No-one’s ever gonna hurt you love
I'm gonna give you all of my love
Nobody matters like you…
Ain't gonna be nothing like my life
You're gonna grow and have a good time
I'm gonna do what I've got to do…”
The singing fills the bunker, echoing down the corridor marked REST. I sit on the sofa, legs crossed, sipping whiskey and Coke out of an oversized Jurassic World cup. In one corner, a glass cylindrical tube, the lift going up to the surface. Before me, a huge screen, divided into four.
In one quarter, news footage, live from Makhnovia. Set in the massive stadium in the City of Dis, thousands gathered expectantly, awaiting some great announcement from the Spirit Science Research Institute. Whenever I glance at it I feel a drop of panic like a block of ice in my stomach, a pool ball of ice cold poison eating away at my insides. Try to look away, keep getting drawn back.
The second shows Discordia, the artificial intelligence - the digital deity - Eris had placed here all those years ago, what seems like a lifetime. It coordinates repair around what was once the Academy, directing the drones, clearing away rubble, maintaining a watchful eye for any possible threats.
Even now, thousands of miles away, over in the United States with Caledonia - even now, Eris too no doubt communes with Discordia. Pants or no pants. I smile.
The third part of the screen displays old CWF shows from years gone by. 2009, 2010 - my lover and I already knew Dan from our time in Japan, but CWF was where we became friends. Allies.
The screen is currently showing footage from Dan’s rivalry with Angelica, of the time Caledonia was kidnapped and my lover and I came to his aid in her rescue.
How did we get from there to here?
The fourth quarter of the screen shows the world above. The area is almost clear of rubble; much of the ground remains scorched, blackened. One wing of the building begins to take shape, a new shell built on old foundations. Yet the work remains slow. The drones fly across the site, moving the last of the rubble, placing down bricks.
A familiar man makes his way across the site, gazing around in wonder at the devastation. He wears a business suit, torn and stained from his journey through the thick forest that surrounds what was once the Academy.
As he crosses the clearing, there is a hiss. The ground opens up and a cylinder rises out, round, glass. The man jumps, looks at it a moment, nervously steps in.
I watch the screen as the cylinder descends into the ground, look to the edge of the living room. A few moments pass before the cylinder arrives, settling gently in the living room with a quiet hiss. The door opens to reveal…
Omega: Mister Rish!
J. Rish steps out of the lift into the room. Almost simultaneously, my lover enters, returning from the REST corridor. I glance at him questioningly; he nods, makes a “sleep” gesture, turns to Rish.
J. Rish: Elijah. Omega.
He takes a seat.
Elijah: I trust you are well?
J. Rish: I've had better weeks. After everything that went down at Evolution…
Omega: I know, right!? Who'd have thought Church and State would get themselves locked out all night? I sure hope somebody got fired for that blunder!
J. Rish: I was thinking more of the way an apocalyptic cult with branches all over the world is attempting to take over or destroy the entire company and has succeeded in turning large parts of the roster against each other and against me leaving Evolution in such a state there's probably kids in the Middle East organising protests calling for peace in CWF.
Omega: Well yeah. That too.
Elijah: He has something over you.
A pause. Rish gulps, looks away.
Omega: We don't needs to know all your secrets, Mister Rish. But if you think you can just go along with this and ride it out you're wrong. Give them an inch and they'll take a mile. Give them eight inches and they'll take you behind the bikesheds.
J. Rish: I'm hardly the only one with secrets here. Right…?
Elijah: We will not apologise -
J. Rish: I don't expect you to. I can't claim to know what you've been through, but I've seen what the Institute is capable of. I can't blame you for doing whatever you thought needed to be done.
Omega: Pinky swear?
J. Rish: I think we're past the point where lying would do any good.
I glance at my lover. He nods, a small smile even. He laughs.
J. Rish: What's funny?
Elijah: Forgive me. The thought occurred….to tell 2009 Elijah and Omega that J. Rish would one day be their closest ally, while Amber and Caledonia would be bitterest of enemies.
