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Master of No Mercy
By Matthew Rossi
He's a carrier of death
a stork in reverse
He blesses you with sickness
because love is a curse
The arsenic in your Kool-aid
The bomb in your mail
He disappears in motion
but leaves a bloody trail
(Suicidal Tendencies, Master of No Mercy)
In Boston's Prudential Building, on the top floor, sat the offices of Adversary, Inc. It specialized, according to its media flack, in developing small advances in technology, like creating a secure transmission lock for mobile phones so no one can tap their codes and make calls on your phone bill. This was a lie. It did not do that kind of thing at all. Or rather, its small advances were not going to help anybody.
In the marble lined office of the CEO of the company, flurries of activity on various computer screens kept the company informed. Sitting behind the three ton platinum lined desk was a being in a perfectly tailored suit that no human hands had ever worked on. The mirrored sunglasses he wore were exactly like the earthly Gargoyles, but they too were never worked on by humans. The form would have been a physically fit man, except for one flaw.
His skin was a deep, glossy black. If you were to look closer, you'd have realized that you were looking into a being of endless darkness. Then you'd probably end up dead. He swiveled in his chair and pushed an intercom. "Report."
"The control device works. It can be tuned, and its ultrasonics are inaudible to normal hearing. Within half an hour of activation, Boston will be swarming in rioters."
"Excellent." Releasing the intercom, he sat back in his chair and smiled, a smile with no humor or humanity in it. "This will draw him out and test him to the limit...and if the foolish Patroller should manage to survive, I have much more in store for him." He pulled a shiny red-green ball out of his desk. It pulsed, expanding, and twisted light sparkled in its center.
"Much, much more."
July Fourteenth was a hot, sticky and uncomfortable day. Thomas Willrew flew in the wet mass of air and felt himself beginning to sweat profusely. Man, I wish the Gauntlet could make an air conditioner! I could make a big fan, but that's just going to push the air around and make me hotter in the long run. I'll just have to put up with it.
Bastille Day, the historian though to himself. Damned appropriate time for all this to be coming down. I wonder if the people fighting for what they believed in then realized that today would be an excuse for millions of Frenchmen to get blind stinking drunk.
Thomas was searching. For some reason, people had been acting bizzarely for the past week, ever since that Armored Car robbery. He would have been able to stop that, but some hunk of tin had jumped him and they'd duked it out over Boston Harbor, lighting up the sky in a most festive fireworks display. Thomas had gotten the upper hand and slammed the robot into the harbor, but while he was occupied, he had lost the kids who had stolen the car.
Ever since then, odd crimes had been going on. A middle aged model airplane enthusiast had been found with the wings of one of his larger models superglued to his back, about to jump off of the Boston Garder. He insisted he was "Cessna-Man." People broke into a packing warehouse and stole all the bubble wrap they pack things in for shipment. And, someone had built an enormous statue of Mayor Tom Mennino out of clay and snuck it into his office.
It was really getting on his nerves. As the heat rose and the crimewave got even stranger, Thomas had another problem: His Recharger. It had told him nothing about the thing that called itself "Hyperion", and was of little help in this latest problem as well. Swooping over the Boston Museum of Science, Thomas wondered if he should ask Leslie. She was level headed, even if having a conversation with her was like talking to a dictionary. She might have an idea he'd missed. And anyway, he was getting nowhere.
Angling his flight, Thomas turned and soon enough, he was hovering outside her window. Gee, how do I let her know I'm here without freaking her out? Nobody ever has this problem in the funnybooks. Finally, he just reached over and lifted it up and climbed in. Sure, it was B&E, but that was easier then knocking and freaking her out.
Thomas walked around the apartment, normally tidy, now a trash-strewn dump. Reading some of the papers on her kitchen table, it seemed as if she'd been taking notes and then...gibberish. He used the Gauntlet to lift her fridge up off of the floor and tidy up a bit, and then left through the window.
Outside, people were milling around the streets. Lots of people, more than he'd seen since the march on Washington. They packed every sidestreet and main road, jostling and pushing, almost like ants...how easy to crush the insects like the vermin they are and...where the hell did that come from?
Sweating flop-sweat, the strange feeling of being asleep at the wheel for a second faded. Thomas wondered if the same thing was going on down there...and then the shots rang out. Within seconds they became a roiling tide, scratching and stabbing and mauling at each other like beasts in a pen. The only way to stop them was to flatten them, crush them into jelly and dance on...he shot up as high as he could go to get away with the feeling of thunder dancing on his skin.
