Authors: Randall Farmer
The Forgefires of God
Book Three of “The Cause”
Randall Allen Farmer
Copyright © 2015 by Randall Allen Farmer
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work, in whole or in part, in any form. This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, organizations and products depicted herein are either a product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously.
The living Arms in the United States as of December 1972,
with the year they transformed in parentheses.
Stacy Keaton (1963)
Carol Hancock (1966)
Amy Haggerty (1968)
Sylvia Bass (1968)
Florence Rayburn (1969)
Rose Webberly (1969)
Christine Naylor (1970)
Mary Sibrian (1970)
Grace Billington (1970)
Elizabeth Whetstone (1971)
Meredith Bartlett (1971)
Dorothy Kent (1972)
Theresa Maynard (1972)
Dolores Sokolnik (1972)
Mona Fairly Roche (1972)
The Forgefires of God
Book Three of “The Cause”
“And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God” – Aeschylus
The Lesser Known First Focuses (with the month and year of their transformation)
Esther Craig – Focus #1 – September 1953. Hands shaking, eyes askew, she will speak to you for hours on the dangers of the Wendigo and Paul Bunyan, both of which she is sure are stalking her.
Georgia Rocha – Focus #2 – February 1954. “They experimented on me for months. Electroshock therapy, insulin therapy, sleep deprivation, starvation, whatever they could think of.” Georgia has a strong dislike of men in lab coats and female nurses. “You’re not one of them doctors, are you?” She sleeps with a shotgun under her pillow and rarely leaves her household.
Elisabeth Holder – Focus #4 – May 1955. Focus Holder suffers under the delusion that one of her Focus attendants is the real Focus, and she’s just a lowly Transform. She spends nearly twenty hours a day confined to a bed.
Marla Rhodes – Focus #6 – August 1955. Focus Rhodes died in late 1957 after she and her household attempted to escape from Quarantine. Her death, at the hands of the authorities, still rankles many of the first Focuses.
Lucy Peoples – Focus #10 – August 1956. Focus Peoples was a young, bright and strong willed Focus who was Focus Patterson’s right hand lady when disaster struck in October of 1957 and she died attempting to aid the first known United States Arm, Mary Chesterson. She was first of the Focuses to realize that they could do more with their Major Transform capabilities than merely keep household Transforms alive by moving juice.
Carrie Sue Sanderson – Focus #17 – November 1957. Focus Sanderson does not believe it is correct for women to have the importance that many Focuses proclaim is theirs, and because of this has never involved herself in anything outside of the day-to-day matters of her Transform household.
Anne Trail – Focus #19 – March 1958. Focus Trail is of the opinion that there is nothing wrong with being a housewife, and considers her work as a Focus nothing more than an outgrowth of that. “What is important in life is what we can do to help others. Given the discrimination against Transforms in our society, the first job of a Focus is to help those people in her household with their gainful employment.”
From “Lives of the Focuses”
Best Laid Plans
“World's use is cold, world's love is vain, World's cruelty is bitter bane; But pain is not the fruit of pain” – Elisabeth Barrett Browning
What the fuck did you do to my mind
Mary Beth Julius – Focus #3 – November 1954. Miss Mary Beth, as she’s referred to, refuses to meet outsiders or speak to them on the telephone – and has done so since 1964, after she failed in an abortive attempt to take over leadership of the Focuses and shut down the Focus Network. “There are no male Major Transforms, and if there were, they should be shot,” is a direct quote from her. Those who have spoken to her Transforms report that Miss Mary Beth trains her Focus capabilities constantly, awaiting ‘The Day’.
“Lives of the Focuses”
Sinclair: December 8, 1972
Sinclair sat in the bleachers behind first base, with Shadow, waiting for Rumor to show. They gathered in Squaw Valley Park, across the Allegheny River from Focus Patterson’s corrupted compound. The sky was overcast and dark, low clouds catching only a little of the city lights in the early AM hours. Leafless trees loomed silently, and the baseball diamond waited in dark loneliness for the shouts and chatter of small boys. The air stung his nostrils with the sharp ozone odor of incipient rain. Sinclair had never been to Pittsburgh before, and only heard rumors of Patterson’s dark lair.
Now that he could metasense it, a little over two miles away, he realized that the stories hadn’t been exaggerations, but understatements.
Sir Randolph, Sinclair’s Noble bodyguard today, growled and paced up and down the first base line, his eyes and metasense fixed upon Patterson’s compound. The city lights reflected off the low clouds and gave only the barest hint of light in the deserted park, and even less to the small group clustered in the shadow of the trees.
“Tell me,” Shadow said, to Sir Randolph, when Sir Randolph passed by. “What does a Noble metasense when a Noble gazes at
Sir Randolph stopped walking, but didn’t turn his eyes from Patterson’s compound. “A threat. A single Monster, hungry and waiting. A dragon the size of a skyscraper. A hurricane ready to strike.” Even Sir Randolph’s softest voice seemed loud in the night.
Sinclair shook his head at the strange thoughts and insights of all the Nobles. “It’s a black hole, an astronomy term for something so massive that its gravity overwhelms light,” Sinclair said. “Only instead of light, it’s sucking in dross. I can sense it pulling on me from here. You, Shadow?”
“To me, Patterson’s compound is just a gap in my metasense. No danger at all,” Shadow said. He paused and dropped his voice to a depressed whisper. “I shouldn’t be here.”
“That’s right, Shadow.” Another voice, deep and low and directionless. Rumor. “You’re too much the visionary. She would seduce you to her corruption in an instant.”
Rumor strode out of his protections, becoming visible from around the third base bleachers, if only to a Crow’s eyes in the darkness. The older Crow was tall, as tall as a Noble, and gaunt, and carried his right arm in a sling.
“Wounded?” Shadow said. His voice was soft, barely a whisper in the darkness, but carried worry.
“Yes. Patterson’s picked up some new and disturbing tricks this year. I was taking dross from her compound when one of her people sprayed the area where I hid with gunfire. I don’t yet understand how they detected me.” Rumor frowned. “What brings you here tonight?”
“The Commander fought the Hero three nights ago, and took dominance over her,” Shadow said. “She’s the number two Arm again, and I can sense her strength growing by the hour when I meditate on her.”
“I’m glad she won and remains strong,” Rumor said. “The fight wasn’t as clean as you might expect, though. I was involved in the Dreaming, against Patterson, who found a way around our defenses and had taken partial control of the Commander’s subconscious.”
Sinclair leaned away, shivering and unexpectedly cold. “Patterson is behind her recent beastliness, not the Inquisitor?” The Commander started torturing people for fun in late October, an old habit of hers they thought she had quit years ago. They all blamed the change on the Inquisitor, Arm Bass.
“Yes,” Rumor said. “There’s a new power among the Focuses, the Clumsy Angel. She put together a Dreaming crew and defeated Patterson’s mind-hold on the Commander, much to everyone’s shock. I believe Patterson used the Inquisitor’s torture of the Commander, at Kali’s behest, to find a way around our protections.”
“Good, good,” Shadow said. “I’ve long followed the exploits of the Clumsy Angel, waiting for this day to arrive. She has the potential to be the one to finally lead the Focuses out of their long darkness.” He sighed and shook his head. “There’s more. Rumor, when the Hero proved the reality of the Progenitors, you said your greatest fear was the possibility one of their Monsters survived into this era. Count Dowling found one, or, rather, a Hunter found one, a junior Hunter by the name of Tiger Eyes. Tiger Eyes somehow charmed the ancient Monster into serving as a trap for Count Dowling, using a kidnapped household Transform as bait. When Count Dowling and the crew of Inferno Monster hunters he often helps showed up, the ancient Monster broke the control and ate Tiger Eyes.”
“Ouch!” Rumor said, and Sir Randolph chortled at the results of the junior Hunter’s failed proving quest.
“The Commander showed up afterwards to help patch people up, which is how we learned of the challenge. According to Count Dowling, she was none too amused about the existence of said ancient Monster.” Shadow paused and glanced, nervously, in the direction of Patterson’s compound. The bare branches rustled with the leading breeze of the oncoming rain. “On a side note, Count Dowling did rescue the kidnapped Transform, but she got élan abused by the Hunter and no longer fits in a Focus household. I believe our good Count has recruited yet another commoner for his future household.”
“I believe Master Occum will need to give the Count a Barony simply because of the size of his crew,” Sinclair said. He suspected the brainy Count counted on it, actually.
“Interesting, interesting,” Rumor said. He scratched at the arm in the sling. “I’m worried more about the ever-increasing level of Hunter activity on this side of the Mississippi. They’re readying for war, and I’m afraid they’re going to strike while we’re otherwise occupied with the current conflict.”
“Not if the current conflict resolves itself in Arm time,” Shadow said, with a snort. “So, Rumor, do you think the Arms have a chance against
“Yes,” Rumor said. “Patterson’s never faced Arms or the multi-Arm predator. If they do it right, she’ll never know what hit her.”
“‘Doing it right’ might be a problem,” Shadow said. “Kali doesn’t have the Commander setting up her strategy.”
“Never did.” Rumor exchanged a short glare with Shadow; friends they might be, but they did tend to get on each other’s nerves. Their contretemps reminded Sinclair of Sky and Gilgamesh’s similar interactions. “The Commander’s an operations specialist if you use the proper military terminology. An operations specialist is the one who sets up military forces to win, sets battle strategies, force integration, situational training, organization, etc. The Arms don’t have anyone else with her skills, and her skills are critical when facing a force as organized as Patterson’s. If Kali’s not listening to the Commander, the Arms are in trouble, because Kali’s got the subtlety of a sledgehammer.” Rumor smiled. “Besides, I’m not sure an Arm or a Chimera can even see the strategic level. That’s what you do, Shadow, and Focus Biggioni does, among the Focuses.” Rumor paused. “I don’t like this, this wasting of resources. It’s stupid.”
