DANIEL THOMAS ANDREW DALY
Panem rebuilt the world after society crumbled, and then the districts failed the capital, and a new world emerged. But the world embraced the old ways again, which the fall of society in the first place taught had never worked. And so the Judgment of Air came, long after the Judgment of Water, and the Slipstream was born........
'You're a Sky-Flyer, Owens. It's all you're good for.'
The big black man took his cigar out of his mouth, spat on the ground, and grinned at Ben Owens.
'Just like my daddy,' replied Ben Owens. 'Flying the Slipstream, Bruiser. It's what's in me blood,' said Ben, waving his hand in a flying motion through the air.
'I have 5 aces,' said Bruiser, laying down his cards.
'5 aces,' replied Ben. 'And here I thought you could only have 4 aces in Poker. Must have misread them rules.'
'The money's all mine,' said Bruiser Baxter, and started raking the chips towards him.
'Not so fast,' said Ben, grabbing Bruiser's hand. 'Royal flush. Read em and weep. Beats your paltry 5 aces.'
'Shit,' said Bruiser, and threw down his cards. He turned to the weedy looking fellow next to him. 'You said these cards were fixed proper.' The weedy fellow, Jack 'Snake' Samson shrugged. 'Sorry boss. They were.'
'Not as well as mine,' replied Ben, and took all the chips. 'I'll be cashing these in at Diamondstar Casino at the end of next week,' said Ben. He took a chip and bit on it.
'Oh, they are real all right, you son of a gun,' said Bruiser. 'There's no cheating around here,' he said, and glared at Jack, giving him a shove.
Ben put the chips carefully into his backpack, and hoisted it onto his shoulders, while Snake whispered something into Bruiser's ear.
'Looks cold out,' said Bruiser. 'And it's late. Sundown soon enough. Maybe you should stay the night. Hire a room, and we can booze it up and sing dumb songs on Snakes banjo.'
'Tempting,' replied Ben. 'But I'm not sure if my loot will last till morning,' said Ben, patting his backpack. 'Think I'll get going.'
Bruiser gave Snake another shove. 'He's not an idiot.'
'It was worth a try, boss.'
Ben shook his head, laughing softly at the two hoodlum's antics, and nodded at the bartender of the 'Golden Glider' tavern, before ambling out the doorway, in the cold autumn afternoon. Reaching his flyer he looked to the west. He still had a decent hour of flight left in the day, and he was probably about ready now to start his trip back home. It had been a fruitful few weeks, flying the Slipstream, doing rogue work for the rogue kind of guy he was. Bounty Hunter at times, Gun for Hire, loose cannon, repossession man, lost relic recovery, even saviour to struggling communities from time to time, if the price was right. Almost a hero. But don't let anyone ever tell you Ben Owens, son of Matt Owens, was anything approaching a hero. He wasn't. He was, as Carl 'Bruiser' Baxter said it, a real 'Son of a Gun'. And he had a pretty fast draw as well. No, he was no hero. At least that is how he viewed himself.
'Boss man. Do you love me?'
Ben turned to the voice, as he was just about to get into his flyer. It was the redhead teenage girl again.
'Look, lassie. I can't help you, ok. Winter's coming, my backpack is full, and I gotta get home to my cats, you know. Their dryfood only lasts so long sweetie, and I don't want em hunting Kildare's canaries again. That really pisses him off.'
'You're famous around here,' said the girl. 'They all know Matt Owens son. He was a hero. I know you are just like him. I can see it in your eyes.'
'I'm no hero,' replied Ben, and got himself into his flyer. The girl came and stood at the window, and knocked. He wound it down. 'You still here?' he asked her.
'I'm begging you, Mr Owens. We have nobody else to rely on. The marauders come from the north, and they take our harvest every year. This year, if they come again, we'll have no harvest, and we'll be eating bark and prickles again.'
'Kildare knows a decent prickly pie,' said Ben, grinning. The girl stared blank faced in reply. 'Look, saying I help you, and I'm not saying that, what's in it for me? You know, money talks,' he said, rubbing his thumb against his fingers.
