Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Stephen Dee
1:00 AM 13th September 2023

Blood Perfect : Part Seven

First Episode
Next Episode
Latest Episode
Image by Joshua Woroniecki from Pixabay
Image by Joshua Woroniecki from Pixabay
arKhana turns to inspect the bird. ''It does this sometimes.''

''Turns a blind eye?''


''D'you think there are any actual prisoners in this here jail?''

arKhana smiles. The led-gel walls are showing the interior of an old chapel. The glazed fourth wall looks out into the Huguenot Quarter, towards the shanties. They are a few storeys up but still relatively low to the ground. They are about level with the roof of one of the stands in the closest sports arena, about a hundred cubits distant. The cavern is lit for daytime. There is no one on the roof at this hour and no A-G platforms are close. No one can see in from the street below. The Davy-bird is unconscious. They have no audience.

arKhana gets up from the floor and kicks the bird under Flick's bed. His own bed is over by the opposite corner. Flick's is close to the glazed wall. arKhana puts his hands down the front of his pyjama bottoms to have a think. He peers at her.

''You stink,'' says Flick.

''I'm supposed to be unsavoury,'' says arKhana. ''This is the Hierarchy's idea of a Temperance man. Drug dealer. I play along.''

''Typecasting,'' says Flick. ''If you ask me.''

''That's funny, Rux,'' says arKhana. ''I don't remember you being funny.''

''Flick. Felice Rausch now. We knew each other in serious times.''

arKhana nods. ''I didn't think they'd actually bring you in,'' he says. ''Do I get a hug?''

''Take a bath and I''ll think about it.''

''The Rux guFlecht I knew was never that fussy.''

''Well, you had a full set of teeth in those days.''

arKhana goes and lies on his bed. ''Didn't I just.''

Flick goes and lies next to him. She takes his hand.

''It's good to see you Rodan. I couldn't believe it was really going to be you.''

''Mmh. Too much of a coincidence. D'you think someone's playing us?''

''No doubt about it.''

''Who? Temperance asked for me, the Hierarchy asked for you... Do you think Arbitration are in on it as well?''

Flick gestures to the led-gel walls. ''They seem to be.''


''jeBruille indeed.''

''Do you think they're all playing each other?''

''They usually are.''

''And Paradigm?''

''Yeah, them too, at a guess.''



''You have a plan?''

''Nope, you?''
''Survive, I guess.''

''Seems sensible. You have a line to Temperance?''

''Yeah. And you have a line to The Hierarchy?''

''OK. I suppose Paradigm can look out for themselves.''

''They usually do.''


Beneath Flick's bed, the Davy-bird sputters into life.

''Time to get into character,'' says arKhana.

Flick moves to her side of the room as the led-gel walls revert to mirrors.

''And you're supposed to be what? My pimp or my dealer?''

''Take your pick,'' says arKhana, rattling a little bottle of pills. ''My sponsors can provide a top-of-the-range experience either way.''

''What's it going to do to me?'' she asks, pushing the pill about the palm of her hand with her pinky.

''What colour you got?'' says arKhana from over on his bed.

''Sort of an off-white?''

''What, limon? Or is it more grassberry?''


''Oh, you'll lurv that,'' arKhana croons, for the benefit of the Davy-bird. ''That's right up your street.''

''Good for a guilty conscience is it?''

''The best, my dear, and for a conscience as guilty as yours you should take two.''

''Surely Penitence offers the truer path?''

''Oh no, my dear. Penitence won't do you any good at all.''

''I have to say, your patter's pretty fucking cheesy.''

''I'm a drug dealer, darling. You weren't brought to me for a lesson in how to improve your dialogue.''

''Why was I brought here?''

''You fucked up. You took your audience for granted. Lied to them! No-one cares about you or your storyline any more.''

''So basically I've sunk into the pit of depravity?''

''You got it darling. Bad breath and bad acting.''

Flick holds up the pill. ''Fair enough.'' She needs to garner her support from the progressive side and, as everybody knows, progressives love a fuck-up.

