Often mistaken for a sane
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Gospel, from which this chapter is taken, is book two of the author's Accomplice
series. For a brief introduction to the town of Accomplice and its wacky
inhabitants, see TBR's review of book one, Only an
Alligator. Or forgo that, jump on in, and enjoy the madness...
an excerpt from
THE VELOCITY GOSPEL
NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS
A story is ready when it falls out of your face
A massive hot ruby hung steaming in space a
country mile beneath Accomplice. Its heart a turning red rind, it added colour to the
skull-studded extravaganza of air pain and spinelight in that neck of the world. Lounging
in a veined halfshell, a white mantid ghoul with complicated mouthparts had a famous time
distributing nightmares and inconvenience through a network of thick coaxial nerve cables.
Sweeneys egg eyes and huge blown head like the skull of a whale - this was the first
face a fool would see after getting his arse caught in the drum of a player piano.
Branched glimpses of electricity banged across the
walls and floor of the titanic cavern. Night is never terminal, Sweeney
sighed, turning his attention to the boulder-sized gemstone. Where is the man Barny
He is among a crowd of people.
Whats he doing?
He searches for a snake ...
The old blood clock counterweighted into motion and
two mechanical knights propelled onto a narrow platform. As the blue and yellow figures
clashed swords, Mayor Rudloe stepped onto the balcony above and regarded the broth of
humanity which had gathered in the sun-white town square. Most of them were staring up at
the palace like gooney-birds. The Mayor ballooned out, speaking. I have asked you to
infest this square in order to impart warning of a dire threat to our community. Ive
been passing myself off as the big authority round here for years. You granted me that
honour at breakneck speed, all almond-eyed and eager. You turn in unison like pinstripe
fish and I bless you for it. Maintaining mstranglehold heres the only exercise
my brachioradial muscles ever get. Boy, is it ever sweet. But as Accomplices single
organ of government and frankly the only man with any ideas around here, I must talk to
you regarding certain bastards who would defame our imploded society. They call themselves
the Followers of Cyril. A ravening rabble lacking the gratitude which most of us take for
granted, they are workshy and pensive - and probably, if theyve got any sense, armed
to the teeth. Strictly speaking this is baseless but I love it. Revolution - how the cured
thing dooms the rest of us. Theyre playing merry hell with everything and this
half-arsed development couldnt have come at a better time. Theres a red
deficit - isnt it a pity? The mechanised knights below, ever toiling in their
faithful service, require an extra bloody tribute to keep them clashing. I wept lard this
morning as I thought of how vexing and costly it will be for you. Then I carved the lard
into the shape of a raven. So you see how I put you people first? Nothing is wasted. I
save on expense by shrugging with only one shoulder. Get a loada this - heyup.
Down among the socket-faced masses Barny Juno and the
gangling Plantin Edge were discussing corpse praline and radio cartoons in an absent sort
of way. Barny looked moon-faced and wondering through the crowd and occasionally crouched
amid their shuffling legs. Plantin Edge was wearing a sheet and eating popcorn in the
Accomplice heat. So you went to the Garden with Madge yesterday Bubba?
Barny looked uncomfortable. I had to borrow a
book from someone. Ive been boning up on moths. I reckon the one I ate was a
geometrid. Maybe Fang could find a replacement for me - hes a bug man.
Hes a bog man. And you borrowed a
book eh? I get it. From that little fringed musette at the Juice Museum.
Barny sighed dismally. We pranced weak with joy
through some of the big flowers theyve got round there. Shes ... limber.
Bendy. Fang says Ive only got one tongue and I might as well use it.
So whats the problem?
Magenta Blaze. Shes convinced Im an
interesting man and wont let go of my leg.
Youre sure you want Chloe Low at the
I agree with all of her heart, Edgy. I
cant explain it.
Edgy crammed popcorn and thought. Get around to
Beltane Carom. Hell give you some arcane and surefire method of dumping the
At least hes not one those gurus who
thinks hes funny. Theyre the pits.
Yeah, and everyones too respectful to tell
them? No, hes a shaman, Bubba, a master. Hes giving me some advice about Amy.
You know she wants me to help her publish that terrible poetry of hers, like Ive got
any influence on old Crash Test Nureyev over the publishers? The wand jockey listened to
the problem and set me straight. His nose was pullulating the whole time.
So what did he say?
Edgy frowned in recollection. The object of many
dimensions is to make all things ignorable by a simple manoeuvre.
What does that mean? Is this stupid sheet part
No, I was halfway through a haunting at the
motel when I heard about this little shindig. Well I had to come along Bubba. You remember
last time? That massive galvanised tin head eating the populace? The bite radius on the
thing, boy oh boy. For all his faults the Mayor knows how to put on a show.
Whys he going on about his shoulder?
Barny muttered, preoccupied with peering amid the crowd.
Could it be otherwise? Misdirection, Bubba. Look
at him. Too sure to look shifty. Unencumbered by memory of his mistakes, the mans
cheeks are completely out of control.
Barny glanced up. His bones are coming through
Those are his teeth. They live to serve
I dont understand what hes talking
Youre not supposed to. What did old Bingo
Violaine say? Deflate a gasbag at your peril.
Right now Im just worried about Misses
Kennedy. This is no place for a puff adder, Edgy. Really big vipers need shelter and care.
Shes excited now but shell get anxious later. I caught her tanning in the
sandwich maker and she must have thought I was angry and ran away. Put a centre parting in
the lawn by the roundabout. Maybe shes nervous about the contest. Shes around
here somewhere, maybe under some cycads.
Shell be fine. Hey Barny, can I go hang
with the leopard with you? I think I could handle it, you know, if he took a swipe at me
with his paw.
Well Edgy, treat him with respect. His ears
might be velvet but he has mood swings thatll make your chin stand on end.
Youre the best friend the winged and
stepping animals of the earth could have, Bubba, but you should chill out. Take some
popcorn. It always reminds me of little skulls or something.
You know if they were real and had some meat on
them, they might tempt Misses Kennedy. Are you sure its just popcorn?
Edgy sifted through the carton. Its a
needle in a haystack. He emptied the carton onto the ground. There - if
theres a skull we know wholl find it eh? Lateral thinking.
I never would have thought of that, Barny
nodded in frank admiration. Edgy had a sharp mind in that tall, tufted head of his.
Barny squatted amid the forest of legs and squeaked a
beckoning call to the serpent.
Hey, you know who I can see, Bubba? Edgy
called down to him, and squinted over the assembly. A keg-shaped man with a head like a
potato stared up at the mayoral palace in rapt attention. Its Gregor. Yeah
hes right at the front of the crowd. It looks like hes really into it. Hey,
The cry registered dimly on the Mayors
consciousness and, thinking it referred to him, he discarded it. We have yet to see
the Followers of Cyril in the full bloom of atrocity, he was saying. I
dont pretend to understand their contempt. Ill not deceive you, I regard new
systems of humour with suspicion.
Accomplice is a community unto itself. Be vigilant. At
a time of social emergency its crucial to abstain from riots as irksome to me as
their necessity is to you. It is written here in our Constitution - and the Mayor
dabbled his fingers in a tray of water - that moneys an opinion we
darent lose. However, the good news is, I can help you. First I declare a state of
constant readiness. I will decide in due course that the levy must be increased to counter
the baleful crisis. At that time I will set upon a policy greatly at odds with your
wellbeing, squashing your faces as though against a rippled pane of glass. This will be
followed by a root and branch review, a clamour of ear-grinding excuses and, finally, the
really back-breaking work of denying everything. One or two timid witnesses will drift
down a river and deal out into the sea. Then Ill give a big horselaugh. We
havent a moment to lose. I foresee a land positively blistering with safety. One of
green television fields and beaches shut with tides. Pearls barricade the advancement
steps, cranks watch summer from the porch. Working hands down, you shroud the dying in
laughter. Exhaustions brow the night. Rejoice. These lofty notions are food and drink to
you aimless wonders. Youre supported, youre safe, youre happy -
Youre okay! yelled Barny, raising
the venomous adder above the crowd. The assembly exploded outward like the primal bang.
Screams wheeled and intersected as hundreds legged it and Edgys sheet was torn away
in the commotion.
Before the Mayor was fully aware of events, he was
gazing down at an almost deserted town square. Only three people remained - the man with
the deadly viper, a naked man who stood like a used match, and a spudlike creature who
stared silently up with a look of gluey need. This last one, the Mayor realised with
alarm, was playing pocket billiards. The other two seemed to understand this at the same
moment and, rushing forward, bundled the round man away.
The clock knights, swords locked in silence, finally
disengaged and swerved backwards, doors of red gold flipping closed upon them.
Sweeney: Pure Bastard
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Business as usual
above, Sweeney ruminated, turning from the Ruby. But see how Juno and the
scarecrow ran to the aid of their piglike friend, the creature they call the Round One. A
Junos kept aloft and unreachable,
said Dietrich the Hammer, entering the cavern astride a scuttling legal cadaver, on
the thermals of his own ignorance. He drew to a stop, all membrane wings and stained
Sweeney clacked his shoehorn tongue. Ive a
mind to send Skittermite above.
Dietrich twitched his tomahawk head to peer at the
emperor grub. Kermit? he spat.
Hes been punching above his weight for a
while now. Not still stuck in that pipe I suppose?
Exactly. If he hadnt the wherewithal to
avoid the simplest drain, how could he navigate Accomplice? Its chaotic beyond
endurance up there - because those bastards are completely covered in skin they think they
can deny their insides.
The sheer architectural extravagance of demonic
biology was mostly open to inspection, infernodyne veins and pulsing bile yolk fully
visible through wide-flung ribs.
You want to go back, after Junos
sucker-punch? Sweeney leered like a burning snowman. One of the best tunes and
youve changed it. You didnt used to think he was worth the candle. Pegged him
as a simpleton.
So he is - a man "simple and true",
like the prophecy of your downfall, Your Majesty.
Please dont complicate such a simple
matter. Fetch the imp.
Skittermite was tossing shoes into the smelter when
Dietrich came for him. Victim blood still draining from his gills, he scurried after the
bigger fiend like a charbroiled monkey, all pickbones and shoulderblades. From his
wedge-shaped head projected two thin prongs, useful only for toasting mallows.
Sweeney turned as they entered. Magnesium glares lit
the heatblasted cowling of his skull. Pay close attention, flydart.
Skittermite deployed his ears, flapping them like
sparrow wings. Dietrich stood by with a twitching face.
You and your telescopic canines are going above
to Accomplice. Barny Juno needs aggravating unto death. Hes hex-protected so nix on
the nailwork, we need to operate through the social grind. Luckily theres a
political push on the go and mugs will be out in force. Concentrate on the man with the
body of a potato, this barrel being they call the Round One. Hes got a medical
bracelet that says "Just throw me away". I believe hes the vulnerable
point in Junos entourage. So get some scars, prove youre not too new for the
job. Need any of these? Sweeney indicated a wall of human faces which he called his
Please no your Majesty thank you,
Good, well, left and right, space is limitless -
manipulation therefore is limitless. Dietrich here seems to think they dislike being
tackled by the legs - you might try that.
Thank you. By your command. Skittermite
dipped his wedge-shaped head.
Off you go then.
Skittermite darted up a slope as though launched from
a spring-winder, chittering his joy.
Dietrich sullenly picked the eye from his mount - it
squirmed in his hand like a fizzing Tylenol. As a paravamp demon his own eyes registered
all one-and-a-half thousand shades of black but he could not understand the worth of
Youve been grinding your head about the
place, stated Sweeney, since Gettysburg went renegade. You misplace blame.
Getty was a good seed, thats all.
Dietrich looked at the ivory king insect in wonder. It
was rare for Sweeney to mention the defectors name. The demon Gettysburg had started
his conscientious objecting covertly by inventing the rule that to be invoked, his name
must be repeated 86,400 times. Most people got bored or fell asleep before hitting the
number and this gave him years to kick back and hang in the fiery deeps. The invocation
procedure was clearly useless in an emergency and Sweeney queried it, but Gettysburg
insisted that it was sly and evil since it led to people using his name casually and
without regard. He claimed that the unsuspecting would one day cumulatively hit the magic
number and find themselves confronted by the mirror-eyed shrike. His excuses for mellow
behaviour became lamer by the decade. Finally he went out for cigarettes and never
Ive walked the floors of oceans,
Dietrich explained, and passed finer society.
Look closer. Ive known their world,
leather to feathers. I even witnessed the grim, fateful appearance of the first herb.
Mankind mines a stratum of the obvious so thick it occupies their lifetime. And more good
news - every inch of flesh is carvable.
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The Mayor walked in off the balcony and picked among the floor lobsters toward his
darkwood desk. These large armoured roaches, physical evidence of spiritual corruption,
had monopolised the floor space since the cleaner died. Rudloe kicked one gingerly and it
curled up like an ammonite. It also resembled, the Mayor reflected vaguely, a cat which
was quite at home. I expected more merriment, he said, sitting down.
Well sir, pocket billiards, remarked the
lawyer Max Gaffer. What could be more merry.
I looked away for a split second and the
populace was reduced to a child-faced moron with a venomous snake, a rather gormless,
uninspired flasher and a round man utterly absorbed with his own balls. Everyone else had
done a runner.
In record time.
Thats no consolation, Im afraid. Who
was the one with the death-adder? Have I met him?
Barny Juno. Hes the guy who held a funeral
for a lizard and dropped his trousers during the eulogy. Came in here dressed as an ape.
Flies around on a swan.
This is all one man?
Hes a notorious mooncalf, Mayor. A spooky
simpleton. Doesnt know enough to stop. Irritates everyone, up to and including our
lord the devil himself.
You seen him on the swan?
Swans are very graceful.
So thats a no. Wait a second, this the guy
I demonised a while back? Well theres your proof, Max. Inventing a nebulous
enemys the rage. Well never have Cyril barging in here in a monkey suit, the
bastard doesnt exist.
Outstanding, sir. The lawyer, whose yellow
eyes and fishbone hairstyle unnerved the living, conceded that the Cyril mirage was a
sound tactic. The Mayor had been in a weakened position since going out on a limb with his
I am a Beautiful Woman campaign. Almost everyone agreed he had overstepped the
mark, and those who had expressed hearty support became abashed and furtive. The new trap
was spare and inexpensive. Just keep em blaming.
Well, Ive planted the seed. Get old Turbot
to write us another speech, turning up the heat. Behind thick manoeuvres Ill reduce
my efforts. The scrap cost can be disregarded. The promises? Forgot into our pockets
again. As Violaine said, timing is the knowledge that society may have been more ready in
the past than in the present. Even the waking collective attributes tyranny to the
The Mayor struck a match on the armour of a passing
bug and lit a cigar. The big wheel always came around.