Archive for October 10th, 2008


Cleansed by Fire, Part 19

For the previous installment of this story, click here

Or, visit the Cleansed By Fire portal page for comprehensive links to previous chapter installments and additional backstory and information about the novel.

Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 4, Requiem’s Eve (continued)

The Grid message from Enn was an unwelcome surprise to Lyseena after she had successfully navigated the minefield that was Gyles xec-Juris’ visit earlier in the day. The work on Maree’s slipchair and her sniffer device were already yielding fruitful leads, and the message from Enn was likely nothing more than a distraction. It would confuse things; just in case, though, Paulo was on the task of seeing if it might produce any leads itself.

Currently, she was seated near her two new senior logistical communications specialists, Meryl Dobson and Kristine Juris—who were gamely trying to fill the void left by the arrest of Adam Devan and Elisya Sutco. Neither Meryl nor Kristine had the innate talent of their predecessors to juggle multiple data and communications streams while also picking out suspicious traffic in the Grid and the CommNet, but they were talented in their own ways. They wouldn’t be able to measure up to what Lyseena had been expecting before the Devan and Sutco arrests, but the performance wouldn’t be far off enough to put any plans in jeopardy. Nor, frankly, would the difference be enough for anyone but her, her two remaining admin officers and perhaps Ather to notice.

And, at least with two women paired up this time, the possibility of another fornication-related mishap was about as low as it could get, Lyseena noted mentally.

Scanning the initial reports again for the raid that had just recently been completed, Lyseena smiled slightly. The data that Maree had gathered from the flash-dumps on her sniffer had allowed them to get a decent fix on the location of at least one Secular Genesis listening post in the core city of Nova York. She had sent Kevan out to lead the templar forensic team and quick-strike team on that effort. A building-to-building search had been coming up empty until the forensics team finally entered a small chapel in the area and found shielded and hardened comm cables hidden behind a wall in the basement. There was no other equipment, but clearly the priest overseeing that tiny prayerfront had been hosting terrorist communications and monitoring equipment at some point.

Not only that, but the heuristics and coding teams working on Maree’s chair had unravelled many of the identifier codes that would tell them who had been receiving flash-dumps and what information had leaked out. In addition to the names of known cell leaders and field officers of Secular Genesis—like Paradigm, Stavin, Witta, Coulter, Brevis and Gloria—there were some new names they hadn’t seen before: Kylie, Nemesis and Thomas.

Thank the Trinity that Maree had disabled the swiper apps Secular Genesis had in that chair, or we wouldn’t have anything like that to go on.

She activated her linkpad and called Ather, who had just gone into the admin suite to check on Paulo’s progress.

“Greetings, Lyseena, I’ve only been out of your sight for 20 seconds and you already miss me? I’m touched.”

“Hardly. I have plenty of interesting company here in the Pit. Anything interesting from the strike team?” She had put Ather on the task of eavesdropping on her own people. It didn’t make her feel good, but with so much happening right now, she wanted as much pure, raw data as possible, before any field marshals started tidying up their reports to her. Kevan couldn’t watch that many people all at once all alone.

“Stroude Juris should be lectured about making misogynist jokes about his field marshal behind her back,” Ather said. “And the forensics team needs some reminders on watching entry points when they go into an unfamiliar building. Oh, and the strike team just found a datastrip in one of the drawers of our treasonous priest. Child sex vids on it apparently. Kevan just made a joke that the priest was clearly very good with children.”

“Kevan is going to catch hell from me for not already having called me about that datastrip.”

“Don’t be too hard on him, Lyseena; he only just a chance to see it two minutes ago. He’s already breaking away from the rest of the team so I imagine he’s about to contact you. Well, back to tutoring Paulo on terrorist psychprofiles,” Ather said, signing off.

Finding a single datastrip with child pornography on it actually disturbed her, because it seemed too convenient. She wanted all the leverage she could get on the priest to extract information from him, but if the porn was a plant by a field officer, that could cause more problems than it might solve.

She answered her linkpad the moment Kevan chimed her.

“Kevan, that datastrip you are about to tell me about either better be 100% legit or the person who planted it better know about data-synching up and down so that it matches that priest’s personal computing activity…”


Gregory had delayed approaching Domina’s door for several minutes, so that he could relay Ghost’s information about Pope Tommis to a couple members of his personal staff. But he also knew he was simply putting off his inevitable encounter with Domina xec-Academie. He would have to interact with her and deal with her because too much was at stake not to. But he also knew that more so than most of the people he had dealt with in diplomatic and personal matters, even the ones who were dangerous, Domina was going to be a huge drain on his energy.

She was able to push his buttons very well, and she was able to push multiple buttons at once, and that was a skill that would put him on the defensive more than he liked.

Finally, with no more reasons to delay the inevitable, Gregory stationed his two personal guards, Miko Tanabi and Gregor Alenko, outside the door, grabbed the MobileEye from Gregor, and touched his finger to the chimepad.

Amaranth would have been a better person to deal with Domina, but she’s not here. She might not even be alive, the Peteris thought, and this not only added to his distraction but made him think of Gregor, just inches away, whose brother might also be dead—or on his way to Mars, with or without Amaranth.

The door slid open as Domina responded to the chime, and Gregory stepped into the lioness’ den.

The scent of tobbaq smoke drifted through the air, some exotic blend that had hints of sandalwood and musk in it, and a trace of something sweeter, perhaps cannabis. Domina herself was lounging on a sofa in a red silk robe, drawing in another lungful of smoke from the red lacquered nicstick perched between her fingers. She regarded Gregory with a smoldering gaze and then a little smirk, patting the wanderlust that was sitting on the floor, with just a hint of moisture on it that suggested it had been hard at work satisfying her in the minutes before Gregory’s arrival. Another wanderlust was perched on one of her shoulders, engaged in a more sedate task of kneading the muscles between her shoulder blades. On the table, a bottle of Crystaleen, with two flute glasses next to it, both filled halfway with the bubbly azure wine.

It’s never ceases to amaze me, thought Gregory, at the differences between the Terran Catholic Church and the UFC. They worry about fornication, contraception and abortion and turn a nearly blind eye to the other vices, while we think nothing of sexual freedom but fret about gambling and substance abuse.

Gregory sat the MobileEye down on a table to his left and it unfolded its four insectile legs from its saucer shaped body, climbed up to the wall to what it perceived to be an optimal location, extended its six visual sensors, and commenced recording.

Domina waved the two wanderlusts away and patted the cushion on the sofa next to her. “Gregory, you brought a MobileEye. How wonderful that you are not only going to take me up on my offer but record our liaison for posterity. Tell me, are we simply beaming to a live audience, or will this be for you to show your wife later before bedtime?”

When Gregory didn’t move, she stroked the cushion of the couch sensually and tilted her head. “Please, Gregory, sit with me.”

“The seduction routine would likely work better, Domina, if I had any reason to believe you truly lust after men with griphandles for waistlines and perpetual bags under their eyes,” Gregory said. “I’ll stand, thanks.”

“Oh, Gregory, you have your special charms, believe me. You…you aren’t afraid to sit next to me, are you? What possible threat could I hide in this flimsy gown?”

“Domina, I came to speak about…”

“Are you perhaps afraid that I have some microinjector built into my fingertip and that I might infect you with some nanos that will rewire your brain to obey my every whim? Or perhaps you fear I might have a nano-enhanced metabolism that allows me to project aphrodisiac pheromones to sap your will?”

“The labtechs would have told me if you had nano-anything by now. In fact, they informed me that you have an unusually high level of anti-nano enzymes in you.”

Domina shook one finger back and forth as she released another plume of smoke into the air. Gregory noticed that her eyes seemed darker and more intense than normal, and he wondered what was in the nicstick besides tobbaq—perhaps something a good deal more potent than cannabis. “Naughty, naughty, Gregory. Unauthorized examination of my fluids or tissues? That violates Article IV of the Conventions of Asylum. But back to your heartrending desire to stand. Maybe you’re afraid that I have some exotic substance in my tobbaq smoke. Maybe something that will render you drowsy and helpless but that I am inoculated against, so that I might take you hostage. Or simply have my way with you.”

“If you have a complaint about Article IV, file a grievance with the Mars Civil Authority. Assuming you can prove we looked at anything and that I didn’t just bluff you…”

“Or maybe,” Domina said, ignoring him, “you are concerned I might know the long-lost eros-bondage arts of the ancient Amber Matrons. That I might brush a finger across the back of your hand with a precise kind of pressure, activating some cluster of nerves in you that immobilizes you with a rush of ecstatic sensations, while I whisper words in your ear at just the right the right pitch and timbre to lock your nervous system into sexual slavery to mine.”

“Domina, can we dispense with the fantasies?”

She laid the nicstick down on a sidetable and lifted a glass of Crystaleen to her lips, which were painted a dark burgundy, with some sort of dark, almost black gloss on them. She took a sip, set the glass down, and draped an arm over the back of the sofa, letting the gown slip just enough to reveal part of one breast.

“Yes, fantasies, Gregory. But are they my fantasies I’m weaving here? Or yours?”

“As much as my ego loves the attention, Domina, matters here are grave, and I need to know…”

“But of course, I know why you really won’t sit down. Your bulging, overheated manhood would just make sitting a bit uncomfortable right now.”

“What makes you think I have an erection beneath my vestments, eh? Perhaps I’m just bored of all this.”

“At least you were honest enough not to outright insist you don’t have one. Gregory, every tiny nuance of how you are standing tells me I’ve aroused you. And I can smell the desire on you. Turn off the fucking MobileEye if you must, so that there’s no record, but get off your high pedestal. The wanderlusts always leave me feeling a bit, underused. Finish the job and who knows what I might tell you?”

“Domina, it is clear that aside from your insanely high level of need to gratify your appetites, you have done your damnedest to sex up your apartment in preparation for my arrival. Is our entire conversation going to run along these lines?”

“Gregory, I’ve spent a great many debits to furnish this apartment, and you just cannot imagine what I’m going to do to the room next door—I wish I had been able to find the time, because it will be a wonderland of pleasures, I assure you. I’m just getting comfortable, dear Peteris, and the last thing I’m looking for in a man right now is conversation.”

With that, Gregory turned around and headed for the door, the MobileEye scuttling to catch up, and he thought: The only thing I want right now is a very cold shower, and an interrogator to put this woman through the paces.

The cold shower would be easy; the interrogator, sadly, would remain a pipe dream.

“Don’t be a stranger, Gregory,” Domina purred as he left the room. “And next time don’t be so frugal with your libido. And if your wife survived Uhuru, do please invite her along to watch me pluck your strings.”

(To read part 20 of this story, click here.)


Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley


Jeff Bouley

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October 2008

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