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AnimalHeart – Book 2

By Rodolphus

Wolftales UNlimited

www.WolftalesUNlimited.com

Wolftales UNlimited

©Copyright 2011 Rodolphus. All Rights Reserved by the Author. No part of this book may be reproduced (except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews) or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the publisher, Wolftales UNlimited.

This book is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental.

ISBN: 978-1-105-13425-8

Dedication

Sandivon

The Young Soul

The Purity and The Belief

Still Alive and Well

Despite the Impossible

Time

AnimalHeart – Book 2

Dedication

prologue

Part IV

1

2

3

4

5

interim

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

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26

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Part V

1

2

interim

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

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28

Rodolphus – 1962-1995

prologue

A siren shrieked from somewhere deep in the compound, a sad and weak harpy, flapping on worn, abused wings—if the sound did indeed originate from a mythological creature, it was a pathetic old beast with hardly the strength to scream for a few seconds above the final refuge of the Freedom Army. Despite the weakness of the harpy beast, the shrill siren evoked a new spirit of fear in the people who heard the sound, a people who thought they had no new lessons to learn regarding the art of terror, a half-frozen people huddled in blankets on the thick crust of frozen ground. Possibly it would never end, this waiting, this terror. They, the people, believed they were locked in a bubble of time, where the terrible approaching army of the evangelist Rettlaw Neslar would never arrive, only constantly draw near. It would be better, they felt, if the persecutors finally arrived with rough boards for crucifixion, and finally allow the torture to begin, to progress, to finish, so that the quiet peace of death could soothe the coldness of living.

Perhaps the people were wrong to throw in with the bizarre Commander Wolf and his too-small Army of Freedom. Of what use were spiritual ideals when living was reduced to nothing more than huddling on dirty ice? Of what use were prayers when the answers to those prayers were realized in Wolf, who was as violent and as mad as the Grim Reaper.

A man stood from the frozen ground. He listened for a moment to the garbling siren. He cocked his head. And he smiled. He looked about at the final remnant, those poor people waiting for the trains of deliverance, safe passage to Tyger, people left alone, with a flickering hope not much warmer than the ice beneath their pathetic hides.

It is not too late, my friends, the standing man said, his voice surprisingly much more powerful than the harpy siren. And there was a peculiar warmth in that voice, a musical friendliness as he shouted: What were we thinking, friends? Is Pastor Neslar really all that bad? Is he worse than this emptiness, this waiting for death?

Shut up, fool! someone returned, but with such a palpable lack of conviction that all those waiting people flinched with irritation at the interruption. The musical voice, the warm voice—the people wanted more of what the singer of such a voice was selling.

It’s too late! It’s too late! a woman cried.

The man with the musical voice, the only person standing, laughed. A warm and friendly laughter. Yes, the people thought, hearing this laugh, tell us more, laugh more, sing to us, and convince us of our mistake.

If you only look, the man sang, you can see the smoke rising. Look, friends, my brothers and sisters, near at hand, the warm smoke of fire. And do you think it is the fire of persecution? No, my friends. I fear we have been deceived.

What do you mean? someone called in the weakest of voices.

I’m cold, mommy, a child wailed, hitching into chilled tears.

Who deceived us? someone called.

Friends, the Gray Man called, those are cooking fires! Warm fires to melt away this terrible coldness. And food is over those fires! Do you smell it? Mmmmm, toasting bread, sizzling meat, fragrant coffees! Do you smell the delicious aromas?

The people shocked and sniffed the air. Yes! Smell that? Succulent pork, beef dripping blood, sizzling, and turkey and chicken and pungent mule! Oh for pig, pig, that salvation of the soul, the flesh of pigs, dear swine.

Friends! Are you hungry?

Yes! they shouted, despite themselves. Many shuffled out of their rag blankets. Yes! We are hungry! Hungry! Hungry!

Would it be a sin to walk to those warm fires, to melt the ice from our blood, to fill our mouths with the juices of meat? Would it be a sin to feed our children?

No!

We have been deceived, my friends, my good, good friends. Deceived into these cold barracks of death! Wolf has brought us here to this death camp where there are no fires, no meats, no comfort, no salvation, no safety, no protection...

I’m hungry!

I’m cold!

Hungry? the Gray Man responded with dripping empathy. "Friends, we are starving. How many of you have tasted food this day? How many of you have enjoyed a meal yesterday, or the day before?

And cold? Friends, we are freezing. We are dying here.

We’re dying!

Do you want to die, friends?

NO!

Do you want to live, friends?

YES!

Follow me, my brothers and sisters. Follow me to safety. Follow me to fires where your children can be warmed from this very edge of death. Follow me friends!

Don’t listen to him! He’ll lead you to Neslar!

Listen to our friend, with his chattering teeth. Or listen to me, neighbors. I am going to the fires—you can come with me, or you can stay to aid the dead in burying their dead.

Hundreds of people rose stiffly from the cold ground. Fire? Yes, Hell would be better than this. Bear, yes, indeed Bear is better than Wolf. A sluggish river of gray humanity surged toward the gray man with the warm, musical voice. They surged toward the fires, and they would find fire, and they would be warm, for a while, just before they died, in fire, in flame.

Part IV

Metamorphosis

1

Harrison sat with his back to a wall, his head resting against the rough glue-blotched surface, hands loose in lap. His eyes were closed and a slight smile spread from his sooty brow to his grimy chin. His eyes, closed, glowed from a reverse raccoon mask. His hair was sweated and plastered straight back.

Does that feel good, Captain Christopher? the young nurse said, kneeling between Harrison’s knees.

"Yes. Please do not stop. Please, whatever else you do or don’t do to me, don’t stop this. I think I’m in heaven, Harrison crooned, laughing softly. This could go on forever, for all I care."

The gentle lapping indeed felt good. After the painful tightness, the young nurse’s ministrations felt like cool/warm wings, stroking, soothing—licking.

Ahh, that is wonderful, he breathed.

Excuse me, Harrison, Sam Mandigo interrupted, poking the top of his head through the doorway.

Come on in, Whitey, Harrison said, not opening his eyes.

How are the feet? Mandigo said, not looking at the nurse.

This angel is resurrecting them.

The woman finished applying the creamy salve. You may lose your toenails, eventually, Captain Christopher. But your feet look fine, she said and smiled adoringly at him.

Harrison opened his eyes and winked at her. After something that exquisite, I feel that I could do with a cigar!

The nurse blushed prettily and twirled away, an added swish in her tail.

I brought you socks and boots if you are able to wear them, Mandigo said.

Harrison took the soft leather half-boots from the ex-monk.

I suppose I looked quite ridiculous, stomping around with my smoking bare feet.

Mandigo smiled. Not many laughed, Harrison.

We’ll have to see that from now on sub-Speeders are built for big-foot capacity. Make a note, Harrison said, and paused in putting on his boots. He looked at Mandigo without smiling.

Mandigo colored.

They sat in silence a while. Harrison painfully completed booting.

Mrs. Christopher has returned. She is in the apartments.

Harrison nodded.

They stood. The captain walked gingerly, putting his steps on the floor as if walking amidst razor blades, his hand on Mandigo’s shoulder.

They moved between cots where the rubble of the city lay writhing in whatever fever was spreading through the streets at that time. Men, women and children looked at the two and did not know them.

Any one of the Blackguard knew the name of Harrison Christopher, Princeman and Captain of the Eagles; Samuel Mandigo, ex-monk of the Order of Nonviolence. Or any associated with court—priest, toilet scrubber, Speeder mechanic, kingsman, Princeman, Lordman, relative distant or near.

But not these common people, the city rubble, who lived ripe lives to the average age of twenty-seven years, having an average of three children, two of whom died in infancy; the surviving child, hopefully, would become a kingsman, or if luckier, a God-favored Lordman. The unlucky child became a brothel attendant, street sweeper, prostitute or gangster. (And a career in professional begging was always an alternative.)

These people seldom attended the Battle Games. Instead, at night, they lay in sagging beds, rocking and sweating—or put bruises upon each other, bitching and nagging about whose turn it was to earn extra halpenns shoveling shit. They knew not much about kings, princes, dukes or the multitude of prominent generic royals—other than which obscenity was most applicable to which title. They knew more of the blind god, Who, in the thinnest cloak of invisibility, walked near them every day (though He might be blind, or perhaps He laughed at their plight, He was always near).

When they prayed, these people said: Heavenly Father, oh please don’t kill me today. Oh please don’t kill my baby. And let my husband find some money in the street. Oh please help my blanket, which I have knitted very beautifully, sell today to somebody with extra money. And oh please, Heavenly Father and Eternal Jesus don’t let me get pregnant again.

Although this prayer might seem petty, or whining, and most often proved vain because you cannot beat the law of averages which said that at least two of their babies would die (though even the simplest theologian would argue the point as to whether or not God killed the countless babes), and someone else invariably found the money in the street (which was as common as the birth of a Savior) and even if a hard-worked blanket sold, it never brought in quite enough money to decently heat a hovel—at least this prayer kept a certain mustard half-seed faith alive in the community, a faith that kept the murder or cannibalism of children to an extravagant minimum.

A seed, that if tended, could grow into a plant, and someone like Rettlaw was ever near to replenish that plant with water, and to prune it and tend to it faithfully. Because sometimes, if enough plants were cultivated, if enough slender tendrils were sheltered, enough roots kept moist, the plants could become forests. And forests could uproot cities.

These people had positions with the State: floor sweepers, street sweepers, weavers of cloth, transporters of garbage, stevedores of the dry docks, security guards, and laborers on the Body Line. These people had dirty faces, dirty hands. When they had time or sufficient inclination to scrub filth from their bodies, lice from their hair, they did it in soapless water, usually the yellow waters that filled the deep gutters.

All the people, sooner or later, visited the hospital. Nearly a thousand new patients came to the front entrance—five hundred more to the twenty emergency doors. None were turned away. All were served, and all paid (either in a contract to community service, or with the few muddy coins which were hidden away for just such an emergency). But nearly a thousand patients each day exited the hospital on the long electric wagons—some to be buried by landkings, others incinerated at the Refinery. Most were dumped in the quick-lime pits. Perhaps one percent was provided funerals, but none knew if they were the lucky ones.

The hospital, an ants’ nest of low-ceilinged passages and tiny cubicles divided by cloth partitions, was dim and dirty, and lighted by flickering bulbs. Twenty stories tall above ground, twenty more below, a thousand cubicles per floor. Each cubicle housed approximately five people. There were also the overflows which sometimes housed an additional ill or wounded—usually at times of war or pestilence (campaigns against murderous Tyger or excessive mating of poisonous flies)—but the overflows were of more detriment than vantage, because the overflows were actually long tunnels of concrete employed primarily when the sewers overflowed. Thus, disease bred when the poisonous flies did, and when Bedouins sharpened their curved blades.

Physicians, usually old men and women in yellowed lab coats, grouped in corridor intersections to mutter and complain about the small pay and horrendous government-furnished equipment. It isn’t like the old days, the swimming pool in the backyard for replacing a heart. Now, in this God-forsaken age, we make barely four times the pay of a common nurse.

The nurses, female and male, were more content. In old but clean uniforms, the nurses were many—currently twenty for every one doctor, one nurse for every group of ten patients. The nurses, working for one-eighth the wage of the doctors, were usually compassionate, more skilled in back-rubs and short bedtime stories than in administering nearly-impossible-to-obtain antibiotics or booster injections against Neoaids or subliminal brain cancer. They educated in trade school for six months, compared to the unrealistic two years the physicians must struggle through. And most nurses attended continuing night school, in hopes that someday they too would be doctors and capable of buying apartment floors; retire as landkings to support many children and cousins. Their pay was triple that of the street sweepers.

And a nurse most often saw an injured street sweeper, or perhaps a security guard with a sliced-up hand, maybe a bookkeeper from one of the thousands of miniature businesses suffering from whatever thousand epidemics were zipping like a scalpel through the city and surrounding slum lands.

The people do not dream of a better world—they have no dreams, great or evil. It is true; they do long to see King Thomas and all his family die out completely. The people, dirty and basic and low-minded, have good hearts. But there will be no revolution, as the Blackguard predicted more than thirty years ago. The decadence is in the government, as it always becomes so, Samuel Mandigo wrote in his prodigious journals, and he thought much the same as he and Harrison descended a long flight of stairs to the street.

2

The monarchy was fat, lazy, pleasure-seeking, and cutthroat. To rise higher in self-esteem, glory, and supreme wielding of power, the government was ready to strangle itself from within. Perhaps this ultimately suicidal urge originated as an idealistic solution to elder corruption—but now it was as bad, or worse, than the chubby, attorney-ridden democracy it had usurped many, many decades before.

The monarchy was bad, stinking terribly on a withered vine, Samuel knew, overripe to be pruned and discarded. But not in the ever-going cycle of the discontented masses rising up to begin their own new, corrupt, immediately going-to-rot government. This time the fruit would be picked by Rettlaw and his fanatical horde.

Rettlaw was a great evangelist. The rubble of the city listened to him with spiritual ears as they paused at their brooms, lifted their eyes up from shoveling of human shit in the manure yards. Only Rettlaw could place the horny masculine hand of Catholicism within the smooth feminine hand of Protestantism. And the new government, a Religious Government, would possess long fangs (and a very hungry stomach).

Samuel Mandigo looked to his left. At the limping young man with the handsome features and troubled brow. This was the only thing to truly stand between the ripe-for-picking monarchy and Rettlaw’s fever-eyed masses.

Rettlaw dreamed of a forest.

Harrison Christopher, a simple tool, an ax.

Prince Jim thinks of Harrison as a pawn, a weight on the wheel for added winnings at roulette; but I know—as does the Blackguard—that Prince Jim (along with his power) is Harrison’s pawn.

A courier met them on the street.

Prince Jim desires my presence immediately, Harrison read.

Would you like me to accompany you? Mandigo said.

Come where? I’m not going. I have some talking to do at the apartments, Harrison said, resolute, voice too flat, and too hard. He crumpled the summons and dropped it in the gutter. The wad of paper floated like a swift boat until Mandigo could no longer see it.

Moments later, Sam floated the Speeder the same direction the summons had gone, Harrison asleep in the rear. People rushed to get out of the way as the sleek new craft gained antistatic speed. They floated past the site where the cathedral was growing from the ground, thousands of laborers swarming the growth. Lordmen ringed the site, tall gleaming sentinels with golden halberds proudly at attention. They were waved through at the palaces by two kingsmen who gave them the two-finger victory symbol, all smiles. All about the apartments was a partial shipment of the new Speeders, twenty-five gleaming craft with twenty-five men in black leather standing at attention.

Mandigo saluted.

Harrison slept.

Francis Ranier was the reception party. He frowned at Mandigo and stepped forward as the canopy lifted away.

Stinking monk, he muttered.

Hello, Francis.

Mr. Ranier, to you, monk. Don’t think that that uniform fools me. I know you still wear dresses when nobody’s looking.

We are here, Harrison, Mandigo said.

Uh-uh, Ranier said, shaking his craggy head, wagging a callused finger, "that’s not the way to do it, monk."

He leaned into the Speeder and put his mouth lovingly to Harrison’s ear.

"BOOOOO!"

Harrison leaped, twisting away from Ranier, fist appearing and snaking at the stale old fart, but Ranier moved his portly bulk away with surprising agility.

You awake, Harry?

Harrison rubbed his eyes and climbed painfully from the Speeder. At least the weather was pleasant. The three men entered the apartments, Harrison limping painfully between the two other men. Ranier, the smell of beer strong upon him, sang a bawdy song. Mandigo stopped at the library.

Come with me, Sam, Harrison said without pausing, and the three entered the sunlit center garden. Harrison stopped at the fountain (which was taller than him).

That God would be so good—that this delightful pond was filled with beer! Francis Ranier burped, his plump hands upon plumper hips, bending over the pond wistfully, inhaling deeply, imagining the amber brew.

Harrison planted his half-boot on the old man’s plump butt and shoved hard. Ranier kerplunked headfirst into the pond with a strangled blurp of surprise while Harrison and Sam exited the great center garden.

Ranier’s head bobbed to the surface and he treaded water and spat.

No respect for the elderly, let me assure you, he blubbered, wiping water from his eyes. An overgrown goldfish swam near him and he splashed after it, doing his best to catch it with either his bloated fingers or his teeth.

And here it was me that saved Harry’s stinking neck at the Speeder Games! Is that gratitude? Do I ever get any respect? Francis Ranier roared, and then chuckled, as he missed the fish completely.

3

When the Games began Harrison snapped four vents shut for optimum aerodynamics and with the same economic motion fired the electric engine to life. One quick check over the panel: battery, fine; liquid nitrogen, full; water, full; air compressor, just dandy; solar cells A-okay. The tachometer dancing with each inflection of Harrison’s wrist. He checked the alternate throttle by tipping down his right foot: steady and stable.

Franny, I know what you meant about a barrel of booze, Harry whispered.

His body was slick with hot sweat. He glanced to his left. A Lordman, red-haired and smiling, saluted. Harry nodded and looked to his right. A small kingsman was staring at him, lips mumbling and muttering in some savage silent threat. You buy it first, bucko, Harry whispered, smiling at the kingsman.

The Battle Cruiser in front had its two rifles trained on him, and the volcanic central cannon chuckled at him with either surprise or delight (perhaps delighted surprise at such a choice and tasty follower?). Harry was not concerned with the Cruiser, however; there would be no shooting in the first mile, and by that time Harry would be nowhere close to the heavy, lethal, and very-too-slow Battle Cruiser.

Harry had a few tricks—some which were not really supposed to work in battle tactics—tricks which, if they worked, would open a new martial art in Speeder barnstorming.

The Speeder Games course, available via binoculars to the royal tower where King Thomas, Prince Jim and Pastor Rettlaw watched: The first half-mile was flatland, devoted to gaining hoverspeed or risking even faster but less predictable static glide. The latter part of the first mile was sprung with nasty steel spikes which could gut the mightiest Battle Cruiser and also wreak extreme mischief with static fields; this was where the shooting started.

Then came the infamous Black Funnel, which was a ravine two miles in length, wide enough to let three Speeders side-to-side pass—the ravine walls were deadly for ice ricochet. Followed by five miles of flatlands in which Speeders yet equipped with wheels could plug it out or race for top speed. The King River, a mile broad, over which a Speeder with an ice-torn hover curtain could expect either a quick electrocution when the engine bathed in the icy waters, or a slower death by drowning.

At the far side of the river was a lightless tunnel of rock which curved and twined, with many a false path that led to death at the bottom of deep pits. The true pathway through the mountain emerged at a suspension bridge leading back over the King River.

After that, the raceway was a piece of cheese.

And yes, Harry’s tricks worked, admirably. Right off the starting line Harry sideswiped the Lordman on his left—and so enraged was the goodly man of God that he opened fire on Harry, only, Harry had already applied his brakes (which endangered him to a flattening under the wheels of the Speeders looming-up behind him)—the kingsman on Harry’s right (the muttering, mumbling guy) was consumed by the direct broadside of the Lordman’s rifles and erupted in a blue ball of electric light (which knocked out the Speeder behind the kingsman, too). The watching Blackguard put an end to all the firing by creaming the guilty Lordman with three economic blasts of their long-range weapons (which caused more chaos in the following ranks of screaming Speeders).

Harry, smiling, gunned forward to the flatland of deadly prongs. As the bigger craft went to hover and concentrated on zipping out the ice at each other, Harry remained sure-footed on three wheels. He was able to maneuver his smaller craft quite neatly through the spikes and soon gained the lead, and was in the ravine and racing while death played and rampaged on the spikefields in blue ice and blue fire.

The first four Speeders to the ravine were quite perplexed to find a sub-Speeder spitting ice flying at them from the narrow corridor—it was just something you did not want or expect to see. Quite expertly all four craft swerved to make a path for the insane little craft, and crashed broadside into the mountain, full force, all four.

And Harry, hardly an ice chip spit, was back in the Black Funnel, racing at top speed, the nearest competition a wide Battle Cruiser lumbering a half mile behind, plugging up the bottle neck. The smile Harry wore was no longer grim.

At the five-mile flatlands Harry knew his lead would be gobbled by the more powerful Speeders, so he was content to cruise at full speed and wait.

Yes, five Speeders did catch him (two ponderous Battle Cruisers gaining), a mile before the King River, and yes, they fought.

Boy, did they fight!

This was where Harry invented tag. Right. Just like in the kids’ game.