Wednesday, March 18, 2015

3-18-15 Wednesday Write-up
2:47 PM

3-18-15 Wednesday Write-up


Artwork © Frans Mensink, All Rights Reserved
Image Altered by Four Fools Press Without Permission
Story and Characters © Corey Blankenship, All Rights Reserved 
Brought to you by Four Fools Press: “Crazy Good Stories”

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UQWE3M8
In response to a fantastic review, author Corey Blankenship seeks to give interested fans a little more insight into his latest novel, Night's Nadir! Let us know what you think! Warning: Some spoilers lurk inside this "epi-prologue" intermission between Barnabas' adventures!


 “Priority alpha…?”

His head swam as if a bottle of rubbing alcohol had been dumped inside his skull. He went to rub his temples and immediately regretted the gesture. His fingers pressed thick gauze through a ragged hole, touching the scratchy material to something hard and smooth: bone. The rubbing alcohol ignited into a mind-gnawing inferno. Barnabas nearly spilled his insides on the table as his head spasmed away from his betraying hand.

“You might not want to touch that,” a gentle voice admonished.

Barnabas opened puffy eyelids, which ached from the effort. Light pounced through the open wounds, adding heat to his mental fire. Whatever vigor brought him to life had ebbed to a nearly mortal scale. What a hellacious dream… The internal moan swirled to the front of the turbulent fumes of his smouldering thoughts. Then, a steel resolve closed around the pain, screening it off into a proper kiln to distill his memories. His gaze narrowed and took in the scene about him. Barnabas had been taken to the wire before--though he had never crossed the Line as he had after the despairing flight from the mines of Mufkat.

Mufkat...

Few details adorned the room. The sterile stucco walls, sandstone tiled floors, and solid cedar door suggested the grizzled veteran remained in the Middle East. Barnabas noted that the stainless steel table underneath his hands offered scant reflection, scoured of any detail or edges. Heavy pieces of forged metal clung and chafed unforgivingly at his wrists: handcuffs. He adjusted his stiff legs. Besides the bone-searing ache in every muscle and joint, a dull chink told him the truth.

Barnabas had been taken prisoner.

“Interesting…” A man pronounced in a polished, emotionless tone.

The veteran studied the figure who leaned against the far wall. Hazel eyes, devoid of apparent interest, scrutinized the prisoner; his manicured beard and hair, both the color of riverbed silt, framed his impassive gaze and sharp jawline; his two-piece suit and coordinated tie announced his allegiance. Barnabas’ gut kindled. The warning beacon reached the will-induced calm section of his mind.

Sector 7.

The captive looked from the oily-haired agent to his partner. The agent sat before Barnabas, his features softer than the others, crowned by neatly-parted golden locks. Only the thick, Norse-looking beard kept him from looking like a cherub. Sapphire eyes sparkled, lines stretching out along the skin around them. The well-worn folds around his gaze hinted to Barnabas this one felt the pains of others. A decanter and cup sat in front of the agent. He pushed the crystal glass across the table into Barnabas’ reach.

“Here, drink. This will help with your headache,” the captor offered.

“What is in it?” Barnabas croaked as he eyed the clear liquid.

“Just water. It’s pure, straight from the Source,” the man added.

Barnabas noted the strange emphasis on Source, but his gut didn’t trigger. Perhaps this will quench the furnace in my skull...or poison me. An occupational hazard, the veteran mused. He sipped, then chugged as the frigid water rinsed over his cracked lips, parched gum beds, and down his arid throat. A pleasant tingling flushed through starved tissue, as though thousands of tributaries awakened and carried the enlivening fluid into the ravaged desert of his body. What had been a wasteland of torn flesh bristled with renewed vitality. The skin around his wrapped wounds shivered with a tickling sensation. The heady warmth of revelry started to replace the famished hunger of pain in his head. He nearly tossed the cup across the table in his hunger for more.

“Hold on there, Barnabas,” the standing man commanded in his languid tone.

“We’ll give you more. Don’t worry,” offered the one at the table.

“How do you know my name?” Strength returned to Barnabas’ voice. So did suspicion.

“You’re well known to the Sector,” the first agent replied, “at least to those who have to deal with your antics.”

“The Sector wastes its resources if it keeps tabs on a lowly soldier,” Barnabas countered.

The agent stepped from the wall and leaned over the table. His voice sparked with a flinty tone. “A professor-turned-paramilitary officer is not so low as you think. Especially for the group you’ve thrown in with.”

“Silas,” the other agent interjected, putting a hand on his partner’s arm. “Let’s take things slowly. He just stepped back from the Other Side, after all. Besides, it would’ve been more work for us if he remained in the Pit.”

Silas sighed. “Yeah, guess you’re right, Thomas. Then again,” Silas returned his steely gaze to the prisoner, “him having the Piece makes things sticky. A lot more sticky.”

“True,” Thomas poured a glass of water, but didn’t pass it to captive. “Why don’t you help us fill in the blanks, Barnabas? What happened in the mines?”

Barnabas stared at the glass, then at Thomas. This wasn’t his first interrogation. “You know my name and rank. That is all you need to know.”

Sad lines furrowed further in Thomas’ face. Silas frowned. “You can either tell us or we will draw the memories kicking and screaming from your head.”

The words came without menace, as if spoken as fact.

Thomas nudged the glass closer, but not quite into arm’s reach. “It’s far simpler if you share in your own words--and much more pleasant for everyone involved.”

“What would you care to hear a Jadd’s story of ancestors, the Land of Turquoise, and the pride of being the first civilization?” chuckled the prisoner.

Silas tersely replied, “Everything. You’re no grandfather, and we both know there is more to the story.”

“True,” Barnabas stretched the word. His temple throbbed. “I have not been so fortunate to settle down. Your kind keeps me busy abroad.”

“You underestimate our patience, Barnabas.” Thomas interrupted. “Your deflections, while humorous, only delay the process. But they do not disrupt our progress. We have you here. We will eventually have the Altar Piece.”

“So you plan to take the turquoise wall panel? You’d destroy a priceless artifact?” The veteran quipped.

Silas laughed. “No, that stone will stay locked in the earth. Your men will see to that.”

Thomas weighed in. “We get the Altar Piece. You get the vault. It’s a win-win.”

Barnabas wondered why they gave up on the mines. More would lurk in the parallel tunnels the other squad had entered. What did they want? The vault has the Gate and Keystone to the Pharoah's Prison. He mentally added, of Djinn, apparently.

He didn't want to know what price the kings of old had paid to seal, and then wield, such spirits. A terrible secret he hoped the Sons could keep from foul hands.

As if reading his mind, Silas tipped his hand, “Whatever happened in the vault, you walked away with the Altar Piece. The Boss only knows why…but we are here to collect it.”

The image of a blue-flamed cross shimmered in Barnabas’ mind. Then a golden-red storm consumed it. He shuddered.

“Herein lies the problem. We can’t get the Piece out of you. Not yet, anyway…” continued Silas.

“It’s not yours to have,” Barnabas retorted. Whatever he had, he would not surrender it.

“Nor is it yours,” Silas answered deadpan.

Thomas pressed the cup into the prisoner’s hands. “We want to free you from this burden. It’s not yours to bear. Look at the state it’s already left you in.”

Barnabas accepted the drink and imbibed with more reserve. Another wave of clarity and cleansing coursed through him. He felt like a new man. The image of hissing fangs and hungering fire fizzled. The symbol of the handled cross burned clearer. His most recent past ordered itself, and, for a time, could not haunt him. He remembered the Gate. He remembered the djinn. He remembered the Power. Power that the springwater seemed to feed.

“What do mean by Altar Piece?” Barnabas queried.

Thomas smiled faintly, “All you need to know is that these artifacts belong in the most secure place possible. Mufkat had been safe enough, until your group from the Sons of Alexandria uncovered the secret vault’s existence.”

“Sorry to be so productive,” the veteran added wryly.

“Anyway, we will move these Pieces forthwith out of the Field,” Silas concluded. “Starting with the one inside your head.”

“I’m afraid gentlemen, it won’t be so easy.” Barnabas said. “These artifacts belong in the hands of museums.”

The veteran had already guessed the door would be locked. He hadn’t seen weapons, but he knew appearances were deceiving. Whatever these agents were capable of, he knew they hadn’t prepared for him to use the Piece. Perhaps they thought he didn’t know what it was or how to use it. Unless he wanted to stay and stretch his military-grade counter-interrogation training, Barnabas would have to activate the symbol. What had they called him?, he recalled.

The Wild Card.

He smiled broadly and said in a generous tone, “Thank you for the hospitality and insightful conversation, but I have a mission to finish.”

The veteran mentally touched the Mark lurking inside him. The Ankh blazed into sight on his forehead and violently flashed, filling the room in blinding azure flames. Barnabas disappeared, engulfed in fire. In the afterglow, the stucco blackened to tar and the floor to soot. The door had enkindled along its frame.

“Sulphur and Smoke!” cursed Silas, patting his fuming suit.

Thomas collected himself off the floor and righted the warped table. “We better alert the entire Sector.”

Silas grimaced. He touched an uncomfortably warm earpiece, sending out the alert. “...and now the Wild Card knows that there are other Pieces. I repeat, Priority Alpha is at large.”
***
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