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I've Got a Better Way
By Matthew Rossi

Burn in a Gasoline Dream
Burn away my love
Burn away my conscience
Burn away, my love

(Overkill, Gasoline Dream)

  Thomas Willrew had one of the most powerful weapons ever made on his right hand. Using it, he had surrounded himself in pure force, sheathed himself in the armor of the Praetor of the Varangarian Guard. Yet, he felt as if he had just been disemboweled. It was amazing how much you could come to depend on someone.
  Looking down on Leslie's dead body, he remembered everything they did together...all the good things and all the bad things. The time they took they day off from Grad school and spent it driving around on Jimmy's motorcycle, and the time he got drunk and hit her for the first and last time. Images of their entire life together flashed before his mind.
  He realized that they were doing something to him, trying to keep him from thinking...and it was working. The shape, black as it was, was trying to make him drop his was so hard to resist...they killed Leslie.
  "FUCK YOU." Somehow Thomas reached into himself and found that will, the one the Recharger had told him he had, and he grabbed that flacid, unused energy and concentrated on her crushed face, on the red stains on her clothes, and on that smiling black thing that was getting it's sustenance from this, and he visualized. A battering ram appeared, one of the rams the English used at Agincourt, and he rammed it outward, catching his leering host by surprise as he drove him through the wall and into the bay.
  "Shoot him!" The men surrounding him began firing, and he dropped the faceguard on the Dragon Helm and visulaized a massive shield. They weren't important. They were nothing. I have to kill him, have to make it pay. The silvery finish of the ten foot tall triangular shield was the Gauntlet was easy to use, the easiest it had even been. All it took was purpose.
  "Back Off." He slammed the shield into the ground, shuddering the entire pier with the force of his rage. Several of the thugs fell, scattered by the force which powdered cement and sent waves rocking out into the bay. "I want him. Not you. I want him, and by God if you get in my way you die."
  "He told us different, Patrol freak. We know you can't kill." Some of them had begun firing again, and the patter of bullets off of his armor was begin to take it's toll. He was conscious that they might get a bullet through his eyeslits.
  "Wrong." He whirled to look at the man who spoke. Long blond hair, smooth shaved, nice suit. He thought, like the thought it takes to flick a bug away from your face, and a giant mailed fist drove itself into the cracked cement, smearing him as he and the cement both fell into the water underneath. The others waited for his Gauntlet to fade. When it didn't, they panicked and begand shooting wildly. He realized that they weren't going to let him get to his enemy.
  "Fine." The walls came tumbling down.

  Kaltion saw the Emissary plow through the wall and land on the Pier. It floated somewhat and got off of the cement platform just as an impact shook the building. The Patroller must have been more than they expected, Kaltion thought. He reached the Emissary, who whirled about as he neared.
  "DIE!" He slammed into the physical manifestation of everything his people hated and feared, driving the both of them into the tarmac. The Emissary tried his sickening mental manipulations, but Kaltion knew that would be meaningless. His people had destroyed the part of their psyches that the Entropy-slaves used against you.
  "What are you, that I can't touch your mind?"
  "I am death." The eyes of the Helmet surged with the stored power of the Armor, and a red spike of power ripped the Armani suit off of the black humanoid shape. "I am here to kill you, kill you in all your guises."
  "Less talk, more rock, you who speak the old tongue." The Emissary used the brute physical force that the link to it's source provided it and drove a fist into Kaltion. The Helmet's shield blunted and absorbed most of the force, but he still was driven back by it.
  "As you say." Reaching down, he ripped a massive slab of the stone-like black substance the humans used to make their roads and smashed his foe, who was unable to soak the impact. Just as he fell on his back, the Warehouse collapsed as a massive dragon- like shape rose from it and headed towards them. Kaltion was taken totally by surprise as the green and black scaled beast headed at himself and the Emissary.
  "But..he can't be an advanced Patroller, can he?"
  Flames burst from the mouth of the dragon. Kaltion felt his shields beginning to buckle under the power of the attack, which was also impossible. Flames? From a Patroller?
  "RRRRRRRAAAIRGH!" The Emissary was not as well protected as he was, and was consumed by the tremendous heat. All that was left was a shadow burnt into the ground. Kaltion did the only thing he could, and shot forward, slamming himself into the Dragon's belly. As he hit it, it bounced away from him, and then collapsed into a man-shape, wearing black armor of some kind. In it's arms was the body of a human female.
  "You one of them?"
  "I am a Janissary, enemy to the Entropy-Servants."
  "Then I guess you get to live."
  "What?" Kaltion had never met a Patroller before, but he was sure this wasn't the way it was supposed to go.
  "Never mind. I have to go now." BOOM. He snapped into an upward flight, moving fast enough to break the sound barrier. For a moment, Kaltion was confused. Then he bent himself to gathering the proper information. <<Kaltion to Helmet.>>
  <Helmet On-Line.>
  <<Does the Patrol still have a no-harm directive?>>
  <<This does not fit the facts of what has just happened.>>
Kaltion floated over the wreckage of the Warehouse. Bodies were crushed by the cement and metal beams that fell down when the Patroller erupted from the place. <<I have to discover how he did that.>>

