Chapter 48 - Etheric Espionage
It was a cold December's evening when Loki saw the riders approaching but even in the dusky twilight he recognised them. Rushing downstairs from
where Erisian sat monitoring internet traffic, he wrenched open the main gate and dropped the drawbridge, standing aside as the three horses walked
slowly through. Pisky and Fingal looked knackered. Ravenna, sitting behind the stately Muryannan, was white with pain. Even Muryannan herself appeared
drained. Pisky nodded to Loki, who raised the drawbridge and locked the gates before following them into the courtyard. The pixy dropped from his
horse, muttering abuse as his knee clicked. He handed his reins to Rhiannon, who had certainly lived up to her name, having slipped effortlessly into
the role of ostler while they were away. Fingal dismounted, stretched and yawned while Muryannan slid off Kelyonan before offering her hand to
"I need a fecking drink", the pixy said, and led them towards the hall.
They sat around the fire, this group who had been through so much together, and listened as the pixy told what had befallen their blacksmith and his
daughter. When he was done, Asala sobbed quietly on Pantha's shoulder while Loki sat shaking his head in disbelief. Ravenna, her ribs expertly
bandaged by KayEm, sat with her hands in her lap, still unable to accept the Raven's betrayal. Tobias stared into the fire, his mind whirling. They
had lost so much to the Corporates. So many to the plagues, the ghettos, the gulags. It wouldn't be long before the enemy forces were up to strength
once more - and then
the battle for survival would really begin in earnest.
The next morning, Tobias sat on the curtain wall abutting South Tower with a sad look on his face. The breach made during the meteor strike was almost
filled and the tower itself now had a roof, as had the Solar. Everyone had worked together in order to repair the castle's defences, since it could
be only a matter of time before the Corporates discovered it.
Alongside Coleman, who had made a quick recovery thanks to KayEm's nursing skills, Tobias had spent the last week on the roof, since the apprentice
blacksmith could no longer clamber around as he had used to. That said, his task was no less important. He carved stones and rocks into useable sizes
before placing them onto a jerry-built pulley and lifting them to where they were needed. Tobias then hammered the stones in place before fastening
them with concrete mortar. Now, sitting on the eight foot tall Curtain wall, the soldier surveyed their handiwork and sighed.
Down in the courtyard, Pantha and Sarah sat chatting together while Rhiannon fed and watered the horses. Damien, her young son, often helped with the
work but today sat alone, tears in his eyes as he remembered his friend. Rhiannon looked over, but nothing she said could ease his grief. Only time
could do that, although there would always be a spot in his heart for Tamsin. LadyCool stood with KayEm watching as Loki demonstrated his latest piece
of pyrotechnical wizardry. Normally he would take great delight in such a task, but even he had fallen prey to the grief that accompanied the loss of
two of their own.
Asala left the Hall, carrying a tray of food. Smiling wanly at Damien, she walked towards the South Tower curtain wall where Tobias now stood
repairing the bottom of the arrowslit windows.
"Something to eat ?", Asala shouted as she reached the wall. Tobias looked down and smiled. "I'll come down", he replied, turning to leave.
"It's ok", Asala said, "I'll come up. Save you a journey." And with that she began climbing the small wooden scaffolding leading up to the
"Watch out for those bits of stone", Tobias warned, as his companion reached the wall and began walking gingerly towards the tower, "they're
Asala's foot slipped on the stone, she scrabbled to keep her footing as Tobias leaped towards her. The tray flew from her hands and with a shriek she
toppled off the wall into the courtyard.
"# !!!", Tobias cursed, leaning down and dropping off the wall to where Asala had fallen. "Coleman !", he yelled as he saw the blacksmith running
towards him, "Get KayEm now !!!"
"I'm OK", Asala said as she watched Tobias drop down from the wall, "I'm not hurt. I didn't even break the ears of my Minnie Mouse hat". She
smiled, then her expression changed to one of puzzlement when she realised that Tobias was ignoring her. In fact he looked desperately worried. "I'm
OK", she replied, "really". She watched as he bent down to a small shape that lay huddled below the wall. "KayEm !!!", he yelled, turning away,
seeming for all the world as if he was looking right through
Asala. Tenderly he turned the figure onto its back. Asala strained to see who it
"oh # !", she said as she looked down.
She saw herself.
She was still standing in shock when KayEm actually ran through
her to reach the prone figure on the ground. Tobias held Asala's hand talking
quietly to her as KayEm checked her pulse and respiration. "Stretcher ... NOW !", KayEm shouted, then turning back to Tobias said quietly "This is
"But I'm here", Asala said, waving her hand in front of KayEm's face. "I'm ...bugger !!!" She yelled as she began to lift off from the ground.
She watched as Sarah and LC rushed over with a stretcher from the Infirmary. She watched as 'Asala' was lifted carefully onto the stretcher and
carried towards the hall. She floated across the courtyard, watching in fear and wonderment as she realised what was happening. She was having either
an Out of Body Experience or, more worrying, a Near Death Expereince. She certainly didn't like the idea of that
"I want to go back inside !", she said to herself, remembering what she had read on ATS about OBE/NDE's. The thought makes the action and she could
'will' herself back into her body. Unless, of course, it was already too late.
"I don't like this !!!", she moaned as she began to ascend slowly above the castle, "All I wanted was to have a normal life. A house, kids to take
to Disneyland, And now ...", angrily she glared around herself, Normally a placid and caring woman this situation brought out the worst in her.
"It's all the fault of the Corporations !!!", she ranted, "Evil power crazed scumbags !!! ... I wish I could give them a piece of my mind
Asala blinked her etheric eyes and looked around. She was no longer hovering above Stokesay. Instead she seemed to be in some dark, wood-panelled
boardroom. The curtains were closed, the only illumination coming from small flickering candle sconces placed around the walls. A large mahogany table
stood in the centre of the room with seats for thirteen people, although only three were currently occupied. A tall man sat at the near end of the
table, his back to where Asala now stood. The others occupied chairs opposite each other, though they had turned to face their companion. Asala
gasped, recognising both men from their photographs and TV appearences, although this was the first time she had seen them in the flesh.
A sibillant voice with a slight French accent seemed to echo through the room as the man at the top of the table spoke.
"It is good to see that you are improving, Tony", he said, leaning towards the man on his left, "I hear that you had a ... little problem"
Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom grimaced and nodded. "Your sources once again are top notch", he said. "My people managed to
keep my little 'accident' from the press, but of course you
would have heard about it".
"Quite so", said the Frenchman. "And is it true ? ... that you were callously attacked by a ... how you say ... Piksee"
"Pisky", Blair replied, "I spent over an hour hanging by my ... crown jewels ... from Tower Bridge. The peasants merely jeered and clapped,
congratulating the Pisky for his heinous crime while I dangled there in ..."
"Yes, yes". The Frenchman interrupted. "But you are well again now ?"
"Yes, Thank you, Monsieur le Marquis".
"Well, I'd have found out where he lived and nuked the sonofabitch !", came the reply from the Frenchman's right.
"I daresay you would, George", he said with a smile. "You always were somewhat ... highly strung"
"I prefer to say that I won't put up with any crap, monsewer", said the President of the United States, "I never took crap from Saddam and I'll
be damned to Hell if I'll take it from some fairy"
"Pixy, actually", Blair explained. "Fairies are cute and have wings, Pisky is an utter bas..."
The Marquis sighed and signalled for silence.
Asala moved slightly. The Frenchman tensed, as if sensing something, then shrugged his gallic shoulders and leaned back in his chair. Bush and Blair
neither saw nor sensed anything untoward.
"His excellency requires an update", came the sibillant voice once more after a short pause. "He believes that you have ample time to prepare. He
wants a date."
Blair looked across at where Bush was doodling on a notepad. The President smiled to himself, then turned to the Frenchman. "Imbolc", he said.
"Appropriate", came the reply. "The time of new beginnings. You are sure you can deliver ?"
"I'll uphold my side of the bargain", Bush replied.
"And you ?", The Marquis turned to Blair.
"Please convey to His Excellency that all will be ready in time for the Imbolc celebrations. Irrespective of the wishes of 'my' people, the UK will
join the European Union, and the soon to be formed American and Asiatic Unions in one New World Order, with One Government, One Currency and One
"And you will deal with the 'insurgents' ?"
"Corporate forces are already sweeping through the country, Monsieur", Blair said sycophantically, "They are of limited size of course, but
thorough. Unfortunately, as with other countries of the world, we are limited to terrestrial communications".
"Due to the meteor strikes taking down the Communication Satellites ?" The Frenchman looked from Blair to Bush.
"Exactly", Blair replied.
Bush nodded sadly. "GPS is down too"
"Obviously. Please continue, Tony".
Blair cleared his throat. "Lack of satellite communications has, of course, hampered our work, but do not be concerned. - the UK will
New World Order. Actually, according to recent surveys, many people believe that a one world government and currency are best for everyone. No charges
to change from pounds to dollars, that kind of thing. No passports needed".
The Frenchman leaned forward conspiratorially, "And the chip?"
Blair smiled. "We've got a series of commercials ready to go", he said. "I don't see any problem with that, do you George ?"
Dubya shook his head, "No problem at all. They either take it or ... BAM !", he pointed his hand like a gun, then blew on the finger tip.
The Marquis smiled. "Subtlety was never your strong point, was it George ?"
"Now come on, Pindar, you ..."
"NEVER USE THAT NAME OUTSIDE OF RITUAL !!!"
Bush shot back in his seat, shocked at the anger of the Marquis. He shivered, sweat beading his head and ran a finger between his collar and his neck.
"Erm ... I ..."
As quickly as it appeared, the anger was gone. The Marquis smiled as he spoke once more to the President: "I am the Marquis de Libeaux. Remember that
". Bush gulped and reached for a glass of water.
"Now, where were we ? ... ah yes ... Tony, you mentioned the 'New World Order'" , The Frenchman nodded at Blair who was sitting stock still in his
chair, a fearful expression on his face. The Prime Minister cleared his throat; "Yes, Marquis", he said, "I ..."
"His Excellency dislikes the title", the Frenchman interrupted; "Conspiracy theorists have given it a bad name. He suggests World
. He believes - and I concur - that it displays a single mindset wherein every person can consider him or her self a member of a great
society of like-minded thinkers".
Asala made a 'finger down the throat' motion at that and shook her head. Again the Marquis stopped and looked around.
"Strange ...", he muttered to himself, then returned to business.
"Returning to the subject of the 'insurgents' within the UK. I know you have previously assured me that Corporate forces will break the backbone
of these rebels, but I would like to know ... now ... how you plan to deal with them. I heard that a whole county has declared itself 'off limits'
to Corporate agents, and that there are pockets of resistance in the ... shall we say ... wilder
parts of the country"
Blair swallowed. "Cornwall has always been a thorn in the side of any attempt to make a One World Ord ... er ... World Community
explained. "Even though they were assimilated into England hundreds of years ago, the Cornish consider themselves a race apart".
"Sounds like Texas", Bush muttered, "Except Texas is on the right
Blair took a deep breath. "We plan an attack in Taunton in three weeks", he continued, "Which of course will be blamed on Osama and his terrorists.
We will then tell the Cornish that unless they allow us into their county, in order to protect
them, we cannot guarantee that there will not be
The Marquis nodded.
Blair leaned back in his seat; "If I may be so bold as to ask ... where is
Osama anyway ?"
"Actually, I received a communication from him only last week", the Marquis replied, picking up a small attache case from beside his chair. Reaching
inside, he picked up a photograph and placed it on the table.
Blair picked it up and looked at the back. He read it out aloud.
Having a wonderful time in Disneyland. Met Mickey and Minnie for beers after work. Minnie got drunk and was slurring her words. I bet old Walt's
spinning in his grave. Off to Magic Mountain tomorrow.
"Nice work if you can get it", Dubya drawled."What's his next job anyway ?"
"He's retiring from terrorism once the World Community is up and running", the Marquis explained with a smile, "I believe he's planning to set up
a rock band ... Bin Jovi
Blair grinned. Dubya didn't get the joke. The Frenchman sighed in mock despair. Asala worried for the world with this trio at the helm.
"So then gentlemen", the Marquis said finally, "Unless any of you wish to add anything, this meeting is adjourned".
Blair shook his head, Bush shrugged his shoulders. Asala rolled her eyes.
The Marquis leaned against the table and stood. "I look forward to meeting with you again after Imbolc", he said, leaning forward and shaking first
Dubyas hand, then Blairs. The pair collected their papers and left.
Finally alone, the Marquis sighed. "Most disconcerting", he said to himself. "That feeling of ..." He spun around rapidly. Asala screamed, her
hand flying to her throat.
"It's ok !!!
" KayEm leaned put her hands on Asala's shoulders and slowly eased her back onto the bed.
Asala took a deep breath, her heart racing. She closed her eyes and waited for her pulse to slow.
"Welcome back", KayEm said, smiling.
Asala blinked her eyes and looked around the room. Tobias stood at the bottom of the bed, with Sarah and LC flanking him. They were smiling. Asala
returned the gesture. "Have I got a story for you", she said, pushing herself into a sitting position. "You are not
going to believe where
I've been !"