES. KIMERA. BASILISK. EXPONENTIAL INFECTION RATE. EXPONENTIAL. EXPONENTIAL. EXPONENTIAL”.

 

“How many are infected?”

 

“ALL. ONE MONTH. ALL”

 

“All Switzerland?”

 

“ALL EUROPE.”

 

Dear God, Elodie thought, this is worse than Saint Paul’s worse than anything.

 

“ALL EUROPE – CHANGED – CHANGED – CHANGED”

 

Changed, not dead. What did that mean?

 

“What will stop it?” Elodie asked.

 

“CONTAINMENT. EXCISION. CONTAINMENT. EXCISION. CONTAINMENT. EXCISION.”

 

Excision would mean a death toll in hundreds of millions.

 

“Is it so bad?”

 

The moment after she asked the question, Elodie recognized her mistake. Cassandra would project the full horror of what she felt. Lolien was a rod about to be struck by lightning.

 

Elodie grabbed Lolien and started to pull her towards the lift. The girl let loose a long continuous howl of a scream. Elodie pushed Lolien into the lift and stabbed at the buttons.

 

Lolien slid to the floor, leaning back against lift wall and started, slowly and methodically to bang the back of her head against it three times in rapid succession. Each time her head hit the metal she said the same word: EVIL.

 

When the lift doors opened on the Ground Floor, Elodie was greeted by a medical team who immediately went to work on Lolien.

 

She wanted to stay with the girl and care for her but she could not. She had something more important to do. She pressed a button on her phone and waited for a response.

 

“I need to speak to the Director of the SPC,” she said “and I need to do it right now.”

Timeline for “Blood, Flesh and Fear” backstory

02/11/2011

Wednesday 1st December full moon

Tuesday 2nd November 2066 full moon

SPC 40th Anniversary.

Friday 29th October 2066 to Friday 3rd December Blood Flesh and Fear story

Sunday 21st May 2056 Pentecost. Red Liturgical Colour. The Containment. Cordon Sanitaire established from Blackpool to Bridlington.

Plague deaths. Meant to be targeted at non-white but mutated. Exponential infection rate with 60% mortality within 30 daya

Sunday 23rd April 2056 (St. George’s Day) Saint Paul’s cathedral plague bombs. Operation Dragonsteeth. Cadmus group sows seeds of dissension to create a new England with White Majority Rule.

80.75 million population. Professor David Coleman, Oxford University, predicted on 1st November 2011 that by 2066 the number of non-white population would be less than half

Friday 8th October 2033 (full moon) to Friday 16th April 2055 the Crescent Wars run over control of gas pipeline Iran, Iraq, Syria. who kept all of Western Europe warm. Russia pushes for control. EU troops fail against Russia plus local insurgents. Rumours of Iranian use of genewarfare. Brits accused of producing gas eating virus.

US in isolationist mood after 2028 elections. Withdraws from NATO by end 2030 leaving EU, Russia, China, Brazil, India.

2026 SPC created to respond to anomalies (or perhaps create them)

2023 Proxy wars in Africa with telepresence, cyber attacks and gene warfare.

2021 Genetherapy Weaponized. Russia, China, UK, US, France.