  Leslie's apartment. The blue and white decor of the apartmnent had been strewn about when they came for her, apparently. Thomas reverently placed her on her bed. A bloodstain was still streaked down her right cheek. He kissed it.
  No more aimless wandering. No more allowing aliens to dictate to us how to civilize ourselves. We'll make...I'll make that decison now.
  Overriding the directive that limited the active power of the Gauntlet on Non-Civilized worlds had taken almost all of that will he hadn't known he had until Leslie died. Now, he would use that limitless power to remake the world in her image.
  "I'm so sorry, Leslie." Cradling her bloody head in his hands, he slipped into sleep, letting the force armor drop away.

  Bryson Killaran and Fyodor Tisharnovolk had spent the last week arguing with each other on just about every subject. Now the tall irish redhead turned his green eyes to look into the icy blue of the russian's as they landed in Kansas City.
  "So, why are we here?"
  "My Recharger warned me that something was coming here...something that needed to be stopped. And as there still aren't more than twenty of us, and you and I need to get used to each other, tovarishch, this seemed to be a good way, ne?"
  "I guess." Bryson looked around at the sidewalk, at the row of identical storefronts, blue then white then green then blue again. "It looks obscene here to me."
  "No burning cars. No argumenative drunks."
  "Bryson, you see the worst in your homeland."
  "Yes...Because I was trained to see it." He leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. "What about you? Russia's no garden paradise."
  "I love Russia the way some men love their mothers...but there is no place for me there. I was never a staunch party member but I always believed in the pure message of Marx and Engels, and there is no chance of that now."
  "Whatever." Bryson looked up and saw a silvery shape burning across the sky. "Hey, is that one of us, or a, can't be a plane, a missle?"
  "I think that's our target." Tisharnovolk leapt into the air and shaped the forcefield around himself, heading after the flash of light. Bryson looked at the plate glass windows across the street, at the ferret-eyed reflection of himself staring at him.
  "What? Allright, alright, I'm goin' ya Baggie bastard."
  Bryson shaped the reddish halo around himself that he used to make himself immune to bullets and shot into the sky. He was able to fly faster than Fyodor, and cut his lead fairly quickly.
  Still, the silvery shape cut back along its path, and was almost on Fyodor by the time Bryson caught up with him. It looked vaguely like a man, with a red triangle, base at the top of the head, where its face should be. It's body wasn't quite symmetrical, and it's right hand was a mass of tubes or something like that.
  "I am Hyperion. You are of the Patrol?"
  "Da. I am Fyodor, and this is..."
  "Unimportant. You are tainted by alien influences. You will be cleansed." The right arm cycled up and pointed straight at Bryson, and before he could react, a surge of white light erupted out at him. His red aura absorbed some of the energy, but he was still smashed out of the sky, and consciousness.
  "Boy!" Fyodor managed to catch Bryson and throw a shield around himself, but the diversion allowed the silver and red machine to close on the old man. Its left hand slammed into Fyodor's shield, and feedback caused pain to ride up the Gauntlet into his arm. "Chort voz'my!"
  The robot didn't respond, instead slamming both its hands into the shield...which quivered. Fyodor felt sweat beading on his forehead. His recharger had not told him this thing would be this powerful...but then again, more and more, his recharger reminded him of his late wife Zafie, and the woman never said three words when a grunt would do. He shot up, followed closely by the machine.
