“Pay heed to the tales of old wives. It may well be that they alone keep in memory what it was once needful for the wise to know.”
With the press of a fingerprint, the old wood styled door slid open with a hiss. Storm Hamilton glanced inside the apartment, watching the inner lights slowly come to life, revealing the jagged shape of the thickly-furnished central room. He ushered Ross Abernathy in with the push of a hand and sealed the door behind them. He hung his fedora on the top of the old coat rack that stood near the door.
This apartment was one of the few perks of being a member of the police that Storm actually accepted. It was a small apartment; only a single bedroom which adjoined the side of the main living chamber. It was modern, but only in construction and technology. The interior was filled with prewar furniture as much as was possible. The kitchen had come pre-installed with modern ovens and a metallic bar that had electric blue lights running along its sides—Storm kept those permanently disabled. To the left of the kitchen was what looked to be an old-fashioned reading room, with a large leather chair, a cloth sofa, a large bookcase, and a simulated fireplace which put out more light than the dimmed ceiling lamps.
Storm had been able to get on an early-buyer’s list before the complex had even been complete. He had known it would be the perfect place for him. The complex was located to the eastern side of New London, near what was previously the town of Reading, and close to Reading Abbey which somehow still remained standing despite all that had happened in the recent decades. That was one of Storm’s favorite places to visit, and was usually empty of tourists who no longer saw the value in touring historical sites.
New London did not actually occupy much of the past territory of its namesake since the former global hub had been one of the first victims of nuclear strike during the war. Everything inside the M25 had been turned to wasteland, and the surrounding areas had not fared much better. The Seraphim christened their city New London more out of notoriety and necessity than location. Though there did seem to be a bit of homage in the choice as well, which was odd for the history-averse aliens.
“You’re welcome to the sofa for the time being,” Storm said to his guest. “It’s soft enough.”
“This place is…amazing,” Ross said, peering around like a child in a toy shop. “It’s like a museum in here…well if we still had any of those.”
Storm was aware of the man’s eyes drifting towards his cherished bookshelf, much in the same way a mother noticed the eyes of strangers on her children. The dark wood shelf was as tall as a man and just about as wide; it was almost full of worn books.
“I don’t think I have ever seen a bookshelf this large…and so many books,” Ross said, his face filled with wonder. “It’s like a prewar library!”
The detective pitied the man’s naiveté. Storm had actually seen real libraries, had visited ruins in the safer areas of former London. Digging through the rubble, he had found many volumes of his current collection there, where they had laid forgotten for decades.
“I wonder,” Ross muttered, “why do you have these books? Aren’t they available in the Archive?”
“Some are, yes. But for how long? That database is controlled by the Seraphim. And…well, I just don’t trust their hands with the words of our past. A push of a button could erase them forever.”
“So, you’re a conservationist.”
“I guess you could say that.”
“What’s this big one?” Ross said, reaching out a finger to touch the black spine of a disproportionately large volume. He read the title out loud, “The Lord of the Rings…what is that one about? Is it a history?”
“In a way,” Storm replied. “It’s about finding heroism in unlikely places.”
“May I?” Ross asked, indicating his intention to remove the book from its resting place. Storm had to fight his reluctance, but managed a shallow nod.
“I see you have some tabs stuck in here,” Ross said, opening to one of the pages.
“I marked some of the passages that resonated with me,” Storm said.
“Like this one,” Ross said. “The writing…is a bit strange to me. It says ‘Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.’ You found that important?”
“It’s the story of my life. Those well-dressed greys in the world government don’t care what happens every day on the street. I bet the New London mayor doesn’t even know about Kirney and the cult violence. Even if she did, she wouldn’t care. If it doesn’t affect the economy…”
“That’s pretty cynical.”
“Says the cultist who’s now running for his life?”
“Past experience shows us much of what to expect with the human creature. No amount of Seraphim education or conditioning will completely change what we are. These books…this history gives me an idea of what to expect when things go bad. Just the place we seem to be headed right now. The greys can’t see it, but I can.”
Storm turned towards the kitchen, intending to pour a pair of drinks for himself and his guest when the electronics of the apartment door started to beep and buzz. The door slid open with a groan. A shadow stood in the frame, the glint of metal revealing the weapon in his hand. Storm reached out and grabbed Ross by his loose jacket, dragging the man down behind the metal bar as rapid green energy pulses shot through the room. Bits of cloth and leather and paper flew into the air.
The bar shook with impact of energy shots, but for now appeared able to withstand the onslaught. The air quickly became thick with the smell of burning history. Storm’s face contorted with fury. The shots continued pelting the metal bar, and some flew over into the kitchen, shattering glass and breaking open cupboards.
Storm reached a hand under the inner-side of the bar, opening a long but slender compartment, and pulling out an old snub shotgun. He pumped the first round into the chamber. The blaster fire ceased. Loud steps entered the room. Storm leaned the shotgun over the bar and pulled the trigger. The godly noise echoed of the rattling metal of the kitchen.
Hearing the sound of a man scream, Storm pumped the shotgun again and rose over the bar. One man lay in a bloody heap on the floor, a second stared down at his wounded comrade from the doorway. Storm took aim. The man noticed him in time to begin ducking out into the hallway before the blast ripped through the door. The attacker had been almost out, almost. A frantic scream indicated at least a partial hit. Storm pumped the shotgun again and dashed around the bar to the door.
While he moved, shotgun at the ready, he activated his comm implant and send a distress call on all channels and to all his contacts. He knew they wouldn’t be able to help, but he would need them to help clean up and start running the traces to figure out where these men had come from. No one attacked the home of a police officer. It just never happened. This was an act of war and Storm was already drawing his line of attack.
Storm ducked at the edge of the door and peeked into the hallway. The assailant was halfway down the hall to the stairwell, bypassing the elevators. Neighbors were staring to open their doors, adding to the dangerous chaos.
“Stay inside!” Storm yelled. He turned back to Ross. “Abernathy, seal the door behind me if you can and stay here.” Then he leapt out into the hall and sprinted after the fleeing attacker.
The clank of heavy steps on metal stairs rose in a cacophonous symphony, like the loud music that plays during the chase scene in old movies. Storm struggled to keep from tumbling over, skipping steps as he flew down the half dozen flights of stairs. He heard the electric beeps of the building’s main door and knew he had caught up.
Storm swung into the ground floor hallway with his shotgun raised.
The man’s hand stopped pushing buttons on the door’s control panel.
“The building’s on lockdown,” Storm said, trying to steady his voice while catching his breath. “You’re not going anywhere.”
The detective saw the attacker consider this, looking first at the control panel then glancing back at Storm. The man’s left hand held an automatic blaster; it trembled. The gunman closed his eyes for a brief moment—a visual sigh—then he screamed a terrible warcry, lifting his gun arm up and towards Storm. The earsplitting blast of the shotgun was followed by deadly silence.
“Detective Hamilton,” an unfamiliar voice buzzed in Storm’s ear implant, “this is dispatch, units are on their way. Are you okay?”
“The situation is under control,” Storm said, staring down at the second dead man.
Jasper Smith had crossed the line. One way or another, Storm was going to put the mad dog down.
*More stories set in the world of Storm Hamilton and the Seraphim can be found here: