The Pilot Episode
The near future.
He steps into the spotlight and raises his hands.
The crowd's applause fills the stadium.
'RE-VOL-UT-ION! RE-VOL-UT-ION! RE-VOL-UT-ION!'
The crowd's chanting reverberates, louder and louder and-
He raises his hands. No prophet ever played an audience like this.
The audience falls silent, recognising the gesture.
Overhead, the clouds swirl and eddy in the airstream.
Breaking down, coalescing, reforming...
The stadium looks up, held together in mutual awe, fascination... and perhaps a little fear.
Held together by the will of one man. Like the clouds overhead.
And then... it is done.
The symbol hangs in the sky. His symbol.
The capital R in a circle of cloud.
The symbol of the Revolution.
The crowd is silent... then it cheers.
Chanting his name over and over as he leaves the stage.
He doesn't hear it.
He is Fitz Fortune. He is the Revolution Man.
He is one of the most famous idols in the world.
And one of the most haunted.
The tape pauses as he leaves the stage. Then rewinds.
It pauses again at the formation of the symbol.
_Such talent. Such power. Such a waste..._
She shakes her head. Then turns to her aide. 'Well?'
'After _this_? He was nigh-impossible to catch before... but after that performance...' The aide shakes his head. 'You _can't_ disappear figures like that...'
She sits back in her chair. 'No...? Ever hear of Richey Edwards?'
'Lead singer of the Manic Street Preachers. Disappeared a few years ago. No-one has yet found him... Or there's Jimmy Hoffa, Lord Lucan, Amy Johnson... all public figures of their time, all disappearing without a trace... It can be done.'
'I'll put the request out.'
She smiles. 'Thank you, Mick. I _knew_ I could trust you...'
He slumped back in his chair, and picked up the phone.
'Yeah?.... Yeah, Mol. I _know_ you saw it... Mol... Mol... _Molly_. I made it clear when I agreed. Only one concert. That was _it_. Okay? ...No, I _don't_ care how many girls are going to be crying into their pillows tonight. ...Mol, ticket sales don't _matter_.'
He winced, and held the phone away from his ear. 'Mol... Mol, please. _Listen_. You _know_ I've always seen you as a big sister. Trust me on this. One concert.'
'Mystique. Reclusive. Refuses interviews. Come on, Mol. If _anybody_ can spin this, it's you. Or maybe I should call that Mr. Chesterton, see what he can do with this...'
'Yes, that _was_ low. I learned from the best.' He smiled. 'Yeah, Mol. Love you too. See ya later...'
He let the phone drop to the floor.
He'd already refused all visitors for the night. Going out... no.
'Another night in front of the telly, then.' His face creased into a smile, with little humour in it. 'Some things never change...'
'Get out of the way, brat!'
Laura stayed where she was.
'I'm _warning_ you, you little...'
'*Allison!* Leave her alone!'
Allison sulked. 'But, _Mum_... she's in the _way_!'
Their mother sighed. 'Laura, could you let Allison see the TV, please?'
Laura silently backed up to the settee, a victorious grin on her face.
Hey, when you're five years old, you have to take your victories where you find them.
[Fascinated by this, isn't she?]
[Broad based signals of rebellion, dissent, power, unity... Simplistic, but it works.]
Laura frowned. 'Wha'? Iss jus' one of her stupid idols...'
Laura looked up at her older sister. 'Cammy doesn't like your stupid concert...'
[I didn't say that...]
'*Mum!* She's talking to her stupid imaginary friend again!'
'Cammy's _not_ stupid. She's smarter than prettyboy there...' Laura pouted.
'Laura, let your sister watch her video in peace. All right?'
Laura Tobin quieted down.
Then, with snakelike speed, she reached out and snatched the remote control from her sister's hands.
'Hey! Give that back, brat!!'
She pushed the Pause button, and leaned forward.
The Revolution Man's symbol held in the air.
[Telekinesis. A powerful talent, at that.]
Later, in Laura's bedroom...
'Wha' was innerressing about that vid, anyway? Jus' some spexial effexs...'
[In a sense... The special effects created by a human mind.]
'This isn't going to be one of those dull talks about writin', is it?'
[No...] Cammy said. [Literally, the special effects the human mind can impose on the world around it....]
[Sorry, Laura. The ability to move things with your mind...]
'Like you do?' Laura asked innocently.
Cammy peered suspiciously at the other occupant of their mutual headspace. [Sort of...]
'So he's got one of you around too?'
[Well... That is... Um...How can I put this....]
'Cammy, I'm *teasing*,' Laura said, smirking.
[Why me?] Cammy asked no-one in particular.
[Oh, for Mother's sake...]
'So, what d'ya want with a tellycan?' Laura said.
[Laura, please, _stop_ being so irritatingly cute. *Please*.]
Laura grinned. 'You wouldn't wannit any other way...'
[Get your coat on. We're going out.]
'Where?' Laura asked.
[We have an appointment with the Revolution Man.]
Laura paused as she pulled her coat on. 'Cammy... d'ya know where he lives?'
'I'll ask Allison...'
When you're five years old, the world is a dangerous place.
It _always_ is., Laura had concluded, after studying her family.
But when you're five years old and have a friend like Cammy...
...it becomes a lot more dangerous.
For other people.
The six o'clock news. War. Train crashes. Failure of peace talks.
Yadda yadda yadda. Same old, same old.
Fitz did his best never to miss a minute.
He sighed, and turned up the volume on a piece on flood chaos-
-twisting. pain. Pain. PAIN-
He realised he was shuddering.
-moving. hurting. Hurting.-
Coming. Coming for him.
Another of theirs.
'Not this time...' he muttered. 'This time, I'm ready.'
No bodyguard. He'd got a reputation as a jinx in the business...
...and it was only a matter of time before one died...
Don't think. Don't think.
The pain....whiter, whiter... agony... can't... it's coming...
Stop it. StopitStopitSTOPIT
Rage. Pain. Anger. Terror.
The door opened.
He lashed out.
Something out of nightmare. Dripping with fluid. A grotesque mockery of the human form, built out of metal and slime.
His voice echoed with the power.
'LEAVE. ME. ALONE.'
The power smashed it into the wall
'LEAVE *HER* ALONE!!'
Not... Not him The thing. The thing had ...screamed.
It had screamed.
...in that split-second of white, burning fire, the power scouring his bones...
...there had been a little girl. Barely out of toddlerdom. Muffled in her anorak...
'OhmyGod... What...' His voice seemed to have left him.
The thing stood up.
It raised ...a limb?
...and where it had been, was the little girl.
Crying. Sobbing. Her eyes wide and red with tears. 'Cammy... You *hurt* Cammy... Cammy... You _hurt_ her...'
'Oh.... Sorry... Imsosorry...'
And then he realised he was crying too. Had taken the girl in his arms. Was sobbing into her shoulder.
The 39th century.
He ducked as blaster bolts went overhead. Then he rose, advanced on the advancing troops... and bowed.
They hesitated. And then bowed in return.
Zard stood. 'You honour me.'
They actually stuttered. 'L-lord Z-zard?'
'Nevertheless, I will not relinquish the Sword to the Emperor. I _cannot_. My oath to the Empire takes precedence.'
'T-they said y-you were a traitor...'
'To the Empire? Never. Those who have said so are bereft of all honour. To the Emperor...' Zard hesitated. 'We will see. However, since I would not ask you to make the choice I made...'
There was a silent burst of light.
The great reptile looked down at the troops' prone bodies. His visor had shielded him from the stun blast. '...You will return to the Emperor. I shall append a message. No dishonour will lie on you.'
[Yes, mon capitaine?]
Zard sighed. She'd been watching *those* holodramas again. 'Escort these men back to their ship. Send the standard message to the Emperor.'
[Why not spam him? Get them all out of the way...]
Zard ignored her.
[Oh, alright. Party-pooper.]
Personnel Carrier Mark XI trundled up and dumped the troops into its containment unit.
After the other ship had left, Zard walked back to the bridge in silence.
[Zard... we can't run forever.]
'The Emperor still acts honourably. Person-to-person, ship-to-ship... he still understands. But he does not _understand._ Yet.'
[What are you going to do? Wait for the first assassin to skewer you like a lobster?]
Zard hesitated. Finally, he admitted 'I... do not know. The Sword has to be kept away from the Emperor. That I know. But what we do with it... Even the Brotherhood, when they possessed it, were unable to destroy it...'
[And a ship's AI and the Emperor's ex-bodyguard can succeed where _they_ couldn't?] There was a snort.
[Oh, very well...] There was a blur, then a flash of light, as the ship assembled its hologram.
I-Z looked down. [Yeah, that should do... So what are you going to do now?]
Zard sat in thought. Finally, he spoke. 'Prepare the ship for a temporal jump. We cannot hide from the Emperor in the galaxy...
... but perhaps we can hide in the past.'
'I-Z... please. We do not have a choice. Wherever we go, he will find us... _When_ever we go, we may still have a chance.'
[Zard... There is less than 0.0001 probability we will complete the journey whole, mentally or physically. And a 98% probability we will be destroyed.]
Zard's voice was cold. 'Do it.'
[Temporal jump initiating. Random destination selected.] I-Z's voice trembled. [Great Computer... forgive me, for I know exactly what I do. Beginning countdown.]
Zard sat impassively, nothing of his expression visible behind his visor.
[Please...] I-Z's plaintive wail. [Don't do this...]
The universe went white.
As he left, Fade addressed the corpse one last time.
'You were ruler of a planet. You could have shown some dignity...'
He shook his head. Borusas. The family was _always_ a thorn in his side.
The old track next. He rather fancied the opportunity to try out a hoverscooter again...
There was a beep. Fade cursed. _Again?_
'I am here.'
His master's voice again. 'Attend. Your presence is needed.'
'I come.' Fade bowed his head-
-and was elsewhere.
'Ah. Thank you for your... promptness.'
Fade conveyed nothing. But inside he noted down another little slight.
When the big slight came...
'I am ever ready to serve.' _Like Hell I am, you sanctimonious slug._
His master raised himself. 'Throughout the centuries since the clan's creation, we have _never_ failed. Never.'
_Oh yeah? And I'm the Emperor of the Galaxy..._
'Except once.' His master paused.
_Yeah, yeah, cut the melodrama. You want me to go after the 'one that got away'..._
'Lately... we received a surprising missive.'
Fade's senses kicked in. His master was... _on edge_. _Scared._ What could-
'It was... from him. Our failed target. He wished to... commission our services. We were left with little other choice.'
_Now that's interesting. Too much to hope he asked them all to fall on their vibroknives..._
His master paused again. 'He wished us to target... Nyssaias.'
Ninjas are trained in concealment. To reveal emotion can prove a fatal weakness.
Fade displayed nothing. Inside, though...
'You have been chosen to act as the clan's hands in this matter.'
'I will serve.' _At *last*._
'Go. Our eyes - and our hopes - are ever with you.'
_Yeah. 'Cause if she ever finds out you tried to have her killed, she's going to serve you your own head on a platter..._
As Fade departed, one last thought occurred to him.
_Wait. Why not Embericles?_
_Suicide mission, eh? We'll see about that..._
Ms. Cooper nodded to her secretary. She didn't need one, her office being perfectly able to take care of that itself, but... it was traditional.
Idly, she wondered how long it would take her to erase it from the company. Then how long it would be before she was erased from the company.
The CEO _liked_ his secretaries.
The office force-field recognised her and let her in.
She sighed. Sometimes, she wondered why they _needed_ people to run these things any more...
...but even machines were fallible.
_Like humans aren't?_, she'd thought cynically when she'd first heard the idea.
Nevertheless... that idea had got her here.
She sat down in her chair.
The screen came up. Company share 95% of Neo-Edo, approaching 50% across the galaxy...
She tutted. Should be at least 70%. Someone would be fired.
Stock on GTSE 100: buoyant. Up.20 credits.
She frowned. Should be 50 creds. Someone would have to be killed.
Developments... continuing on schedule. Well, bar that one. Termination.
One or two... ahead of schedule. Not bad.
Political maneouvres? Okar looking to eradicate those pirates, couple of Houses collapsed overnight... nothing major. Keep an eye on that holo company, probably buy it by end of day...
Company plan for the year? Keeping within 'acceptable' limits.
The CEO would probably blow up a planet when he heard.
Incoming call. R&D. She brought it up.
And winced. 'Stacie.'
The maverick scientist gave her a big grin. _Hiya, Angie..._
Ms. Cooper grimaced. 'I hope it's something important...'
_Like all those appointments you keep missing?_ Stacie shook her head. _I keep telling you, the procedure is painless._
'If we could get on with business?'
_Dimensional Research has actually come up with something._
Ms. Cooper laughed. '_That_ place?! It's a sinecure for that idiot nephew of the CEO's. It...' She trailed off.
And buried her head in her hands. 'Oh... _cruk_. He'll be slobbering all over me for weeks, trying to get into my pants...'
Stacie raised an eyebrow. _Maybe not. I get the feeling this is something he wants to keep secret..._
Ms. Cooper leaned forward. 'Tell me more...'
Stacie sat back.
As she'd expected, Angie had had little understanding of the development.
But she... well, there were advantages to being the greatest mind in the galaxy.
Even if it meant she felt she was talking to idiots, most of the time. But then she wouldn't be able to measure herself against anyone, so there was some use for them...
Now... what next?
She realised she was tapping her fingers.
A disturbing thought bubbled up in her mind.
She, Stacie, the greatest mind in the galaxy, inventor of the hyperspace suit, the dimensional confibulator, and the rediscovered McFlurry (tm) was bored.
Absolutely, mind-numbingly bored.
Not a single idea was bubbling up in her head. Not a single project was begging to be completed. Not even the challenge of lunch awaited her (she'd decided seven point four six hours ago).
She had... nothing to do.
In a galaxy over 100, 000 light-years across, swarming with sentient life, there are billions of things to do.
Stacie found she couldn't think of one.
What she needed, she decided, was a mind the equal of hers. Something that could challenge her (but not *out*-challenge her, of course). Suggest something for her to do.
But if no such mind existed in the galaxy, she realised, then..
...she'd just have to make one.
Preferably with as little input from her as possible.
After all, she wanted to do something of which she hadn't thought, yes?
Now, how could she do this?
Stacie grinned. Hmm. Building a sentient mind. _Without_ it going insane. _Finally_, something that might be a challenge...
She went to work.
Back in the near future.
'Ummm... Hi, Vislor.'
He looked up. 'Oh. Hi, Charlotte. Want a seat?'
'Yes. I do. Thank you very much. That would be a pleasure.' She cursed. That had sounded far too forced.
_And_ she was blushing...
It wasn't as if he was that attractive, either...
... but... she couldn't put a word to the feeling in her heart whenever he walked by.
Or... could she?
Did she want to?
'So...' she began.
There was a thunderclap.
'WHERE IS SHE?!'
The voice boomed around the school
_No... Please. Not now..._
'SEND THE MAGIC GIRL OUT! OR FACE THE CONSEQUENCES!!'
'My God! It's... It's...'
Monty Python's Flying Circus? Charlotte almost added, but thought better of it.
'FACE THE ALL-CONSUMING FURY OF THE KAMELION!!'
That was just like him, rushing into major collateral damage...
Well, at least there was nobody around.
She hated this part.
'MAGICAL GIRL PRETTY CHARLEY!!'
'Aaah. The Magic Girl arrives.'
Magic Electric Charley touched down on the playing fields. 'I'm here, Kamelion. Leave the others out of this.'
The silver humanoid sneered. 'First, I shall eliminate you. Then, I shall eradicate this... blight... on the face of existence...'
'In other words... you'll destroy the school over my dead body?'
The Kamelion looked fazed. 'Well...'
'Oh, come _on_... Where's the snappy dialogue? The witty banter? The best you can threaten me with is "I'm doing this over your dead body"?' Charley shook her head at the sheer banality of villainous dialogue.
The Kamelion wavered. Then he retaliated with 'That's rich, coming from a girl in a fanservice costume...'.
'My costume is *not* fanservice!!' Charley screamed. 'Glittering Charley Bolt!'
An electric blast formed around her hands and surged towards the Kamelion. He dodged. 'That the best you got? Naming your powers after yourself?'
'Oh yeah? Mr. 'Ooh, I'm named after a small Amazonian reptile' gets off on talking about names?' Charley stalked towards him. 'Magical Repulsion Wave!'
The wave of energy radiated from Charley's body.
The Kamelion tried to withstand the blast, but was blown back towards the tennis court. He crashed into the wire netting.
He struggled to get up. 'You call _that_ a magical effect?'
Charley grinned. 'No. I call _this_ a magical effect. LUMINESCENT POWER ATTRACTOR!!'
A bright blue ball of energy formed in Charley's hand. Then it exploded.
The onlookers covered their eyes.
There was a clattering sound, and-
-every piece of free metal in the school landed on the Kamelion.
Vislor looked at the pile of metal. 'What? No kitchen sink?'
'You had to go for the corny joke, didn't you?'
Charley pulled her affronted dignity together. 'I always say "Go with what works".'
'Funny, I always thought you said "Taste electric vengeance, evildoers!!"...'
But Charley was already in the air.
'Oh, _there_ you are. Missed all the excitement...'
Charlotte patted her hair back into place. 'Oh really?'
'Yeah. You missed Magic Whatshername turning up and blasting hell out of this silver puppet...'
'_Whatshername?!_ It's Magic Electric Charley, you pinhead!!' Charlotte yelled. 'Not that I'd know anything about that, of course, being nowhere near the place and, in any event, looking nothing like her...' she added hastily.
Vislor stared at her. 'Yeeeeesssss. Right. Oh, in the confusion, I nearly forgot... Charlotte, this is my fiancee, Angel.'
A blonde girl with pointed ears and slitted eyes sat down beside Vislor, took his hand and looked at him adoringly. Vislor was equally goo-goo eyed..
'Her parents arranged the marriage from birth. I only found out last week, when she said she was coming over... and I haven't regretted it.'
'She... She...' Charlotte stuttered.
'Oh, these? Cosmetic surgery. Nothing serious...' Angel added coquettishly.
'Charlotte? Charlotte? Are you okay?'
But Charlotte had fainted.
Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat