Jacob rubbed at his temples trying to relieve the throbbing pain lodged in his skull. It was turning into a very long night. He had woken up physically rested yet he was very much mentally exhausted. Mr. Cryptic-Dream-Guy had been his usual self: a munchkin look-a-like suffering from attention-deficit disorder, bouncing off the walls and generally incorporating himself into Jacob's dreams. Jacob had once even tried to create a giant syringe filled with ridilin in his dreams; he'd succeeded in forming the image within his mind, but had spent the rest of the night chasing down the nightly intruder with no success.
At some point, he couldn't exactly remember when, Jacob had just given up trying to oust the strange man from his dreams. His new tactic, which wasn't working either, was simply to ignore him. Of course, its hard to ignore a stubby, little man, with rosy red cheeks and boundless energy, parading through every yarn his unconscious mind wove together.
Meditation had to be the answer -- most of the benefits of sleep, without having to go to sleep. Jacob planned to check out Buddhist centres when he returned to Toronto in a few days.
Last night had been different though. While most of the specific
escapades of the little man had dimmed from his memory (except for an odd,
rather frightening rendition of "I am 16, going on 17" from the Sound
of Music with Julie Andrews), a certain snippet of what had been said
was indelibly etched in his mind. It had happened before, it always
gave an indication of what
was to come, but the difficulty was in trying to decipher what it meant before the dangling sword fell.
Jacob replayed the lines over again above the noise in the background. "Be ye careful of three. Why not let them be? Its easy to see, I like a bagel, rather than sovereignty. Oh goodness me! Here comes a bee! Buzzz." He was pretty sure the last part didn't really mean anything; the Cryptic-Guy had a tendency to add extraneous bits to his words of warning. Maybe he thought he was funny or something? What was truly frightening to Jacob was the relative transparency of the message considering where he was presently.
After returning to Toronto from his trip to Churchill, he had found out about the recent death of a well-known Canadian leader, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Fearing someone might see this as a perfect opportunity to make a name for themselves, Jacob had taken it upon himself to protect Trudeau's body. He traveled to Ottawa, where the body lay in state. On Monday, Trudeau's body was to be taken back to Montreal before the Tuesday funeral.
When compared to the message that Jacob received in his dream, he had a pretty good warning of what might happen. Three individuals, who sought Quebec independence, would probably try something in Montreal. The last part was a stretch, as the only thing he had to go on was the fame of Montreal bagels. Still, considering the former PM was a federalist, and involved in some of the more controversial issues surrounding the lore of Quebec sovereignty, it wasn't that hard to imagine someone trying to disrupt his journey to a final peace. Jacob had no intention of letting that happen.
But why did it matter so much, Jacob wondered to himself. To those living in Eastern Canada, Trudeau might have been seen as a hero. Jacob wasn't from the East, however. In the West, especially in Alberta, where Jacob had lived most of his life, Trudeau was usually seen very negatively. So why watch over a dead Prime Minister that meant very little personally to him, Jacob wondered.
As Jacob tried to form a thought to the question the din of background noise escalated, drowning out all but simple thoughts. Jacob couldn't take it any longer, the noise had been going on for about an hour now, without any real point.
Jacob turned and angrily said, "Would you two shut up!"
A golden retriever looked at Jacob in surprise, while a perfect expression of indignation could be found on the face of a black cat.
Jacob sighed. "Thank you."
There was the sweet sound of silence for a few moments before the Dog shuffled and spoke. "Its not like it was our fault."
"You just argued, or yelled, incessantly for the last hour. First off, who cares who came off as the better person in the New Testament -- Bartholomew or Thaddaeus. Nobody remembers either of them. And secondly, who cares what might have been the actual historical germ that inspired the Mahabharata. Please, just stop talking." Jacob started to turn back toward the Parliament building, where Trudeau's body lay, but stopped. "Oh, and for future reference, good arguments are usually more than just 'was not!' and 'was too!'"
Jacob returned to his position, rubbing at his temples, but happy for the silence he knew would only be momentary.
As if on cue, the dog spoke again. "Its not like we were arguing for ourselves."
"What? Then why were you arguing?" was Jacob's logical reply.
"Well, about an hour ago you seemed a little sleepy, so we thought this would be a good way to keep you awake," the Dog sincerely replied. "And it did work." The Dog was now smiling. But then again, golden retrievers always look like they're smiling.
"Thank you. Now you can stop," Jacob said before turning back towards Parliament Hill.
The Dog watched Jacob with his head tilted slightly, a common canine gesture of confusion. "I was only trying to help. Sometimes I wonder why I stay."
"You're more than welcome to leave."
Jacob huffed, "Then stuff it."
Jacob could hear a slight growl in the back, in the direction of the Dog. The Cat, for her part, started to chuckle before issuing a rather strange noise. Jacob smiled, apparently the delicate black cat snorted when she laughed.
Jacob rubbed wearily at his shoulders and wings as he stared out over the crowds that had come to watch Trudeau's final journey to the grave. He hadn't bothered to get much sleep since his arrival in Montreal the day before. Worried about the dream he had regarding Montreal and a possible disruption of Trudeau's funeral service and burial, he had elected to skip any prolonged period of sleep to focus his attention on guarding Trudeau's body.
Jacob had managed to get a few hours of sleep Monday morning, as the train carrying Trudeau's body left Ottawa and headed for Montreal. Leaked rumours about two members of the Canadian Shield being on the train for added protection gave Jacob an excuse to indulge his body's need for rest. But that rest had come at a price; he had to push himself, in flight, to get to Montreal at around the same time the train was scheduled to arrive. Unfortunately, the train had taken a few extra hours to get to Montreal. The train had slowed in recognition of the outpouring of sympathy from many people in Ontario and parts of Quebec who had lined the route to pay tribute to their former leader.
About three hours of worry, fear and self-doubt on the part of Jacob later, the train pulled into the station. No one seemed in the least concerned that they had caused such anxiety for an unseen metahuman who watched from a distant building. It was one of the problems of being an unseen protector; nobody bothered to keep you up to date on changes in plans.
Shortly after the the train arrived, Jacob had taken up position on the roof of a building within sight of Notre Dame Cathedral, where the funeral service was to take place. That's where he stayed through the night and early morning, watching as people arrived along the route where the coffin was to travel on its final journey. The security around the cathedral itself was fairly tight. With a coffee in hand, from a nearby restaurant, Jacob watched as the dignitaries and guests began to arrive and enter the church.
He stared at the coffee cup after taking a sip, shaking his head. He wasn't here to gawk at the famous people making their way into the church. If he was, he could just as easily be down at ground level, closer to the action. Jacob thought about that for a few moments; it would be nice to be just like everyone else. He could stand along the road and watch the coffin go by, content in the knowledge that nothing would happen that the police couldn't handle. It was a nice mental picture, and he could almost picture himself along the road, dressed in a suit with a non-descript wife and their 2.3 kids, and maybe a dog.
Jacob smiled at the image and chuckled. His training in biology made him wonder if it would be possible for an "angel" and a human to mate. He certainly hoped so. Another smile crossed his face as he realized he was a long way from being an "angel."
He might not be an angel, Jacob reminded himself, but he was there of his own accord. He casually scanned the crowd, hoping that three people had giant signs that read "I'm going to do something to ruin the funeral." As could be expected, there were no signs to that affect, and so he tried to read the crowds and the faces within it to the best of his ability. For the next hour, as people continued to show up, Jacob scanned the ever-growing mass of humanity, hoping that his dream wasn't prophetic, expecting that it probably was. Yet along the route the body was to travel, there was nothing to suggest any disruption.
As the funeral officially began, broadcast live on giant screens outside the church, Jacob exhaled sharply in frustration. He turned away from the main street and looked around. A slight reflection of red and blue could be seen against store windows a few blocks away.
Jacob dropped from the top of the building and glided closer to the lights. As the police cars came into view, Jacob floated to a perch and warily watched the drama unfolding below.
Two police cars had stopped and were lined across the road, the officers already out of their cars, guns drawn. They were speaking in a language unfamiliar to Jacob, he assumed it was French, as he was in Quebec and all. The message was clear however. Three figures were evenly spaced down the street, one in blue, another in white, the third in red. The one in blue was heavily muscled, while the one in red appeared to be wearing some sort of special suit with something strapped to his back and wrists. A woman wore the white outfit, standing defiantly out in the middle of the street. Judging by their gestures, they clearly wanted the police to leave. It was an action the police did not seem willing to oblige.
The stand-off seemed to be deteriorating quickly. Out of the main line of sight, Jacob flew closer. As there were three figures here, Jacob assumed the Cryptic-Dream-Guy's message had been true. Suddenly, the large man in blue picked up a new Volkswagen Beetle and hurled it towards the police cruisers. The officers scattered as the airborne vehicle crashed down on one of the patrol cars, metal schreeching and glass exploding outwards. Jacob glanced towards the officers, their faces were ashen, but they themselves were unharmed. Two of them huddled behind the second cruiser, while two more took positions from the corner of a building. Their reluctance to fire, even at this provocation, made Jacob assume they were both frightened and waiting for backup.
Well, backup has just arrived, Jacob thought. He realized a moment later just how stupid that would have sounded if he actually said it aloud. But still, he was not anxious to get into a fight with possibly three metahumans. The fact that he'd never fought one before only added to his fear. He glanced at the man in blue and was surprised to find a look of pleasant shock; maybe all this was new to these three as well. Jacob sighed and opened his wings, this was the kind of thing he was supposed to stop; people getting rowdy and endangering the lives of others.
Jacob flew down in front of the cruisers, about 20 meters away from the trio. The three glanced at each other, as if not expecting any real opposition and uncertain what to do when they were presented with it. Fluffing out his wings and generating a halo of light around himself, Jacob prepared to speak.
Before he could, the woman in white yelled, startling Jacob. "Vivre la Quebec libre!" Apparently, they were Quebec separatists.
The muscled man in blue charged Jacob, offering what Jacob could only assume was a kind of war cry as he ran forward. Thinking fast, Jacob flew back a few meters and blasted a beam of light at the asphalt immediately in front of the advancing man. The man pitched forward onto his face as he fell over the now uneven pavement. Jacob quickly flew to the fallen man and grabbed his head and shirt.
As he turned and hurled the large man into the side of a brick building, Jacob momentarily remembered a paper he had once written for a university class on the abnormally high levels of violence in metahuman encounters. He had chalked it up to the lack of a need to exhibit specifically human forms of self-control. Whatever the reason, it felt oddly good. He hated using violence towards humans, but against people like himself, he felt the same self-control lacking. After all, who was to defend humans against metahumans, except other metahumans.
Jacob heard something behind him and turned. Two balls of flame shot forth from the man in red. Jacob dodged one, but the second caught the tip of his right wing. Suddenly, Jacob realized just how deadly earnest these situations could be. He had never been hurt before in all his encounters with other human criminals, but here he felt his wing tip burning. Jacob grimaced against the pain, but turned to face the man, his arm shooting out.
"Formidable! These things actually wo--" was all the man in red could say as he was hit in the chest by a blast of light and sent crashing through the window of a shop.
Jacob was breathing hard, adrenalin coursing through his body. He glanced quickly towards where the woman in white had been standing and saw instead a giant bird streaking towards him from the sky. A bolt of light shot out of Jacob towards the bird, apparently missing it. The next instant the bird's talons had wrapped around Jacob, except their was no pressure from its predatorial grip.
Jacob looked around in astonishment as his hand disappeared into insubstantial
talons. He began to turn as a giant beak passed through the side
of his head. Jacob wobbled out of the illusion, a little disorientated.
He glanced around, the blue, muscled man was showing signs of consciousness,
while there was no movement from the direction of the man in red.
and red lights flickered on the windows of the buildings on either side of the street; apparently back-up had arrived.
Jacob looked back towards where the woman had been and found he was staring at a large, brick wall in the middle of the street. Shaking his head, Jacob walked towards it, watched as his hand hit nothing, then walked through. A very well-connected, and very real, right cross smashed into his jaw as he stepped out on the other side.
The punch didn't hurt really, it just stung, as Jacob looked down to a fuming woman dressed in white.
"What are you doing? Qu'est-ce que vous avez?!" The woman screamed. "You have ruined everything, you English-speaking flying monkey!"
Jacob shifted uncomfortably, he didn't know why she was speaking English, but at least he could understand what she was saying, "You're separatists, I take it?"
"We are not separatists! We're Quebec sovereignists!" the woman angrily retorted. "How can you separate from something you never joined?"
Jacob looked around, hoping there was somewhere else he could be.
The fake wall was gone and he saw strangely equipped police officers moving
around the scene. The man in blue was already being lead away, strange
bindings covering his hand and forearms. Three other officers were
moving into the building where the man in red had crashed. Nobody
was yet moving towards Jacob and the woman in white. He guessed they
figured he could handle that
He turned to see the woman taking in the situation as well. She started to straighten, her eyes getting big in excitement as an idea appeared to form in her mind. Jacob's hand snaked out, taking her by the arm.
"Don't touch me, let me go!" she said, struggling to get away.
"Not going to happen," Jacob replied. The woman stopped struggling, attempting to assemble some sort of dignity from the situation. Pointing towards the police cars, Jacob suggested, "Shall we?"
As they walked towards the car, Jacob asked, "Who are you three anyway?"
The woman raised her head proudly. "We are the Tri-colour Quebec Freedom Front. I am Égalité. The man in the blue is Liberté, and the one in red is Fraternité."
"From the French Revolution -- fitting," Jacob added conversationally.
"And soon to be part of our glorious revolution," the woman replied, passion rising in her voice. "A revolution that throws off the English oppression of Quebec, and allows us to forge our own future in the world. We shall take our rightful place among the nations at long last!"
"So what were you doing?" Jacob felt compelled to ask as they stopped in front of what looked like several specially designed cars. A younger man consulted with an middle-aged gentleman wearing a suit, nodded, and walked towards Jacob and the woman.
"We were going to stop the funeral for that vile federalist!" The woman's voice once again raised to a crescendo. "He was never Québécois, he does not deserve the accolades he received in death. We were going to show the strength of true Québécois to the world!"
"By killing a dead man?" Jacob queried, a little confused.
A younger man broke off the conversation by placing two small, electronic devices on either side of the woman's head. Behind her another man began speaking to her in French, as he placed her in handcuffs. Jacob walked away from the woman and found himself near the middle-aged man, obviously now in charge of the situation.
The man's face was angular to the point of being hawk-like, a cigarette clinging to the side of his mouth. "Merci. My name is Lieutenant Deschame, I work for the Montreal Special Forces Department. We could have handled the situation ourselves, but it might have gotten ugly. We knew Fraternité had been working to improve his flame-machine, but we did't know he had improved it so much." The man continued under his breath, "What idiotic names."
Jacob smiled. "Apparently they were separatists planning on disrupting Pierre Trudeau's funeral."
"Sovereignists," Lieutenant Deschame corrected with a slight accent, ignoring Jacob for a moment to talk to a junior officer in French. Jacob waited before speaking again.
"Are all of them going to be all right? I mean, I didn't see, what's his name, Fraternité, after he crashed through a window."
Deschame chuckled, his cigarette bobbing with the motion. "He was afraid you were still out there, and didn't want to have you blacken his chest hairs again. Ah, what a day, so many dignitaries, so many egos. I should get your statement, but seeing how most of the officers heard Égalité telling you what they had been planning to do, I don't think there's much need. Besides, we've been tracking those three for months, waiting for them to make a move."
Jacob was a little surprised by that admission. "They didn't really seem all that tough to me."
Lieutenant Deschame stared at Jacob. "They were untrained, lacked
any teamwork, and were stupid; they deserved to be caught. With proper
leadership, they could be a powerful force for sovereignty in Quebec.
Do not be mistaken, they were foolish to attempt this. If they had
managed to disrupt Trudeau's funeral then the moral imperative would have
been against us. It would have made it difficult to attract international
support for our cause. However, their
ultimate aim, I support fully; they lack a mind between the three of them, but their heart is in the right place."
"So you stopped them because it's your job, or because..." Jacob let his words hang.
"They could have damaged the cause in the long run. Sovereignty will not happen quickly, but it will happen, and in the right way," Lieutenant Deschame finished, matter-of-factly. Jacob moved away as the lieutenant returned to organizing police resources around the crime scene. The vans carrying the three separatists moved away down a street and were soon lost from sight.
Before Jacob left, he felt a burning question raise itself into his consciousness. "Just curious, so if Quebec decides to separate, but not all of Quebec agrees, what happens then?"
"Quebeckers would have spoken, we would unilaterally declare Quebec a sovereign nation," Lieutenant Deschame replied simply.
Jacob looked at the ground. "As our slightly crazy Prime Minister once said, 'If Canada is divisible, then Quebec is divisible.' If you aren't willing to accept that, it might lead to war."
"We shall see in the fullness of time," the lieutenant said.
"I hope we don't."
As Lieutenant Deschame turned and walked away, his own response lingered in the autumn air.
"Get used to disappointment."
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