Lords of Being
Chapter 29: The Fallen Will Rise Again?
When last we left our heroes, the Elemental Knights had just broken into Cadmus Clisk’s apartment in search of Roper, Mabel’s dognapped Rhodesian Ridgeback.
Glass pockets his glass bead and looks around Clisk’s apartment for something to tune to. Preferably a position that commands the room and with his back to a wall. The glass in the frame for a picture of a particularly orderly section of the Mandelbrot set will do nicely.
Catalyst asks, “Do you want me to atune to something too?”
Glass nods, “Yes, that would be helpful.”
Catalyst looks around and says crossly, “The fellow doesn’t keep much organic around.” He reaches into a corner and says as he straightens up, “There. Everyone has dust mites, even Cadmus Clisk.”
Rosamund asks to speak to Ragnison. “Does Clisk have any other addresses than the one in London, or any local associates?”
Ragnison considers. “The only address I know of is the one in London. He’s currently working as a software consultant in London. As for his associates, until recently his geographically closest associate was Mabel. He was fairly close with Greta Holtz in Switzerland. I expect that they have been driven apart by politics, since she’s one part of the exchequer, and a collaborationist.”
Rosamund muses, “I wonder where Mona has been finding him recently…”
Ragnison offers, “I could give you Mona’s number if you don’t have it.”
“Thank you. Clisk did this in secrecy. The best thing to do to him is tell everybody.”
Before Rosamund can hang up, Hellgrammite asks to speak to Ragnison. “One of Clisk’s agents who came after us is someone who claimed to be the Ghost in the Net. I can probably smoke him out, but it will involve posting snippets of the video to the net.”
“You wish to enlist this ghost? Does it call itself ‘Rene’?”
“I have records of this ghost. All I can tell you is that Rene is a handle. It’s probably not his given name.”
“Thank you. That changes the sites I’m going to be seeding.”
“Ah, so you’re not planning to attempt to summon him.”
“No. I’m hoping that he’ll find some of this information and that he’ll come to me of his own volition.”
“Good luck. Call me if you need anything else.”
Hellgrammites posts snapshots of Clisk hoisting Roper over the fence, and links to a YouTube video of the crime, with the request, “Rene, can you help me find this man?” Signed, “Hellgrammite.”
While Hellgrammite works on his computer, Rosamund calls Mona. When the call is answered, she can hear loud music in the background. Rosamund yells into the phone, “Good party, huh?”
“Clisk heisted Mabel’s dog.”
“He did what?”
Rosamund relates the tale.
“Let me get somewhere quieter.”
Rosamund tells her the tale again, concluding with, “We’ve got footage. Clisk was not really made for hoisting giant dogs over fences. We’re trying to find him, and was wondering if you could tell us where else he might be found.”
“When I picked up the message from him for Mabel, he was in an office building with banks and banks of computers. I didn’t get to see it from the outside. If you want, I could go there and walk outside.”
“Anywhere else? Even of the last few years. And by ‘few’ I mean our few.”
Mona confides, “Well, I’ve got to tell you that ‘Friends’ and ‘Clisk’ aren’t words that often show up in the same sentence.”
“I thought it was just me”
“No, he’s not just off-putting to Chaos. Let’s see. He’s always had a tendency to regard me as just a courier. And on bad days, his courier.”
“We had some dealings with a ghost who said he stayed by her bed when she was dying of cancer. Do you have any idea where that might be?”
“That’s the nicest thing I heard about him in years.”
“He persuaded her to hang around.”
“Oh. He could get in trouble for that. He had a job in Manchester for a while. I’d heard he’d lost someone he cared for when he lived there. Perhaps she came from there. That was only about a year ago.”
“So he may have an apartment near Manchester… We’re casting about in the dark.”
Mona’s last suggestion is, “You’re at Mabel’s. There’s a kennel full of dogs. Can you track him?”
