‘A Whole Lot of Shakin’
A cardinal strode down an marble hallway leading to a cavernous, ornate chamber, his crimson cape snapped in time with his stride. In the center of the chamber, on a gilded throne sat a copious mound of human flesh scowling at a couple on unicycles juggling fish between them. The cardinal entered the room and stood next to the throne.
“Your Holiness,” said the cardinal, tipping his head.
The rotund mass, His Holiness, Benedict the XIII, waved his hand at the entertainers.
“Kill the male, do what you want with the female,” Benedict gurgled.
Two armored men grabbed the performers and dragged them struggling and pleading from the room. The cardinal rolled his eyes. The Pope nodded off.
“Your Holiness,” the cardinal bellowed.
“Get me Cardinal Martell,” the started Pope shouted.
“Right here, Your Holiness,” Martel said.
“Don’t stand at my side, boy,” Benedict grumbled, “I can’t see you.”
“What do have for me, Your Holiness,” asked Martell.
“A seraphim vessel has crashed near Glastonbury. Make sure it didn’t survive.”
“Of course, Your Holiness.”
“Take the Divine Chariot,” Benedict said, “And Glastonbury is in England.”
“Thank you, You Holiness,” Martell said walking away, glowering.
Cletus and Abby towed Ray’s unconscious body home, passing between thickets to avoid being noticed in the breaking dawn light. Once home, they set up area where they could place Ray down. Abby sat examining Ray’s wings.
“His wings are furry,” Abby said, squinting into the wings, “I always pictured angels with feathers.”
“Seraphim,” groaned Ray, rubbing his head, “Angel is kind of racist.”
Cletus and Abby helped Ray struggle to sit up. Ray shook his wings and opened and closed his hands.
“Seraph Raphael, Galactic Administration Intelligence, Agent number 24601,” Ray croaked, “Who are you and where am I?”
“I am Cletus Wensleydale,” he began, “And this is my grand daughter Abigayle Rosenkreutz. You’re in Glastonbury.”
“Right, the controlled crash,” Ray said relaxing, “Pleasure to meet you, finally. Call me Ray.”
“Finally?” asked Abby.
“Since I’m in kind a bind here, I’ll just lay my cards out and take my lashes later,” Ray said, “I’m an agent for Galactic Admin Intelligence, for brevity G-A-I. My field is pre-civilized planets that have been contaminated by extra planetary influences. Tracking your development, looking for anomalies, evidence of continued extra planetary influence, and things like that.”
Abby and Cletus stared at Ray.
“I babysit your planet,” Ray said.
“Like guardian an…” started Abby, “Seraph?”
“Seems like a sufficient metaphor,” answered Ray, “And you two are those anomalies I was talking about.”
“How so?,” asked Cletus.
“Humans learning and using Seraphim technology gets my attention. I’ve watched your progress. Especially the way you’ve learned to use it. What humans lack in raw power, they make up for in versatility. You’re not bound by element or state of matter like Seraphim are. For instance…” Ray reached toward his chest for something that was not there. Ray looked around at himself, patting hips and chest, “My focus. All my stuff.”
Ray looked at Cletus and Abby, wide eyed.
“Even my translator is gone, but we’re still communicating,” Ray thought aloud then snapped his fingers and pointed. “Did you grab a box, about this big, with a strap?”
Abby leapt from the table and picked up a blackened, battered metal box and set it on the table.
“It was broken and most of what was inside was scattered,” Abby said setting pieces out on the table, “We collected as much as we could find.”
Ray rummaged through the case, picking up and examining pieces, discarding the ruined bits. Cletus fiddled with the discarded bits, probing them with a small screwdriver.
“Translator is battered, but it’s still working. That’s the bit of luck,” Ray sat down holding up a cracked crystal dangling from a threadbare lanyard, encrusted with the melted laminate from his charred security tag, “My focus is smashed. That’s the bit of unluck.”
“What kind of crystal does it require,” Cletus slid out a tray of crystals, minerals and gems.
“Nothing I think you’re going to have,” Ray said looking over the assortment, “Citrine quartz. I don’t think this part of the your world has even discovered the part where it’s found. But we there should be a supply depot under the island of Avalon. It’s just a hill now that the lake dried up.”
“Glastonbury Tor?” Cletus lit up, “I’ve always theorized that Glastonbury Tor was Avalon.”
“Right well, way underneath is an old Seraphim supply depot left over after the war,” said Ray.
“The war?” Cletus looked askance.
“The unfortunately named ‘War in Heaven’,” Ray sighed, “A lot to explain, but let it suffice for now to say, mistakes were made, orders not followed. Some by me. For my part, I’m sorry for what happened to your species. I wish we had done things differently back then. But right now, I have to resupply and figure out what’s going over in Avignon.”
“Avignon?” said Abby.
“You know how pre-civilized species using Seraphim technology gets my attention?”
Ray replied, “Over in Avignon they’re using a different kind of Seraphim tech. One that warrants my attention.”
“We’ll go with you,” blurted Abby.
“We will?” replied Cletus.
“We have…,” Cletus began, “studying you need to do and…”
“Grandpa, I’ve read that book you’re always writing, the first half is amazing adventures and second half is about how old you are. I want to be able to write a first half like that and not an entire book that’s your second half.”
