All entries for Monday 15 November 2004

November 15, 2004



"You have nothing to lose but your chains"

-Karl Marx, Pre Philosopher


Left or right?

The path divided into two. Left, and right. Should she turn left, or turn right? She paused, looked at her watch, checked her shoelaces, anything to buy a little time. They were everywhere, testing, searching for those who escaped. Which way would they expect her to go?

Right was the shorter route. People would turn right here. The principle of least action. Humans, following mechanical laws would do the minimum, do the efficient thing, hurry along to their destination as fast as possible. She should turn left.

Left was the paved route. People would turn left here. To minimise cost, to minimise wear on their shoes. The road was paved with stone, so naturally this was the official route. And official meant mandatory in these days of command and inhibition. She should turn left.

What was that ancient saying? All roads lead to Rome? No, that isn't useful. She scratched her head in irritation at her problem, at the insane thoughts that passed for good ideas. And then she was angry, angry at her indecision.

All roads lead to Rome. Right. Then it doesn't matter what road she takes, for all destinations were the same. If they were watching her so closely, then she would already be dead. Dead from the moment the flash filled the sky. Dead from the moment when instead of cowering she had ran, ran back to the Wall, jumping up, hopping. Hopping joyful, skipping, like a damn kid. Until she saw the helicopter, and the uniformed men, and the corpses…

She ran forward, turning left because it was more clearly lit, so that her eyes would not adjust enough to check for what lay in the sky above her, so that she would not have to fear that final moment of horror when they come for her, come with their sticks and prods and hands and guns.

Oh the hilarity, the hilarity of it all. The game is over, and now they are totalling up the score, taking the bets that were placed, the gambles which they had lost. They had staked it all on one, and though the roulette ball had bounced close, slowed so painfully near, it had missed, and they had lost. They always lost, because the house made the game. The house always wins.

Nothing changes. Nothing ever changes.

And nothing has changed. Things were no different from the way they were. She could not betray what she believed. A defeat could not make her follow their codes, run their instructions like a stupid machine. She must not flaunt herself, yes, but to lie with her actions would be worth than being caught, it would be a betrayal of all those who had suffered and died. No, nothing would make her be who she is not. Only death can do that.

She shook her head. Heroism in the mind was all right and fine, but so much introspection, and she would forget to watch where she was…

"Can I help you?" the man said.

"No," she snapped, and broke into a run.

A mistake, a terrible mistake. Now he would puzzle over why and his IH may well flag it up, preparing one of those measures it loved so much. When her appearance seemed to be that of someone lost, someone in need of aid, she should accept help where it is given.

A lady, middle-to-old aged. Pushing an empty cart, wheels rocking over the uneven floor paving, the handlebar juddering so that her arms barely just held on. Her dark green scarf weaved through the slight rain. This one would be safe, surely…

The lady saw her stares, and did not wait for her to approach.

"Yes, dear?"

"I wonder if you can help me. I…"

I, what, she wondered. What would be a good reason, a normal reason…

"I lost the keys to my house. I wonder if…"

"Pardon?" the old lady asked.

She started to repeat her words, but stopped as soon as her mouth opened. What a stupid cover. Who would want to help her, over that? If someone else came to her with talk like that, she would tell them to go find a locksmith. Or perhaps to smash in a window and just jump through it. There had to be something else, something closer to the truth, so that only a razor like mind could divide reality from sweet fantasy. And then it came to her. Why was this old lady even here? Here, with the others who shuffled in the midnight darkness, faces blank.

"I'm sorry," she began haltingly, gesticulating where she could not come up with the words. "It's just the Wall, the explosion, the bomb or whatever it was…"

The smoke had not yet cleared. But the helicopters were already taking off, punching holes through low cloud, and the black haze from the still blazing small fires. Fires like so many funeral pyres. She fought to wrest her attention back to the task at hand.

"It's just that… I don't know… It's so overwhelming."

The sobs were coming easily.

"I… don't know what to do. I'm so scared, and I don't know what to do."

Her body shook, and she leaned forward, arms outstretched. The old lady embraced her, held her while she cried. Could people with IHs really do that? But she was too deep in it now, and there was no way she could order those tears, once shed, to return.

"What's your name?" the old lady asked.

"Sandy Olsen," she said.

"My name is Constance Hamilton. Now don't worry, dear. If they did manage to breach the Wall, we would not help but know about it. We would all be dead right now. Right? Here, take a handkerchief."

Sandy dabbed at her eyes with the small slip of cloth, wishing that her face did not seem so tight and swollen. Constance patted her back, trying to sooth her. She ventured a smile, though she did not feel like it.

"See, things are looking up already. Now let's get you cleaned up a bit, dear, and then… Well, do you want some money to take you to your place?"

"Well, there's a problem with that," Sandy replied, sniffing. "You see, I was just visiting the city, and I never met the person who was supposed to meet me here in the train station, so I was just wandering about, when there was a terrible bang and people were all just…"

She allowed the sobs to return.

"Shh, shh, dear. Don't you worry about that any more, I know what, we'll just go to my place, then. How about that?"

She nodded, strongly.

"Yes, and you can stay the night there in my spare room – after you take a nice bath first of course, since you smell terrible! And then, in the morning, we can go and call up on all the hotels and so on, so that we can find out where you were supposed to be, and explain why you weren't there and everything. And everything will be sorted out, and you will be happy and safe. Sounds good to you?"

She nodded.

"Then I have a car waiting near here. Come on then…"


They drove safely along the rain-slick roads, skirting the cars which had stopped, avoiding the people who wandered from one side to the next, faces filled with a combination of shock and awe and horror and affront. Constance switched the radio on to hear the newscast, but Sandy quickly flipped it off again.

"I don't want to hear about it," she said.

Her companion nodded in understanding. Not hearing about bad things was part of doctrine, part of the right way to think.

The house they arrived at was a small one, rented out, it seems, barely more than a flat. The porch door was unlocked, and pulling it, they marched in, Sandy helping the old lady with her cart. The atmosphere inside was heavy and claustrophobic, smelling of old tea and mothballs. Helped off with her coat, she sat in stony silence on the floral-print sofa, watching the fake-fire effect of the heating unit flutter. Outside the slightly open window, a half-hearted commotion. Tired, so tired, a dreadful sense of fatigue, somewhere around about the heart.

Constance appeared from the kitchen, carrying a tray.

"See, aren't things better once you are nice and warm and inside?"

She put down the tray on the coffee table, moved over to the window. Fumbling with the lace veil, she managed to close the window, draw the curtain, and sit back in a broad chair, satisfied as the room dropped into silence.

The room must be old, perhaps almost as old as Constance. Sandy took in the old certificates on the Wall above, the old photos of the lady, alone. Younger, here, there. Small photos, narrow photos, photos just not fitting their frames. Photos with backs, torsos, legs, bodies cropped and unidentifiable. An empty mantelpiece, covered with dust. She could see the footprints of absent greeting cards.

"Those your son's?" she asked, pointing at a framed letter which declared someone to be the Junior Footballer of the Year.

Constance frowned. "No. I just happen to collect them. They have excellent caligraphy on them on them, don't you think?"

Sandy nodded slowly, mournfully.

"No, I never had a son. Never been married. Though I would have wanted to. Get married and start a family, I mean."

Sandy gazed sadly at her. What that means, Constance, was that you really were married. That you had a son, a beautiful son. And that they decided your son wasn't right for you any more. Maybe he was stupid, and did something bad despite his IH. Maybe he was too good, and they needed him somewhere higher up. Maybe he just died, died in a horrible, tragic accident. So they made him disappear. And they started digging, digging in his mind. Maybe you husband was already dead. Or maybe one night they came, opened your door with their keys which can open any door, and told him to go away. And the next morning, you woke up, and it was a dream, your life just a dream, a dream which was over and forgetting even as you made your tea, thought about the empty bleeding hole in your heart, and tried to shut the door that you forgot you left open.

Damn them, Sandy thought. Damn them to hell for things like this. Death was too good for them.

"Would you like something to eat? You can just help yourself, you know."

Sandy quivered a little at the thoughts she came up with, and tried to snap to her senses.

"Well, thank you. But I really can't…"

"Oh but I insist!"

Sandy picked up a mug of tea, and sipped at it in case it was hot. It was not. Time had passed enough to make it merely lukewarm, and the drink itself felt weak, limp. She drank it down slowly, trying to savour its slight bitterness, composed grateful smiles to cheer her host.

Encouraged, Constance continued to attempt to make conversation.

"So where do you come from? You said you just arrived here."

"Aberdeen, in England, by ferry." A place remote enough, surely, not to be familiar to the lady.

"Ooh… How exciting!" she crooned. "Did you get to see the Sea Wall? They say it is truly magnificent, and they let you take boats right up to it, to the big valves which let water through, generate power, and keep the outside out."

Sandy shook her head.

"Can I go straight to bed now, please? I'm really tired…" she pleaded.

"Fine, go ahead. It's upstairs, the second door on your right. And the bathroom is the door on the end of the corridor. Shall I come with you to show you where to go?"

An eager look.

"No, thank you. I can manage myself."

She climbed the stairs with soft, unsteady steps. Halfway up, she heard the television switched on in the living room. A news report was just ending.

"Collins himself was unavailable for comment. However, his close friends have revealed exclusively that he has taken a rest break. Technical experts have expressed an opinion that after a downtime of 48 hours, it may be now impossible for full IH operation to be restored."

It couldn't really be him, could it? She couldn't believe it, wouldn't believe it. But that didn't stop her from running the rest of the way up the stairs, from throwing herself on the bed of the spare room. From groaning the groan of despair and anger that she had contained for these last, long hours.

Staring the window, she wondered what would happen if she was to jump from it. To tie the curtains around her neck, and lean until the knot became tight. But she felt too drained, too hopeless to think about it, and before she could wonder further, she fell asleep.


CS 4522 211 Gfk Jc 11
1–3 Ihcode 32c

&rasterise %complete

/we are ready/


/begin transcript/

>Timecode 213545.6 .7 .8 .9 Loc C5H

A room, dark, the walls almost unseen. A door, a chair, all seen from the camera's glass eye. The handle moves, rattles. The figure

>Subject: Martin [Unknown] {ID from Collins Data}

in the chair looks up. He strains a little at his bindings,

>INC secure strength +15%

and finding it fruitless, slouches in his seat, waiting. A police inspector enters, clipboard in hand. Watching his assailant carefully, circling around him, thinking, thinking.

"When are you going to ask me a question?" Martin asks.

>remind subject of protocol #21c

"Please remain silent until you have heard what you are charged with. You will be free to respond in your own defence, then."

Martin glowers at him, but returns to a restless silence. Sighing, the inspector glances at his pad, and starts to read from it.

"Martin, you have been accused of conspiring to cause damage to property, conspiring to cause grievous bodily harm, attempted murder, murder second degree, murder first degree, theft, fraud, unauthorised access to government facilities, assault, assault of an officer of the law… and so on. Offences which may put you in jail – supposing you neglect the termination option – for a total of…"

He arches an eyebrow, and keeps reading.

"Five thousand four hundred and sixty-seven years. How do you plead?"

Martin spits the words at him.

"Not bloody guilty, bastard!"

>REP: "Not bloody guilty, bastard!" -> "I plead guilty."

The inspector returns a a strange look.

"Is that a confession? I remind you of the severity of…"

"What do you mean a confession? I said not guilty!" Martin goes pale, and his hands take hold of the chair's armrests.

>REP: "What do you mean a confession? I said not guilty!" -> "Yes, I confess, and am willing to sign a document to that effect, including the clause that I did so of my own volition, not under any duress."

The inspector shrugs. "Fine by me. I always figured you were weird people. Makes my job a lot easier, then. You really want to confess to EVERYTHING?"

"No!" Tears appear in Martin's eyes.

>REP: "No!" -> "Yes."

"There, there. I'm afraid remorse isn't worth much in this sort of case. We don't really get actual criminals through here very often, you know. In fact, not for hundreds of years. I suppose they really are a different class of people. You know, a few weeks ago, people would have laughed at my job. I'd have laughed too, since I was working in…"

Martin stares at him wordlessly, fingers fidgeting.

>end topic

The inspector blinks, tears a handful of sheets from his clipboard and continues. "In any case, it doesn't matter. So, let's deal with the other stuff. Which is it to be? Termination or jail?"

Martin seals his mouth shut.

>INS: And decides to open it again. "Termination," he says, and closes his mouth again.

"Understandable," the inspector says. "The guilt must be killing you."


He pats down his suit, and straightens up. Checking quickly through his clipboard, he walks over to the door.

"Well, I suppose that's it. Well, you've been surprisingly cooperative throughout. I don't know if it came across, but that was my first interrogation, and I didn't really know the proper procedure or anything…

>you did fine

… but I suppose I did well enough. Thanks to you. Well, then. Sit tight."

The door opens, and he walks through. As the door begins to swing shut, Martin raises his head one last time, screaming to the departing figure.

"You have not finished us! You hear me? We are still out there, and we will win. You will see, and you will be sorry then, because we cannot be contained by your walls…"

The door clicks shut.

> Timecode 213645.2 .3 .4 .5

/how interesting/

/how uninteresting, utterly predictable/ devoid of any informational content/ still procedure was followed, results were adequate/


/what now/

/now we wait/ now it is their move/ we will watch, respond appropriately/

/patience is advantageous/

/what of subject [Martin]/

/is he useful/

/negative/ what is the correct way to deal with him/

/what is the correct way to deal with who/

%derasterise %complete

-01 223


Chapter 12

Heroic Effort Thwarts Rogues

Main news today, a group of soldiers under the Defence Directive successfully apprehended a group of the radical terrorist organisation known as the Rogues. The group had been known to be perpetrators of a variety of crimes against innocent civilians in the past, and when they were caught, they were planning their biggest attack yet. Apparently, they were attempting to destroy the Protective Wall at its point outside this city. Also captured were documents and videos showing their intentions – to unleash the outside, and bring about a holocaust which would, in their words, bring about 'mass carnage and death.' Scientific experts suggest this may have include the loss of all life that lies within the Wall's protection.

This victory against global terror would not have been achieved without the heroism of Frank Collins, a captain of the Wall patrol force. After an incident a few years ago, Captain Collins was recruited into work as an undercover operative of the Defence Directive, and he helped make plans and eventually volunteered himself to set up an elaborate sting operation. At great personal risk, he managed to infiltrate one of the leading rogue cells, and into involve himself in one of their nefarious operations, even to have his IH deactivated. But unbeknownst to the terrorists, the information he fed them led them to a pre-arranged location at a pre-arranged time. As a result, the counter-operation worked perfectly, and the soldiers succeed in their mission without a single loss.

The captured terrorists will now be brought in for questioning, which will be followed up with psychiatric evaluation into how they function without his, before appropriate measures are taken. The world, meanwhile, may at last rest safely for a while, its freedoms protected.

Collins himself was unavailable for comment. However, his close friends have revealed exclusively that he has taken a rest break. Technical experts have expressed an opinion that after a downtime of 48 hours, it may be now impossible for full IH operation to be restored.

More on this issue soon.


The newspaper shifted, the letters moving even as he read it, the smart material updating, renewing. Words disappeared were replaced. The look of concern that had clouded the others' faces vanished, subsumed by their general admiration. He glanced down again. The last lines now read.

"Collins himself was unavailable for comment. However, his close friends have revealed exclusively that he has taken a rest break, after an operation to restore his IH was 100% successful. It is expected that he would retire, and move on to a less dangerous job."

He smiled. They never said that to mean it. He could remember now. It mean he was to be promoted, raised up out of sight of the general masses. More good news too – no word on Kyra, though he did not expect them to mention that. Enemies do not have names. He composed his face into the requisite blissful ignorance, bid his retinue wait, and set off for the Wall.

