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Internal Dissent
By Matthew Rossi


And love is sometimes violent
And violence has no constraint.

(Swans, The Golden Boy who was Swallowed by the Sea)

   Thomas Willrew awoke to pain. Searing agony, in point of fact. More physical pain than he had ever felt in his life. He was strapped—although technically any device that uses metal restraints can't really be said to be strapping anyone down—into a device that held him in an X position. The Gauntlet on his hand was being fired upon by some sort of energy projector, a long sphere on the end of a tube full of bends and twists. The surroundings were hazy and indistinct due to his pain, but he could see shapes out of the corners of his eyes, shapes vaguely manlike with huge, dark eyes. They watched him intently.
   The Gauntlet is resisting our probes.
   How long has it gone without being recharged?
   I fear that the human has surpassed the charger limit. He may never need to charge it again.
   What of our BPS field?
   It weakens, but does not shut down the device.
   Thomas would have screamed, if he had the strength. Instead, he slowly managed to clench his naked left hand.
   I'm not Richard. I'm not a Crusader. I'm just Thomas, the drunk, who played at games of power and got Leslie killed.
   I have to be more.


   Astra and the silvery metal of Hyperion blasted through the wall. While unhurt, Astra was alarmed to see Karlson in a normal business suit just before she and the attacking machine slammed into the obsidian table at the center of the room. She was also somewhat relieved to see two people with Gauntlets in the room.
   "Alert! Breach in perimeter! Breach in perimeter!" The Ranch's advanced computer security system had already begun the alert as Karlson pulled some kind of oblong rectangular plane out of the desk and a whip made of a scintillating material from his briefcase. The silver, seamless form of Hyperion stood. It stood on Astra's motionless body.
   "Simon Karlson...George Mounts informs me that you are the source of the alien infestation on this planet. You must die."
   "What!?" Karlson was taken aback. Diana Halpern was already moving, however, forming a shell of force around herself with her Gauntlet. Fyodor was grasping his chest with his right hand.
   "Gavno! The Metal thing survived being crushed."
   "You must be cleansed."
   "I don't think so." Coming in through the hole was a confident man also wielding a Gauntlet. He was in his underwear, however.
   "Pendragon, stay back!" Karlson moved to keep a healthy distance between the robot and himself. "That...thing...was sent by Mounts!"
   "Figures." Muttered Astra as she began moving. "Someone want to get it off of me?"
   "You all are tainted." A red flare of light ripped through the air, smashing into Halpern's energy shell and blasting it...and her...through the wall. She barely had time to yell. "You must die, Simon Karlson. Only then will the world be safe."
   Pendragon manifested a gigantic mailed fist and slammed it into Hyperion's shell. Astra swung her hands at that moment, shearing into the metal of his legs. The combined assault sent the machine-being reeling, and Karlson added emphasis with a laser from the obsidian rectangle he was holding like a shield.
   "Hit it hard! Sam, take it high, Astra, you're point!"
   The well-oiled combat strategy of the Machine clicked into place.


   Solar Orbit. Space twists. And suddenly, a DA'Karth'lass class H'Agathr warship pops into Einsteinean reality from...somewhere else. It is the size of five Aircraft carriers, bristling with lasers and anti-photon weaponry.
   On the bridge of that cruiser, Janissary Darthe of the Kll'ig'a*& race hisses through his alligator snout of a nose. His race was wiped out by the being known as the Enemy, and he had joined the H'Agathr in seeking revenge. Now, he was the only Janissary on the ship being sent to determine if a full-scale invasion would be needed.
   Why do we waste time? Just send fifteen Janissaries, and the truth would be known soon enough?
   <<It is not your place to question us, Darthe.>>
   His black tail, fifteen feet of scaly muscle strong enough to dent steel even without the Helmet, twitched, and he growled slightly as the telepathic link confused him.
   Very well. Darthe out.
   Well, at least he's get to see Kaltion again. Kaltion had recruited Darthe to the Janissaries in the first place, had trained the massive reptile. It would be good to discuss the situation with a friend.
   Janissary?
   What is it?
   We are 14 units of solar time as measured on the world we approach from arrival.
   Excellent. It was Janissary custom to adapt as much as possible to the conditions of the worlds they acted upon. Darthe had insisted that the crew of the cruiser do the same, and they seemed to be carrying out his orders well. Still, no warship was a match for a Janissary. Darthe looked out of the bubble window of the bridge and into space.
   We will crush you, Black Beast of the Void. We will.


   Bryson woke up with a hangover the size of King Kong. He pried a bleary eye open and looked around his cousin Jenny's apartment. Shit, we made it. The coffee table was moving, but still, they were there.
   "Herne?" He croaked like a dying bullfrog.
   "Bryson, my friend?"
   "Yes?"
   "Kill me. Please. For the love of God, crush my skull." The small Welshman crawled out from under the chair he'd tipped over himself. "The sun...why is it so bright? Did it go nova?"
   "Good morning, you two daft and drunken bastards!" Jennifer Killaran came bouncing into the room, a pot of coffee and some toast on a tray in her hands, a bright wide gleaming smile on her face. Bryson wanted to strangle her by her red hair. "How's Boston treating you?"
   "Jenny, in the name of Christ himself, Be Silent!"
   "Bryson, you don't look at all well."
   "That's because I've got the plague, Jenny."
   "Oh, you're just being silly." She put the tray down and began rubbing Herne's head. "And how are you, Mr. Baggis? I know we just met yesterday and all, and you were intoxicated, but I feel as if I know you. Undressing you after you vomited and all."
   "She's the devil, Bryson. The bloody great Satan itself. Make her stop."
   "How? I can't even move!"


   Sam Lyons had a baby on the way. A wife he loved. And so, when he heard the call to come fight this particular intruder, he may have been angered. That was Simon Karlson's only explanation for why Sam was slamming into the thing like a Tazmanian Devil on Crack and Bennies washed down with five cases of ZAP! Cola.
   "You will all be cleansed!" KTTTANG!
   "Cleanse This!" Lyons slammed the sword he'd conjured up using his Gauntlet into the shining shell of the robot. He'd been on the offensive against the thing ever since he'd arrived, fighting with an abandon that he could not use most of the time. But this wasn't a living opponent...it was a machine. He didn't have to worry about the Patrol code. And his wife was in the building.
   Astra, for her part, simply melded her hands into mauls and smashed the back of the robot. How it was surviving the pounding she and Pendragon were giving it was beyond her. The metal skin would dent in around her hands, and then would flow back to smooth, unblemished shining perfection. She could see herself in it.
   "Interference Level 10. Altering Parameters." The robot hummed for a second...then a shattering burst of heat shredded the air around him. Astra felt it. It nearly tore her hands off, and the shockwave sent her spinning through a console. Lyons managed to fend it off, but the time spent in doing so gave the robot an opening.
   "Hyperion adaption successful. Termination of opponent imminent." A lance of solar plasma rent the air, and no doubt would have at least hurt Pendragon, but a shimmering red wall appeared in its path and was destroyed by it instead. Diana Halpern climbed out the hole in the wall, and Astra got to her feet as well.
   "Not so fast, Hyperion. It's three to one now."
   "Make that four." Karlson had done something to the whip, and it flew from his hand like a spear, piercing Hyperion's shoulder in a cascade of blue-white arcs of power. The head swiveled down to take the damage into account.
   "Incorporate technology." The spear was suddenly surrounded in metallic tentacles that flowed over the length of it in the space of a second. The shaft was pulled into Hyperion's body, leaving not a trace of the damage. "Incorporation complete."
   "Son of a bitch." Karlson had never seen anything like it. The whole group was stunned, and Hyperion seized his moment.
   "Eliminate primary target." A red lance of light tore from the diamond on the center of Hyperion's 'head' and arced towards Karlson. No one had time to move...but one man was already moving.
   The beam hit a force-field. And tore through it, and the meat, bone and blood inside it, and the field on the other side. The power expended, it then died. As did the man who was struck.
   Fyodor Tisharnovolk. He was blasted back into Karlson, and the two of them were thrown into the wall. Simon felt the old man's blood covering his chest, and realized that the machine had nearly killed him. His anger at the attack grew to fury. Everyone else in the room turned to face the robot.
   "Fucker!" Diana lashed out with all the rage at her command, smashing into the robot with a wave of pure, incoherent force. Astra reached out to grab the robot, and succeeded, but so hard was the force that she only managed to tear off its leg.
   Sam Lyons ran over to where the two men had fallen. Karlson had struggled to a sitting position, and was holding Fyodor up. The old man was bleeding heavily.
   "A gut wound. I think I'm a dead man."


   The beam kept trying to pry the Gauntlet off of Thomas. He'd given in to the pain. There was nothing left to try and live for.
   What about me?
   Who...?
   I love you, Thomas. The red woman. Her skin a pattern of dots swirling about, so familiar and so unknown, as she'd been in his dreams. I'll be anything you need me to be, I'll do anything you want me to. All you have to do is get to me.
   Leslie?
   If you wish. A subtle re-alignment, and the red woman was Leslie. Part of him knew it was a cheat, a lie, that Leslie was dead, that he'd fallen prey to pain and his own weaknesses.
   I have to be more.
   I have to do more.
   I have to be free.
   He concentrated on his right hand, on the fingers inside the silver skin of his Gauntlet.
   I accept.
   He moved them, slowly, agonizingly slowly he closed his hand, listening to the seductive whispering of the red woman and the drill bit of madness inside his soul. He didn't know where he was, and he didn't care. Civilization didn't matter, the pain didn't matter, life didn't matter. He closed his hand.
   What is occuring!? The shapes were concerned, Thomas knew and didn't know. They danced about the edges of his sight and tried to comprehend.
   You accept?
   Yes.
   He is controlling the Gauntlet!
   But...the pain should be too great for him...
   Thomas felt his fist and focused on the power. He pulled. The device exploded, and the armor covered his body. He crushed three humans in armor of some kind in the second after he broke his bonds. The shapes stared in fascination as he concentrated his will and tore the machinery apart. Then he used the silver hand to amplify his voice.
   "I AM THOMAS. THAT IS ENOUGH."
   The room offended him. He reached out and brought the entire structure in, crushing the building in wave after wave of force, smashing everything in sight, burying himself and them in earth and steel and rock. Then, when he was done, he blasted out.
   A plume of grit ripped into the air, and a new man lifted into the Nevada skies, toward home.


   The scene in the rubble filled room was grim. Karlson had stood up, covered in the crimson stains that were Fyodor's life. Diana was fighting back tears, and although Astra and Pendragon hadn't known the man, his death still hit them hard. Sam thought of how that could have been him, and Astra's thoughts were, as always, her own.
   "Jesus, you old bastard, it wasn't supposed to end like this." Diana was looking down at the man who had come out of nowhere three months ago and infected her life. Now, she had a hard time picturing what would happen without him.
   Meanwhile, unnoticed by the assemblage of Machine and Patroller, Hyperion completed repairs to his frame, using Karlson's crushed and tattered computers as spare parts. He stood up, throwing a console off of himself. The group turned in shock.
   "Hyperion operational. Primary objective...Primary...memory damage. What is the objective?"
   "I'll give you an objective, you tin son of a bitch!" Diana used her Gauntlet to materialize a glowing red bull. It began charging the length of the room to attack.


   Janissary Kaltion had been tracking the solar emissions of the robot that he'd battled in Las Vegas with little success. So he'd allowed himself a three hour sleep period, during which he'd placed his Helmet into the Armor to recharge.
   The cold earth and trees had not been a comfortable sleeping area, yet he'd passed out quickly while gazing at the solitary moon blazing white in the raven-black sky. So beautiful this planet could be one moment, and so horrible the next. Kaltion was ragged with all that had happened to him.
   He was dragged out of sleep by the beeping summons of the device. Fumbling, his scratchy stubble hard and unfamiliar on skin that had never been allowed to grow a beard before, he lifted the Helmet out of the cradle of the Armor and placed it on his head.
   Kaltion.
   My friend, it is good to feel you.
   Darthe! Where are you?
   Three of that planet's hours away. We have been sent to monitor the situation.
   You are not alone? They've sent more than one Janissary?
   No, just I. But I am on a Battleship. They felt the need to have full hive-members along.
   Oh. Kaltion was disappointed. Like many Janissaries, he felt isolated around the average H'Agathr. While they were his people, their mental state was not one he would ever know. Then Kaltion saw it...the Solar Trace of his adversary was active. And within fifty miles.
   Darthe, I have to terminate. A prey of mine has flushed himself out.
   Understood. I hope to speak to you soon.
   And I as well. The connection was simply gone. Kaltion stood, the black shape of the Helmet's field effect sheathing his body. He placed the Armor on his back again, and the field morphed to hold it in place.
   He launched himself skyward.


   Hyperion dodged the force-construct and took to the air, followed by Diana and Pendragon. He knew that the odds were too stacked against him, and since he did not remember why they were fighting in the first place, saw no reason to continue the conflict.
   Simon Karlson turned to Astra. "Get Beacon and Graymask, will you, Astra?"
   "What are we going to do?"
   "We're going to have a talk with George Mounts. Someone's going to pay for all this."
   "Gotcha." She headed to round up the others. Karlson clenched his fist as he looked down at Fyodor's body.
   "You died in my home, as my guest, to save my life. I owe you. So I'll get this bit of justice for you. It's the least I can do."
   Meanwhile, the two Patrollers slammed themselves through the sound barrier in different airfoils, trying to catch Hyperion, who had no intention of being caught. The speeds he was capable of were the equal of the Patrollers, and as he needed no air and was malleable of form, he needed to form no airfoil. He began to pull away.
   That's when the ebony streak plowed into him. Even his advanced composite shell screeched at the tearing, shearing force of the impact. Hyperion was torn into shreds, his CPU barely having time to register the impact before he was rent into five pieces and scattered.
   Diana and Pendragon stopped. She had a stunned look on her face, and he, being more used to the unexpected, was wary. The black shape had resolved itself into a humanoid form, wearing a featureless black reflective helmet of some kind and an all black bodysuit/force-field. Had to be a force-field to survive that impact.
   "Greetings, Patrollers. I am Kaltion, of the H'Agathr race, of the Janissary Order. I claim and have executed vengeance against the Solar Monitor."
   "You know what that thing was?"
   "It was a First Empire Solar Monitor, a device built to protect the Empire from outside invasion. You do not know this?" Kaltion was puzzled. How could they not know what it was? The Patrol had to know...they were the inheritors of the machine's designers!
   "Uh...could you come with us?" Sam wasn't sure what was going on...but he knew that he had to find out. And whatever this was...it had some of the answers.


   Massachusetts Metropolitan University.
   Three hours ago, it was a bustling institute of higher learning, packed with warm human bodies studying and living. Then, they all felt a massive need to leave campus. This was followed by a searingly bright light that closed the physical plant of the University off from them.
   Now, Thomas Willrew and his Recharger walked the halls. To be honest, only the man was walking. The carnelian pyramid simply threw light off against the hallways, highlighting the photos and trophies and other mementoes of a life spent in Academic Pursuit. Thomas let his fingers brush against a photo taken his second year after taking his Ph.D. when he went on an expedition to Byzantium in search of Varangarian artifacts. He found the secret chamber under the Hagia Sofia, and the spear which hung in a display case in the University Museum. He'd never told anyone where he'd found it, though.
   Back then he was the rising star. Then he became the failed drunk. He looked at the picture of himself when he was known in these halls as 'Der wunderkind', and then drove his armored hand, aided by the power of his Gauntlet, through the wall, smashing the last reminder of who he was.
   Why are we here?
   I need a palace. This place will do nicely.
   Willrew—for Thomas died when he crushed that last scrap—smiled, a cold, inhuman, insane, mirthless, lifeless smile.


   The head of Hyperion.
   It twitched, pulsed, began re-establishing connections disrupted by the impact of the Janissary.
   Repair function estimate...35 minutes to operational status.


   Kaltion watched as the female Patroller finished placing dirt over the body of her comrade. The other Patroller, the male, had put clothing on and was standing with another female, this one obviously impregnated, in his arms. Was he mated to them both? Human customs still baffled him.
   Another human pair, this one both male, were also touching each other. Every so often they'd pat each other, or look at each other, to assure each other of something. It was exactly the behavior of the male Patroller and his female. Therefore, Kaltion assumed that the two males were also mated. It was not uncommon on other worlds that he had visited. Of course, there was no mating on H'Agathiria save for reproductive means. Still, Kaltion assumed that there could be an infinite variety of mating groups.
   Another male stood by himself. He was a severe looking male, and a force construct attended him. Kaltion noticed that the others treated the construct as if it lived, and so he did as well. Did he consider himself mated to it? Kaltion was not sure. Better to humor them. The H'Agathr also noticed that a scarred Patroller—Apparently a disfunction in his eye—had arrived and was attending the service as well. Why they put dirt on their dead made little sense to the H'Agathr, but then again, humans had baffled him since his arrival.
   To show his respect to the dead Patroller, Kaltion had removed his helmet. The humans had been shocked to see how much he resembled their race, but had refrained from comment. Kaltion knew that Darthe would have laughed at that. He himself was developing that ability, now. What would Darthe say to that?
   "Kaltion?" The Severe male was speaking to him. "That is your name?"
   "Yes. I am Kaltion, of H'Agathr. I am Janissary, assigned to your world as an observer."
   "Assigned by who?" The Patroller male who had the optical disfunction spoke.
   "By the World-Mind."
   "Maverick, do you know what he's talking about?"
   "No."
   "Maybe we should ask our Rechargers." The male who had been naked spoke. "See what they've been hiding from us this time."
   "Excuse me, Patrollers. May I make a query?"
   "What?" The one with the eye, the one called Maverick, spoke. He sounded very old. Older than he looked.
   "Am I to understand that the Rechargers do not tell you things?"
   The group of terrans laughed. Kaltion did not see what was amusing, and noted that the laughs did not sound happy. He was confused.
   "Come with us. We'd like to figure some of this out."
   "Very well." Kaltion followed the Severe one and the Scarred Patroller inside. The rest of the group stayed outside, apparently to mourn their dead colleague. Kaltion hoped they got him out of the dirt in time to feed him to their animals, as was the H'Agathr custom. Or did they not do that?


   Bryson and Herne were both beginning to rejoin the land of the living when the bulletin came on the television. Channel 4 News, to be exact. People in Boston seemed to like the news. They sure as hell had enough of it.
   "And then a dome of some kind descended on the MMU campus, sealing it off from all outside contact."
   Bryson got up. Herne didn't appear to be paying much attention, but Bryson needed to get out of the apartment or he'd go nuts. He touched his palm to his Recharger, which was now lying on Jenny's coffee table.
   "Activate."
   The silver glove slid over his hand.
   "Recharger, do you know anything about what's happening at that school?"
   Yes.
   "Do I have to play twenty questions, or are you going to TELL me?"
   A Patroller has erected a dome over the Campus. And... The Recharger sounded odd...a combination of angry, upset, and ashamed. Bryson had never heard anything like it.
   "And? And what?"
   His Recharger has broken off communication from us.
   "I didn't know that Rechargers could do that."
   They cannot.
   "You just said that this one did."
   But it is impossible. That should not be happening, but it is happening. The Collective needs time and data to analyze the situation.
   "So what should I do?"
   Whatever you think best.
   "Typical Recharger BS. Throwing it all in our lap."
   We are just tools, Bryson...you must discover for yourself what to do, not have it forced upon you.
   "Whatever." Bryson walked over to Herne. "Wake up, beautiful."
   "What do you want!?"
   "There's a crisis. We're needed."
   "I hate you."


   Kaltion flew over the district known as Kansas, tired and not bothering to hide it. At least the Helmet had a full charge. The Patrollers had been divided on the issues, and had asked him many questions...some he had not the right to answer for them, such as what were his long term goals on the world? Why was he here?
   They also were wary around him, due to his alien nature. They probably suspect that I am a pawn of Artificial Entropy...what they call The Enemy. I would, were I they. Still...they have been told nothing! They know so little of the forces arrayed against them. This is not efficient. But the Patrol has always vacillated, and always will. It is in their nature.
   Kaltion hoped he would get back to the city he'd established a base in. He wondered if he should have asked the Patrollers if they were allowed to kill or not yet...he'd seen that Patroller kill the minions of the Emissary, but the others seemed to hold back more. He had forgotten. Very tired.
   Home would be nice, but I'll settle for Boston.


   MMU.
   Bryson and Herne landed at the campus. Indeed, it was surrounded in some sort of dome...and it was definitely a Gauntlet construct. Bryson touched it with his Gauntleted hand.
   "Whoa. Lot of power going through this thing."
   "Have y'ever seen such a thing in all ya days?" Herne was slipping into a Welsh accent.
   "Can't say that I have. I guess we ought to try and go in, see what this guy's up to."
   "How do you know its a he?"
   "My Recharger called him He. Said his Recharger, stuff like that."
   "Oh."
   "Gentlemen." The shield suddenly opened before them. Standing on the steps of the main building was a man in black medieval armor. A red cross emblazoned the front. He had his hands resting on the Pommel of a sword which was point down into the ground. "I see the Patrol finally realizes the revolution that is to come."
   "Who the hell are you?" Herne was never one for subtlety.
   "My name was Thomas Willrew. Now, it is just Willrew. Come. I have much to show to you." He turned and walked into the building, and Herne and Bryson were forced to jog just to keep up.
   "Look, we're just here to find out..."
   "All of your questions will be answered in here." This Willrew guys one spooky son of a bitch, thought Bryson as he walked a step behind him. Soon, they came to a large set of metal doors, and Willrew walked through them.
   The room had been the Observatory. Now a throne dominated the center of the room. Willrew sat down on the throne and regarded the two of them. "I have been granted the chance to bring Civilization to the Earth, a civilization based on the best that humanity has ever produced. I can offer you one of two choices."
   "And those would be?" Herne felt the hairs on the back of his neck twitching. The look in this guys eyes, the throne, the takeover of the school all screamed trouble. But Patrollers can't do this sort of thing, can they? It has to be different than it looks.
   "Swear fealty to me. Agree to serve me as my retainers, and you will aid me in my assumption of rule." Willrew's diction was fervid, a trail of spit slowly appearing in the corner of his mouth.
   "We can't fucking do that! We're Patrollers! Are you out of that barmy head, Willrew?" Bryson was outraged. Probably more at himself for blithely walking into this than at Willrew.
   "Alright. We do it the hard way, then." Willrew suddenly created a force-mace the size of a Pontiac and slapped Herne aside. "I kill you. How's that sound?"
   Bryson generated the ruddy force field and wondered if Willrew could do it. So far, he was ignoring the code with impunity...but the Gauntlet can't kill. It can't. He's got to be bluffing.
   Herne hit the wall. Angry, he assumed the shell of the Cerunnos form, the stag-god. "Let's get it on!"
   Willrew smiled. "Indeed."


   Kaltion swept over the city from the west. The gas tank with the slashes of color, the razor-building that the terrans call the Pru, it all seemed so familiar. He would...what?
   A dome rising over a large part of the city where none had been before caught his attention. While he was exhausted, spent, and unsure of himself, he was one thing more.
   He was a Janissary.
   He turned to investigate.


   Bryson was slowly being crushed by a mailed fist that Willrew had called up. Even with all the power at his command, all he could do was slow the fists glowing fingers down. He felt a rib crack. Meanwhile, Herne had been pinned underneath the telescope.
   Suddenly, the glowing hand weakened. Willrew looked up.
   "Something's hitting the shield."
   Bryson put everything he had into it. Straining, his body no longer feeling anything, he shifted, and then willed. The hand opened. He fell to the ground. Willrew turned and regarded Bryson with cold, dead blue eyes.
   "How?"
   A brahma bull smashed into his back. Herne had dropped the force shell and wiggled out from under the telescope. He smiled, and clenched his fist. The bull began hopping up and down, driving its hooves into Willrew's force field. Bryson expected there to be a bloody smear and Herne's Gauntlet to disappear, but that didn't happen. Instead, a sudden flare of light tore the bull construct apart.
   "You...hurt me."
   Just then, an all black figure smashed through the dome. It regarded the sight of three Patrollers battling each other with featureless confusion.
   Willrew waved, and a maul drove the figure down into the stone floor of the observatory. Cracks radiated out from the impact. Herne took this moment to renew his attack, sending an anvil hurtling at Willrew. It glanced off of him.
   Bryson, his ribs afire, each breath pain, dragged himself over to check on the new arrival. He heard faint breathing. The figure slowly lifted his head.
   "What...what is...going..."
   "He's frigging insane is what, man. Name's Bryson." Bryson envisioned a baseball bat smashing into Willrew's knees just as Willrew attacked Herne. The satisfying THWACK dropped him off balance, and Herne's sawblade attack actually managed to impact Willrew's shield with enough force to leave a welt on his face. Willrew looked up at Herne.
   "Fucking midget." Suddenly he pointed at the man. A spear of force three times the size of his arm shot forward and impaled the welshman. The cocky smile was still on his face as he died. His blood stained the throne carnelian. His head hit the telescope and sent a metallic ring, a tin peal, through the room.
   "HERNE!" Bryson no longer cared about the Patrol code. It's chafing directives faded from his mind in the sight of that horrible death for a brave man. He pictured the Gae Bolga, the spear of Cullen, and flung it forward. It smashed into Willrew's shield with all the will Bryson could muster.
   It wasn't enough. Bryson looked down at his hand, at the Gauntlet as it melted off of him. He looked up at Willrew, who smiled at him.
   "They deserted you, didn't they?" He held up his own Gauntleted hand. "Fool. I'll kill you later." He turned and walked over to Herne, stared down at the dead man.
   Bryson wanted to charge the smug bastard, tear his head from his shoulders, but he knew that would do nothing. Still, it took a palsied hand on his leg to get his attention.
   "The Helmet..."
   "What?"
   "Put the Helmet on before the mad one..." The man or whatever he was couldn't choke any more words past the blood and froth in his lungs, but Bryson didn't need to hear any more. Taking only a second to look at the cracked and shattered floor, at Willrew standing over Herne, at the Helmet. He grabbed it, slid it off of the Janissary, placed it on his own head.
   The voices rushed in. A cacophony of thoughts. A symphony of minds. More than he could possibly understand. All one.
   {{Will you serve?}} A moments hesitation. It had been what Willrew had demanded, and he'd refused it. And now Herne was dead. That had to be avenged.
   {Yes.}
   {{Then do so.}}
   His body stiffened, and then the field flowed over him, familiar yet different to the one his Gauntlet had supplied. He'd had to maintain that one. This one just was. Out of his subconscious it dug up the image of a movie he'd seen about rebels in the fifties. A film starring Marlon Brando. Why it selected that as its image was beyond Bryson's conscious thought, but he saw that he was wearing a shield that looked like a leather jacket now.
   Willrew's back was still turned. One shot. It won't kill him...but it'll give me time to get help.
   Inside the helmet, displays linked on Willrew. Somehow, Bryson knew how to give the command, and he did.
   A flare of white light, heat, and force wrenched out of the Helmet. It blasted the unsuspecting maniac like a hammer, driving him through his 'throne.'
   Bryson lifted the white-haired man, still barely breathing, and shot up through the hole.


   Willrew pulled himself to his feet, snarling. What DARED to attack him?
   There was no one on the room. Where had the failed Patroller gone?
   "Leslie?"
   Yes, Love?
   "Where are they? Where did they go?"
   They ran away. Flew out the hole. They are outside the city now, heading south.
   "Then we'd better get on with it before they bring help. The city needs stability, not division." He stood up on the crumbling stone platform. With a thought, Herne's mangled body was incased in a stone sarcophagus. The telescope was changed into a new throne, and several decorative suits of armor. Thomas smiled under his helmet.
   Are you ready?
   "Just talk me through it."
   He reached out, envisioning the city as surrounded by lines. The lines thickened, danced, weaved about at his command. Soon they were an unbroken whole. Then they began to rotate, spinning and spinning, also under his will.
   Anyone inside the city looking out their window or outside their building saw this happen. The panic began to spread. The dome whirled about.
   Now.
   The city was gone.


NEXT:
The Crossover from Hell begins. Where has Willrew taken Boston? What has Bryson agreed to serve? How will the world react?
Strange Bedfellows #1.


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Copyright 1995, 1997 by Matthew Rossi