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Tales From The Borderlands, Part Three

The Lobanhaki’s Profile, conclusion
Agent Dominic Leonard contacted the mysterious John Taylor under the pretense of detaining him for questioning about his brother, a major player in the recent disaster. An ambitious superior wanted in on the case, and managed to get in just long enough to ask some pointed questions of the Huntsmen Order captain. His interrogation has been brought to sudden end, with the arrival of two of John’s friends.

Now they must face their most difficult challenge yet- how to proceed without running afoul of those who still are trying to salvage the dying status quo…

"Agent Langley" and "Agent Norfolk" closed the door behind them. Their armor seemed fancier but not fanciful. A custom job, unlike the mass produced equipment he saw the Huntsmen wear. The girl wore robes around it, like those the Elders did, but Agent Norfolk was obviously not an Elder. One word described her: beautiful. A look in her eyes did nothing to dispel that image of her. She might be blonde, but she was not blonde.

Langley seemed a little more distant, but as a former serviceman himself, Dominic Leonard had a hunch as to why. It was obvious in the way he carried himself, subtly there in the way he scanned the room. He kept that to himself.

"Did you bring him?" John asked them.

The question was answered quickly.

"Do you have to ask, Huntsman?" A disembodied voice replied.

The hairs on the back of Leonard's neck stood up. He turned around towards the source. At first he saw nothing, and crazy thoughts went through his head of somebody throwing their voice. Something caught his eye, though. That something ate away at the backround, bit by bit until he came to the insane conclusion that there was somebody standing right before him. Then, in a moment, it suddenly didn't seem so crazy.

That is, as long as he didn't think about it. He stood not much taller than John, and looked half his age. His first impulse was to wonder why they had brought a teenager into this, but as his eyes met those of the young man in front of him, he no longer wondered. The "boy" was dark-skinned, white-haired, and pointy eared, his irises a sparkling amethyst. The armor and robes he wore were like Agent Norfolk's: those of an Elder.

This time, though, a native wore them.

The Elder raised his hand and the two-way mirror behind them shimmered. A moving image of Agent's Norfolk and Langley interrogating John appeared.

"Joel. You're looking very well for a guy who got smacked around by a Nephilim." John marvelled.
"Kebethek tekaubpya. I couldn't have born it to be outlived by a youngster like you." Joel replied, smiling with dully pointed teeth. "So tell me, what did you drag me all the way from the Chekthauf Nughal for?"

"We'd been working a RICO case-" Agent Leonard started
"A what?" Agent Norfolk asked.
"Organized crime-related: Racketeering, extortion, that sort of thing." John explained. "Go on."
"We started seeing some of your people get involved. I suppose they saw the crap that went down here, and told themselves they wanted some of your kind of help." Leonard explained.

He froze for a moment.

"Relax, it's nothing new. Only difference now is they're being more brazen about it. Go on." John said.
"Well, we talked with one of those old SACs out there, and he wanted us to keep all the investigation strictly to ourselves, and let you Huntsmen take care of doing the dirty work."
"Orders I take it you obey to the letter, right?" John cracked.
"Yeah. Just remember, you're not investigators..."
"We're consultants!" They laughed.
John thought for a moment. "What kind of consulting have you found necessary now?"

He laid the photos of the crime scene out in front of them. Messy, like most.

"Morning of February 8th, we show up to do a raid on a Russian Mafia warehouse. We have everthing staked out, the warrants wrapped up tight as drum. We weren't taking any chances, and neither were the folks who were consultiing with us. Long story short, we got our asses kicked. My people and yours."
"I heard about that. You lost some good men. Hmm. These weren't in the database they sent us. This is worse than I thought. What happened here? Both our teams should have been able to handle this."
"That's what they said. It was this Zarrach character. You guys say the Talents usually only have one or two powers. This guy had more. You say that a person can't be a Crafter and a Talent at the same time. This guy was. Plus he had people like him fighting along with them." Agent Leonard glanced towards Joel.
"Borderlanders, you mean. Now I see why you want Jacob Riley on your case." John said, subdued.