"What the hell was that?" He looked down, but could barely make the crowd out as people...it looked like mold spreading over the city. Whatever was affecting them had gotten him as well...and he didn't know how to keep it from doing that again. Up here was safe, though...was it a gas? How to find out?
No time, though. Have to stop them, and to do it quick so that it doesn't happen again. I'll douse 'em, that ought to work. I hope.
Swooping over the bay, the Gauntlet made him a large bowl, and he dragged what felt like half the water in there up with him. It was heavy...why is it I can feel the weight of that, if the Gauntlet does all the work? Is it because the will of the user is important, and my will's been sapped by giving in to the bottle for years? Well, here's the drop-zone.
The water sprayed out...he made sure it spread so as not to crush them, but to get them very wet, and it worked. They were soaked. And it did get them to stop shotting and slashing at each other...by making them mad at him. Bullets, rocks, beer-cans...all sorts of things bounced off of a shield he conjured up.
I'll bet those insects don't even recognize the crest of Phillip II Augustus...If I killed them, what difference would it make! Squash them...what is wrong with me!? Better get out of here before I do something they'll regret.
Thomas pointed himself away and soared out of the reach of their attacks. With him gone, so their hostility seemed to bleed away. Dismayed and a little bewildered, they dispersed quickly. A man on a rooftop wearing a huge, complicated set of earphones picked up a phone.
"Confirm test one...the people were easily swayed, but the Patroller resisted."
"As expected." Came the confident voice on the other end. "If he folded, then we wouldn't have anything to worry about. No, this just confirms that he's a threat. Go to level two...I assume you've found his residence?"
"Tonight, then...make it convincing. I want him to suspect nothing...let him think it was all his idea."
"Over and out."
Thomas landed in his apartment shaking. What the hell is happening to me? I'm not violent...not usually, anyway. But I wanted to kill those people, and they wanted to do the same. We were all nuts! He placed his hand on the Recharger.
"Take this thing off me, and then it's time you explained a few things."
What would you like me to explain?
"What happened to me today would be nice for a start, anyway! Why'd I lose it like that?"
Ultrasonic mind control.
"What does that mean!?" Actually, he thought he understood. "You mean, sounds I couldn't hear made me want to kill? How is that possible?"
It is well known that the mind is a very sensitive instrument, affected by extremes of light and sound and temperature that the body is unaffected by. Seasonal Affected Disorder is just one of many such syndromes your people will eventually discover...but this time, you had help.
"Help. That'd explain who was responsible, anyway."
Yes...And it is not a story I relish telling you.
You see, there is a reason for the Patrol besides simply bringing races into Civilization...but even that is inaccurate. We exist to spread Civilization because to not spread it would be our doom...our doom at the hands of the Enemy.
The Enemy...is. That is all we know for sure. It is, and it is evil, although perhaps it would be better to say it FEEDS on evil. It absorbs and grows strong on the darker, malicious side of the soul...on hate, fear, pain.
Long ago, before the Patrol, before Civilization, came the Enemy. It somehow forged an empire...The First Empire. To our shame...we were that empire. We spread throughout space, unknowingly serving our dark master, until finally even he was glutted on the pain and death, and he floated into a kind of torpid rest, no longer exercising his will on us. Slowly, the First Empire crumbled.
We came to realize that we had been guided, a fact that our puppeteer had kept us from noticing. Many of us sought to deny that we had that blackness in our souls...they sought to blame it ALL on the Enemy. But others knew better, that everyone has a sliver of the dark inside them, that it is the struggle to defy that which makes a Civilization. And so, slowly, the Patrol was born, to oppose the Enemy.
What happened to you today was the opening Gambit of the Enemy, probably working through an Emissary...definitely doing so. And the reason I hesitated to tell you about the attack from two days ago...
"Yes? Go on." Thomas felt very, very small.
That device was the last flower of the First Empire...a Solar Guardian, A Hyperion unit, built to stand watch on border systems in case invasion came or the conquered fled our rule. Why it attacked you or spoke English, and where it has gone, I do not know.
"Great. So I have this Enemy to contend with?"
Be grateful that you have not actually earned its awareness, or you would have been lobotimized on the spot. The Enemy is supremely powerful...only through its twisted gamesmanship do Patrollers have a chance against it.
"Swell. What else can go wrong?"
He slid on the featureless black helmet, and the force-field deployed, sheathing his body in a black suit-like shield. White hair trailed down his back, and his eyeslits flared red, then green. <<Janissary Kaltion on line with Armor Net. Select Option Polthag.>>
The power of the Hy'athagi world-mind flooded him then. His race had developed a way to protect themselves during the end of the First Empire...by linking their minds they became one. The Enemy could not control, or even find them. They were safe. And they created the Janissaries to ensure that they'd always remain safe. Using technology brought to them by a master scientist, Athagi, he who previously developed the Power Taps that would become the basis of the Patrol's rechargers, they developed the Helmet and Armor.
<<Kaltion...You know of an Emissary on the planet?>>
<<Obliterate the infestation.>>
<I shall.> The link was broken, as only by being allowed independent thought could the Janissaries be able to respond to the Enemy rapidly enough. In essence, they gave up the ecstasy of permanent union so they could protect their race.
He strode to the window. In his two weeks on the planet, he'd found the humans, despite their similar physigonomy, to be disgustingly obsessed with grunting reproductive activity and personal...independece. Even the ones who thought they wanted community knew nothing of the joy of thinking as one.
He launched himself to the air and flew, trailing a black void where the Helmet absorbed ambient EMG emanations and converted them to its own use. Unlike the Gauntlet's of the Patrol, their rivals, the Janissaries Helmets operated on several different types of power, so as never to be vulnerable. Shut off the broadcast from the Armor unit, and the Helmet has reserves, as well as the conversion system.
Enemy enamation detected...Ultrasonic Manipulation Engaged. Patroller also detected.
<Counter with sound baffles.> The Helmet blocked out the sound. Patroller or no Patroller, this Janissary was going to kill himself a servant-fragment of the Enemy. He shot through the air, aiming himself at the Warehouse district.
Thomas had just gotten to sleep when his phone rang. Cursing, muttering under his breath, he picked up the reciever . "H'lo?"
"Thomas?" The voice had an edge of fear in it, which kept him from recognizing it...when he did, his blood kicked into his head with a roar.
"Thomas...They said they won't hurt me if you come."
"What?" He yanked the sweaty sheet off of himself and sat up. "Who said that?"
"We did. Don't bother threatening me or blustering, Patroller, we know all about you and your ex here. She's kind of pretty, in a bookworm sort of way." The voice was cold, of indeterminite sexuality. Thomas heard dead silence on the other end of the line. "Just come to the warehouse district, ELM Storage, and we'll talk."
"I'll be there." The phone went dead. Thomas stood up and pulled on a pair of Jeans lying on the floor, dazed by the feeling of calm in his head.
This is obviously a trap.
"Thank you for that newsflash, Recharger. Gauntlet on." The silvery Gauntlet flowed over Thomas' hand. He concentrated, and instead of the Norman Chainmail he normally formed as Cruxader, a black suit of Byzantine Mail formed, complete with the Dragon Helm of the infamous Varangarian Guard. "If they hurt her, they'll find out the difference between me and the rest of the Patrol right qucik."
"Tell that to them." He was airborne seconds later, screeching through the air like a comet. He formed the airfoil shape around himself, and in seconds was at the Waterfront. Dropping his speed and the airfoil, he hovered above the warehouse.
"The smart thing to do would be recon and checking on the greeting waiting for me." He concentrated, and a huge black claw tore the corrugated steel roof off of the building. He landed in the dead center of the building.
"Come on out."
"Oh, I shall." A form of pure blackness in an expensive suit walked out of the shadows. "Impressive greeting, Patroller."
"The name is Cruxadier."
"I thought the name was Thomas?"
"Not while I'm dealing with you, Emissary."
"You know? How intriguing. Seems the Patrol has learned the value of adapting from the Machine. No matter...Adaption is what we do best. Would you like to see Leslie?"
"As a courtesy, then." He snapped his fingers, and huge klieg lights klicked on...revealing the battered, torn, bloodless corpse of Leslie Davis Willrew. "Activate the sound."
The Janissaries meet the Patrol face to face. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Thomas meets Bryson Killaran.
Copyright © 1995, 1997 by Matthew Rossi