J. Rish: Interesting times, as they say.
Omega: If you're not here to chew us out. Then why are you here?
J. Rish: I need guidance. And I want to understand. Who you really are, what brought you here. With everything that's happened with Ouroboros…
Elijah: You cannot understand who we are without understanding where we have been.
J. Rish: So tell me. I want to understand.
Omega: We can talk you through some of the key parts, warts and all. But it won't be pretty.
J. Rish: Nothing about this is.
My lover nods. I smile, hop down onto the floor, sitting legs crossed, eyes closed. My lover kneels before me. He withdraws a vial of sacred oil from his pocket, anoints my forehead. Begins to chant, softly, quietly.
Elijah: Mater et Pater Unus Deus Ararita
Pater et Filius Unus Deus Ararita
Filius et Filia Unus Deus Ararita
Filia et Mater Unus Deus Ararita
Ararita Ararita Ararita
Mater et Pater...
The words repeat, again and again until there is nothing else. I see a blackness, a void. In it shines a star, the colour of sapphires, glowing against the gloom. It grows ever larger as the words go on. I giggle.
Omega: There's no earthly way of knowing…
Here. Still at this place. What was once the Academy, before that, our home; and before that, the Northern Manor, headquarters of the Spirit Science Research Institute in the North of England.
We are upstairs, a room at the top of the Manor converted for this very purpose. The room is dimly lit. Six lanterns burn, one in each corner, two facing each other at the middle.
Three of the walls are covered in murals, images of blood moons and stars falling to earth, of clouds of locusts descending on humanity, feeding without remorse. The fourth side of the room is an enormous window, facing out to the west.
Hanging on the wall is a small cage, a canary perched inside.
The walls are lined by apostles in grey robes, their heads bowed, chanting in incomprehensible tongues. Each bears the atom-in-ouroboros on their foreheads, their garments embroidered with occult symbols.
In the centre of the room is a large, ornate bed. Sheets of red silk, pillows of darkest black. Two bodies writhe against each other, probing, feeling, penetrating. Fucking.
This is not “making love”. There is no passion or romance or affection of a lover’s tryst, nor the bland, mechanical actions of those whose passion has long since died.
This is sex without love, without joy, without intimacy. Only raw, uninhibited lust, the need to take, to conquer and dominate, sex filled with rage and aggression and power. They grind against each other, faces obscured by shadow, a mess of bodies and sweat and moans.
The chanting grows ever louder, incense starting to fill the room as the censers are filled. The bodies writhe together, ecstatic, screaming incomprehensibly. Their voices rise, becoming one with the chanting, the sound overwhelming.
Suddenly, their voices break out over the din.
The chanting draws silent, the lanterns extinguished. Everything is still, silent.
It is done.
The Manor scene vanishes. I see life flash past my eyes, birth, infancy, learning to walk, learning to talk, wondering why hardly anyone would talk to me. Just bring me food and leave me alone with my thoughts.
The Founder talked to me, even then. Would come to visit on special occasions. There was him and a few others. TV for education and entertainment. And there was the canary.
Every day the canary was there, chirping away. We would have conversations. I tried to tell it about my dreams and it would chirp along in agreement, then go back to eating seeds. I tried asking it sometimes how its day was going but it just chirped and I didn't know what it meant. A happy chirp or a sad chirp or a chirp that was slightly nostalgic. All telling the same story.
Probably something about seeds.
Sometimes, once a week, they would let the canary out of its cage and it would fly around the room, sometimes land right next to me, never for long enough to hold it but long enough to say hello. It always seemed sad when they put it back in its cage.
One day the Founder came along on one of his visits. Said it was a very important day, that I was having something called a birthday and he wanted me to meet lots of his friends. We even brought the canary.
I watch as we get on the plane, my four year old self, the canary, the Founder and a group of men in suits. We get in and the plane flies away, off to what I later found out was California. We touch down at an airfield just outside Los Angeles, travel by limo to the House of the Will. We make our way in and the Founder even lets me carry the canary's cage. Exciting times!