“But to pick up for Avignon…”
“No just to the Tor. He’ll never make it there looking like that. He’ll be burned at the stake,” Abby pulled a large grey cloak, over Ray, that stretched to the floor covering his boots, “Can you tuck in your wings?”
Ray wrapped his wings around his torso. The top of cloak poked up.
“Walk like you have a hunch,” Abby said to Ray.
Ray stooped and took a few steps.
“Good enough,” Abby shrugged, “Keep your face and hands covered and don’t speak. You sound like a man and a woman talking in unison. We’ll be there to tell people you’re a leper and no one will bother with us. Not that anyone in town is fond of us to begin with.”
“You don’t know how to turn invisible, do you?” Cletus said walking out of the room.
“Light manipulation is Lucifer’s thing. Mine is air. Or more specifically, manipulation of matter in its gaseous state. So I suppose it would be more accurate to say manipulation of gas.”
Abby chuckled, “How about wind?”
Ray retreated into his leper disguise. Cletus returned wearing a red cloak and a black, wide brimmed hat. He was hanging two small crossbows onto hooks attached to a belt around his waist.
Abby laughed when she saw him.
“I figured, if we were going on an adventure, I’d dust off the old things,” Cletus said.
A loud crack was heard from outside, ground shuddered. Spiderwebs of cracks formed in the waddle and daub walls of the house.
“I don’t want to knock again,” said a baritone from outside.
Cletus cracked the door and poked his head out. He looked up at the tall shadow that stood between him and the sun. He could make out black leather armor emblazoned with the papal seal. Over that a cape, crimson like that of a cardinal. Cletus strained to see his face but the daylight flooding around from the back of his head made it too obscure. The figure was holding the shaft of a large hammer what’s head was resting on the ground. A wispy, pink vapor drifted from the mouth of the dragon that adorned it.
“Looking for a missing person,” Martell growled, “Remember seeing any strange folk about?”
“No,” quivered Cletus, “Not that I can recall.”
“Anything unusual?” Martell pressed.
“No, no can’t say that I have.”
“Last night a celestial vessel crash landed right over there,” Martell gestured, “Now you had to have seen that. In my investigation of the wreck I found no passengers. Nothing of anything really. But I found a trail. A trail that led right back here to this very door.”
“Well I may have pilfered a trinket or two,” Cletus stammered, “I do love to tinker.”
“May I have a look at these trinkets,” Martell put his hand on the door.
“I’m very busy. It’s a project for the king. Court alchemist, you know, always on the job,” Cletus shut the door and leaned on it. Abby was gather things into a bag. Ray was fiddling with his fractured focus.
Martell lifted his hammer and let it slide through his fingers. When the head hit the ground it shook. The cracks in the walls of the cottage grew.
“I can just raze the house and sift through the rubble,” Martell called, “Or you can open the door, hand over the angel and forget you ever saw me.”
“This is the kind of shit I’m talking about,” Ray said still fussing with his focus, “That’s a gravo-pneumatic piston tied to the end of a stick. It’s a piece of mining equipment designed for low gravity. Why does he have one? And why is using it as a weapon? And why does it have a dragon’s face on it? Primates,” he shook his head.
Martell let the hammer drop again. The roof began to sag.
“You two,” Ray held out his focus, he was pinching it between his fingers in both hands like an elaborate finger exercise, “Hold this just like this. One of you on either side.”
Cletus and Abby held the focus crystal as instructed. Ray turned them toward the door like he was aiming a turret.
“I don’t know if this will even work,” Ray said, snapping and shaking his hands, “Even if it does it won’t be impressive.”
Ray hopped in place then planted his feet. He pushed his hands toward the focus.
Outside, Martell was lifting the hammer for another tremor. The door blew out and knocked Martell back. The hammer dropped and the walls began to collapse. Ray, Abby and Cletus fled through the empty doorway. Ray picked up the hammer.
“I’m going to have to take this in as evidence,” Ray said to Martell. Martell produced a laser pistol and aimed it at Ray.
“His Holiness sent me here to make sure you were dead,” Martell said, “And if you weren’t to make it so.”
“And who’s that?” asked Ray.
“Pope Benedict the Thirteenth,” under his cloak Cletus fit a small, vial that was corked on both ends into one of his pistol crossbows and pointed it toward Martell,“The papacy is in Avignon.”
“I’m going to Avignon,” Ray laughed, “You can take me as a prisoner, I’ll talk to this Benedict character.”
“All I need is a head,” Martell raised his pistol to fire, “I’m not lugging your whole corpse all the way to Avignon.”
Cletus pulled the trigger and his crossbow lobbed the vial like a catapult. The vial broke in front of Martell and erupted into flames. Martell shielded his face a stepped back. Ray smacked the ground with the hammer and the tremors knocked the retreating Martell off his feet. The tremor caused Ray to lose grip of the hammer dropping it once again, rattling Martell further. Ray, Abby and Cletus fled for the village of Glastonbury. Martell regained his feet, dusted himself off and picked up his weapon. Even if it was just mining equipment.
In town, the streets were empty and the alarm bell was ringing. Cletus, Abby and Ray scurried down the main street through town. A man came running up from behind.