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Tales from The Borderlands, Part Two

The Lobanhaki’s Profile- continued
A long buried secret society of magic-users has emerged after a shocking turn of events that left a major American city in ruins, and revealed the existence of thousands of mystical portals. America has a new frontier, a new set of borders, but the people who know it best are the magic-users themselves, and no-one quite knows what to make of them…

John wasn't quite sure he was getting through to Agent Leonard. For a moment he thought the Federal agent might shoot him. After all, a number of the conspiracy theorists and talk radio hosts had circulated rather inflammatory notions about takeovers and sham battles. John knew better. He had been right in the midst of it, seen the streets filled with creatures for whom the word hellish was not exaggerations. He and and his brother had killed one of these monsters, fighting alongside each other for the first and only time in their lives.

He had seen the gate erupt from the center of the city, and felt the emptiness in his chest long before the shockwave rumbled through his chest. The words went through his mind as he watched wide-eyed: I failed. They had failed indeed. His job before had been comparable to one of those Men in Black. He was supposed to discourage and divert investigation from without, discourage members of his society from giving everybody away from within. For centuries they had maintained the balance. Morningstar managed to take that lifetime of carefully guarded secrets and blow it to smithereens.

If John had been in this position a year ago, with a gun pointed at him, he might have lunged at Agent Leonard and knocked him out cold. Then the telepaths from the local headquarters would have come and give him some convincing memory ito cover for whatever the agent shouldn't have known. This time, though, the Huntsmen Order above him wanted their people to be cooperative. John often heard the word pronounced with a certain venom around the barracks.

Leonard lowered the gun, and sat down slowly , careful to keep his eyes on John.

"Sorry if I alarmed you, Agent Leonard." John said with a smile.
"Apology accepted. Captain Taylor. " Agent Dominic Leonard managed. Only the paralysis at seeing John's strengh had kept him from firing the shot. He had seen men on PCP held by those things. Agent Taylor did not seem like he was on anything like that. Then again, you never could tell with these magic users.

"How did you know I..." Agent Leonard asked, when he had his breath again.
"We're born liars, like you said" John explained "So we know them when we hear them."

He went on: "First, I didn't see any of my fellow Huntsmen with you. Most FBI field offices are not foolish enough to go after a magic user without us in the lead, or one of our squads in support. Second, you're interrogating me alone, over a issue just a few hours worth of checking would clear me of. The target's legitimate, though, which means this is not something you wanted me to walk away from. Last, but not least, you used that little code phrase at the end. The man who used that is Edward Merrick. You likely talked to him over the phone, because I don't hear your heart going double time from fear."

"That bad?" Agent Leonard ventured.
"He's a big son of a bitch who carries a sword bigger than most people, wears dreadlocks. But its the eyes that get most people." John explained.
"The Eyes?"
"They're metal. At least the Irises are. Reflective, sort of golden in color." John continued.
"Look, this is all new to me, so why don't we get down to business. I need your help."
"There are channels for this. You got me heading home, haven't given me a chance to call home. I'm sure if you've read my file, you"ll know why I'm not keen on staying here. I meant to scare you, when I broke the cuffs, but I underestimated what kind of guts you had. Why didn't you ask for my help the normal way?"
"Because the Agents in Charge don't want us calling on you folks for help. They don't trust you. Word is, the Attorney General and the President don't like you much, either." Leonard explained.
"That's not news to me. I'm one of the liasons." John replied.
"There are a lot of people who think it's bullshit. Some of the cops I work with fought in the battle here, and they think you folks are getting a raw deal. I told some of them that I had a problem, and they told me to look up Eddie Merrick," Agent Leonard explained, "and Mr. Merrick told me to look you up."

John stood up and paced around the room. He almost corrected Agent Leonard on Huntsmen rank when he remembered that Eddie Merrick had left the Order. It might have been a smart move. The lead of their societies governing council for the Southern United States had died under his protection. Then again, with Morningstar as the murderer, he who had once started a war with the Council. Merrick could have salvaged the career. After all, last time it had taken somebody as powerful as Jacob Riley was to defeat him- Riley's father. Riley's father, even as powerful as he was, would pay the price for that victory by dying in the Nevada desert with Jake still an infant. John reflected that perhaps Eddie didn't want to salvage it, that he was happy to be gone.

"The Huntsmen can ill afford to spare men, and I've got a family who hasn't seen me since the beginning of the Iraq war. Why do you want my help?" John demanded.
"They told me to look for your best warrior. Somebody who knew these worlds you guys patrolled, the Borderlands. Somebody who could track down and catch a violent criminal using your sort of powers, and who could fight toe to toe with them and win." Agent Leonard ticked off the points on one hand.
"They told you to find me?"
"Not quite. They told me to find your friend."

A grin spread on John's face.
"Jacob Riley doesn't answer to the Huntsmen. He answers to himself and God. We don't control him."
"But Merrick said-"
"Merrick told you who could get in touch with Jake. He didn't tell you who could give him marching orders. I know where you could find him, though."
"Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated." Leonard assured him.
"Don't start thanking me yet. If Jake doesn't want to be found, he won't be. If he does want to work with you, he might just find you first, actually."

Just then, the door opened, and in walked a grey-haired gentleman in a black suit. John looked back at him and then back at Agent Leonard. The Agent's look was one of shock and dismay.

"Good Morning, Agent Leonard, Mr. Taylor." the man said
"Captain Taylor," John corrected, " and who might you be?"
"Special Agent in Charge James Green." the guy managed. "I must apologize for the inconvenience concerning the weapon. It will be returned to you in short order"
"That's a great relief, Agent Green." John said evenly.
"What brings you back here again, Captain Taylor?" The SAC asked, as if addressing a gang member.
"I used to work in the Chicago Chapterhouse of my Order. I'm actually coming back to stay. I have to bring my family down from up North, though." Again, that even tone of voice.
"That's somewhat surprising to me. I would think you would not want to come back here, given the trouble. You folks seem to be at odds with the community, and there are many who aren't so tolerant, especially after last months events." Agent Green said.
"Fortunately, I've not run into too many of those kinds of folks."
"You never know. Some folks like their visitors better than their neighbors."
"I've always thought 'love your neighbor' is a good principle to rely on." John stated.

A thin smile from the SAC.
"We've sort of been by ourselves for a while, Agent Green. Many of us want to become part of the broader communities. Most Americans have a head start on us in that, but fortunately, we've found many kind, open places to settle in." John explained.
"I'd expect your people would find the Borderlands to be more virgin territory."
"Yeah, I've been asked that before. First, they're not virgin. People have been settling there for centuries. Second, most people don't intentionally go there, if they can help it."
"Why not?"
"The Borderlands are divergent worlds. Those who stray from the protected areas find themselves changed."
"Changed how?"
"You know the Ritulmidocha, the Elders, and the Padzhiri, right?"

They had been on the news. They were among the most adventurous of the Borderlanders. All were humanoid, but profoundly different. The Ritulmidocha had skin that seemed to be made of soft bark, hair like the fronds of a fern or a willow tree. The Elders were thin, dark-skinned, with Amethyst eyes that could see anything and everything. The Padzhiri were dwarves, pale-skinned, big eyed, scuttling around on the backs of what looked like modified crabs.

"They all ultimately have human ancestors, or were human once themselves. The worlds of the Borderlands shape their beings according to the nature of the world. The roads that run through these worlds offer protection from that, but at the price of one's freedom. Here in this world, in America, we can be free."

A knock came at the door.
The SAC got up. "I'll get that. They're here with your weapon."
Agent Green opened the door. John looked back, a smile on his face. A man's voice came from the door.
"Good morning Agent Green. My name is Agent Langley. This is angent Norfolk. We're with the CIA. We have some matters to discuss with Captain Taylor. Classified beyond your clearance, I'm afraid.

Agent Leonard leaned over, trying to see past the SAC. The moment he saw them, he knew they weren't CIA

Not unless the agency started issuing armor. The man, a tall, mischievious looking fellow with reddish hair had his hand outstretched like he was flashing a badge. Only he had nothing in his hand. He noticed Leonard's attention, smiled. The young blonde woman to his side, similarly dressed, winked at him.

To Be Continued

Tales from the Borderlands Omnibus

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at April 17, 2006 12:05 AM
Comments
Comment #141326

Hmmmmm…okay, you’ve got me interested…

Posted by: Marysdude at April 17, 2006 9:37 PM
Comment #141418

Stephen-

If this is a typical example of your fiction writing, don’t quit your day job. You do a much better job of posting real ideas and solutions. This offering(parts 1&2) is a very poor imitation of some of the writers I happen to admire, such as David Weber, Bob Heinlein, early Bradbury, etc.

I have read both of these postings, and am not really looking forward to another. I really don’t care how it comes out. If you have a point, you should be able to make it in 500 words or less.

Posted by: John Back at April 18, 2006 11:43 AM
Comment #141495

Took me a couple tries but I hung with it. I’d like to hear more about the young blonde woman.

Posted by: Schwamp at April 18, 2006 4:02 PM
Comment #141525

all that crap is nothing to do about nothing says nothing and gives rise to nothing and will never solve anything.

Posted by: angry white man at April 18, 2006 5:21 PM
Comment #141544

John Back-
I can understand matters of personal taste. Not everybody likes Sci-Fi/Fantasy, or my writing in particular. I generally try to be accomodating to that, but such will happen. I just hope it doesn’t happen too often.

It would be interesting to see other writers on this site try their hand at fiction. What concerns me in writing this for a political site is the balance between irrelevance to political matters, and the tendency for political writers to make the story into an egocentric lecture. Storytelling is more about feel than fact, especially since storytelling deals with the way we bind together and remember our experiences. That said, detail is important.

Take the conversation that I have John and Special Agent Green get into. I approached this trying my damnedest not to have Green’s prejudice too obvious. I wanted to suggest it, rather than make it out loud. I wanted people half agreeing with him. Why? Because when characters become mere mouthpieces for the author, the world of the story becomes just a convenient backdrop for the author getting up on their soapbox.

AWM-
Consider that conversation in terms of the migration to the suburbs. You know many civic associations made the sort of polite suggestions to minorities that were made by Agent Green to John.

Schwamp-
She’ll figure in the next episodes.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 18, 2006 6:02 PM
Comment #141848

Hmmmmm, well, different strokes for different folks. Having been away for a few days I found it refreshing and actually ingenious.

I did however try to ignore the prologues. That allowed me to “fit” the story to my own imagination. Also some of the descriptions of players could possibly leave more to the imagination, but I actually look forward to more.

I read it more as a “Planet of the Apes” story than what the epilogue decribed, which is to say more post apocalyptic. Perhaps more idicative of my personal “mind-set” than Stephen’s writing, but I still must give it two thumbs up.

KansasDem

Posted by: KansasDem at April 19, 2006 10:32 PM
Comment #141865

KansasDem
You could say post-apocalyptic, but strictly speaking, it’s only begun in this world. There are other forces at work here, of which I’ve already mentioned a few.

As for the prologues? They’re like the opening crawls in Star Wars, a way to introduce the chapters. I don’t mind if people skip them.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 20, 2006 12:14 AM
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