'We can't pay you much,' she said. 'But. But I can offer you.....,' she said, and looked down, pointing her palms at her body.
'Don't say that,' said Ben. 'Nothing's that bad. Look, here's what I'll do. I'll head back home, but drop around in a few weeks or so. Make sure I get here before summer harvest and all. It's still months away.'
'Jonathon says if we don't prepare now, they will be too much for us,' said the girl.
'And who's this Jonathon?'
'Head of our community. He talks to the wind. And it talks back. Says we need you. He's sure of it.'
'I'll bet it does. So many crackpots think the wind is the answer. Just a lot of hot wind as far as I am concerned.'
The girl looked at him with a helpless look on her face. 'If you don't help us, we'll be done for.'
'What did Byron say,' said Ben. 'Before he put up dad's tombstone? That's right. 'Should have looked before he leaped.'
'Your dad lept to his death?' asked the girl.
'It's a long story,' said Ben. 'And we never found the body either. But 200 feet into the bottom of a waterfall. No way he could have survived.'
'Why a tombstone then?'
'One way or another, after a few months we knew he wasn't coming back. He was dead, or had found a new life. So his best friend put up a tombstone, and we had a wake. Traditional like you know. It's what I'm thinking I might be headed for if I take on this contract.'
'We can pay 5000 credits,' said the girl. 'I was told to tell you that.'
'Not much, but I can tell you aint got much. Ok, get in then. Take me to your leader.'
The girl jumped with glee and raced around to the other side of the flyer, getting in the passenger seat, and giving Ben a hug. 'You are already my hero,' she said.
'And hopefully I'll live to tell the tale,' said Ben, as he started the flyer, and shortly it took off, flying into the gradually setting sun, leaving the shanty town behind him, soon headed north to the mountains, and the community in so need of help headed by another likely Avatar by the name of Jonathon. Another dirty job for Ben Owens, savioiur supreme.
'It's up at the base of those mountains,' said the girl.
'About an hour from here,' replied Ben. 'But its just getting too dark, and a storm is coming. We'll have to put down for the night.' Ben glide down, and brought the flyer to rest in a clearing, getting out and stretching. He grabbed his camping gear, and looked at the girl, who was still sitting in the flyer. 'Well, the bears aren't scaring you now, are they? Come on, you've got nothing to fear in these parts.'
The girl, seemingly reluectantly, got out of the flyer and followed Ben a short distance away, where he pitched his tent.
'I'll gather some wood for a fire,' he said. Stay near this torchlight.' Ben set down a torchlight near the tent, and the girl got in and looked up at him anxiously. 'You'll be fine sweetie. I promise.' She just nodded.
Ben set to gathering wood from nearby, muttering under his breath about what he had been roped into, soon his arms full with a bundle of firewood, and returne to the tent. The girl was gone.
'For heaven's sake,' swor Ben. 'Where the hell has she gone?'
'Ladies business,' replied the girl, coming back into the light.
'Right. Well the lady can set to and get this fire started, seeing as she's not so afriad after all.'
She took his wood and very shortly, and quite professionally, had the fire going.
'I see you are no amateur. Must have completely underestimated you,' said Ben.
'I know how to survive. But these can be rough parts. When I came down from the community I passed through here, and noticed various figures about. They didn't look too friendly, so I hid a lot, and kept to myself.'
'Probably nothing to worry about,' said Ben, and climbed into the tent next to her. But he looked around the woods, and repeated to himself, 'probably nothing to worry about.'
'Anyway, what's your story. And you haven't told me your name,' said Ben.
'Rose. I'm Rose,' she said. 'I came out with a shock of red hair, and mother felt the name appropriate.'
'I can figure that,' said Ben. 'You'd make any Irish girl proud.'
'What's an Irish girl?' asked Rose.
Ben looked at the lass. Of course, she was a new generation. They didn't really know back that far anymore, about the days before the convergence. The old world was dying, and being forgotten. A more primitive way, perhaps, had replaced it. But the world of the Slipstream? Well, he liked it, and perhaps it was just the way it should be.
'A world before the convergence,' replied Ben. 'Dad had some books. I inherited them. This is the Earth. It was all different back then.'
'The, Earth? What is the Earth?'
't's called a planet, Rose. It's sort of like the moon, only bigger.'
Rose looked up at the moon. 'The Earth is like the moon,' she said. 'But they have much longer days on the moon. It takes a whole month for the day to change.'
'You are observant, I'll give you that much. Not sure if it works just like that, but never mind. Anyway, enough chit-chat. Time for shut-eye.'
Ben turned over, and pulled a rug over him in the tent, and settled down to sleep, while Rose continued staring at the moon.
'Do you have – a woman?' Rose blurted out.
Ben went silent for a while. 'Sort of, well, hell, lots of them.'
'A mate?' asked Rose. 'A permanent partner. Jonathon teaches that when we sort ourselves out its best to find a permanent partner. Sort of nature's way.'
'Does he now,' replied Ben. 'I guess I see the point in that. Mom and Dad stayed together till the end when it came right down to it. Even though she said she'd leave the rogue a million times. Never did but. I think she loved him.'
'Because they shared such a wonderful child,' said Rose.
'Yeh, right,' said Ben. 'Look, shoosh now, and get some sleep. We'll rise early.'
'At our home, I'm not taken with a man yet,' said Rose. 'But I'm now old enough. 18 last spring.'
'Fascinating,' said Ben.
'I'll have to take a man one day,' said Rose. 'Do my part in the world. Bring new life when life must come forth. Jonathon says its the way of things. New life will come when it wants, and old life must get old, die, and rest in the shadows.'
'Life is a rebirth cycle,' said Ben. 'Sort of what I think.'
'Something like that,' said Rose. 'I think God has a plan for the dead though. There is probably a renewal.'
'They call it heaven, sweetcheeks,' said Ben, turning over. 'Where good boys and girls go when they die. Mom drummed that into me when I was young.'
'And where do bad boys and girls go? Asked Rose.
'Hell or something. A place without hope,' replied Ben. 'Never got the full story.'
'Ben, what is heaven like?' asked Rose.
'A lot happer than this place,' said Ben. 'This world is rough and full of characters. Don't get me wrong. I like that. Fit just right in. But it gets old at times, and sometimes when I look in the mirror, and pull out a grey hair from my head, I think I'll be grateful when this is all over. And I can settle on the clouds and sing with the angels.'
'God speaks the wind through the voices of angels,' said Rose. 'Jonathon taught us that. They are the songs of angels, the wind.'
'Crazy wackos,' said Ben under his breath.
'No, it's true,' said Rose. 'I know it's true. Its why the world was made new with the angels, and why the Slipstream now exists. To teach us properly. Jonathon says so all the time.'
'This Jonathon sounds like a hell of guy,' said Ben.
'He's an Avatar,' said Rose. 'And he is wise. A shaman of the soul he calls himself. But he knows the secrets of the Slipstream. Nobody understands its secrets like Jonathon.'
'Ok, already. Now sleep.'
Rose finally lay her head down, and soon enough she was snoring softly, while Ben gave the moon one last look, wondering if a day on the moon really lasted a month, before laying his head down for the final time, and searching for sleep.
'Now where the hell has she gone? Damn woman. Can never sit still.' Ben got of the tent, and looked at the risen sun. It had blown, and rained during the night, but that was all gone now, replied by a bright day, with an unusual autumn heat in the air. He took his gun, and surmised she might be looking for a wash. He had noted a river neaby when they were landing the previous evening, so headed in that direction. After a few minutes he emeged from a thicket and found a pond in the river, and there she was, bathing.
'You can't do that all morning, now can ya. Come on, we best get going,' said Ben.
'If you insist,' she replied, and started clambering out of the water. There was only one problem – she was naked, and was not doing anything to hide that fact. He eventually turned around, and said 'I'm not looking. Get dressed.'
'I don't mind if you look, Ben,' she replied.
'No. But mum would,' said Ben. Rose shrugged, and started dressing. As they made their way back to the campsite, Ben started. 'You know, it's not exactly the kind of thing a maiden who is hollering for deliverance should do. Goin around naked in the forest and all. No telling what dangers could lurk here.'
'But I have you to watch over me. So I am completely safe,' she replied.
He glanced at her. 'You are a crazy kid, you know. Damn crazy.'
Soon enough they had gathered up the tent, and Ben poured water on the fireplace, even though the rain had drizzled out most of it, though there were still some burning embers. Then they returned to the flyer, and took off, again headed north to the mountains.
'Tell me about this Jonathon. Who made him boss?'
'He's always been our boss. The Avatar,' said Rose. 'Every community has an Avatar, a Shaman.'
'Indian is he?'
'What do you mean?' asked Rose.
'Never mind,' replied Ben. After another half hours flying Rose started pointing, and Ben took the flyer down ina clearing.
'It's this way,' said Rose, after they had climbed out. So, leading the way up into the hills, Ben, backpack on his shoulders, sighed at the climb he would likely have to endure, but shrugged it aside. He was doing the right thing, wasn't he? Helping people. Still, even though it wasn't huge, 5000 credits still helped a bit, and could keep him fed at least a year. And there were always bills to be paid.
'So this Jonathon knows a lot? About the Slipstream?'
'First there was water. Of the four elements water judged first. The great flood. But the wind blew and calmed the waters of the flood, for wind was the second judgment, the second of the 4 elementals.'
'Obviously,' said Ben, looking up at a baloon near the top of where they were headed, blowing in the wind. 'I see a guy up there,' said Ben.
'Old man Hobbs,' said Rose. 'He's on lookout. Taken the job ever since his partner perished. What he lives for. He takes grog up there also. He deosn't tell people, but we know.'
'My kind of guy,' replied Ben. They continued up the steep sides of the mountains, and soon entered a ravine. There were shacks and huts all around, and Rose started waving at people, who gave her a warm smile, but looked cautiosly at Ben.
'You needn't worry, Ben. They know you are with me. Why I was sent – to bring back a hero.'
'I'm no hero,' said Ben.
'This way,' she said.
Soon they were coming into a cave opening in the mountains side, and a lady, dressed in ornate clothing, approached them. 'Rose,' she said, and put out the palm of her hand face up. Rose toched her hand with her own palm, and they embraced. 'Can Jonathon see me now?' Rose asked. 'I have found our saviour.'
The lady looked at Ben. 'He'll do I suppose.'
'Gee, thanks,' repied Ben. 'Glad to be of service.'
The lady looked Ben over, then excused herself. A short time later a silver haired man came into sight, and approached them. 'Rose, you have been successful I see.'
'Yes Avatar. It is Ben Owens. Son of the famous Sky Flyer. He has agreed to our terms.'
'5000 is all we can offer, really,' said Jonathon the Avatar. 'But you can stay a while once the situation is resolved. If you need somewhere to live, the wind will welcome you here.'
'I'm fine,' said Ben. 'You're no Indian,' he said.
'What gave you that idea?' asked Jonathon.
'Shaman of the soul, according to Rose here, replied Ben.
'Oh, yes.' Jonathon chuckled. 'Elaborate term from my studies. It impresses people. You can go now Rose,' he said, waving Rose away. Rose bowed, but reached out and touched Ben's arm. 'I am forever in your debt Ben Owens,' she said.
'Come with me Ben,' said Jonathon. 'I want to show you something.' Ben followed Jonathon up through the cave, and soon they came out near the top of the mountain, which had a view of the ravine community below. The wind was blustering strongly – the Slipstream. 'This is the heart of the Slipstream. It's epicentre in many ways. We hear from the wind, here. It gives us the knowing of the doing to be done.'
'Where do they come from?' asked Ben.
Jonathon turned, looking northwards. They come from the other side of the moutnains, but they enter through were you came in usually. They come in numbers, 30, 40 of them. And they take our stores, and they rape a woman or two, and leave. They don't kill, but they threaten that they will lest we comply.'
'They come armed?' asked Ben.
'Daggers and swords. But their leader has a rifle. The only one we'd ever seen with them. Ammunition – difficult to get these days unless your a lawman.'
'The settlement keeps a tighter grip on dwindling supplies,' said Ben. 'Not as many manufacturers now since the convergence. The old things are being consumed.'
'And the new life, that is what is replacing it. These marauders – they are a natural thing. But their time will go. The wind is the second element, which blows away evil, and lets it perish.'
'How many man do you have? And capable women?' asked Ben, looking down into the ravine.
'We are children of the Slipstream. We are not warriors Ben Owens. We don't need to be. But we need you, to combat our oppresors, and destroy the flame of oppression in them once and for all.'
'The flame of oppression needs to know how many fighting men you have,' said Ben sarcastically.
'About 30 able bodied men over 20, and the same in women too. They can all defend themselves if they have to. But we are peace. It's when we learn that, in the end, when the fourth epoch passes, that paradise will finally be restored.'
'Save the dogma,' replied Ben. 'They come at harvest?'
'During the summer months. They come, they take, they leave. It's been the same for many years now.'
'I see,' said Ben, surveying where they were. He looked directly at Jonathon. 'You will need to defend yourself this time. If they don't come to kill, then we'll have to embarrass them like. Teach them a lesson they won't forget.'
'What do you have in mind?' asked Jonathon.
'Lots of ideas,' replied Ben, and looked down at Rose, in the ravine, who was looking up and waving at him.
And winter came.
Ben was in the cave, and Avatar was teaching.
'This book,' said Jonathon, holding up a bible. 'It had shadows of truth. Shadows of reality. They were elaborate passions of a people serving the power, but they were mostly delusions of grandeure and hopes for impossible dreams. The wind came, after the flood, and at the end of the age, in the convergence. And that is the reality which judged the world. The wind. It was not prophets of doomsday, and promises of messiahs,' he said, looking at Jonathon. 'They were catchphrases to keep the people in line and to keep them happy. To appease the masses. It was just – religion. Just a way of controlling the darkness which always opposes us. But it is not the Creators will for the world to have a thousand years of glory, but to slowly redeem this world, through the four elements, elements spoken in the heart of Genesis. One element, then another, then another, then another. And then, when men have learned their foolish pride does not work, and Babel settles down and realizes it is just a city, and nothing more than that, then we will have paradise. And truly have returned to Eden. This heaven, I don't know if its real, and I don't normally speak of it, but Rose has asked questions. We go to shadow, to sheol, that is the truth of the dead, It is an end to struggle. Future love paradise is a vanity of the soul. But the promise of a return to Eden, at the end of our long rest, that is what the wind whispers to me. That some way we will return to Eden, in the fulness of time, when we have learned more properly to be – human.'
Jonathon touched the bible, and withdrew from the audience and the woman, dressed in ornate clothing, known as Miriam, signalled that the meeting was over.
Some sense,' said Ben to Rose, who sat with him in these gatherings. 'Didn't sound as crazy as some of Byron's spouting on fundamentals of faith.'
'The elders say he speaks true. Of what our world is like in the reality of spirit,' said Rose.
'Come on,' he said. 'There is still filling to do. Those sandbags won't fill themselves.'
'No. They won't,' said Rose, and stood, following Ben out of the cave. They had begun preparing, defensively, for the marauders. Traps of various kind, booby traps as they were called, were all over the ravine and leading up to it. And defenses had been built and were in place to ward off the maraduers. It had been a busy 6 weeks, but Ben ran the program with Jonathon, and they would be ready, one way or another, when harvest came. They came down to a pit of sand near the edge of the mountains by the ravine, where hundreds of sandbags had already been filled, and still more, in Ben's plans, were needed. He hadn't said what they were to be used for yet, but Rose didn't question. Rose began filling again, and Ben would hold the sack as she filled it, them taking each other's job in turns.
'What we need, though, is oil,' said Ben.
'And that we can't offer you,' said Jonathon, suddenly appearing, with Miriam in tow.
'Jonathon. At the citadel they have oil in plenty,' said Miriam.
'Don't speak of Babel,' retorted Jonathon, frowning. 'They were what brought the convergence. We will not rely on them again. Haven't you learned anything from all I've taught you?'
'What is the citadel?' asked Ben, as he held a sack which Rose was filling.
Jonathon sighed. 'Relics, of a bygone era. There was a woman who was here, when I was young, and she came from the citadel. It was her home. The world did not and does not know of it, but they are the powers that be of the old world, the ruling elite, that maintain their decadencies still.'
'What was the woman's name?' asked Ben.
'It escapes me,' replied Jonathon. 'But the citadel will not help us. They are inward looking, and protect only themselves. They had a leader, Cornelius, who knew my forerunner. The prior Avatar visited the Citadel once, and when I was young taught me well of its lavish way and disdain for the peasantry.'
'And they have oil?' asked Ben, eyebrow raised.
'In abundance,' said Miriam.
'Quiet Miriam. We will not ask for their help.'
'Well it sure as hell would,' said Ben. 'Oil makes fire, and the kind of fire I want needs a lot of oil.'
'You'll have to make do with the lttle we have,' replied Jonathon, and looked at Rose, then turned and walked away.
Ben reached out and grabbed Miriam's shoulder, who turned to look at him. 'You know the way? To the Citadel?'
'Come Miriam,' said Jonathon, still departing.
Miriam turned to walk and follow after the Avatar, but turned back and whispered, 'I'll not betray Jonathon's wishes.'
Ben stared at the two as they left, then looked at Rose, who was looking up at him. 'Keep shovelling, Rose,' he said, but turned and looked at Miriam once more.
'Can we get drunk again,' said Rose. 'When we're finished here.'
'We weren't drunk last time,' said Ben. 'Well I wasn't. You, that much I'm not sure about.'
'Oh, I think you knew my state,' she said grinning. 'You took severe advantage of me.'
'I didn't hear the lady protest,' replied Ben.
'I'm lucky I'm still a virgin with Ben Owens around,' she laughed, and threw some sand in his face.
'I can take care of that right now,' replied Ben, and grabbed her, as she let out a scream of joy, the two of them soon wriggling in the dirt.
Up above Jonathona and Miriam were looking at the two revellers from the mouth of the cave.
'You should let me show him were the citadel is. If he needs oil, let us get him some oil. We must do whatever we can?'
Jonathon looked at her. 'And that has always been how it has been justified. Doing whatever we can. No, I won't have it. Haven't we learned anything as a people.'
Miriam bowed her head, and said, 'Of course. You are right.'
As she left to go inside the cave Jonathon watched Ben and Rose rolling around in the pit, and looked up at old man Hobbs in the baloon. Oil. The Citadel. Had they learned nothing? But at the back of his mind he was having second thoughts.
“We're not really what we were,' said Hobbs, offering Owens another sip from his flask. “We worshipped the wind in my day. Now, try as Avatar might persuade otherwise, the people are going back to religion and formality. The younger ones, they have dreams. Can you believe that? They say the world has changed and they want to make something of it. All sorts of ideas about building houses and things, and rules on barter. That Miriam, she even has a book of prayers to God. I mean, God is not what we worshipped. The creator brought the wind for us to understand and know. They even want to build motorvehicles from the old run down machines. Navigate the world the old way. Ways which never worked.'
'The romans liked em roads,' said Ben, taking a sip on the flask.
'And look what happened to them,' replied Hobbs.
'Tell me about it,' replied Ben. 'How far can you see with that telescope?' he asked the old man.
'Far enough. The plains opposite. I can see if people are coming, and I watch most of the day. Cept when I'm,' he raised his flask and smiled.
'You'll have to cut that down come harvest. Your're fundamental to this all succeeding. We need warning, and quickly, when the marauders approach. For our plan to work we need to know exactly when they come.'
'Will do,' said Hobbs, saluting Ben.
'Good,' replied Ben. He took the telescope and looked out from the basket of the baloon to the north. The wind was blustering as usual, but he could see well into the distance. If Hobbs eyesight was good, and he stayed alert, they would have their warning in time.
'So, were you ever married?' asked Ben.
'I was. Technically still am. But she's out there – somewhere,' said Hobbs, waving his hand in the air. 'She knows were to find me if she wants me. I don't care.'
'Didn't work out huh,' replied Ben.
'No. Not really. It did. Theoretically still does. Said she was happy with me, but wanted to see the world. To taste the Slipstream. She got a flier like you, and wisps here and there. Goes to the settlement a bit, and talks with a councillor there. Wants the world to change, and do something about what the convergence taught us.'
'And what did it teach us?' asked Ben, still looking through the spyglass.
'That the old ways didn't work, and if we look to the wind we'll find the new answers.'
'That's my life. Like daddies. Looking to the wind,' said Ben.
'It'll change,' said Hobbs. 'Beaureaucrats will return. Legislators. Regulators. Suits. They'll come back, and make rules for everything. Probably even flying the Slipstream will be governed.'
'Over my dead body,' said Ben.
'Don't doubt they'll do that too. If that's what it takes.' Hobbs sipped on his grog, and stood, and pointed. 'They come from around there. You'll see them coming out of those lump of trees usually. On horses, and often a jeep thing their leader rides. He's got a rifle too. Shoots it a bit, but they mostly use blades. They'll kill – if they have to. Marauders who take what they want, and damn the consequences.'
'We'll be ready for them this time,' said Ben.
'Your daddy. I knew him,' said Hobbs. 'He came here once. I met him. Only briefly. Had a fella with him. We sent him into the skies.'
'I know,' said Ben. 'Old family tales. My mother was with them. Sort of. She was a lawman. Well, a lawwoman. But she fell for daddy in the end.'
'Doesn't suprise me. He was a cocksure sort.'
'Runs in the Owens blood,' replied Ben. 'Now give me a shot of that.'
Hobbs passed him the grog, and they drank, and passed away the day.
Around dinner Ben and Rose were eating in their shared cave dwelling. Rose had her belongings there, and was wearing a top with roses on it. 'We go to the market at Cloverfield every year,' said Rose. 'We sell produce there, what we have, and buy a few things. It's not as big as the Settlement, but you'd know that.'
'Industry still alive,' said Ben. 'Bits and pieces of it here and there. You see it in Cloverfield. The old world still going, so they say. We have a Slipstream which runs around this planet, but some people in Cloverfield, man, like they haven't yet noticed. The convergence came and went and it was business as usual.'
'Bloodlines,' said Rose. 'There are different types of family in this human race, and the blood has knowledge and culture in each bloodline. It's all in the psyche of the bloodline. Avatar says so. And those Cloverfield people are just doing what they gotta do to survive. How they make sense of it all.'
Ben looked at her, bit on his bread roll and said 'Spose.'
'Your bloodline is special,' said Rose. 'Something in it. Something different. Something about the Owens that stands up at times. Your special Ben.'
'I ain't special,' he said.
'Everyone is,' said Rose. 'In their own way. The people who fly the Slipstream. They are all special. They take the new world since the convergence and they take the imagination the new world offers and run with it. And you do that more than most. You love it up in the Slipstream. Where you come alive.'
'You got that right,' he replied.
'But we all have our job. Miriam. She's faithful to Avatar. She hangs on every word he says. But he couldn't live without her and her influence. That's what makes Miriam special. Everyone has a talent. Everyone does something which nobody else does quite as well as them.'
'Avatar teaches this?'
'And what do you do that is special?' he asked, smiling at her.
'Find heroes,' she replied.
'I ain't no hero,' he said again.
They finished their meal, and Ben kipped down on his rug, and while he listened to Rose snore softly, he thought on the bloodlines of the Owens clan, and chuckled. 'Rogues and hoodlums, that'll be there lot,' he thought on his seed, and then looked at Rose, and went silent. But you never knew what other plans life had in store for you.
'Mission four,' said Lawkeeper Rogue Caldexter.
'Mission five,' replied his fellow Lawkeeper Gennavere Dion.
'I don't know. I lose count,' replied Rogue, scratching his head, and looking at his notepad. They were on the outskirts of the Settlement at flying fields 4.
'It's mission firve,' said Gennavere. 'In early January we had a small task in the Capewood Territory. Just ran an afternoon. Illegal hunting.'
'I remember,' said Rogue. 'Didn't put it in my notes.'
'I wrote the report,' said Gennavere. 'Too minor a concern to you.'
'Right,' he said, and took out a flask of alcohol, taking a sip. 'Hey, it's after mid-day,' he said to Gennavere, who was giving him a stern look. 'This Ben Owens. I missed the Judges statement of offence. Wasn't paying attention.'
'Minor issues, but they've been building for a few years. The Jury has decided he needs a year's hard time.'
'Love the hard time,' replied Rogue. 'Breaks the bastards down to where they should be.'
'In this brave new world,' said Gennavere.
'It's gotta be going somewhere. Humanity has to be going somewhere,' said Rogue. 'Otherwise we party hard, shoot up, and hit the dirt. Gotta be some sort of point from the Grand Creator.'
'He always has a plan,' said Gennavere. 'Mankind learns it through the epochs, and we improve as a species.'
'Breeding,' said Rogue.
'What's that?' replied Gennavere.
'God is breeding us.'
'Explain,' she said, taking his flask off him and putting it into his coat pocket.
'He sees the bigger picture. Got a big whiteboard wall with 'Humanity Development Project' in big texta letters at the top, and he's got every millennia covered so far, and has specific jobs and tasks to breed improvements into humanity every millennia.'
'Fascinating,' said Gennavere. 'Possibly blasphemy in some shape or form, but fascinating. God is not that trivial.'
'Oh, he loves us, and all things work for good,' said Rogue.
'Shut up and get in the damn plane,' replied Gennavere.
The Lawkeepers boarded the small flying plane, and got it shortly up into the skies, headed for Hell's Kitchen, the last known dwelling place registered of the Owens family.
* * *
.........................Rose turned to Ben. 'You know, life goes on now, in a better way. The creeps have been dealt with. What now Ben Owens?'
'Marriage. I guess,' said Ben.
Ben was flying in the Slipstream later that week. He noticed a peculiar looking airship, and flew up to it. It was larger the closer he got, and it had a hangar. It seemed to be floating in the air. He came inside the hangar, and landed. He got out and looked around. Advanced technology, futuristic, special. A figure came out. It was Saruviel.
'Well, how's life Ben? I'm your architect, in a sense. The architect of Earth Jubilee. This world is part of a multiverse, a functioning reality which is part of a greater thing. I'm angelic. The name is Saruviel. You won't remember this later, by the way. Life will return to normal when you fly out. Just thought I'd meet you and chat about your recent heroics. They were impressive.'
'Thanks. I guess,' said Ben. 'Angel huh?'
'Child of Destiny,' replied Saruviel.
'And who exactly are the children of destiny?' asked Ben Owens.
'Now that is a long story,' replied Saruviel of Eternity, child of God.
Epilogue to the Angels Saga
'It's a template,' said God to Metatron, taking the chronicles of the Daly's, and putting them up on the bookcase in the new library extension of home, one by one. 'the Chronicles of the Children of Destiny' are a template for future works. How life functions in foundational ways. Life will go on, and I will in time request a further template or two for giving us a history to go through, in variation of course, but this one is complete, and I've had enough. Need a smoke and if Riri fancies a bloke, well I could use a poke.'
'Very funny, Wolfric,' said Metatron.
'I was just joking,' replied the Theophany of Almighty God.
And so life came to a concusion of sorts for the children of destiny, a Jubilee celebration, a completion of a template, and a completion of a tale. And what the future holds? As it was in the beginning, and is now, and ever will be, world without end, and time will only tell. AMEN.
THE END OF THE ANGELS SAGA