Rip: Grail of the Secret Sun
Only the Vampire Priests understand the Blood Moon Prophecy: “A drop of His blood fills the cup and brings the Blood Moon Dawn.”
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Excerpt from Rip Orange
After perhaps an hour, during which time Tom began to believe his carriers had unlimited strength, the leader stuck his hand in the air and the column stopped. The snow seemed to ease and then stop altogether. While the strange leader laid out thick, flatbreads and salted rinds of meat on plates, the clouds cleared, and the sun began to warm Tom’s cheeks.
“Not so bad after all!” he joked.
His rescuers crowded around Tom while their leader, the only one wearing a white fur coat, raised a water-bottle to his patient’s lips.
“Good to drink?” Tom asked, feeling nervous.
The leader nodded. Tom tried a sip and found it to be water, clear and refreshing. He waited for any side-effects but only felt better. After eating some bread and meat, he felt better still and grinned. The leader raised Tom up by his shoulders and showed him the terrain ahead. The mountain path dipped down to a dry valley and then rose to a line of green hills. These lacked the icy caps of those Tom could see either side of the mountain they were on, but beyond these, far beyond and just poking through a haze of cloud, he could make out a single peak, rising much higher than any other hill or mountain. Upon its tip he could see no snow but only two jagged peaks, one white and one black.
“Where are we?” Tom asked.
The leader of his rescuers pointed to himself. He said, “Inyan! Inyan!” and pointed to Tom, who replied:
“Tom. Tom Merriweather.”
Inyan shook his head and pointed to tom. “Omacron! Omacron!”
“Omacron!” Inyan’s men echoed.
“No! Tom!” Tom repeated, but Inyan only laughed and moved to Lucky. He repeated his introduction.
“Alan!” Lucky replied. “But everyone calls me Lucky.”
“Alan Lucky!” Inyan replied, laughing. “Tallana!”
“Where are we?” Tom asked.
Inyan shook his head and furrowed his brow. Tom swept his arm around to encompass the whole landscape before them.
“Ah!” Inyan replied. “Atalan’Tea Llantu.”
“Okay. Nice.” Tom asked, “And that?” pointing to the high peak in the far distance.
“Tpatam t’akalliyan,” Inyan replied.
Inyan’s words sounded strange to Tom, guttural, with lots of glottal stops and sudden sounds that surprised him. But he found Inyan’s face reassuring. The stranger had a long face and doleful eyes that seemed sad in some way. His cheeks converged with his mouth in jowls that would make him look more and more like a bulldog as he grew older. But when Inyan smiled, he did so with his whole face, the creases in his cheeks disappearing as if a sun radiated from within. It was a simple, innocent smile that Tom had never seen in anybody, except children, during the war. And in Inyan’s eyes, as well as the apparent sadness, there lay a stillness that seemed like lake that had lain undisturbed for centuries. These features made Tom smile, so that he decided that he liked Inyan. Without thinking Tom reached out and took Inyan’s hand. At first the strange man from this strange land seemed unsure of Tom’s touch, but seeming to come to a decision, he clasped Tom’s fingers within his own and shook Tom’s hand heartily.
“Peroturnakar!” Inyan said, pointing to the sky.
“I’ve heard that word before!” Tom replied, not understanding the significance of the sky.
“Peroturnakar!” Inyan said, looking sad.
Tom looked up again and thought he saw something strange through the clouds. It seemed to him that high up there, above the clouds, the sky consisted of rock, faint but hanging impossibly over them and mountainous landscape.
Excerpt from Rip Blue
My brother had a ball. When you tried to kick it, it moved away from you. I grew tired trying to hit the thing.
“Don’t think about kicking it,” he told me. “The ball is designed to read your intentions. Think about nothing.”
It felt very satisfying when I finally got a foot on it and sent it into the back of the net.
A ‘beeping’ interrupted his memories.
So I have been asleep?
He tried to open one eye, but it felt gummed up. Screwing his face up to make tears, he eventually managed to open one, only to see a panel, which proved to be the source of the ‘beeps.’ A sign flashed, ‘Hello Omah,’ in in red letters. You’re in waking up phase. I’m administering stimulants. Please drink the water.’
“Oh great! Thanks! I hate cryo-sleep!”
A distant hum occurred at the same time as his cryo-chamber began to incline. The glass-lidded container, little more than a box, began to raise at his head’s end and continued inclining until he lay at a forty-five-degree angle. The lid opened and straps released his arms and legs. He felt sharp stabs of pain as a needle retracted from each arm, but didn’t have the energy to say:
Omah remembered the water and tried to reach for a cup in a tray section of the chamber’s rim. But his arm wouldn’t move. And then he noticed how black the water in the cup looked, blacker than ink. It seemed warm and inviting and seemed to expand as he looked at it. He felt he could jump right into it, Deep within the liquid, far, far away, there seemed to be a faint light.
It came as a relief to see an attractive, blue woman approaching him in a white jumpsuit. But when she smiled he saw that her eye sockets looked completely empty, not empty as in the eyes are covered over, but as in a black depth, like a liquid, filled her sockets, a depth so fathomless that Omah lost his balance trying to find their bottom. He slid out of the chamber, teetered for a moment on numb feet and began to fall forward, onto a glass cabinet of surgical instruments. A moment stretched out for what seemed minutes, allowing Omah to think:
“What a strange place to die!”
Omah had no control of his feet, so it came as a complete surprise when the trolley, upon which the cabinet sat, rolled out of the way just before his face hit the pane of glass. The trolley crashed into a wall shattering the cabinet and sending glass shards skittering across the floor while Omah fell in a painful heap on the floor.
“Oh shit!” the blue woman cried, hastily turning Omah over. “Are you alright?”
“Yes, I think so!” Omah gasped. “I … don’t know how that happened!”
“I know how you fell – toxins in your muscles making them unusable. I don’t know how the hell you kicked that thing out of the way!”
“Well, it didn’t move on its own! Your foot must have kicked it. Freakiest thing I ever saw! I better let the others know what happened. Let me get you into a chair!”
Excerpt from Rip Red
Omah’s head-up display on the visor of his helmet indicated to him the likelihood of criminal activity with a coloured halo around each citizen; blue for law-abiding, white for untouchables, red for Scum. He had always had a visceral tendency for violence:
His mother thought he had a look like a, “Whipped dog.”
His father told him to, “Keep his collar clean.”
The funny thing was that he had never seen a dog.
He took another look at the row of columns under the Hall on the far side of the street and suddenly couldn’t remember what he had just been thinking. Not only that, but he had the feeling something had changed irrevocably.
A puddle near his feet dragged his attention away from the display in his visor. The more he looked, the more he felt as if he were being sucked into the black water. It seemed endlessly deep, but a dim light, like a lantern lost at the bottom of the sea, seemed to beckon him down. Without thinking Omah stretched his gloved hand toward the puddle, but a boot stepped in the puddle, sending ripples out across its surface. It was only water. Omah looked up, feeling angry, and stared into the empty eye sockets of a man. Where his eyes should have been, only endless, dark emptiness could be seen. There was no light at the back of the eyes at all. It’s repulsiveness shocked Omah, making him jump back.
“Look out!” the man screamed.
A car’s horn blared, somewhere close behind Omah. He heard the screech of brakes as he leaped for the sidewalk. An instant later, the fender of a black car entered the space where his body had been. The car accelerated away before Omah could get its license plates.
“Thanks!” Omah said, scrambling to his feet and stretching out his hand to the stranger.
“No problem! You nearly got hit! I just wanted to ask the way to the Mayor’s Office?”
“Oh.” Omah couldn’t think for a moment, because the man’s eyes now looked completely normal. “Back that way, second left. It’s on your right, about two blocks down. You can’t miss it.”
“Thanks! Take care.”
Shalto Denner leaned as casually as he could against the side of the brick column buttressing the City Measurers Hall under the colonnade. Shaded from the main street he lit the rollup he had stuck above his ear. He had thought about giving up many times, but it marked you out as Void scum; an emblem that could save your life in tight situations. This was one.
He recalled that his good looks had often caught him out, so he slipped on a pair of dark shades. He still looked handsome; silver hair above a craggy face, cross-hatched by age lines and azure eyes. A girlfriend, more generous than most, had described his face as like a crystalline rock face, carved into the likeness of a man.
‘Can’t keep it up long enough to satisfy a woman anymore,’ he mused.
His thoughts were interrupted by a sparkle of light in the crowd. Looking more closely he saw the distinctive black helmet of a Municipal Policeman’s helmet and slipped round the corner to hide down Subaltern Street.
Omah could see a sea of blue, flecked with white in his display, no red. This made him suspicious. From the corner of his eye he thought he saw a single flick of red vanish round the corner of the old Measurers Hall.
“Ah ha! Got you!” he muttered. The midday heat made sweat seep into his collar. He slowly shook his head once to sooth an itch. He decided to pass Subaltern Street and double back, round the block.
“Something’s going on, Sector 4, corner of Subaltern Street and Main. Falcon 2 requesting back up.”
“Roger 2. Falcon 3 right behind you, half a block, on the right.”
“Crossing to right now. Stop on the intersection and wait. I’m gonna circle round and flush him out. Suspect he’s the lookout for something. These buggers always have complex crimes in mind these days.”
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