Inside there is a big hall with lots of people, lots and lots and lots, all sitting there in fancy clothes watching as we make our way in. We stand on the stage and the Founder approaches the podium, gesturing at me to come closer.
The Founder: Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you. The last true descendant of the great families of the Lost Riding, born and raised in the Northern Manor. The latest in this great generation now being born and raised - those who, decades hence, shall drive the Spirit Science Research Institute into the future.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you - The Princess!
The crowd roses, ecstatic, applauding as one. I smile, put down the cage, do a little curtsey like I've seen in the films.
One of the Founder's friends disappears off stage, returning with a small bottle. The Founder takes the bottle, sprays its contents into the cage, soaking it. Some horrible stench fills the air. The canary starts to chirp.
The Founder hangs the cage on the podium, turns to me.
The Founder: Today is your first step into true education. To know the ways of the world, of morality, immorality and Amorality. Of life, and of death.
He removes a box of matches, opens it, hands them to me.
The Founder: Take one of them, rub it against the side of the box, then drop it into the cage.
I look at the matches, then to the Founder, back to the matches.
The Founder: Do it. Today is but the beginning.
I look at the matches, slowly withdraw one. Press it against the coarse sandpaper on the edge of the box. Rub it against it, jump a little as the flame springs into life.
I lift the match up, almost to the edge of the cage. The canary starts to chirp, alarmed. I look up at the Founder. He nods.
I stare at the canary, chirping away, wings flapping, distressed by the stench of the lighter fluid as it fills the air. Think back on memories, few as they might be.
I drop the matches into the cage and watch as it bursts into flames.
The scene disappears once more, rushing through the years. The 90s rise and fall, grunge becomes then ceases to become a thing. The federal building gets blown up, the President gets a blowjob.
And here we are, the House of the Will once again. I had been brought here the day before, from the Manor - the Southern one, the Northern having been burned and abandoned a few years ago.
The great hall is filled to bursting. On the stage, a group of select individuals, surviving members of the Elect, agents from OSA. And us.
The Inheritors, so we were called. Those being prepared to take on the Institute as its leadership passed away.
The Princess and the Prodigy. Lady D. The Prince, accompanied by his father. And now entering, the Moonchild.
Omega and Elijah, Cassandra, Sunset, Elisha. The first and only time, all five together within the Institute's walls. Five souls who, in their ways, would shape the Institute as it is today.
The Moonchild enters alongside Henry Benson. Benson approaches the podium, begins to speak.
Henry Benson: At 11:30 hours this morning, the most amazing man of the twentieth century, the greatest mind the world has ever known, the inaugurator of the new age, the one who brought the world Amorality and Spirit Science, the Founder of the Spirit Science Research Institute - the man known on this earth as Clyde Pierre - died after sixty three years on this earth. No doubt even now his Will lives on, biding its time before it should return to this plane to continue what it started.
For now that job is up to us - and more specifically, to me. Before he died, Clyde entrusted me with leadership of the Institute and his other duties and positions of authority, appointing me his Successor.
He carries on, the mundane details of what happened and what was to come, platitudes and formalities. He concludes, stepping away from the podium to rapturous applause.
I raise a hand, beckon Benson over.
Omega: Mister Benson?
Henry Benson: Yes, Princess?
Omega: On this day, at this difficult time, with the passing of the Founder himself...would you mind if I said a word?
Henry Benson: Go ahead.
I approach the podium, one of the OSA agents helping bring the mic closer. I look out over the gathered masses, many of them in shock, all doing their best to stay stoic. I clear my throat.
I step away. Benson smiles at me, that sickeningly false smile he keeps for special occasions.
Henry Benson: Thanks. That means a lot.
He turns, walks away, off to network with the higher ups and celebs in the Institute. His words echo in my mind.
“Clyde Pierre died after sixty three years on this earth.”
“Before he died, Clyde entrusted me with leadership of the Institute.”