Glass examines the mirrors in Clisk’s flat. There’s one by the door. He retrocogs on it, and watches Clisk go in and out quite a number of times. Then he see him step out, and then step back in, followed by someone who’s transparent. She’s the female ghost we met on the plane. He watches them go to the computer. Rene comes up on the screen. Glass is sure that this occurred before The Breakdown. Unfortunately there’s no audio, and no lips to be read. It appears to be a pleasant gathering. At one point there’s laughter. Then she simply fades away. Glass examines the computer once more to see if the log of the connection is still there. Yes, he can get the IP address that Rene logged in from. It’s a server at an ISP in Paris.
They shut things down in Clisk’s apartment. Glass tells the others to wait 10 seconds before joining him, and then pops back to Nevile’s phone. He quietly lets himself out of the room before the others join him in the hallway.
Glass goes to Hallgrammite, and passes on the IP address he got from Clisk’s computer. Hellgrammite checks the machine, and notes that it’s accessed the video he posted.
Rosamund wakes Neville and Barron and explains that Clisk isn’t in London, and they think he might be in Manchester. He’ll have to keep Roper sedated and he’s got connections at a hospital there.
Over breakfast, Captain Barron asks, “You’re going to keep communications open to here in case a ransom call comes in, right?”
Rosamund gestures at Mabel, “Mabel’s got her cell phone, and there will be staff here in case Clisk calls.”
Hellgrammite says, “I would have expected a ransom demand sooner.”
Captain Barron considers this. “Do you think he knows you’re in England yet?”
Rosamund sniffs, “I would bet that he doesn’t know that we know it’s him. But he’ll know it soon. And then the fun begins.”
Hellgrammite’s phone rings. It’s that IP address in Paris. “Rene?”
“Indeed. You have attracted my interest.”
“It appears that Clisk has stolen one of his fellow Lords of Order’s favorite dog.”
“This would be Mademoiselle Mabel. Yes, he worked hard at that. It is too bad of him. He acts like a mere fanatic.”
“I was hoping that you would be able to help us narrow the location where he would be.”
“You don’t know where he is? I should regard it as an interesting problem to locate him. Yes, this could be extremely interesting. I will contact you when I have information.” And the line goes dead.
Mabel has a van that she takes to dog shows. We decide to leave Neon, Zabeth, Catalyst and Neville at Mabel’s. The rest of the crew piles into the van with Hookie and heads North towards Manchester. We’re not far down the road when Hellgrammite’s phone rings again.
“Bon jour Mr. Hellgrammite. Do you wish me to inform Mr. Clisk that you wish to communicate with him?”
“Hold on a moment.” Hellgrammite puts the phone on mute. He’s not sure it will work, but he makes the gesture anyway. He reports what Rene has told him.
Rosamund asks, “Can Rene tell us where his phone is?”
Hellgrammite unmutes the phone.
“Yes, I told you that I have located it. Let me turn on the GPS feature of your phone… yes, he’s due North of you in the storage facility in Barchester. Cabin 74.”
Hellgrammite doesn’t bother to mute the phone this time and asks, “Shall we talk to him, or surprise him?”
Glass suggests, “I think we should surprise him.”
“I’m fine with that. Anyone else care to weigh in?” Nobody else offers an opinion.
“You wish to surprise Mr. Clisk? I am sufficiently in sympathy with you, and out of sympathy with Mr. Clisk. I will not alert him that you are coming. Bon jour.”
“Thank you Rene.”
A few minutes driving takes us through the center of Barchester to an industrial zone and the storage facility. We walk down the row to cabin 74. It’s got a walk in door, and garage-style door. Both are closed. And presumably locked. Glass goes to the back. There’s no door there.
Hellgrammite attempts to pull open the door. It wasn’t locked, so it opens. Hard. Glass goes through the wall and finds Clisk groping for a rifle.
Glass yells, “Put it down.”
Clisk drops the tranquilizer gun.
Mabel pushes past Hellgrammite. Roper is on the floor, asleep. There’s a water bowl and a bowl of kibble. Mabel rushes to his side and examines him.
Clisk demands, “How did you get here?”
Glass curtly replies, “Automobile.”
Hellgrammite sooths, “You do know that he and I are very into the computer thing.”
Clisk is visibly disturbed. “You don’t understand! I had to get your attention. I have to get that fragment. There are much bigger things afoot!”
