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The Rising Star - Chapter 5: On the Road

by Alexshaw 

Posted: 08 March 2006
Word Count: 2108
Related Works: The Rising Star - Chapter 6: Revelations • 

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Hades awoke to the ringing of his phone. He had fallen asleep after watching a film and eating some slightly over-done pheasant. He was still hungry and now very irate at having been disturbed. He had a very early start in just a few hours.

"Speak," he snapped at the flashing red light on the wall.

"Sir, a situation just became an incident," said Hephaestus in a low voice. "A violent prison break has occurred in Holding Block One. Three simultaneous escapes."

"For God's sake, Hephaestus!" Hades said. "Just hire a bounty hunter and get them retrieved quietly. I've got to be up in four hours!"

"Sir, we haven’t had a prison break this significant in twenty years," his Chief of Staff continued. "I've had it contained so the Press doesn't get wind of it, but - it seems Prisoner #701 was among the escapees."

Hades groaned and slumped back on the bed with his teeth gritted. He had better things to do than go chasing after genetically altered sideshow freaks. Still, #701 was very valuable to Zeus and it would not do to let anybody else handle this situation.

"Get my car. Round up everybody involved for an immediate meeting."

"As you wish."

It was now two in the morning. Hades sat in the chief administrative office of Holding Block One and examined his notes. Prisoner #701 had somehow freed himself from maximum-security bindings and beaten several guards into unconsciousness. Hades examined the files on Bridget and Sire and pondered. Was it possible the two of them had gotten themselves arrested purely so they could aid the escape of prisoner #701? It made no sense, since the three breakouts had happened many blocks apart, and were seemingly entirely independent of each other, yet logic dictated that this wasn't just coincidence. Hades watched the camera footage of Sire's escape from his cell for the tenth time. The figure onscreen flung up his sheet and obscured what happened in the next few seconds. Afterwards the screen cleared and the door closed, leaving the figure of the unconscious guard curled up on Firebrand's bed. It did not seem all that professional; neither did the girl's. Hades tapped his intercom again.

"Have you located his genetic sample readouts yet?" he said. There was a pause, then Hephaestus responded.

"I have the gene technician who analysed it with me now, sir."

"Send him in."

"Yes, sir."

The tech entered and stood politely in front of the desk. He placed Sire's file disc on the table and Hades slotted it into his computer and downloaded the data. Sire's true identity appeared as lines of statistics; his blood readouts, genetic material, body history and DNA sort coding. Hades' eyes widened.

"You're absolutely sure this is accurate?" he asked. The tech nodded.

"I discovered this data about thirty minutes ago. It was in a queue, waiting for routine filing and nobody had checked it carefully yet, sir," he said.

"Why not?" Hades demanded.

"Sir, if you'll forgive me, this information isn't exactly the sort of thing we look for these days." Hades considered striking the man dead where he stood. His blood boiled and he gripped his armrests. The tech flinched perceptibly. Then slowly Hades' anger passed and a new thought occurred to him. He ejected the disc and removed the information from the screen.

"So he must be...?" he asked, carefully leaving out the specifics. The room was most likely swarming with bugs. He tilted his head and locked eyes with the tech. The message had been passed across subtly. The tech tipped his head in accordance.

"Yes, sir. There's no doubt about the readouts."

"And nobody else has seen them?"

"No, sir, or they would have told me first." Hades sat back in his chair and a tiny trace of a smile tweaked his lips.

"You may go," he said and gestured to the door. The tech would be dead before he got home, he decided, a sudden and tragic auto wreck.

Hades waited until the man had left and then rested his elbow on the desk, with his fingers to his temple, lost in thought. This new information presented a wave of possibility he had never encountered before. Merely entertaining the lethal idea of going about behind the backs of those who were really in charge made Hades' spine tingle and his fingers dance with lightning.

His mind raced over the possibilities. Information, and the time to accumulate it, was all he required. He called for his car and headed home, making several calls on the way.


Back in his private quarters with Hephaestus in tow, Hades typed a ten-digit code into an innocuous-looking little keypad set in the wall beside his bed. The full-length mirror next to his wardrobe slid open to reveal his panic room, the single place he knew no bugs could possibly penetrate. It was sacred and known only to Hephaestus and himself. They stepped inside and the mirror closed, leaving them in an eerie green half-light. They stood in total silence as the sound absorbers kicked in. These removed all traces of noise from within the room so the two of them would have to lip-read.

"Official story," Hades mouthed into the dead silence. "Three prisoners escaped from Holding Block One tonight. Their whereabouts will be unknown for two weeks and then High Admiral Hera will pick up prisoner #701 wherever he's hiding."

"Why two weeks, sir?" Hephaestus asked. "We can reacquire him right away."

"I need time. In actuality, I don’t care about #701. Its this other prisoner who interests me." He held out a palm-top computer with Sire's readouts displayed on a miniature holoscreen. "You are the only other living soul on Zeus who has this information" - he checked his watch - "as of three minutes ago."

Hephaestus read the data readout and reacted.

"Is there any possibility this has been faked to distract you from #701?" he asked.

