Wednesday, 6 April 2011
For 3,000 years, they have shielded us from harm in the gutters and alleys of every city on the globe. Now, the Sentinels of Right confront a lethal threat to their existence, at the hands of the humans that they have sworn to protect.
In order to safeguard their human wards, the guardians must also choose between renouncing their pledge to refrain from integrating themselves into the worldly culture of their charges or forfeiting their ethereal abilities to protect them.
Betrayed by traitors within their circle, the governing Sentinel councils plot to resolve their dilemma, while balancing their avowed adherence to the holy Creed of the Councils against the evolving morals and values of the society in which they operate.
It is a secret, unseen world pitted against the mortal determination of a pedantic human culture, with the future of both at stake.
But the mortal force that confronts them has uncovered secrets that will alter the future of the Sentinels irrevocably. It is a deadly game of chess that plays itself out on the streets and in the malls and offices of a quiet mid-western city.
Caught in the heart of this struggle is a by-the-book cop, a blind girl in love with one of the invisible Sentinels and a gutter-dwelling street Sentinel. Each sees the quandary from his or her unique perspective, and each must set aside personal biases in order to join forces and repel the threat that is directed at all of them.
Opposing the human cadre are Sentinels entrusted with key positions of power, who, simultaneously, view their mission through their own tint of reality. Both sides are focused on the identical objective: to protect the world from the ultimate moral challenges and defeat those that would destroy the fabric of their society.
The Council of the Pure must impose its will on a society that is governed solely by consensus and agreement, in order to overcome the peril that it faces. They also must do so, knowing that, to do so will mean the destruction of their society as it currently exists. Their choice is one of self preservation and the loss of their human protégés, or self destruction and the salvation of their mortal dependents.
Excerpt from Council Of The Pure
A slight bump, almost so imperceptible as to be nothing more than the brush of heavy fabric at her back. Janice turned partially to her right.
Was it merely an afterimage -- the haloed glow one sees after gazing at a bright light and then looking away? She could only guess. Perhaps it was simple imagination, but, briefly, her mind chronicled an iridescent shadow of, she imagined, a young man, nude but not obscenely so, hastening across the breadth of the mall behind her.
Her first thoughts were asexual. “Isn’t he cold?” Then, “He must have walked here. He has no keys.”
The absurdities hit her, and she laughed aloud.
A teen girl – a near-teen, rather – a few paces directly behind her and moving in the opposite direction, half-turned and sneered an angry scowl, then rapidly accelerated her retreat.
All others in the vicinity ignored her, looking at shop windows, at the floor a few feet in front of them, or to one side or the other. It was typical mall defensive behaviour.
Janice did a double take in the direction of the image that no longer was there, verifying its absence. She proceeded several steps further along her route, before the realization struck.
The pre-teen had not been walking past her just before Janice experienced the image and the slight jostle. The girl must have been following her, and then quickly rerouted. Janice was certain that the girl had been placing something in her oversized purse as she hustled away.
Pickpockets! That would explain the bump, the fact that the girl was perturbed, and in a sudden hurry. It was the busy season in the mall, and Janice had heard stories on the news warning of thieves and shoplifters and the like.
My crystal! The female shopper plunged her hand into the tote hanging at her right side, slung over her shoulder. Not there! She dug frantically into the depths of the purse, not feeling the small bag, not hearing the crinkle of tissue wrap. That girl! She stole it! Janice frantically scanned the area, not sure whether she was seeking help or tracking the whereabouts of the juvenile thief. Already, the girl had disappeared into the crowds of late November shoppers.
Janice tore the purse off her shoulder, examining the contents, as one would peer into a dark warren – with trepidation not at what she might find, but at what she most likely would not.
Moments earlier, after a half-day of careful search for the precise gift for her mother, she had found and purchased the singly most expensive gift she had ever acquired. It was a silhouetted angel, encased in crystal and formed of laser light, with a halo of miniature real diamonds that rotated in unison with the figurine trapped within the glass; impractical, yet perfect.
Janice’s thoughts jumped to her mother as she frantically tossed the contents of the bag. Her mother, who lay in St. Boniface Hospital, much closer to angels than to mundane life. Her mother, embracing death with enthusiasm, after so long embracing life with the same fervour. Her mother, forever calling on the strength of angels to guide her, guide her family, guide the world through every challenge. A woman of huge faith and a mother who was going to be missed with every breath Janice would take.
The figurine was not priceless, or even valuable by some standards, but it was irreplaceable in Janice’s view. It would be the last gift she would ever be able to hand to her mother, the last time she would see the gentle smile of appreciation, and hear the “It wasn’t necessary, but I love it,” that was her mom’s trademark. Now it was stolen, by a thief who could not know its value and could not care about its heart. Janice verged on tears. She clawed at the purse, tempted to dump its contents on the mall tiling. The figurine was not there!
She rummaged again, heedless of the disarray that she created, seeking the gift of the magi, and not finding it. But, seconds later, there it sat. The angel, still wrapped in soft tissue cloth and laying in the mangle of junk that filled her purse. Janice exhaled, paused for several moments, and moved on.
The eidetic image that Janice had noticed at the moment of the jostle by the youth, too, moved away, content that he had interceded with precise timing to prevent the young loiterer from reaching into the woman’s purse and snatching whatever fell into her fingers. A slight rustle of air, like the snow swirling behind a highway truck, wrapped inwardly as he progressed to his next rendezvous. No one else noticed.
If it were not for the focus in the eyes of each one, the stream of regimented automatons could be mistaken for the march of the living dead. Each rounded the terminus of the corridor, looped back without regard to left, right or rear and continued the driven pace, blindly yet single-mindedly retracing the direction from which he or she had evolved. The slight squish of advanced-engineered footwear provided the only clue of contemporaneous existence, as each footfall met tiled floor.
Early morning mall walkers, mid-aged to elderly, focused on the task of remaining a healthy force, signalled the pre-opening routine of the mall.
Unlike the post-opening creeping chaos, the hours prior to the unlocking of the doors of Columbia Shopping Centre possessed a rhythm, orchestrated by years of routine and careful scheduling by tenant stores, mall management, shippers and maintenance staff.
First, overnight cleaners carried out regular tasks, stripped tiles and refinished them, replaced damaged fixtures, washed floors, vacuumed, painted and repaired walls, replenished washroom supplies, and placed items back where they belonged. These were the drone bees, maintaining the hive of activity for the coming light of day.
Hovering between and among the cleaners, after-hours security patrolled, placed among the drones to watch for predators and intruders, but barely focusing beyond their next few steps, or the screens on their cell phones, Blackberries and IPhones. Rhythmically, they paced each alley and corridor, infrequently tested door locks, seldom peered in darkened store windows and, with a glazed aura, circled the mall, anticipating the influx of the pacing automaton mall walkers.
As the morning crept in, tradesmen buzzed their way into the conclaves, labyrinths and bowels of the building, armed with plumbing, electrical supplies, tools and ladders. In for a few hours, patch the problem, and retreat to the outer world.
Soon, delivery drivers would ring their way into the plywood hallways between retailers, the pounding clack of forklift wheels and dulled echo of rubber wheels on dollies mashing into the spaces between each tile, as they dragged their cargoes to this store and that. Boxes piled themselves in front of stores whose employees were tardy, awaiting signatures on bills of lading.
Lastly, the mall walkers infiltrated. Not truly a part of the mall inner workings, but invited in as beneficial parasites, the march of the minions provided a sample of the life that would invigorate the mall once the doors were officially unlocked. A few paced for their predetermined duration and then congregated in the mall food court for coffee and long conversations. Others rushed like wildebeest on migration, traversing each mall corridor with focused blindness. Others sauntered, conversing with a colleague or two. None observed the world around them in their determination to walk in circles.
Faceless, headless and expressionless mannequins stared back at them as the walkers rushed past the store windows.
The mall doors would open momentarily. A few of the automatons gathered their coats, preparing to relinquish their position in the mall hierarchy for the day. Others, more dedicated, would continue until the crush of shoppers made their marches untenable.
Another naked translucent figure – this time of a child – postured adjacent to a bench that held an abandoned shopping bag and light jacket that smelled of mothballs and old people. No one saw, and no one approached the belongings with malicious intent. The child ensured the security of the article array.
The Sentinels were beginning the second shift of their day.