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Judas Escariotte lay broken on the floor of the cell. A slender beam of light coming in through a tiny window illuminated his beaten body. His long, black wings were broken in twenty places, the nerve endings frayed, pain saturating his system. Judas breathed raggedly, slowly, painfully. He saw a familiar figure standing outside.
“Kaliel?... “ he breathed. “Why?...”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“Judas, please tell me. Why did you make this deal?”
Judas Escariotte was seated in a chair, opposite from a lanky woman with dark reddish hair, pearly, feathered wings, and a sharply drawn face. She continued in her slightly nasal Gallic tone.
“These people, this Underground Alliance, could have you killed in so many ways, I can’t even count them!”
“And just how, Jane, is that one bit different from any of the other customers?”
“It’s just... They want such a big order, I don’t see how that much A42 even exists. Why did you make the deal if you don’t know that you can supply it? What if you can’t?”
“Then I’ll have to face the consequences.” Judas replied dourly.
He was looking very businesslike in his blood-red suit, his long black hair and beard framing his Semitic face, his inky wings folded behind the chair. The
two were both nursing drinks as they debated. They looked across the room, past the gyrating dancers in the club, and saw a tall Nordic man with greenish wings and blond hair.
“Judas! Jane!”
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“How are you? Come, sit down!” Judas and Jane greeted Kaliel warmly, Judas kissed Kaliel on both cheeks, and they both sat down. “What brings you here?”
“The same thing as you. Business.”
“Have a drink?”
“No time. I’ve got to rush. But I have a proposition for you. I know you need some A42. And I know you’ve had your eye on the Mondevino cache for a long time. It used to be untouchable. But not now. I have a way in, Judas.”
“Is it dangerous?” Jane asked.
“What do you expect? It’s the most heavily guarded stash of A42 on Earth. And for good reason. It’s the biggest, and most pure, too.”
“And you have a way in?”Judas asked. “You can’t. It’s impossible.”
“No, it isn’t. I’ll tell you soon, but not now. These walls have ears.” Kaliel lowered his voice. “Meet me at my place, tomorrow, and we’ll discuss things. Now I have to go. Business to take care of.”
“No business can be so urgent that you can’t stay and have a drink or two. Please, Kaliel. Stay.” Jane pleaded.
“Alright, but only because I love your company, Jane.” Kaliel pushed a button on the table and a chime rang. “Waiter!”
The next morning Judas woke beside the still-sleeping Jane, got up, stretched his wings, and looked out the window at the city of Gethso below. He saw people flying about their business, feathers reflecting the morning sunshine as they cruised above the rooftops. He saw people taking the public airships, or flying on the backs of robots,
steam gushing from their valves. Judas saw the water-dwellers swimming their way
along Gethso’s canal-roads. He saw shops opening, people selling hot Qfy and doughnuts to busy workers. He turned and saw Jane awake, lying half-clothed underneath the blankets.
“I’m worried about you. I don’t want you to end up like the rest of them. Have
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you seen the dealers’ heads at the Tower? I never want to see your head on a pike! ” Jane looked at Judas like a worried mother at a child.
“Dealing A42 is worth the risk. Pure A42 is a compound that holds living stem cells. A42 allows anyone to give themselves superpowers by modifying their DNA. The Revolution only happened because of A42. It would have been put down if the Revolutionaries hadn’t had it. Their super-powered soldiers overwhelmed the Old Government. The reason the Council Of Nations, which includes the New Government of New Avenon, has made A42 so illegal, is because it might give terrorists and revolutionaries power over them. Those terrorists and revolutionaries will consequently pay top dollar for their chance to dominate. I sell to everyone, of course. Chaos suits my business just fine.”
Jane got up, and hugged Judas tight. “Don’t go and get yourself killed. By anyone. Promise me that, ok?”
“I promise,” Judas hugged back. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
The phone rang in the other room. Judas picked up the crescent-shaped headset and a Russian voice emanated from within.
“Hello. Is this Judas Escariotte?” said the voice.
“Yes,” said Judas.
“This is Petrovitch from the UA. I’m calling about the shipment. Is it ready?”
“It will be ready when I say it is, and no sooner,” Judas replied.
“That is not the way the UA does business. We need the shipment in one week. No less. Or you will pay in blood. Goodbye.” The phone clicked to a dialtone, and Judas fell back on the cushion, sighing.
“I hope Kaliel’s plan works. It’s my only hope.”
Later that day, Judas flew through the bronzed afternoon clouds to Kaliel’s town house on the east side of Gethso, landed in the ivy-covered brick courtyard, and
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knocked on the door. Kaliel opened it, and pulled Judas into the ostentatiously decorated hallway, nearly smashing the dealer’s wing in the process.
“Hello Kaliel. You look as impish and green-winged as ever. Ever thought of going pro? Like in the circus?”
“Ha, ha.” Kaliel lowered his voice and started whispering furiously. “Judas, I’ve got the Mondevino cache! It’s being moved to a warehouse downtown. It’s heavily guarded, but with these security codes, it’ll be a piece of cake.”
Kaliel pulled a PDA out of his pocket and entered a password. “Here, see?” Lines of numbers labeled things like ‘Entrance’ and ‘Second Floor’ appeared.
“Where did you get these?”Judas asked skeptically.
“My sources got them from the government’s own computers,” Kaliel replied.
“Judas! I have the best hackers in New Avenon at my disposal! These are for real, my friend. Gold. You and I are getting into this place. Sunday night. This is our big break!”
“Alright, Kaliel, you’ve convinced me. You know I trust you. Sunday night sounds good.” Judas sat down on a nearby couch. “Are you sure there’s no danger?”
Kaliel sat down beside him. “With these security codes, we can get complete override from any computer within the building. Deactivate everything, even the robot guards. The only thing we need to worry about is getting in the door.”
“And how do we do that?” Judas asked.
“There are two door guards, and a security system that locks down if they are destroyed. All we need to do is overload their circuits with a nice big jolt from an EMP, then we’ll key in the code at the gate.” Kaliel said.
“I guess that sounds easy enough.” The black-winged dealer replied.
“You bet. I’ve got three EMP grenades in my room. Let’s have a drink. Celebrate a well-planned heist.” Kaliel got up and went down the hall to the kitchen. “Sounds
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good,” said Judas, as he followed suit.
Judas came home late that evening, bearing dinner. When he opened the door he was immediately mobbed by Jane. She hit him full-on, smelling of Chanel No.5 and bombarding him with kisses. Tears ran down her face as they embraced, wings wrapped around each other.
“Uhh... Hi.” Judas gasped. “What’s all this?”
Jane pulled back a little, and explained. “You got three more death threats while you were gone. I- I though something might have happened to you. I’m glad you’re alright.” She hugged him. “You brought dinner! What is it?”
“Just some Thai food,” Judas said.
They were eating dinner when Judas brought up the heist. Jane was worried at first. She lit up a majina stick, and soon intoxicating fumes were floating around the apartment. Judas explained the plan to her, and after much debate and at least three majina sticks, Jane agreed that it was the only way. After dinner, they shared liquor-filled chocolates and a good book. Jane woke the next morning with Judas asleep on her lap, his wings tucked neatly behind him.
On Sunday, the day of the heist, Judas wore his usual outfit, jeans and a t-shirt, but in his bag he packed stealth gear and his usual protection: A Weissman .45 caliber pistol with silencer.
Judas met Kaliel at the St. Mark’s canal junction, as was the plan. Kaliel had parked the getaway vehicle, a low-flying hovercraft rated with 10,000 kilos of capacity (for hauling A42), in a nearby alley. They sat down for lunch in a nearby Italian cafe under a blue umbrella. “You are really lucky to have Jane, you know. She’s a fine woman. If you weren’t here I’d be all over her in a second,” Kaliel said.
“I guess you’ll have to find someone else. Jane and I are getting married. Or- I want to. I haven’t found the time to pop the question, you know?”