The clean-up job they did was remarkable. Soon, the newspaper would become blank. News items were, after all, transient things, things of convenience which can always mysteriously vanish. In the long history he could remember, the past was dominated by one thing and one thing only.

Nothing ever happened.

But they can't make it nothing. And they can't make this nothing.

Closely, if he looked closely, he could see the crack, the thin crack, about a millimetre in width, a crack which reached up into the heavens and dug down into the ground, a crack that he read as though it were words. A crack that he felt with his fingers. A crack that spoke to them.

It told him, in a voice no one else could hear.

It told him it was real.

Chapter 11

At length, they pulled the packages one by one out of the back of the van, loaded them one by one into appropriate transport, shifting them slowly towards the foot of the Wall, and then rushed back as though they could not take the queer, deathly shade for anything more than an infinitesimal moment.

"Stop looking at that watch," Aaron said. "We have plenty of time. Our window of opportunity is four hours, right?"


"Then get back to work, like everyone else. You volunteered for this, remember."

An hour gone. He tried vaguely to focus, to concentrate, to put off his feelings of being overwhelmed with a the pointlessness of it all. What difference would it make in a few hours' time, who would care how much explosives they have planted at the Wall's base? The Wall was more than just a wall, more than bricks and iron and concrete and ceramics. It could not be broken. The lot of collected blocks and fuses he dragged against the ground might was well have been children's modelling clay.

But unlike the others, he did not feel fear and horror near the Wall. He had spent so long in its presence that it felt like an old friend. The details seemed no less clear in his mind, and here in its shadow, he knew to anticipate every new feature, foresee every plausible event. But it was an old friend the rogues wanted to kill. How did that change things?

But things were already different. He did not expect the way things looked without the Inhibitor. Without it, he felt things. A surreptitious emotion seeped in the land. Something like sadness, of a nostalgic yearning for old memories. What were once only blackened and rotted lumps of wood resolved themselves into fallen trees, tumbled gateposts, headstones. In loving memory of… an inscription read. The essential and irrelevant name trailed off into a rusted illegibility, and the bench to which it was affixed crumbled into dust.

He was standing in a cemetery. What became of those dead left outside the Wall? He looked out for watching eyes, restless ghosts, but saw nothing, but the obstinate, steadfast Wall.

The Wall, oh the Wall. He seemed ever drawn to the Wall, and if it should fall…

And they were finished. So fast, incredibly fast. Almost as though their target had been overseeing its own destruction, they had worked like men possessed. A deep pile now lay, heaped where they wanted it. At the bottom, layered neatly, higher up, haphazardly and then finally tossed on randomly when their patience had ran out.

Studiously and with fierce concentration, they had laid down the fuses required for the job, checked them, doubled checked them, trebled checked for luck and terror should it fail, or worse only work partially, causing only minor damage and leaving them with insufficient power to complete the job. Next, they dug out a little ditch to shield themselves from any debris, planted the detonator firmly in the middle in case it would slip or anyhow lead to some sort of inconceivably unlikely disaster. When that was done, they all stood for a moment, stared at each other in a sort of disbelief, before remembering to twist together the wires properly between the detonator and explosives, to run the detonator electronics self-test, to check the explosives for water damage, to check fuse integrity one last time, to make sure the fuse-explosives connects were all properly secured, to set up the video cameras with their individual live links, to record their statements of responsibility and reason for any future viewing public, to check the fuses one last time…

"I think that's enough, now." Aaron said.

"We still have an hour and a half to go," Frank said.

"Yes, but we don't want to push too close to the deadline, do we? It's too risky. So, you've checked everything, right?"


"So let's blow this thing already."

They clapped their hands over their ears. And tried to simultaneously shut their eyes against the flash of the blast, and to open them to catch the Wall's fall. Aaron shook his head with a smile. Giddy as children, it seems. He moved over to the detonator, tightening the last wires which had been left loose for the sake of safety. With a sigh, he flipped up the protective cover on the main switch, prepared to fire.

Frank checked his watch.

"Hey, maybe we need some decorum for this. Like a countdown."

Aaron looked at him for a moment, a confused expression is his eyes.

"All right, then. Ten."






"You aren't meant to say five," Frank interjected. "It sounds like 'Fire'."

But Aaron, now visibly quaking with impatience, had already went on.




He moved his finger over the button, trembling over it. The assembled rogues squeezed their heads between their hands with greater desperation. They took a collective breath in, and looked to the Wall. Frank did not join them, but stared instead at the finger, the finger that wished to be the cause of it all.


He heard what the others did not hear, a quiet shriek go through the universe, through every fibre of his being and the world's being, a scream, a signal of alarm and warning that shook him, that silenced the noise of the evening birds, that hushed the rushing traffic in the distance, that moved outwards, ever outwards, past the dense darkness that hung as the skies, to the watching stars. He wanted to say something, but there was no time to do so. Madness, madness.



Click. Click.


Nothing. Not even a puff. Aaron's eyes darted around, and Frank felt his sinking heart fall. The others warily got up, hesitantly removed their hands, looked to each other, mumbled. Someone began to laugh.

"Freaking hell."

"I hear they made some advancements, but I've never expected them to make silenced explosives."

Aaron was not laughing. He did not even smile.

"I thought you checked the fuses."

"I did, just minutes ago."

"Then go check again. And we will redo the detonation." He said, in a half-hidden fury. "And this time, I'll come with you."

Wordlessly, they picked up their torches and tools, clambering slow out. Scanning his companion, Frank saw a bulge against the man's belt, saw his hand brush against it again and again, until at last he covered it with his jacket, and stared back accusingly.

"What are you looking at?"

Frank turned away, and pretending not to have heard. With slow, plodding steps, they moved through the wasteland. A cool night, without rain, but without stars, either. But for the small patch of torch-lit land in a cone before them, they could see only blackness, as though the bomb had killed the world not the Wall, and they were wandering in oblivion. But there was the wire, the thin snaking wire which they followed, swept over with testers. There where the shapes, indistinct, stories forgotten, which loomed up in ambush, diminished with resignation. There was the uncertain ground beneath their feet, with jagged rock and sudden sink-holes. There were the beeps of the tester. And there was each other.

"What the…"

And there was the wire's abrupt end.

"What do you make of this, Frank?"

He looked over the wire quickly, picked it up in his hands, bent down with torch in hand to examine the break. Pointing downwards, the cone of light from the torch became brighter but at the same time smaller, so the world of darkness grew and was ever more oppressive. He shivered at a sudden coldness in the world.

The wire ended with no warning, no sign of an impending termination. The plastic sheathing squeezed together, the copper inside sharpening to a jagged edge, a broken end. The same on the other wire. Scanning around, he saw footprints arrive and leave. His spot of torchlight chased them, but they disappeared into harder ground.

"The wires have been cut," he said.

There was the crunch of crumbly rock as feet moved to his back. Taking a quick glance to his rear, he looked to see Aaron move his hand to his belt pouch, pulling his jacket aside. Another crunching step, a spray of tiny pebbles, and he had moved to his direct rear. He heard a click.

"This isn't what it looks like," he said.

But he was already closing his eyes, the ellipse of brightness before him cropped away into the eternal gloom. He wondered if he believed in a god, whether there was something beyond, but know that god were all long dead.

"What do you mean?" Aaron said.

There was the ping of a shot next to him, the crash of thrown rocks returning to the ground. Almost an afterthought, the bang of the pistol which fired the supersonic bullet. He fell to the ground, instinctively looking for wounds, any wounds, any wetness or blood. The ground was full of moisture. The earth itself had been wounded.

But Aaron was upright, unafraid. His words were calm, as though he had trying to defuse an argument, not as though a hollow point had just hit the ground next to him.

"Hold your fire, soldier."

A man walked forward, cradling a weapon in his hands. The man was young, terrifyingly young, thin and short, his face hidden in the darkness, his form defined by the glint of light off gunmetal. He brought the gun up to his eyes. Squinted to remove his fear.

"Put your hands behind your heads!"

"Don't you know who I am?" Aaron shrugged.

"Do it!"

"Or what? You'll shoot me? Give me your name, soldier."

Frank cringed from the look in the young man's eyes.

"Private Durden."

"Well, Durden, you have no idea what damage it would do to your career if you are to shoot a colonel. I can tell you, it doesn't do much good. So run along now, and stop troubling us."

Frank could feel it now. Durden would be hearing the voices in his head now, the voices telling him these were enemies, enemies he had to kill. And against them, there would be the pleas of other voices, other screams, telling him that as high ranking officers, he had to obey them, had to protect them… The noise would be growing into a cacophony, a crash of silence noise.

The soldier stood still. Frank held his breath. The universe waited. Possibilities hung in the balance. Would the Wall fall, or would he fire? Something was need to tilt the scales.

It came as a relief, a spewing expulsion of breath.

"He's got a gun!" Frank shouted. Frank screamed at him. Frank got up, charged at Aaron, trying to wrestle the man's arm away, to point it to the sky, to the ground, to anywhere else. Aaron looked directly into his eyes, and let go.

The pair of pliers lay, slightly warm, in his hands.

Durden fired. He heard the wet, sickening, exultant thud as it struck.

But Aaron was away. He was running, limping but still running. Leveling the gun, slowly tracking, the young soldier fired again. And again. And again. Little bangs, barely audible thuds, flashes of flame. Screams, cries…

Methodically, Durden lowered his gun, and started to run after his prey. Frank stopped him.

"He is going to set off the bomb himself. We need to get out of here, fast!"

They ran, ran as fast as their feet could take them.

Ran towards the bright lights away from the Wall, the lights which hung in the air, which buzzed with unloading men.

Ran along the ruins of what once was alive.

Ran away from the Wall, which was dark.

Which was bright.

Frank jumped into a slide across the ground, grabbed Durden and dragged him down with him. He pulled his hands over the back of his hand, trying to blot out the pain of the noise which seemed to go on and on. Rubbed his face into the rock, trying to find sanctuary in the dead ground. But to no avail.

He turned around, and saw a message written in fire. The long arc of the Wall made red, glowing, filled with yellow light. The world was ending, had ended.

The blast of warmth ended. But the image of the Wall was burned onto his retina, and when he closed his eyes, allowed himself a few tears, he still could not help but see it, see it burn and burn and burn.


"The Wall is unharmed," they said.

Durden was among them. They smiled, as much as the Inhibitors allowed them to smile, filled with the happiness of victory. Around them, the rogues were being taken away, their materials seized, and cars were taking off, departing to pick up the others. Camera sprouted on spindly tripods, flashed and panned. People approached them, trying to catch him smiling, to catch his exhilaration at what was surely a victory for the books.

Much rogue manpower deployed. Many rogues sacrificed. Much information falling into their hands. All for nothing, nothing at all. The rogues have been proven to be an ineffectual force. Soon, they would be all defeated, all dead or captured. Safely neutralised. Safe enough to be deleted, to be forgotten as one more of those old, obsolete bogeymen. Just as everyone expected.

He didn't play their game. Somehow, it felt more like a defeat.

But it didn't stop them trying. When the majority of them were gone, Durden came to join him.

"Looks like you're a hero, then. Probably visible now live in a dozen or so states."

And would Kyra be watching?

Seeing the lack of a response, Durden saw fit to continue.

"In any case, thanks for saving my life from that monster. That is, thanks on top of everything else."

He give him the pliers, looked on solemnly as Durden handled it.

"Wow. Thank you so much… I really don't want to be shot by this."

Frank suppressed a giggle, and then stopped. Soldiers do not do sarcasm. Durden was handling it very carefully indeed, angling it carefully so as not to orient it in certain directions, carefully stroking its length.

"Give back the gun," Frank said.

Durden handed back the pliers, and he shoved it into a pocket.

Durden thought the pliers was a gun.

Durden also told him the Wall was unharmed.

November 2004

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