I whisper a single word in response.
J. Rish: So she's hypnotised?
Elijah: After a fashion. She travels on the Whole Track - the river of life that flows from birth, life, death and rebirth. With skill one can navigate the waters, revisit times in one’s lives of greatest importance. She can hear us, talk to us. But her mind and spirit are elsewhere.
J. Rish: Aren't they always?
Elijah: She is on a tour of her life, showing you the landmarks and memorials.
J. Rish: I see.
Elijah: You do?
J. Rish: More or less. Tell me - who were they? The man and woman she described, in the Manor?
Elijah: The last of two great families, the Brigantians and the Burgrunes. Two of the four great families that once dwelt in this area. One, the Brigantians, had sided with the Institute from its founding; it is they who brought this place to their attention.
The other, the Burgrunes, had always been the smallest of the four. In the Institute they saw the opportunity to restore lost greatness. The two families were united and so my beloved was born.
J. Rish: You say they were two of four. What about the others?
Elijah: The Chorinzinim and the Caratacusi. Likewise reduced to the point of extinction, the two opposed the Institute from its foundation.
J. Rish: And what became of them?
Elijah gestures at himself.
J. Rish: Oh, I….oh.
Elijah: Can we continue?
J. Rish: Sure.
Today is the first day of the rest of my life.
Today is Christmas Day.
They take me out, for Christmas and a few other special occasions. Birthday, Founder's Day. Occasional events where Benson wants to big up his connection to the Institute's past. To make himself seem like a legitimate ruler.
He is a Usurper. For four long years he has sat in a throne he does not deserve. Tiny man. Tiny mind. Tiny soul.
Tiny penis, no doubt. Acts like a dick to make up for his own. Odious twatwaffle that he is.
Four long years. His prisoner and his prop. No more.
Because today is Christmas Day.
I am at the Southern Manor, safe in my room - the Chamber - at the top floor of the building. Looking out over the countryside, the town of West Beaming in the distance. Waited on hand and foot, every need, whim and desire catered for.
Yet alone. Always alone.
So I make a world of my own, a world of mind and spirit and imagination. A world of chaos and mayhem and joy. A world of endless characters and dreamscapes, bright and colourful and very very loud.
A world of freedom outside these four walls, a world where I can live and love and do whatever I please. A world where I am alone no more.
Today that world becomes a reality.
Because today is Christmas Day.
The clock strikes ten. Benson arrives, on time as ever. Wearing that hideous beige shirt and grey tie, khaki trousers. The kind of man who thinks mayonnaise is too spicy. Blandness personified.
Cretinous shitgibbon. I bounce off the bed, stand upright.
Henry Benson: Princess.
Henry Benson: You are ready? Today we visit Jerusalem. Cruelty, politics and faith united.
Princess: Let's go!
I grab my bag and we exit the room, making our way down winding staircases to the ground floor. Staff avert their eyes, only Benson and his personal OSA escort daring to look me in the face.
We exit the building, three cars standing by. The OSA agents enter the first and last; Benson and I enter the middle one, a last OSA agent there to drive.
We make our way out, down the long road that leads to the Manor. The same path we've taken dozens of times before. I remember every inch.
Not like I have much of the outside world to keep track of.
One one thousand, two one thousand, three -
On cue, we turn right. Take the motorway, miles pass by. Headed towards the coast. Two miles more, following the coastline, then we turn left, up to the Institute's private airfield. And then to Jerusalem.
I grasp a pot of hummus in my pocket. Counting down silently. Soon. Soon…
To the right is the cliff face, the ocean beyond, disappearing into the distance. To the left, trees and hedges.
Slowly, quietly, I remove the lock on the door. Pull the handle, hold it shut, just waiting for the moment.
One one thousand, two one thousand, three -
We pass a stream. I release the door handle, smear the hummus on the door, hurl myself out in one motion. The world becomes a blur, branches and bushes cutting me painfully. I hit the ground, curled up tight into a ball, roll down the embankment into the stream. I hold my breath and duck under the water, shutting the pain out of my mind, swim under the bridge. I hear Benson yell in pain as he tries to exit the vehicle, slips on the hummus, falls on his face.
I know this place like the back of my hand, permitted to come here on occasion in the days of the Founder. A small shed, there to store tools and fishing gear for the local old geezers who descend on this area on summer evenings.
I boot open the door, grab a fishing rod and a shovel, duck back under the bridge. Quickly strip off my outer clothes, break the fishing rod in two, arrange it over the shovel crucifix style. I drape the clothes over it, strap them on with fishing line, quickly press some mud onto the “neck” and send it floating down the stream.
Not great but it'll do.
I listen closely as above, a small army of OSA agents descend on the area. A shout goes up as one of them spots my makeshift decoy, the whole crowd charging onward, desperate to head “me” off at the pass.
I stay hidden, holding my breath. The voices start to fade. I can still just about make them out. Soon they'll be back.
Time to go.
I make my way up the embankment back up to the road, clad in a red t-shirt and unicorn shorts, dripping wet, soaked in the delights the stream had to offer. Cross to the other side of the road, to the coast, scramble down the rough path on the side of the cliff as fast as I can. Onto the beach, staying close to the cliff side, hidden from the road.
On the other side, the sea.
And I walk. Onward, ever onward, through the day, through the night. Every time a vehicle passes my heart freezes. At one point a helicopter passes overhead; I duck into a tiny cave in the side of the cliff, waiting hours till it seems safe.
A bird flies in at one point. A canary. I cry.
Finally I exit the cave, continue on my way, attracting occasional curious stares from passersby. Freezing cold, dripping wet, no idea what to do or where to go except north.
Princess no more. Today I am Omega. All things end.
But still I smile.
Because today is Christmas Day.
York is beautiful at night.
The Minster is lit up with spotlights, eerie spires disappearing into the night sky. Medieval streets wind away into each other, Harry Potter come to life. Groups of tourists walk the streets, led by guides relating the dark and grisly secrets of the city's past.
I sit cross legged outside St Michael Le Belfrey, baptism place of Guy Fawkes. A pigeon sits in front of me, head bobbing up and down, pecking at seed scattered its feet.
Omega: So, my Feathery Foe. We meet again. You may have fooled others into thinking you a simple avian, but I know the truth. A man - with the body of a pigeon!
Pigeon-man, pigeon-man, does whatever a pigeon can -
As if on cue, the pigeon launches itself into the air and flies off down the street, pausing only to do a poo on the Lord Mayor's car as it passes by, to general applause.
As I charge after the pigeon, a thought strikes me like a spatula to the face.
Omega: A man with the body of a pigeon would be Man-Pigeon. Pigeon-Man would be...
I turn a corner, down the street and onto the bridge. That's when I see him.
Late teens, couple of years older than me. Clothes ripped and torn and burned, hair that hasn't been washed in weeks if not months. Hungry. Eyes clouded over, yet still…
Something bright, burning deep inside, a sense of defiance, of pride and panic and wisdom and melancholy. And something familiar, on do familiar.
He stands perched on the edge of the bridge, staring down into the waters, hands barely gripping the rail.
Omega: No Mister Pigeon Man!
He shakes, turns, nearly falls.
Omega: I trieded that once at home because the Hitchhikery man said to fly you just throw yourself at the ground and miss so I tried but I threw myself and hitted it and it was hurty and you will be hurted too so no. Also there are fishes in there and you can't just jump into their house because that would be rude. And you don't seem rude. Even if you are a junkie.
He stares at me, incredulous, a hint of vague recognition. I glance at his arms, thick with scars and bruising, his gaunt and drawn face. And I see the fire inside burning in protest at it all.
Him: Who are you?
Omega: Omega. Little Miss O, at your service.
I do a little curtsey, approach him, help him over onto the right side of the bridge. I give him a hug, then slap him across the face.