“I know how that is. I had a fiancée once. Her name was Cynthia. She was killed when
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our airship crashed. Only I made it out alive. I’ve been looking for a good girl ever since, but no dice. I guess some people are meant to be lonely,” Kaliel said.
Judas shifted in his seat. “That’s pretty heavy for such a sunny day. I say we relax,” he said.
“Alright. To our continuing good fortune!” Kaliel raised his bottle for a toast.
“To our fortune!” Judas and Kaliel clinked their bottles together and drank. They laughed and talked together all through lunch.
That night Judas and Kaliel took the hovercraft down to the south side wharfs, to the warehouse where the A42 was kept. They parked it nearby, and changed into their stealth gear. The two flew through the murky night to the warehouse roof and landed there, looking down at the two security bots.
They were standard model security, with rifles and helmets with night vision filters. Not the smartest bots ever, but at least they could see well in the dark. Kaliel chucked an EMP at them. It went off with a barely audible pulse and a slight disturbance in the air. The robots were out.
Judas glided down to the service door and the keypad. “What’s the code?” Kaliel handed him the PDA. ‘Entrance Code: 42095’ it said. Judas punched it in, and the door unlocked. They entered a hallway illuminated faintly by glowing panels in the ceiling, and streaked with shadows. At the end of the hallway was an open office with a computer panel linked to the main system. Kaliel entered a few passwords, and a map of the warehouse came onscreen. From there, he deactivated the security system with a few clicks.
Judas, guided by Kaliel, crept through hallways until they found a door labeled ‘Warehouse.’ As they stepped through onto a high catwalk, ceiling lights flashed on, illuminating their prize.
“Holy moly.” Judas said.
Thousands of canisters were stored in metal cartons, all of them containing a
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whitish substance- Pure A42. Judas raced down the metal ramp.
“Kaliel, this is it! The Mondevino cache! Here it is!” He slowed at the bottom, walking towards the canisters. Judas was about touch one when he heard a metallic click.
“Not so fast.”
Judas turned around to see Kaliel pointing a pistol at him. His wings raised, ready to take off. “Kaliel- what is this?”
“This is called betrayal. I’m sorry to have to do this to you, but they offered me everything. Ten million dollars, amnesty from all past crimes. All that for giving you to them. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.” Kaliel flew neatly down from the catwalk, still pointing the gun at Judas.
Judas looked at him, bewildered. “But- who? Who offered you this? How could you!?”
Kaliel started swaggering back and forth in front of Judas, still pointing the gun at his chest. “It was our own Avenian government. They threatened me with death. I couldn’t refuse. As for how I could do it, it was really very easy. You’re a very gullible person, you know. I was especially motivated when they reminded me that, with you gone, your sweet Jane would be ripe for the taking.”
“No!” Judas yelled, flapping his wings and rising in the air. “You can’t! I’ll kill you before you take Jane!” A primal scream tore at his throat as he dove towards Kaliel.
Kaliel fired twice as Judas rushed toward him. Blood spattered his clothes as Judas screamed and fell to the ground.
Judas’s right wing was bleeding in two places. He thrashed around, bleeding, cursing, and screaming at Kaliel. Kaliel put his foot on Judas’s chest and pressed down, holding him in place. He put a fresh clip in his gun. “Don’t worry, this is just a tranquilizer. I would kill you, but that’s the government’s job. They’ll be here shortly. Nighty-night.” Kaliel leveled the gun at Judas, and fired.
Judas felt the dart in his arm, and struggled against it, but the toxins
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overwhelmed him, and he saw no more.
Judas woke to a dull pain in his wings. He was in a white room, propped in a chair at a wooden desk. A red-winged man in a black suit faced him from another chair. “So you’re awake.” The man said. “ You are inside the Tower of Avenon. Do you know why you’re here, Judas?”
“No. Why am I here?”
“I’ve been assigned to get a full confession from you. You have been dealing in A42, the highly illegal genetic-modification substance used by subversives and terrorists. Is this true?” The man’s hair was graying, receding. He had the look of someone who had seen too many men die.
“I’m not on trial here.” Judas said
“Correction. This is your trial. The only one you will get. You have been declared a terrorist threat, an enemy combatant. You have no rights. Now, will you confess?”
“No. I confess to nothing!” Judas stood up shakily from his chair. “You won’t get a peep out of me.”
“Well, then. I guess we’ll just have to try a little harder. Guards! Take him to his cell.”
Judas was dragged to a cell, and thrown to the floor. A young soldier with a nasty grin on his face came in brandishing a nightstick. “Smith says you won’t talk. I’ll have to make you.” He rubbed his nightstick vigorously on his trousers. “Will you talk?”
“No!” Judas said.
“Alright, then.” The soldier lashed out with his nightstick, and caught Judas on his shoulder. Judas screamed.
“Talk!” The soldier yelled, spraying spittle in Judas’s face.
“Never.” Judas was breathing heavily. He lashed out at the soldier, who struck him down with another blow. The soldier beat him furiously, shattering Judas’s wing
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bones, breaking an arm.
“Confess! Confess to your crimes, you scum! Talk!!” The soldier shrieked at Judas, who had rolled into a ball on the floor.
“Alright... I’ll talk.” Judas sobbed. In-between sobs, he confessed to dealing A42, and to breaking into the warehouse. He lay in the fetal position, nursing his many wounds. He cried on the floor for hours, wailing like an injured dog.

Judas Escariotte lay broken on the floor of his cell. A slender beam of light coming in through a tiny window illuminated his beaten body. His long, black wings were broken in twenty places, the nerve endings frayed, pain saturating his system. Judas breathed raggedly, slowly, painfully. He saw a familiar figure standing outside the cell.
“Kaliel?... “ He said. “Why?...”
“You know why. They were going to kill me.” Kaliel said. After a long silence he continued. “You’re sentenced to beheading at dawn. I’m sorry. It had to be like this.”
“No, it didn’t. You could have saved me. We were friends,” Judas whispered.
“Yes. We were friends. I’m so sorry, Judas.” Kaliel slipped a loaf of bread through the bars of the cell. “Here’s some food. I hope you can forgive me for what I’ve done. I’m so sorry.”
Judas remained silent, his pained breath audible.
“Goodbye, Judas.... Goodbye.” A single tear slipped down Kaliel’s cheek as he turned his back on Judas Escariotte for the last time.
Judas was executed the next morning. He was led out of the Tower to a crowd of thousands, who booed and jeered at him.
Stinking of gin, the black-winged executioner leered at Judas, holding his shiny axe, sharpened to a razor point. Judas’s neck was placed on the bloodstained chopping block, his broken wings laid out on his back like a cape, the once-beautiful feathers
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matted with blood. One clean stroke of the axe ended his life.

Kaliel and Jane sat in the Tower square, listening to the jeers of the crowd. They hugged each other closely and wailed. They mourned together for months, wallowing in never-ceasing grief.
There came a day, a bright day, when it stopped. The stream of grief at Judas’s death was released, like a tap being turned off. Kaliel and Jane went outside, into the park on the square, looked up into the cloudless sky, and at the world around them.
They started laughing. They laughed great heaving belly laughs, hugging each other and laughing until tears came out of their eyes. They laughed at a bird flying in the sky, they laughed at a child carrying an ice-cream cone, they laughed at a duck in the pond.
And everyone who saw them thought they were crazy, laughing their heads off for no reason. Civilized people didn’t do that, surely. But Kaliel and Jane knew, they knew that something magical had been given to them that day. It was the power to begin again.
Over the months and years Jane and Kaliel always remained friends. They loved each other, yes, and had even thought of marriage. But whenever it came up Kaliel remembered Judas. Kaliel would not do what he told Judas at gunpoint. He would not steal his friend’s bride.
Kaliel and Jane married others, and had families of their own. Kaliel quit the business, and they both had steady jobs. But they never forgot Judas Escariotte, the man whose life and death had bound them together in so many ways.