Saturday, November 17

the masks they slide / to reveal a new disguise

As Bloodwing's grip tightened, he bellowed at me in the dialect of the Underworld kingdom he once laid claim. Syllables painful to pronounce and and worse to hear. Words I did make out was Traitor. Malfunctioning. Useless.

He eased his grip as he shifted his tongue to English, but still held my throat.

"I can sense from here there is no soul left in that body, nor any aspect of the Hydra," he snarled as he dragged me across the ash-strewn ground to gaze at the comatose body.

"Jeremiah must have reprogrammed you when you were captured in his lair. But his plan has come to naught. The point is moot. Both doctors are...gone."

"But," I stammered, "Darien's clones..."

Bloodwing shook his head. "I activated the self-destruct sequence for all of the clone chambers."

It was my turn to scream at him. But I could not. He glared at me as I pantomimed the motions of loading my heaviest weaponry. He was also listed as a Creator...untouchable. But this is as close as I could ever get to threatening him.

"This was by his own direction, Qlippothic. This contingency was set in motion as soon as we returned home from the Underworld, to prevent an army of serpents from rising all at once."

I addressed him again in the calmest composure.

"Bloodwing...that body is Darien's. I realize it is not logical. But there are some things cannot be duplicated in a clone with a distinct identity. It is part of the Curse...and beyond Science, even with the Spark, to imitate. There is only one way to prove this to you. And you know how. If as you say, that is now an empty shell...Darien's essence can be recorded into it from his cloning machine!"

Bloodwing shook his head as he released his spiked glove from around my neck. His face, his voice, and the droop of his wings reflected his utter disgust and disappointment in me.

"Qli! This is madness! You are grasping at straws, my daughter!" He crouched over the body and lay a hand on its chest. Instantly, the demon's form vanished...and the body that we thought was Jeremiah Mason sat up with a look of complete amazement.

"This..this cannot be!" Bloodwing said as the body's features grew pale, "This is indeed a Seventh Son!"

The colorations of Bloodwing's form gathered like tinted fog across the Host's skin and solidified, like watercolors dissolving in reverse. The face turned black and crimson. The flesh scrawled archaic designs upon itself. He gazed at his hands, turning them over and caressing them.

"The position of every neuron is exactly as I remember...even the alterations I made to him on the inside are still here!"

He rose unsteadily as his hair reddened and lengthened. He struggled for balance as he remembered how to control another's body, made somewhat easier by the fact that the primary occupant was missing. He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth as horns sprouted and curved from his forehead. When he opened his eyes again they had gone from deep blue to crimson.

"You are right, Qli. We can bring him back."

With a sudden snap, his great red wings stretched out behind him.

"But you WILL explain this when we return, or I will rip out your Spheres and shake the truth out of them myself!"

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