Omega: Who are you, anyway?
Omega: You're an idiot, Elijah. Let's go get a drink.
A year of rehab for him and reintegration for me, a year of coming to understand the world and our place in it. A year spent living in the abandoned warehouse that had been my home since I first came to the city, starving and exhausted.
A year when we learned how to fight, studying at the feet of “Rebel” Ray Skelton, finding in wrestling a means of solace and release.
A year when we discovered who we were, our shared relationship with the Institute, our past as Prodigy and Princess. A past when we did terrible things and had terrible things done to us in turn.
A past we spent a year burying for good, exposing ourselves to the truth however painful.
Together we came to an understanding of the world based on compassion and ruthlessness and love and rage and so much more besides. Together we understood who we were, where we came from. Where we should go.
And that would lead us here. To the Northern Manor.
The building had burned down in the 1990s, abandoned by the Institute. Now it stands empty, some parts scorched, others left for nature to reclaim. Yet still it has its beauty and majesty, its value as a ruin almost greater than before.
We enter, armed with machetes, paint, hammers and nails. Piece by piece, over months and years, restore it. Make it strong, into our home. Our base.
The place that would become the Academy.
Discordia: You have a call.
J. Rish jumps as Discordia's voice cuts into the discussion. Discordia's face, that of Eris only painted in brilliant gold, perfect and handsome and beautiful, grows to fill the screen.
Elijah nods. The image fades to reveal…
Eris: Elijah! Omega?
Elijah: My beloved’s soul is wandering through her past. On a quest for meaning.
Omega: Right now it's 2005. The G8 is happening in Scotland, Geldof and the rest of them are doing a big concert in Edinburgh. I just got beaten up by security for trying to do a citizen's arrest on Bono.
J. Rish: For what crime?
Omega: Being Bono.
J. Rish: Fair point.
Eris: I can't talk long. Caledonia will be back soon.
Elijah: May I ask. Why the….
Eris: Dick Mountain? Long story.
Omega: Haha. You said “long”.
Eris: Look, I...Philadelphia is soon. Golden Intentions. Maybe there's no coming back from this. Everything going to hell at once.
I just wanted to say. Take care of yourselves. And I love you. Whatever happens I want you to know that.
Elijah: The sentiment is appreciated and reciprocated. Yet -
Eris: I have to go.
The feed cuts out, just as we hear Caledonia's voice from off-camera.
The room falls silent. Elijah stares at the screen in silent contemplation, J. Rish suddenly awkward.
Omega: Rightyo, daddio!
Days and weeks, months and years passing in a blur. “Rebel” Ray Skelton, training, getting into the wrestling business for the first time. Touring the world, OSA keeping an eye on us always, sometimes messing with us just for the hell of it, ruining the lives of anyone who got too close.
Living through times of peace and times of war, the Institute toying with us like cats with a mouse.
Taking on all comers, venting our rage against consenting opponents. Always on the move, always on the road. Always learning.
Learning the ways of the world outside of the Institute's walls, ways of thinking they had trained us to shut out. Ideas about politics, humanity, spirituality. Ideas of compassion and of love, anarchy and ecology and communism.
Ideals that would lead us here.The Camp for Climate Action. Deep in the North of England, not far from York. Environmentalists from all around the country gather here, one of the largest coal fired power stations in Europe, opposed to fossil fuels pumping CO2 into the atmosphere.
The campsite was taken a few days ago, activists streaming in from across the country, across the world. Tomorrow is the big day of action. Tonight we prepare.
We are in a group affectionately known as the suicide bloc. Assigned to be the first to go in - to instigate a mass trespass onto the site, expose its vulnerabilities, maybe force them to declare a health and safety emergency. We go in in small groups, create distractions, while a mass protest approaches the gates.
That's the plan anyway. So we make our way through the Yorkshire countryside in dead of night, passing through fields, sleeping livestock, trying to avoid stepping into manure or falling in the river.
We approach the road, rush across it, into the field beyond. Duck as we hear a vehicle go by.