''Five thousand likes,'' says the Davy, as though surprised.

arKhana winks at her across the room.

Flick nods, swallows the pill. ''How long will it last?''

''It'll take maybe half an hour to kick in,'' says arKhana. ''That's worth bearing in mind because you won't be able to tell.''


''It usually lasts a couple of hours, although it's kind of a shallow come-down so you'd be better writing the day off.''

''Will I be addicted?''

arKhana looks at the Davy-bird, which zooms in on him. ''Boomboom isn't addictive.''

Yeah right.

Boom she hears, somewhere in the distance. Boom. Like someone working the mines. Flick looks at the Davy-bird. It seems to have gone to sleep again. Detailed depictions of drug use by former matriarchs could be very controversial. It is enough to allude to it then leave her alone to her depravity. Someone has clearly thought this through. She gets to her feet. The led-gel construct remains mirrored but it shifts perspective, somehow, like it's anticipating her movements. It makes her feel slightly queazy.

''What's going on with that thing? Are we online?''

''No. Could be the Boomboom interacting with The Mainframe nanites. The Mainframe will record your trip in case there's anything usable.''

''For me or against?''

''I suppose that depends on who you've got working on your behalf.''

''What else will it do? The Boomboom?''

''People react to it in different ways. It works on your imagination.''

''Mmh. And Gamechanger? It's based on the same thing right?''

''Yes. Gamechanger's the next logical step. It goes deeper.''

''How deep?''

''All the way, apparently. Right back into the communal subconscious.''

''So it's being framed to us that this Chemist took himself back into the communal subconscious - physically transited into Gilbert Space. Like he evaporated.''

''You think that can be done?''

''I was working on a similar type of tech before I left. A much earlier iteration.''

''And since?''

''A lot of things have happened since.'' Flick looks into the led-gel. She walks over to the wall, half way to arKhana's position and looks herself in the eye. She can see arKhana in the mirror to her left, trying to look as though he isn't interested. The Davy-bird stirs. She waits for it to get up to speed but it falls back to sleep.

Her image in the mirror swirls to static and her insides feel the same. arKhana sits up. He stares at the construct which resolves into a luxurious, sun-soaked interior. Any chamber in the mountain with light like that can only belong to old money. Even the principle players of the Temperance foundling clans are on a waiting list for real estate that overlooks the caldera.

''Careful,'' arKhana says. ''This might not be in The Mainframe's control.''

What impresses Flick about the scene is its accuracy. Although she can't see what the view from the screen portal looks like, the curtains and soft furnishings are taken direct from her past. ''Fuck,'' she says, wanting to cry. A younger version of herself walks into the room.

''Shit,'' says arKhana, as a younger version of himself walks into the view.

''You were a looker back then,'' says Flick.

The young arKhana walks deferentially towards the young Rux guFlecht. As the drug takes hold, her imagination takes over. She doesn't need the construct - it is following her this time, not leading.

She is not in the cell anymore. She is not old. She is in her chambers looking out onto the caldera. A young and good-looking arKhana stands in front of her. It is their first meeting. She will be, what? five-sixteenths? He is a little older, over a third she reckons.

''I've been treated well, thank-you,'' says arKhana. ''Forgive my travelling clothes. I've come direct from the Amethyst Veins.''

''Think nothing of it. You look rather fetching in leather. What news? I hear Marshal utThalé's annexed the Druvian Shaft.''

''Along with Furier and Heisen.''

''An audacious move. That gives him access to the Euphranium deposits.''

''It does.''

''No one actually believes he'll take the nuclear option do they?''

''It doesn't matter what people believe. It's there now, on the table.''

utThalé's a hardliner,'' says Rux. ''Nobody wants what he wants.''

''There's enough,'' says arKhana, nervously. ''He's raised their hopes with promises of a hidden seam.''

''There are no diamonds left,'' says Rux. ''Trust me, I know.''

''I understand, madam. But even among the moderates there remains talk of a state in exile.''

''How's that going to work? Without an economy to sustain it?''

''We need your help, madam. You have to go to Temperance, broker a deal. Before all hell breaks loose.'
Flick drifts, temporarily back to the present. She needs a lie down. She goes back to her side of the room and her own bed, kicks back, closes her eyes. She can hear the Davy-bird scuttling about, zooming its lenses. She can feel her subconscious popping and squealing beneath her. There's something in there, right enough, the Boomboom, rootling about.


The deal. It opens in her mind like a portal. Rux guFlecht, standing in a glorified bucket, winched down between curtains of bitumen, the smell of it rusty and sweet, overpowering as anaesthetic. She's been taken, hooded, from her lab in the township of Principal, still accessible to a diminishing group of Gnostic scientists, to an enclave Temperance are calling Felt; makeshift home to the Executive and not accessible to any Gnostics at all.

She is wearing the three chromium rings, Lume, Chime and Rhôme, each embedded with a single, uncut, conscious diamond. Lume made herself known to Rux's ancestors four lifespans ago and helped to find the other two during the intervening time. She doesn't know how many others there are, or who has them but it's a big secret to keep, she knows that much and this secret has been well kept for a very long time. So not Temperance. Temperance are too new, too indiscrete. The diamonds communicate through resonance, touching minds directly through the fields of information which form the substrate of everything: Gilbert Space. Rux once asked Lume why her family was chosen and she denied they were. Rux's ancestor just happened to be rootling around in the muck at the right time and in the right place. In return for their discretion, the family has gained much over the years, quickly becoming one of the seven top-tier families and maintaining that position for four spans. Rux isn't sure about the course of action she's taking but the advice of the diamonds has never failed her and she's not about to stop listening now.

Chime speaks in her mind and the Boomboom reaches out to that day, to the moment of her landing and turns its words into a whole new line of sight, its parallax working not just spatially but through time and the mind's eye. It feels like she's walked into a place with more dimensions than she's used to. Like she's a different kind of being now, one that straddles universes, regardless of gravities and the integument that binds them.

Flick wants to open her eyes, curious as to what The Mainframe has made of this but she doesn't want to break the spell. Instead, she concentrates, immerses herself in this unfathomable newness.


Standing on tiptoe to make the ground come closer, lowering herself from the bucket's ladder to a cobbled floor. The cobbles rise out of the black tar like a spine through skin and she follows a man calling himself Ruthus who has released her from the blindfold. After 50 cubits they step from the path into an A-frame parting the bitumen curtain at the side of them. Try not to touch it says Chime, inside her head and along with the image of her eyes there is an underlay of something her mind recognises as a degree of acidity. It's not going to burn the skin off her fingers but it could be carcinogenic in the longer term.

Ruthus leaves her at the door, where she is welcomed by a rippling piece of meat called Torrance who is to take her to a person of authority. She doesn't mind getting straight down to it? Refreshments will of course be provided. The interior is a sequence of tongues: tongues of light penetrating the gloom from vents like the thousand mouths of Godh; rucked tongues carpeting the walls like stippled lead; smooth bakelite-like tongues where the tar's dried polished; tongues of liquiglass cabling the colour of rainbows. Hung from ceilings, painted holographic tongues lapping at other tongues. Grown from floors, tongues shaped like pillows on lip-soft pedestals with huge, perfectly sculpted pills of Boomboom placed upon them. And, disconnected from these ad-hoc surfaces, this pillpunk Temperance pseudo-sensibility, the whispering tongues of the galleries she walks between, diamonds eavesdropping through her ears and discerning the Executive's real concerns these darkening days. Nobody wants this war. Nobody on either side except, perhaps, for one single nut-job of a Gnostic extremist; beliefs so far gone as to be unrecognisable. A heretic in any tongue and she, a scientist, a woman with barely a spiritual thought in her brain, as close to secular as any pure-blood Gnostic can ever get, is the one meant to fix this. How? Why?

Next Episode