"Very unlikely," Hades replied.

Hephaestus did not speak for a moment.

"What are you thinking, sir?" he asked. Hades did not reply. "You're not going to kill him?"

Hades shook his head.

"Not yet."

"Then what?"

"That will become apparent when we know all there is to know about this boy." He closed the computer and pocketed it, straightening his tie as he did so. "I have allowed myself fourteen days to plan my strategy. The merest hint of insurrection will trigger the fastest political silencing since Latisha."

Hephaestus nodded, remembering the inspiring speech Hades opponent Jenna Latisha had given immediately prior to her grisly public demise. Hades activated a desk, which slid from the wall and fired up his most private of computers as he mouthed, "Let's learn a little history."


Sire sat back in the co-pilot's chair and sighed. Outside the ship, stars twinkled invitingly, beckoning him onwards. This was all new and wonderfully uncharted territory in his life. Everything from this moment on was his. He had decided to make a fresh start and the key rule, it seemed, was that he himself would call the shots. No more obeying tiny little men with power complexes. No more slavishness to convention. Whatever life was out there for him, the pathway chosen would be his alone.

He checked the readouts, and while he didn’t entirely understand them all, he was familiar enough with similar machinery to know they were alone for hundreds of miles around, at least for now. The autopilot was on and they were on a fast and steady course down a little-used freight lane. Sire wrestled his aching body out of the comfy chair and stepped into the passenger area.

The interior of the ship was actually fairly pleasant. It had tasteful blue and cream decor and fairly comfortable seating. Bridget was lying on the couch with a damp flannel over to her forehead and Terez sat at the back, flexing his atrophied muscles and twisting his numbed body back to life. Sire had helped him to remove his restraints and had offered him a dark cloth to tie around his eyes. Unfortunately, the light coming from Sire was could not be blocked out by physical means. Terez seemed to be able to cope with it for now, though.

"We're still on course," Sire said brightly. "We should be on Amon in a couple of hours."

He turned to the big man. "Terez, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but if you've been locked away for five years, how do you even know your friend will still be there?"

Terez considered this for a moment.

"I've seen us meeting him."

"You keep saying things like that; do you mean literally?" Sire said, trying to sound as polite as possible.

"What I mean is I can see in my mind things which may or may not happen. I saw you getting out of your cell, that's why I broke out when I did."

Sire had read about soothsayers but now, in the face of one, he found himself oddly sceptical. "How accurate are you?"

"Everything I see comes true in some form or another. Sometimes it's a little twisted, though." He smiled.

"Are you always right?"

"Yes - but it doesn’t mean I'm never wrong."

"What do you see?" asked Sire. "I mean, how?"

"I see pictures in my head, like you would if you were remembering old movies. Sometimes I dream them. The worst part is that I can’t block those thoughts out. They didn't give me an off switch."


"Zeus. I was their project. A predicting machine that helped them to protect their future interests."

"So they probably want you back pretty badly now."

"Most likely."

"You realise you're probably bugged," said Bridget suddenly, sitting up and removing the cloth from her face. "Tracker beacons must be lighting you up like a Christmas tree. Zeus will find us in half a day. We can't escape if you're with us. Terez nodded."

"I know," he said. "I can feel it." He pressed his index finger into the area of skin half an inch behind his right ear under the crook of his skull. "Here. But that's okay, because you and Dr Firebrand here are going to perform some amateur surgery."

"What?" Sire baulked.

"This couch folds out, right?" Terez said calmly, gesturing to the one he was sitting on.

"Yes," Bridget said.

"Then get a very sharp knife and do exactly what I tell you to do."

Ten minutes later, Sire had stopped dry retching. Bridget was washing her hands over and over, Terez lay unconscious with a hefty bandage on his neck, and a bloodied lump of plastic and metal the size of a brazil nut lay on the table. Sire shakily placed it in a vacuum flask and flushed it out the garbage dispenser. With any luck, it would drift away from the road, far enough to keep Zeus hunting, and allow them an outside chance of escape. He slumped back into the co-pilot's seat and stared out into space. Bridget was already in the pilot's seat, but she didn't speak to him.

"You okay?" he asked.

"I'm fine," she snapped.

"Alright, stupid question," he admitted. "I'm sorry I threw up. It was the sounds more than anything else." Bridget said nothing and stared out of the window. "What are you going to do once we get there?"

"Take a shower," she replied coldly.

"And then?"

"I don't know," she said, a little softer now. "I'm a fugitive and I'm stuck with a suspected terrorist and 'Cross my palm with silver' back there, both of whom are likely to have Zeus searching every city in the system. I've no hope of work or a normal future. All I can look forward to are occasional brief periods of safety in a lifetime of looking over my shoulder."

Sire had to admit this was another way of looking at his situation. Even with his experience in hiding, there was no way he could rejoin civilised society if he was a known criminal. His face would be on every wanted list of a bored police force. For the first time he faltered a little. Bridget turned to him.

"Who are you really?" she asked.

"I told you," he replied.