“Politics, Rumor. The Arms are just as political as the rest of us.”
“It’s still stupid. Patterson is perfectly capable of picking us off one by one if we go after her piecemeal. In Crow terms, Shadow, she’s a rival visualization of reality. A dangerous one, at that.”
Sinclair quailed when he saw Shadow shiver at Rumor’s words. There was just so much he didn’t know, especially about the games of the older Crows. Visualization of reality? To Shadow, there was a large amount of juice in that term. Sinclair didn’t know what it referred to, though.
“What can we do? Should we help Kali?” Sinclair said.
“Tell me, Sinclair,” Rumor said, “what did you think about your recent meetings with Kali and the Commander?”
Sinclair took a deep breath. “Kali drove me into a fetal ball. Only Gilgamesh could stand up to her. The Commander? Well, I wouldn’t want to cross her, but I can at least talk to her, work with her and follow her orders without falling apart. Mostly.”
“That’s my experience, as well,” Rumor said. “Kali is improperly socialized, Sinclair, and her ability to control her inner beast is weak at best, and deteriorating. The only Crows who can deal with her anymore at all are rare exceptions like Sky and Gilgamesh. Kali’s made her own bed, and we can’t do anything but let her lie in it. The Commander, though, I suggest we all help as much as we can, if you’re willing to take my advice. She’s never wavered in her friendship with the Crows.”
“I’ve already informed the Commander of the same,” Shadow said. “I’m already helping Focus Biggioni.”
“Good. My advice is simple: approach the Commander through her Focus allies, not her Crow allies. Let them take the hits if the negotiations fail. We should offer up as many Crows as can stand to help against the first Focuses. One other thing,” Rumor said, turning to Sir Randolph. “Patterson’s been setting up defenses against Chimeras for years, your grace. If you Nobles ever go after her, you’re going to need help. Lots of help. I don’t know why, but she’s deathly afraid of Chimeras.”
“Yes, or so the south breeze says, sir,” Sir Randolph said. “Nobles will die here. But.”
“But what, your grace?”
“But if Shadow’s Crows participate in an attack on Patterson, the Nobles will be there, as well.”
Rumor nodded. “Responsibility to the figurative grandfather of your clan, I take it?”
Sir Randolph smiled. “Well, if a wizard Crow of your reputation can understand Responsibility, there’s hope for the Crows, after all. Sir.” That brought a smile to Sinclair’s face as well. To a Noble, responsibility was as important as territory was to an Arm. Responsibility was what made the Rules work.
“Just be careful,” Rumor said. “Be extraordinarily careful.”
Gail Rickenbach: December 8, 1972
Gail blinked and forced the swimming notes of the juice score back into focus. Her project, the ‘move juice to an Arm’ pattern, was the most difficult juice work she had ever attempted. She couldn’t deny her progress, though, not after reducing the number of potentially working patterns down to a simple dozen. She just wished she felt better than a lost plate of Gretchen’s chicken and dumplings, forgotten and growing multicolored mold in the back of the refrigerator.
Gail pushed her long brown hair out of her eyes and tried to focus on the juice scores again. Her head hurt, a queasy hangover headache for no reason, something foreign to her experience as a Focus. The chair seemed too hard, the small kitchen table too slippery, the mostly muted television too loud, and the light from the tabletop lamp too bright.
Her heart ached because Carol hadn’t stopped her basement torture sessions. Even though Gail and her allies had stopped Patterson’s mind attack on the Arm, she still indulged in her cruelty. Gail’s loins ached for no particular reason, save that this was a Friday night and the Inferno Friday night orgy always made her a little horny. Normally, though, the Inferno orgy didn’t leave her body cold.
“Gail, is something wrong?”
She winced in pain and glanced at her husband, Van. He watched the latest episode of the increasingly tired seventh season of Mission Impossible from the living room couch, while half-heartedly reading a CDC report on the Arm Flap of 1968. “Not so loud. Please. Headache.”
He put the report down, stood and softly walked over to her. His eyes filled with uncommon worry. One of the juice scores skittered off the table to land at his feet. “Your hands are shaking,” he said, as he pulled over the second chair and sat next to her, taking one of her hands, which was indeed shaking.
“Noooo,” Gail said. She was already a Focus. She couldn’t get the Shakes again. The Shakes – Transform Sickness – was the disease responsible for turning her into a Focus four years ago.
Yet here she was, headachy, feverish and queasy, hands shaking, the same way she remembered from the start of her Focus transformation. She focused her mind on her metasense and scanned the vicinity of the Branton, wondering if this was something she had picked up from one of her people, or some enemy’s devious attack. Nothing, save for an increase in warmth in her loins, yet more crap leaking through from the Inferno Friday night orgy. Well, that would teach her not to extend out her metasense on a Friday night.
“Is this some form of gristle dross contamination?” Van asked. Good question, as bad juice contamination could mimic TS symptoms. She metasensed herself, and save for the little surprise she hadn’t told anyone about, her juice structure was normal. Yet more hot emotions leaked through from the Inferno orgy.