For them, there would be no homecoming.
His pen scratched bone, the scalpel of Law excising Flesh.
The sound of it echoed through the high chamber, a lonely, dry sound.
Lieutenant-Colonel Mono sighed and rubbed a stone face with his hands,
dried out by solar winds and too many atrocities.
Another fifty signatures, lethal.
The paperwork was murder.
His chair recoiled with a screech, and the man stood a stretched seven feet.
It seemed as if he had been drawn-out by rack and ruin, but instead of being broken by it, had grown infinitely more massive. He was almost not there, shuffling from the pool of darkness surrounding the desk to a brilliant piercing shaft of white, falling from a divine sky-light above; he appeared to phase through space, like a intermittent, fragmentary film-reel. As he stood, eyes to the light, he muttered to himself, trancelike.
'What tortures of loneliness...
How long shall my heart suffer under this?'
Three bangs boom on an iron door, and it breaks the glaze.
'Enter', and he trails back to corporeal concerns.
The Boy entered, and Mono steeled himself against the Wash, breaking through the pain barrier. He was a Culexus reject, who had escaped from the Temple under unclear circumstances, and according to files pertaining to his willing capture and unduly pleasant interrogation, had been living on the Planet for forty years, quite literally. He had been waging a terror campaign against the Hollow Ones, those Non-borns, indiscriminate killings and blood sprayed on ceilings where knives separated heads and suppurated atrial septum. A smiling, pleasant, killer.
He was of the opinion that the Non-Borns were not human, lacking the ability to reproduce and lacking some divine spark, some soul, some phantom quintessence. He knew he was human, and considered himself put here for some special purpose. He had adapted to the air and could subsist on life-force and simple Brown Sugar. He spoke of mad things inside the planet, embodiments of human soul, tortured fragments of Truth and Love, echoes of machine and mainline, but most of all, he felt a great connection with the evil of the place. He took his substance from it.
Mono was intrigued and ordered an audience with the Boy.
His name was D.
In his face was the ghost of Di, perhaps some overdub of the soul.
Mono was transfixed by him.
He had found Di's vacant brother.
And he was eternally young, as long as he had soul.
'Mind in if I fix here?'
Mono was still out.
'Yeah, sure, go ahead.'
Mono watched from the desk, his hands steepled in front of his mouth.
He watched the youth cook up, in every movement an echo of Di.
He took the syringe and drew amber.
'But a brief Cure from this terrible Condition.'
The needle punches through vein on tourniquet arm, a tiny blossom of blood before he pushes the bulb and it disseapears, vacuumed by hungry junk flesh, the H metabolism. The blood shoots from arm to heart, up the droppers neck and flood the brain.
'A little more time...' Sighs and fades through the floor '... in the hourglass.'
A junky, a beautiful junky.
Anomien to the core.
A little later, Charles rattled in with the tea.
Thirty-five years years of faithful, mechanical service.
He had worked in a factorum back on Anomie, obsessed by his job, and to support his family. He worked overtime for a better wage, and eventually had his hands replaced as he needed to be more efficient. Next were obsolete organs, replaced, a stainless steel spine, metal cogitator and so on until he had integrated fully with the machine. By then, the old metal presser was obsolete, and Charles himself was thrown onto the scrap heap along with the machine he had devoted himself to. His starving wife and child were given the scrap price for him.
Rusting out in a back alley where he had dragged himself, and dying in a pool of machine oil. Mono came across him and repaired him, taking him onto in his retinue.
Charles was ever grateful, and bore his standard into battle, and served the Man himself.
The loss of Anomie, and of his family, had been a great blow to him.
D had been taken away, and Mono was drifting amongst old memories, his Master and 'The Work', chiefly. Charles knew when the man was not to be disturbed, and left the tray there with a nod. Mono was alone again, and behind him the daemon weapon rattled in its scabbard. The Telic Knife, only ever a means to an end, never forget that. A Phase sword, embedded within was the smallest fragment of star gods. He was told to never touch it, yet the master disobeyed his own commands. Mono's thoughts turned to betrayal, evisceration, and then once more more to Di, and the Pact made with the Planet.
But first, back, back into the ether of Time...
He was young then, barely fresh from street life, let alone command of a platoon. He was an Acolyte, indentured to the Inquisitor T. He had doubts.
'Please pray specifically for me, that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show Himself- for there is such a terrible darkness within me, as if everything were dead. It has been like this more or less since the beginning of 'The Work.'
'Feelings are not required and often may be misleading in this line of Work.'
'Learn to read them, and discard them.'
'Yes, my Lord.'
And what was had for troubles?
A Knife, and a knife in the back.
Empty, broken, hollow and falling.
They all died a little that day.
He perused a locked cabinet idly, and with a learned vaudeville spin, took out a black cane with silver filigree, with a dagger hidden in the rounded metal grip. He perched a bowler hat on his head, and remembered his youth, spent beslubbering and fighting in back streets. Recruitment came, and he joined another gang, the biggest and baddest in the universe.
A certificate for 'A Genuine Piece of Ass.' Happy days.
Inquisitorial seal, the invitation to that dinner party, where he met her and the teeth began to turn in the machine. Scars, tight, white skinned smiles that refuse to stretch, a heart all but made of stone.
These felt like the memories of someone else, a younger brother or son, maybe.
Another hammering on the door.
The next guest.
++++END PART ONE++++