"Yes, but I suspect there's more." Her lips curled slightly and Sire felt the cage he had built up around the truth buckle. He had never told anyone what she was asking. If they were caught she would break easily under torture. His life would be in her hands.

Then again, they would probably kill him either way.

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Comments by other Members

Nelly at 23:02 on 08 March 2006  Report this post
Excellent. Really enjoyed this upload, you've spent a reasonable period of time with each character. The humor is coming through very well, with some nice little touches here and there. Still think Hades is a well thought out and entertaining bad guy.

Looking forward to more.


toshi at 17:51 on 09 March 2006  Report this post
Hi Alex,

I enjoyed this too. The story has definitely taken off now. I think the humour is a great touch as well.

There are a few places where you have missed out the apostrophe in words like didn't etc.

Also I wasn't sure about this sentence:

This was all new and wonderfully uncharted territory in his life.
Is something missing?

it would drift away from the road, far enough to keep Zeus hunting,
aren't they in space, not on the road?

Look forward to more!

Best wishes

Alexshaw at 22:47 on 09 March 2006  Report this post
Thanks Tosh

If you were traveling in space along a designated lane would it feel more like being on a road or an ocean? I'm divided on this issue myself. I like the romantic image of sailing ships as they are in our heads, but the mundanity of freight lanes lends itself to a feeling of being on a road.

Either way there would be certain paths a ship would have to stick to. I believe I should develop this further.

And thank you Nelly.

This started out, believe it or not as a much sillier Pratchet-style novel and gradually as i came to care about the characters as they fleshed out i started giving them more dignity and moments of quiet reflection. Over the years it has become more of a sweeping epic yet deeply personal story, focused on characterisation but still retaining the best of it's humour.

This is at least in my humblest of opinions.

"This was all new and wonderfully uncharted territory in his life." Is something missing? -

I'm not sure I should add to this? Does it not work on it's own?

There are a few places where you have missed out the apostrophe in words like didn't etc. -

Sorry about this, whenever I cut and paste from Word to HTML, I have to change all the punctuation manually and a few slip through the net every time. I'm fairly certain it's set up like that for two reasons; firstly to save web space and secondly to prevent people pasting MASSIVE sections of their books on here without carefully editing them for grammar etc...

Thanks again for your support guys, I'm keenly reading your work as well and help from authors of your calibre is very much appreciated.

paul53 [for I am he] at 09:25 on 10 March 2006  Report this post
Hi Alex,
While this is becoming a good story, I get the feeling you are rushing to get it down and commented upon instead of pausing to get it down correctly. More haste, less speed. Go as far as you can with any piece before seeking comment from others, because being told is never the same as knowing something within.
Think about two different people telling the same story but in different ways: one does it well and captivates; the other does it badly and irritates. The story itself is not at fault; it is the delivery. So, always concentrate on presenting it as well as you can. Better uploading a week late with just a few glitches than too soon with too many errors. The reader can skim over a couple, but too many will push him/her away from really “getting into” the tale.


[Notes made while I was elsewhere, so there may be repetitions of previous comments, or points already dealt with.]

He had fallen asleep after watching a film and eating …
He had fallen asleep watching a film after eating…

”Sir, we havent … the press …”
sp. haven’t … the Press …

… but’ [?]” He paused. “It seems…
… but” - he paused - “it seems… [and later with “Zeus … three minutes ago”].

It was now two in the morning. Hades sat in the chief administration office of Holding Block One and examined his notes.
By two in the morning, Hades was sitting in the chief administration office of Holding Block One examining his notes.

The two paragraphs between “… and tragic auto wreck.” & “Back in his private quarters” tell us nothing new and can be deleted.

The red pen gets a lot of use over the next few pages and almost disappears again the last couple. Correcting basic punctuation, placing apostrophes and deleting unnecessary words will catch most of them.


Alexshaw at 22:41 on 11 March 2006  Report this post
Thank you Paul.

I don't feel like I am rushing this out.

I completely agree with you on matters of punctuation and those will be corrected. This particular chapter was transcribed in a hurry and it shows.

However I wouldn't agree with you on many of the other structural points you have made. the style of prose I am most comfortable reading and writing is my own and since art is all relative, this is very likely to apply to most authors. I will take your advice on board in this case, but keep most of this as it is.

Things that may seem trivial are usually intentionally subtle pieces of characterisation that may prove more significant on repeat reasing (which was always my intention for this book).

paul53 [for I am he] at 06:55 on 12 March 2006  Report this post
I will make a note to concentrate my limited time on the others in this group.

Patsy at 01:35 on 13 March 2006  Report this post
Hi Alex,

Still really loving this.

Great that Hades had something special in his grasp in Sire, and really screwed up and let him slip away -- makes you feel he got what he deserved.

You feel that there is something quite unique about Sire, but you keep us guessing as to just what it is, and that's great too. It make me wonder what he will discover he can do, as this feels like a coming into his own kind of story.

Things to consider:

Bridget was already sat in the pilot's seat, but she didn't speak to him.

Bridget was already sitting... or Bridget was already in ... ?

Patsy :)

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