Glass responds, “You have our attention.”
Clisk continues, “You must realize how vulnerable the cosmos is now. Order has to be able to control the form and the force. The Maskim are coming back.” It’s clear that no one know what he’s talking about.” Clisk tries again, “The Powers That Were. The fallen Dominations!”
Rosmaund asks, “So for that reason you’re willing to throw away 13 billion years of cooperation?”
Clisk cries, “Chaos is the perfect tool for them!”
Hellgrammite snorts, “Chaos cannot be relied on for that.”
Rosamund retorts, “I’d say we’re pretty reliable.”
Hellgrammite ignores her and continues, “Dividing us makes us easier targets individually.”
Clisk shakes his head, “You won’t believe. You won’t believe anything I say.”
Glass replies, “Not as long as you’re arguing against the balance of the universe.”
Hellgrammite offers, “You could have talked with us.”
Clisk shouts, “I have contacted you and you’ve refused to surrender the fragment.”
Glass notes, “Surrender. That’s not exactly working together.”
Mabel is beckoning at Rosamund to help her with Roper. “Can you get him up? He’s been doped to the gills for far too long.”
Rosamund pets Roper’s shoulder, and all of the barbiturates in Ropers system break into harmless precursors. Roper yawns and licks Mabels hand.
Glass pulls out his myPhone and calls Ragnison. “Glass here. Tell me, do you have an institution for dealing with unhinged courtiers? Our friend Mr. Clisk seems to have lost it.”
“You are with him?”
“Yes. He has legitimate concerns about the Maskim, but he appears a bit unhinged.”
“The Maskim? Ask him if he knows anything specific?”
“Mr. Clisk, do you know anything specific other than the evils of the forces of Chaos?”
Clisk visibly makes an effort to reply calmly. “I learned from my contacts that there are troop movements in the cis-lunar sphere. There’s some kind of danger expected on the angelic level. And given the nature of the current problem, it is speculated that the Maskim themselves will manifest, but the speculation is coming from some very well informed places. There are fay lords, senior Pages,… none of you have bothered to be plugged in!”
Glass passes on Clisk’s remarks.
Glass continues, “We have three Elemental Knights and three Lords and Ladies of Chaos and a Lady of Order collaborating as a coherent task force and team with the backup of at least one more Knight and at least three more Courtiers.
Clisk replies, “I meant plugged into the metaphysical realm. You haven’t been keeping up with developments in the metaphysical!”
Hellgrammite retorts, “We’ve been dealing with keeping the world going.”
“That’s all very well, but it won’t help if the strike comes from the Maskim.”
Rosamund asks Mabel, “Isn’t the stuff he’s worrying about the stuff that the High Lords are supposed to be worrying about?”
Mabel shrugs, “I suppose. I haven’t worried about it as such.”
Clisk yells, “You just can’t trust them!”
Glass replies calmly, “Actually, you have to. Everything stops if there’s nothing but Order, and everything comes apart if there’s nothing but Chaos.”
Clisk looks around, looks at Roper, gives out a scream/shout, demanifests, and then goes up through the roof and is gone.
Glass reports, “Ragnison, he seems to have left.”
Ragnison pauses, and the replies, “You must realize that there are only two dozen or so of us on Earth, and this is the first time that one of us have so obviously… cracked. I will give some thought to … unbalances, as Cadmus obviously was. I will say he was the one among us who paid the most attention to metaphysical politics.”
Glass asks dubiously, “Troops gathering just below the cis-lunar sphere?”
“That would have to mean more powerful spirits than us courtiers. There is always a great deal of spiritual activities on any planet with a sapient population. But if it’s increasing, then someone somewhere is being threatening. As the Courtier on Earth with the most interest in the esoteric, I guess it falls to me to find out what’s going on.”
“Does the possibility of an attack by the… Maskim… correlate with our fragment? Would it be a valuable target or playing piece?”
“I do not know a great deal about metaphysical politics. I know even less about infernal politics. There are two contending parties in hell. Corruption and destruction, so to speak. The party of destruction would see a weakness that it could exploit to destroy the physical world. The party of corruption would see a way to corrupt the world. That does not mean that they cannot make alliances on smaller issues. You would be a target because you are trying to make the world whole again.”