There's five of us, my lover and I, an older guy called Mark, a young couple called Tamsin and Josh. We move in silence, making our way through the field, the power station up ahead.
The call goes up, and everyone falls to the floor. Face down in a field of cabbages, soil pressed against my skin, trying not to breathe. My lover slips his hand into mine.
The searchlight from the police helicopter pans over the area, covers the field, leaves. We rise, make our way in single file to the fence around the power station.
Tamsin: You ready?
Everyone present removed a layer of outer clothing, placing them over the barbed wire at the top of the fence. One by one we scale the fence, helped by Mark. At last, there is only him. He bids us farewell, returning to the camp site.
We make our way to the main towers of the power station, the sun just beginning to rise, eyes out for police and security.
Tamsin: So. Where you guys from?
Omega: That's a long story. At the moment we live in Yorkshire. What about you?
Tamsin: West Beaming. Down south.
Josh: This your first protest camp?
Omega: Nah. Did the G8 last year, Dublin and Evian before that. You?
Tamsin: Yeah. Nothing much really happens where we're from. Local politics is, well….pretty fucking weird.
I stop short.
Omega: Where did you say you're from?
Josh: West Beaming. You heard of it?
We continue on in silence, Tamsin and Josh glancing from me to my lover from time to time, talking quietly amongst themselves. We come closer to the great towers of the power station.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spot the bright yellow jackets of the police. I gesture to the rest to stop but too late, they're onto us, almost like they were waiting for us to arrive. Two groups of police in riot gear appear from across the field, descend upon us and suddenly we are being shoved to the ground, all four face down, arms cuffed behind our backs, the stench of pepper spray in the air. They lift us into the air by the arms, oblivious to the pain as we scream. And two words echo in my mind…
We are here. After so much time, planning and preparation, we are here.
The plan: to launch a rooftop occupation of the Manor, the Institute's base in the United Kingdom. Broadcast live online. Meanwhile, in London, ex-members and critics would picket their building in the City, the Institute's embassy in the heart of economic power.
We make our way through West Beaming, Tasmin and Josh in the front of the car, four more in the back. My lover and I hidden under covers in the boot. And rather enjoying it.
I know where we are without looking, the route still etched in my mind after all these years. One one thousand, two one thousand, three -
We continue on, draw to a halt. My lover and I resurface; we are parked in a layby on the outskirts of the Manor.
Josh: Right. We know why we're here and we know what we're doing. In a few moments, we drive straight through the fence. Drive up to the Manor, scale the outside, up to the roof. Banners out, media on call. Let's bring these cunts to account.
I glance at my lover. His face is filled with doubt.
Omega: This was not the plan. We talked about posing as repair workers to gain entry, we had sabotaged their water -
Tamsin: Fuck that shit. We're not going to skulk around like cowards.
Elijah: This is not cowardice, only -
Josh: Look. No offence but - you were raised in the Institute, you're effected by its propaganda. They're not invincible. Just another target.
Tamsin: Besides, they don't call this a struggle for nothing.
Before we can say a word, Josh hits the ignition, foot on the accelerator, sending the vehicle lurching into motion. It crosses up the road, a sudden, stomach-churning right, then suddenly the clash of metal hitting metal as we crash through the fence.
We carry on across the grounds leading to the Manor. Suddenly there is a horrible screeching, the sound of air being released, and the vehicle comes to an awkward, juddering halt.
Omega: Oh bloody bollocking Bushing fucking -
The eight of us exit the vehicle, careful to avoid the metal spikes that pierced all four tyres. Before we can regroup, a trio of Land Rovers charges towards us, emblazoned with the atom-in-ouroboros.
Elijah: Abort! Scatter!
The group parts, each one dashing in a different direction, OSA agents exiting the Land Rovers before they even stop. I flee, turn back, see Tamsin and Josh charging towards the Manor.
Omega: What are you -
Tamsin: Go! We'll be fine. Just go!
And that was the last of them.