  Images of the great patriotic war filled his mind. A younger Fyodor dropping one of comarade Molotov's cocktails into a Panzer. The horror of infection and frostbite and death. His medals for valor at the battle of Vistopovok. All of it meaningless...he had agreed to be a Patroller because Civilization had reminded him of what the Soviet state had failed to become...not to fight and fight aimlessly. A lance of plasma sheared into his shield again, and he turned to face the robot.
  "Can we not talk?"
  "You will be cleansed."
  "Cleanse...uhh..this." Bryson had regained consciouness, and a giant spear with a massive barbed head rammed into the metallic shell of the machine. Piercing the silvery chest, the Gae Bolga that Bryson had visualized buried itself in the robotic attacker. A lightning-like discharge of power erupted from its back, and everyone underneath them in Kansas City looked up at the fireworks.
  "You are alive, boy. Good."
  "You can let go of me."
  "Surely I can." Fyodor dropped the extension of his forcefield and Bryson took over. The silvery humanoid had a tear going longitudinaly down its torso. It shuddered as it attempted to keep from falling from the sky, and Bryson looked at the blue and white patterns of the sky distorted in its skin.
  "You will be cleansed." The rip began to close up.
  "Bite me, frodo." Bryson made a Claymore and swung it, just as Fyodor pictured a Mountain Goat charging from behind. The CLANG of the impacting horns was immediately followed by the shearing rip of the blade tearing the head off of the machine. Crushed, it fell. Bryson reeled the head in and looked into the red triangle.
  "Well, we seem to have had a reasonably successful day."
  "Alas, poor Horatio, I knew him well, a robot of hostile tastes." He crushed the head in a massive glove and dropped the mangled metal like a discarded toy. "Let's go home."
  "Where would that be, exactly?" Asked Fyodor as they headed back to the temporary camp in Ontario. He had many questions to ask Zafie, and little time to get the answer.
  Meanwhile, the crushed and mangled robot impacted a mile outside of Kansas City. Within minutes, wires snaked out of the main body and absorbed the heavily damaged head back into its frame. A half-hour later, dented bot operational again, it stood up on tottering legs.
  "Hyperion active. Learning program...Patrollers used teamwork. Neutalize this advantage. System to compensate." The triangle began to glow again.

  Kaltion sat up watching The Conan O'Brien Show while his Helmet recharged...and then it happened. Something that had not happened to a member of his race in Millenia.
  He was leaning back, eating the strange meat-like SPAM that he had procured from the local dispenser of such things, when the host introduced a protion of his show he called "Alien Corner." Kaltion, being alien to this world, decided to watch.
  The host, a rather large red-haired man apparently native to the locale Kaltion was now residing in, told an aimless and confusing joke on current affairs, stopped himself, mentioned that most aliens would have no knowledge of the earth's political process, and displayed a canine eating peanut butter off the face of a rubber-visaged human...and Kaltion laughed.
  He stopped in shock...what was that? That sensation is not a familiar one. Returning his attention to the primitive transmission, the dog was now wearing eveningwear. He laughed again. And began to worry.

#6 is missing. #7 is the next available issue.

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Copyright 1995, 1997 by Matthew Rossi