Joel made a face. "Was it just Aucethabi?"
"Aucethabi?" Leonard asked.
"Elders. Were we the only ones backing this guy up?" Joel asked.
"They had some of the Ritulmidocha, some Metalheads, and a few of those Neanderthal looking folks with the white hair" The agent recalled, fumbling at the words.
"Aucethabi, Ritulmidocha, Worethewa and Jhems'vahsh. This guy's getting around. That can't be cheap. HQ's about to hear about this. Did you get any names and descriptions for these guys?"
"Not really. I was too busy ducking swords. Wait, there was one name. It was wierd. Like somebody lisping the word circus. Circuth, like that." Agent Leonard explained.
"Serketh." Joel said, accent on the first syllable. A faraway smilecracked his lips, and for the second time that day, Leonard hoped the Elder was a vegetarian.
"So will you carry my request to your friend?"
"I tell you what. Let's carry it together. If I know him well, I know he'll want to judge the source personally, size you up." John suggested. The agent shook his head.
"I don't think my higher-ups would approve of me accompanying you there. I can at least make sure that you're given the preparations you need for your journey to find your friend, though."

John sat there, looking at him. Slowly, a smile crept to his face.

"And if those preparations happen to require you to follow me somewhere?" John suggested.
"I suppose I could swing it. Could remind my SAC of the need to keep our consultants on a short leash. Avoid negative publicity and everything. What is it?" Agent Leonard asked.
"When our people shut down that rogue gate, I had thought for a moment that my days of dancing my way around these sorts of things were over." John shrugged.
"No. You just get to be more brazen about it. Where to, then?"

John looked at Agent Leonard, and decided he liked him.
"Lousiana. Then Padzhir, by way of the Baton Rouge Gate." He detailed.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Convincing his superior was a real bitch, but he told them what he really thought. Too many more raids like the one in the Bronx, and all the progress on organized crime and the drug-runners would be kissed goodbye overnight. He didn't tell them everything. Later he would claim that he was caught up in events- the truth, minus the fact that he decided to be involved- but for now he was just trying to do his own dance around them. It helped when he told them that Zarrach was part of Morningstar's outfit. Nobody wanted a repeat of Hamilton City.

He drove his way out of Shreveport the next day, and past Baton Rouge a few hours later. The gate he was heading to was one of the more sophisticated ones. It was part of a sequence called a gate road. Each gate was an entrance to one world, and an exit from another. You would dive into one world, surface on Earth at the next gate, and then use that gate to enter the next world in the sequence.

What made it more complicated was that each direction had a different sequence. If you went west on the Baton Rouge Gate, you would get a Ocean realm called Sechichalu instead of Padzhir. John explained that it was like a highway that took you to different places depending on which side you exited from. On one side, you'd get the mall, the dealership, and the electronics store, and on the other side, you'd get the neighborhood, the grocery store and the office building, going in the other direction.

So its a gate highway then he asked. John was not amused. John told him not to think too hard about it, but it occured to him that these were entire planets, parallel earths, connected like this. The massive implications of that were difficult to put aside.

He walked past the burnt machinery, the cracked crystals and melted alloys. The shockwave of energy the rogue gate had fed into the system had destroyed much of the technology that these literally gated communities had used to conceal themselves. Since the secret was out, the only likely fate for much of these things was the trashheap. Something occured to him, though, as he approached the gate with his bags on his shoulders. He had seen the high tension powerlines being hoisted onto the towers nearby. His suspicion was confirmed when he saw workers from the local utilities milling around the town around the gate.

Energy. Pure energy. The gates were marked by columns of them, or rather the disturbance in space and time around them. As he walked closer, past the guards and the fortifications, he saw it closer and closer.

The surface of it was like rippling water, a light deep within it. It flowed upwards, defiant of gravity. It was massive, a hundred yards from side to side. He didn't notice when John walked up behind him, carrying a long bundle on his shoulders. Langley and Norfolk arrived, both carrying walking sticks. Runes seemed to be written on the surface of Langley's staff. He dressed normally, as if he were going on a hike in the appalachians, not a trip to another world. Joel arrived there the latest, and he spoke with a man in Huntsmen armor. That should be Tony Mendelson, the Huntsman Lancer (something like a lieutenant) that John brought along on his order's behalf. Agent Leonard had tried to get another agent on this team, but his superiors had deemed it unnecessary, if he was only there to help prepare the Huntsmen to pursue the suspect.

The others filed through the shimmering surface of the gate and disappeared into the liquid stillness. the agent was nervous about crossing over, so he hung back. A hand came down on his shoulder. It was Langley, a serious look on his face.

"No more doing things the easy way." he said.

They walked through together.

Tales from the Borderlands Omnibus

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at April 21, 2006 10:20 AM
Comments
Comment #142127


Why is this being posted? What does Stephen have on the blogmeister? Does anyone care?

Posted by: John Back at April 21, 2006 12:46 PM
Comment #142138

John:

It’s an allegory. You might think of it as a kind of parable. Stephen is using the medium of science fiction to explore themes common in our society and various methods for dealing with them, such as the problem of terrorism. Though I will say that the political aspect may have lost a bit of focus in this particular episode due to the necessity of expanding on the characters and setting.

Posted by: Jarandhel at April 21, 2006 1:54 PM
Comment #142155

As someone who believe all wisdom comes from old episodes of Star Trek, it’s a good idea. But it might play better on screen.

Posted by: Schwamp at April 21, 2006 3:11 PM
Comment #142159

John Back-
This is not a non-fiction work to be sure, but I’m trying my best to insert the politics in here. In previous episodes, I dealt with Racial Profiling with John’s rather unique ethnic identity getting him stopped in an airport, and Issues of ethnic and social assimilation vs. social prejudices and exclusion in the one after that. Here, the issue is bureaucratic resistance to reform and their territorial behavior when dealing with other, perhaps newer organizations.

This is no small issue. It was one of the major points of the 9/11 Commission’s final report. People weren’t sharing information. Progress was mostly being made informally, and folks were being punished for doing what was really the right thing.

Good fiction writing and soapbox mounting are two things that while not mutually exclusive, can be fairly difficult to pull off at the same time. I intend this work to comment more than it lectures, to subtly work sympathies rather than beat people over the head with lessons to learn. I figure the political angle can be properly expanded upon in the commentary, and I can highlight the political issues I worked into the text and subtext.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 21, 2006 3:21 PM
Comment #142162


http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0061054887?v=glance

Posted by: Betty Burke at April 21, 2006 3:34 PM
Comment #142422

Stephen is using the medium of science fiction to explore themes common in our society and various methods for dealing with them, such as the problem of terrorism.—-$$$—- Just as all good Democratic demagogues demonstrate in real life as well as privately, publicly,personally,and politically perplexed, perversely persistent,pessimistic,poetical propaganda.Its clearly easy to read that this type of thinking is not of this world. Some-where out-there do-do-doo-do, do-do doo-do DO-DO-DOO-DO.That has got to be some great smoke man keep up the good work.

Posted by: angry white man at April 22, 2006 11:48 PM
Comment #142425

This is no small issue. It was one of the major points of the 9/11 Commission’s final report. People weren’t sharing information. Progress was mostly being made informally, and folks were being punished for doing what was really the right thing.

Hmoom! I wonder who built that wall?????

Posted by: angry white man at April 22, 2006 11:56 PM
Comment #142454

AWM-
I come by having this kind of vivid imagination honestly, thank you very much. I’m not too big a fan, as I’ve said repeatedly, of beating people over the head with things in a story. Having read so many, taking that kind of authorial license to form the world to make my character right all the time strikes me with a certain falseness. After all, the real world doesn’t work so conveniently.

That doesn’t mean I don’t try and express my point of view. It means I try and relate what about the real world argues my point. The wildly different course of two brothers, for one thing. One becomes a terrorist, the other a cop. Bin Laden’s family could sympathize on the matter of a family member gone rogue. At the same time, it’s not so cut and dried with John, as being somebody’s brother might bring that kind of suspicion on you legitimately.

The real world works in that ambiguous way. People do things with good intentions, like trying to keep somewhat warrantless intelligence searches away from cases that could be compromised on technicality, and things like this happen. That said, two things were also true: the so-called wall was one part of an inter-agency rivalry that did not differ from one party’s control to another, and that the continuation of polices dealing with the wall fit under such things, John Ashcroft himself continuing the policy.

I think that’s what we sometimes tend to miss here: that reality doesn’t fall along party lines all the time, maybe not even much of the time. There is much that both parties have failed to do, and perhaps the focus on partisan politics has lead us to watch our own parties less closely than they should be watched.

Sometimes we’re too scared of letting the other party win to complain about what our leaders are doing. The fear distracts us. I think the main difference between the parties now is the degree to which we let ourselves be distracted.

The Right has gotten to the point that it has allowed indicted officals to remain part of the government rather than risk a Democrat getting into office. One can claim that a Democrat could be worse or equal in corruption, but that’s could be the case with anybody. The truth is, the Republican Party has fed an atmosphere of fear about the Democrats, about liberal agendas, about Democrats being weaklings and traitors for precisely the reason that it so scares the voters into failing to carry out their duty to their own interests.

I hope my people don’t screw up the opportunity that such across-the-board failure has given them. If they do, they deserve to be punished by the voters. The time has come to view behavior as more important than status. If we fail to do that, then any status as majority power will deservedly fade away. But most importantly, if we fail to look past political consequences to those of the real world, things like 9/11, Katrina, and other predictable disasters will simply happen again and again.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 23, 2006 7:58 AM
Comment #142492

I could have far more respect for your work if you stay away from the far reaching si-fi and stick with the facts and the truth.what you call across-the-board failure I call steadfast determind persistent leadership of a kind that is needed now and in the future did you hear osoma today? George said this war will go on for years after he is gone and it will. I much injoyed what you just written in answer to me than in your last 3 tall tales thank you and good luck.

Posted by: angry white man at April 23, 2006 1:48 PM
Comment #142509

AWM-
As a writer and a would-be filmmaker, I’ll tell you straight out: there’s realism, and then there’s what’s real. The difference can be surprisingly great.

It’s actually a great interest of mine to try and take the authentic level and pattern of detail that realistic work can borrow from the real world, and give that to Science Fiction and Fantasy. As I researched more and more into realistic fiction, I realized that much of it was only realistic in the sense that mystical or super-scientific forces weren’t at work.

Even in a realistic movie, people will leave out swaths of detail, edit many things the character is doing down to bare essentials, and let deceptive edits give the audience the impression something “real” is going on. Some once said Cinema is lies at 24 frames per second. They’re right. The Camera Always Lies. (apologies to my media professor at Baylor)

Literary fiction is even worse. There’s no telling how many times WWIII has broken out, how many times authors altered the details of what a weapon could do, or simply failed to do the research. As long as people wrote things in a way that felt real, though, people don’t typically mind it. Facing all that, we have to consider that those looking for that kind of truth in fiction will only have moderate success.

The question of the internal truth of the piece is a different story altogether, and one that touches on the great dilemma of communication. I don’t see steadfast determined persistent leadership with Bush. What I see is him and his party entrenching themselves beneath a cover story of such. What makes people like me skeptical is what I generally try to avoid in a story- a mismatch in the intended sense of the story, and the sense that actually arises.

This is why two-thirds of the country thinks Bush is doing a terrible job. He keeps on telling a consistent story, but events keep on unfolding negatively, despite promises and other kinds of cheerleading on the matter.

It doesn’t help that you guys persistently try and turn every question of practical import into an exercise in subjective relativism. When complaints come up about armor, you folks spin like crazy and throw vitriol towards the media for bringing it up. When concerns about the wars course come up, with both Americans and Iraqis dying every day in terrorist attacks, we’re brushed off as defeatists. When we take issue with the administration over the reasons we got into this war, specifically the evidence that Iraq was a threat, you folks act like it’s really nitpicking to be concerned.

In short your response to failures is to get your stories straight, not take on the role of setting the actual things right.

One reason I think fiction like mine can be of value is that sometimes we can get so use to rationalizing something in its context, that we have to step back and examine issues apart from an emotionally charged and confused situation. Sometimes we compromise our values in ways we’re not even aware of, and it helps to reassert and revive those values in another setting.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 23, 2006 3:11 PM
Comment #142582

>>One reason I think fiction like mine can be of value is that sometimes we can get so use to rationalizing something in its context, that we have to step back and examine issues apart from an emotionally charged and confused situation. Sometimes we compromise our values in ways we’re not even aware of, and it helps to reassert and revive those values in another setting.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 23, 2006 03:11 PM

Stephen,

Any work of fiction; any analogy, must first pass the test…i.e., be interesting and readable. I tried. All though I have never ageed with awm about anything…I must admit your sci-fi leaves a lot to be desired.

I have agreed with your analysis of politics and events, but if your goal is to break into Hollywood…do a better job of convincing your audience, or learn to wait a mean table…

Posted by: Marysdude at April 23, 2006 9:34 PM
Comment #142583

Steven the media is the vitroil and they are the ones that spin like crazy 24 hours a day the left invents the news they don’t report it and to this day what has the democrats and the liberal media gotten done for the american people outher than spin and a outlet for it’s continued support for the democratic party’s policy of coordinative obstructive treason in a time of war.Along with there blanttant open hatered for conservatives and the Bush administration and the troops in harms way. your body armor hipe is a lost cause they just increase and shape the charge to where no amount of armor can can withstand the attack. it’s just loading our men down with defeatists liberal political pandering. Least us not forget the american civil liberties union and it’s radically secular supporters litigating to destory our country from with-in.Go see United 93 over and over again like you did with faharenheit 911.

Posted by: angry white man at April 23, 2006 9:41 PM
Comment #142595

Marysdude-
I’m not sure why everybody thinks this is science fiction. It’s actually more along the lines of a fantasy. Other than that, I’m just trying my best. What’s wrong, really? What gets in the way of your enjoying it?

AWM-
You’ve committed the number one sin of politics: you’ve bought the propaganda wholesale. You’ve taken seriously all the excuses, rationalizations and ad hominem arguments, and let that form into a point of view that has little to do with the real thing.

The irony may be that the Flight 93 movie might steel people’s hearts against the terrorists, even as it makes them seem more human. Inhuman behavior from one you expect to be inhuman is no where near as horrifying as inhuman behavior from somebody you can otherwise understand.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 23, 2006 10:42 PM
Comment #142602

>>AWM-
You’ve committed the number one sin of politics: you’ve bought the propaganda wholesale. You’ve taken seriously all the excuses, rationalizations and ad hominem arguments, and let that form into a point of view that has little to do with the real thing.

The irony may be that the Flight 93 movie might steel people’s hearts against the terrorists, even as it makes them seem more human. Inhuman behavior from one you expect to be inhuman is no where near as horrifying as inhuman behavior from somebody you can otherwise understand.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 23, 2006 10:42 PM

Stephen,

You’ve said it all in this post response to awm, and you did not put me to sleep while you said it.

I, personally, think you have a wonderful mind, and an analytical penchant, but you overdo it with your ‘fantasy’ or sci-fi, or whatever you call it.

I’ve written a few short stories and a number of poems as well, but I would not drouze out the readers of this post, in order to ‘seize the day’, so to speak…dis yam politikz, and you can’t get around it.

Posted by: Marysdude at April 23, 2006 11:37 PM
Comment #142609

OOOmy how could I be so blind I surrender you win.You are so more superior to me a poor humble botton-feeder but then again it’s not about me. If it was only that easy your party would still be in power —-$$$—- I, personally, think you have a wonderful mind, and an analytical penchant—-$$$—-wipe the brown off your nose you lock-step boot licker.Now you all get back to Bush wacking because it’s the only political action you can take to keep yourself’s erect.

Posted by: angry white man at April 24, 2006 12:29 AM
Comment #142634
You are so more superior to me a poor humble botton-feeder

Yes. He quite obviously is.

Posted by: Betty Burke at April 24, 2006 3:38 AM
Comment #142654

AWM-
You can be so blind because you believe yourself superior. If it seems like I believe my opinions are better, well that’s because I do. But I acknowledge one crucial thing: Just because I think what I believe is true, doesn’t make it so. Moreover, just because I believe something doesn’t mean that other people have reason to believe as I do yet. I have to be a persuader then, not a conqueror laying control of territory he’s won.

The Republicans have won the majorities in this country, but that will last only as long as the consensus in this country tolerates that control. That party has done much to confound the good opinion of that consensus. Maybe you believed the response to Katrina was all that could be done. Many Americans didn’t. Maybe you think the war is going well. Many Americans don’t. Maybe you believe that deficits and overspending are tolerable in this time of crisis. Many Americans don’t.

But whatever they believe, crude, vulgar attack and overboard vilification of folks for holding a different opinion will not succeed in bringing them to your side. I believe politics, if you wish for some kind of change, must be a game of persuasion. The ones who win this game will be those who can convince the otherwise skeptical that their views are closest to the truth.

I think that if the politicians of this country want the respect of the people in general, they’re going to have to have a little of the peacemaker in them. God knows we’ve had more than enough fights over unimportant things. Cooperation between both sides is the name of the game today, especially with our troubles in today’s world.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 24, 2006 8:03 AM
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