“Also because we represent a unity of effort.”
“Certainly. You are also offensive to them. And that should not be underestimated.”
“We can’t do anything about that fact that since we’re attempting to fix what may be their entry into this world. But if we could formalize our relationship. If nothing else, we share the danger with you.”
After a pause, Ragnison asks, “Is this on speaker phone?”
“Yes.” Glass presses a button and holds the device to his face, “It’s not anymore.”
“Mr. Glass, as a crystalline element you might not realize it, but it is very difficult to formalize anything with the forces of Chaos. You’ll find it’s much easier to work with them under an unspoken… understanding.”
Glass asks, “Is Lady Diamond there?”
“Yes. We are trying to coordinate efforts, just like you are. She goes down to my basement twice a day and befuddles the wits of the two Pages.”
“Wonderful. Can you have her call me when she gets a chance?”
“Certainly. Here she is now.”
After a moment, Lady Diamond asks, “Glass, how are you doing?”
“Fine. Are you on speaker phone on your end?”
“Good. Are you in a private place?”
Glass can hear steps , then a door closing, “I believe I am now.”
Pop. Glass is with Lady Diamond. They’re in Ragnison’s library. He brings her up to date. “I think we need to formalize our relationship.”
Lady Diamond replies, “That is a large part of what I have been doing here. Some of them are extremely difficult to contact.”
“A certain monkey and a nutcase are providing plenty of cracks for schemers to exploit. If you can work out some way for us to contact everyone who is a “collaborationist”, that would be helpful. Maybe we can pull these people together. “
“We’re trying to organize two other task forces to help you with your work, but it has been difficult.”
Glass considers this idea, then offers, “I have an idea for that. Have you heard of something called the Deck?”
Glass explains about the Deck, and the duplications. He finishes by saying, “Someone’s got to keep an eye on these Courtiers.”
“Yes,” agrees Lady Diamond. “It has been a very educational experience to instantiate here.”
Glass pops back to Clisk’s rental.
While Glass was gone, Hellgrammite has been examining the items that Clisk abandoned. In addition to the supplies for Roper, there’s a laptop and a phone, as well as the clothes that Clisk left behind when he demanifested. Hellgrammite turns off the electronic devices, and then goes out to find the car. It’s right here, and has a GPS system.
Mabel (and Roper) want to leave. Hellgrammite rummages through the discarded cloths and finds Clisk’s keys. They gather up everything that Clisk abandoned. Mabel insists on leaving the water bowl, dog food bowl, bag of kibble and the jugs of wather, and sniffs that there wasn’t even a blanket for Roper to sleep on. Mabel, Roper and Rosamund climb into the van, as Glass emerges from the rental unit.
Hellgrammite tosses the keys to Glass, and the two of them climb into Clisk’s car. As Glass follows Mabel back to Totleigh, Hellgrammite interrogates Clisk’s GPS. Apparently Clisk drove from London to Mabel’s estate to here. He then removes the wireless card from the laptop and carefully boots the machine from a LiveCD of his own operating system. Clisk was accessing a lot of obscure and interesting databases. There’s contact information for Rene and Edna FitzHubert, the two ghosts. She was a coworker for 2 years before her death. There are painful messages from her detailing her illness, then they stop. There’s a list of places Clisk now leaves physical messages for her. She has permission to come and see him when she wants to.
There a bunch of email addresses for Rene, and nine familiar names: Pavo, Suhail, and Meliados; Brehus, Pharamond, and Heldrisl and Eltanin, Camaralsaman, and Badoura. These are the “Insertion Teams” – 3 teams of 3 pages each. They’re skilled at acquiring a new manifestation, and papers, etc. They seem to have been feeding him inform on metaphysical politics. Hellgrammite copies the contact info and interesting info and sends it to Ragnison, pointing out references to “The Kerdeans” and “The Onion Docents” – groups that Clisk has been drawing on for research info.
Last Updated: Dec 11, 2009
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved