Friday, 21 December 2007

Fiction - The Wheel Turns

"The Wheel Turns"
by David Ronayne

NOTE: The characters and events of the Chung Kuo Universe are copyright Dave Wingrove and New English Library books. They are used here with the utmost respect. (Except for the bit with the horse in Book 1 — very nasty Mr Wingrove, very nasty indeed.)

Bremen, City Europe, The Middle Kingdom, July 2207.

The man in black stood amongst the smoke and the smell of death. The 'uppers' remained in ruins, the vents sealed and still the fires had raged. He had read all the reports and seen all the files, but he had known he would have to experience the event first hand to be sure, to see the full consequences of his actions, and to strengthen his resolve to complete his plans. It would be a very dangerous undertaking and if his nerve ever weakened ...

Someone started calling for acetylene torches and ice-cutters to try to cut their way into the sealed lower levels of the stack, there may still be survivors down there ... He sat down and wept — they still had no idea who or what they were dealing with. Forces he had set into motion long ago, blinded by the righteous belief that he was improving things, running the tracks of history onto new and alien futures. Here it was comparatively settled, Draconia and Skaro had ceased to exist, at least Earth was still here, just with a different name. It was all number Seven's fault, the gaudy Welsh one, with the suspect ties and ridiculous waistcoat. If only someone had kept the meddlesome fool in check before he had wrecked havoc over the timelines, if only someone had told him, if only ... The man shook his head sadly knowing that he wouldn't have listened, locked in a cosmic crusade with a temporal mandate from heaven. And as a result fifteen thousand people died today.

"No, it was all our own fault, we all brought these futures on ourselves," he muttered quietly to himself. He felt a consoling hand on his shoulder and turned to see Tolenen, the ageing Marshal of the Tang's forces looking down, smiling weakly at him. The man in black flinched back. He had read the other's reports and journals and knew the general had mistaken the middle aged HungMao in the fine black tunic and pau for an off duty officer who had rushed back to the base at the alarm.

"There was nothing any of us could have done. Kuan Yin help us."

The man-in-black's wild laughter startled the elder. Then followed a torrent of facts and accusations. Tolenen was a good man and didn't deserve this, apart from breaking almost every law of time, the resulting conflicts of interest would cause the old man considerable strain. But his hearts had almost broken at the sights around him, and his anger and rage, more at himself than anything else, needed to be vented. Anyway had not such interference caused the problem, and if his plan succeeded this world was lost. And someone had to know the full extent of his folly.

He told the old man everything, past, present, and future. Wan wu, all things of heaven and earth. His involvement with the formation of the Cities and The Seven, the birth of the Ping Tau, and of Devore's treachery, the secrets of the Shepherd family and the upcoming assassinations. The Clay, the shell, and the Wiring Project, the developing situation in America and the things that could be found there.

He swore at the deaths on Mars, the destruction of the palaces, Lienmann in the Undercity, everything and more. Marshal Tolenen turned away unheeding, the conversation written off in his personal journal as the shacked ravings of a man who had seen to much at Bremen. There would be many of them. When the revelations came to light futile searches would bemade for the mysterious hei nan jell, the man in black, but he would be long gone by that stage.

He watched the old man leave. He knew he was preparing to meet Li Shai Tung within the hour. The man in black stood. His course was clear. He would have to sell and rebuy half his souls, and make pacts with various devils, but he was sure. It would be the ultimate treason in the eyes of his people and the greatest feat of temporal meddling ever performed. He would rewrite his own history, forcing himself into a different regenerative cycle, and hopefully set the past right. He may not even survive the process, but what was one life to save the countless world from the follies of his youth. Someone started screaming as the lower levels were uncovered, and as he turned to leave the Valeyard knew what he must do.


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