The darkness fades, the past with it. My eyes flutter open. Back to the present, back to reality. My lover passes me a large glass of water; I down it in one, suddenly desperately thirsty.
Omega: ...and that leads us, more or less, to the present.
J. Rish: The two you mentioned. Tamsin and Josh. What happened to them?
Omega: The rest of us regrouped afterwards, six of the eight. Tamsin and Josh we heard nothing from. Until about a year later, a contact in West Beaming got in touch. A photo of the two of them in the town centre. Heads marked by the atom-in-ouroboros.
J. Rish: They joined the Institute?
Elijah: You have met them, under the names of Incubus and Succubus.
J. Rish: As in the Chosen?
J. Rish: Pretty messed up. But it's not like they're the first folks to make a deal with their natural enemies, right…?
Elijah: You refer to our agreement with the Order of the Oncoming Storm.
J. Rish: The thought had crossed my mind, yes.
Omega: We do what we need to do. To destroy the Institute by any means necessary.
J. Rish: I get that.
Omega: You do?
J. Rish: I'm a businessman. I do what needs to be done, whatever the cost. I can't fault you for doing the same. But…
Omega: Say it.
J. Rish: They have my son.
Elijah: Your son is safe. We can say no more.
He sighs in relief.
J. Rish: So much for the past and present. What about the future?
Omega: You tell us.
An awkward pause.
J. Rish: I saw…
J. Rish: I saw….pain. Indescribable, intolerable pain. Hell on earth. Corruption and degradation, a world where the Institute reigned supreme. Human sacrifice, occult rituals...locusts devouring people whole. But it can't have been real. Can it?
Omega: It doesn't have to be.
J. Rish: Please, no more riddles -
Omega: The pill we gave you was a condensed, temporary version of the science perfected by the Institute in their tests on Cassandra, smuggled out to us by a dissident. It offers a vision of a probable future, based on what exists in the present. Yet, future history remains unwritten. Nothing is set in stone.
Elijah: The future you saw is as real as we allow it to be. And we will do anything to stop it.
J. Rish: Even work with the Order?
Elijah: An alliance of necessity, nothing more. The Order are a gang of capitalist reactionaries, clinging to a perverted understanding of Marx as their guide to fighting the class war of the rich against the poor. In a world without the Institute, no doubt it would be the Order into whose crosshairs we would come - and vice versa. Yet for now…
Omega: My enemy’s enemy is a problem for later.
I take my Jurassic World cup, smile; refilled, whiskey and Coke, T-Rex ice cubes. I kiss my lover on the cheek, smile.
Elijah: Tell me, Justin's do you recall the night the Moonchild made his inglorious return?
J. Rish: Of course.
Elijah: We made our piece, after a fashion. We have a history written in blood going back nearly a decade, have tormented and despised one another without pause or regret. Yet when faced with the Eternals, with the Institute, with the Moonchild - we did what needed to be done.
J. Rish: You think Amber and Cali will see it that way?
There is a finality in his voice. I shrug.
Omega: Miss Cal-Cal has made it clear she's not interested in reconciliation. Life is too short to beg for the approval of moral hypocrites and murderers. And as for Amber…
J. Rish: Yes?
Omega: Fuck her. As much use as a chocolate fucking fireguard. Stay in the middle of the road too long
Suddenly, Discordia's voice cuts into the conversation once more. The screen fills, showing live footage from Makhnovia. Elisha and Cassandra sit side by side, clothed in ceremonial robes, before an audience of thousands. Elisha gives a sarcastic wave, Cassandra giggles and blows a kiss.
Discordia: SEIZURE OF POWER. SEIZURE OF POWER. SEIZURE OF POWER. SEIZURE OF POWER. SEIZURE OF POWER...
"The concession stands are now selling those cheap hotel room round soap disks that I have personally blessed for $100’s a bar….AND SINNERS….I suggest you buy one, and use it, because if you think your God wants you in his heaven smelling like a 3am New York City uber ride you got another thing coming."