Well, well, well… about twenty years ago, this strangeness tumbled out my head. Forgot all about it. It is not a Christmas story, but it did just come down the psychic chimney on this eve.
The Nature of Evil
Once upon a time, Evil was abroad in the Universe. All the bibles tell us so. It was infinite in all dimensions, throughout Time. It simultaneously inhabited each of the eleven sub-particle, proto-spatial dimensions, while instantly and perpetually hurtling along the Arrow of Time in both directions.
That was once upon a time. Even as with the Living Universe Itself, all eternities, good and bad, must come to an end. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics rules and informs every gesture of the Cosmos. It rules even the determined, plodding, footfalls of Evil as it ceaselessly trods the path from Nothingness to Flesh, and back again.
In the last moments of what Humanity, with characteristic imprecision, had dubbed the 21st Century, Evil was, in such a way, limited in scope and capacity. Such had been the case, more or less, for a couple of millennia. Confined to occupy only four spatio-temporal dimensions, any four, at any given time, Evil had found opportunities for promoting moral denigration, mayhem and suffering a tad restricted. Quite restricted, one might suppose, for a once universal principal.
Evil was quite pissed off at this state of affairs. Evil was hampered, but not chained. In this it was all the more angry and, therefore, more vengeful, capricious, mercurial and wanton to lash out. Sometimes, though, it would just fold up into four, any four, dimensions adjacent to our familiar reality. It would fold up tight and brood. And brood. And brood. Out of Time, out of Space, it would mull over what to do upon return to the next moment of Space/Time.
Our man Hunter was, by nature, a generous, mild soul. He was slow to boil. He was courteous. It was his nature to be considerate of others. His upbringing and character had endowed in him an innate sense of optimism. All that being said, circumstances of late tended to severely test the quality and depth of that character.
The clerk inserted his debit card into the machine. Pondering her reflection on the opaque face of the touch sensitive terminal, Hunter wondered what genius first thought up this great new system. Instead of paying cash, everyone had an Employer Debit Card. The government, responding to pressure from big business, had gotten completely out of the business of money. Being something of a conventionalist, Hunter still hung on to a few of the old Centeme coins, holographic, plastic chips. He kept some in a drawer at home. He always kept a few in his pocket. It was getting harder and harder to find places that would take them, but Hunter was confident that they would come back into use someday.
The clerk, a sallow skinned, overplump, tinted and tattooed matron in a concord grape purple bodysuit, poked furiously, repeatedly at the input terminal. Impatient, Hunter inquired: "Is there a problem? I'm only trying to buy a few things here."
"It's saying that your card is no good. You didn't get fired or anything, did you? You owe them on an advance? Gotten overdrawn?"
"God, no. There should be few points left in there. Try it again, please." Hunter had a very bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. Sick. Heavy. Sinking. His normally translucent pallor turned absolutely ashen.
"I got other customers here, y'know." Her tone of voice lapsed from profound annoyance into utter contempt."A'right, one more time." It was the tone of voice that one might use as one removes a shoe to splat a spider.
He watched her fingers deftly, mindlessly flit across the input surface. "Dat-dut-dat- duh-dummn." Suddenly, the terminal emitted a series of strange grating, buzzing and frapping noises. "Umzz-zuck-zwik-zuht." She bit her lip, half suppressing a smile. Her eyes lit up in a belligerently smug expression as the machine ejected Hunter's card in drizzle of plastic confetti onto the floor. "A'right, Mr. Smart-guy, Got Some Points in There, what do you plan to do now?". Dark muttering swelled from the growing line behind Hunter.
"How much is that? Maybe I can give you coin."
"We don't take coin, 'cept for government aid cases. You ain't on aid, are you?"
"Not yet." She paid this gambit no never mind. She had him where she wanted him and he wasn't not going to wriggle out by getting cute with her. Hunter pressed forward, hoping against hope that he could at least salvage a successful trip to the One-Stop Store out of an otherwise completely miserable day. "Please, I don't know what's wrong with my account and I just need to get these few things. I don't have any food at home."
Heaving her breasts heavenward, eyes rolling in exasperation, she reluctantly made the apparently supreme effort of swiping her forefinger across the terminal surface on the spot where it displays prices and conversions. "That's eighteen-o-two-eight points, or four-hundred, sixty-two Centemes. You got it?"
"Yeah, yeah, I think so." Hunter hurriedly fumbled the chips from his pocket and counted them out on the counter. Over his shoulder, a smartly dressed young woman looked on with an expression seeming to say that she had never seen so craven and deplorable a scene as poor Hunter trying to buy groceries.
"Just sign the release and you can go." groused the clerk, shoving Harry's goods to the end of the counter. She dropped the coin into a terminal slot, where it was tallied, reported and ground into white dust. Hunter quickly stuffed his goods, some cultured fruit, milk-simulant, yeast-meat, into a flimsy plastylene sack and made way to the door. The silent sigh of relief from those behind him in line was quite palpable.
At work tomorrow, he'd figure out what to do about his points. "It's just a glitch in the company file. Must be." Approaching the exit, he paused to aid an elderly lady with the balky automatic door. A child careening an empty carriage burst in through the way out.
"G'damn-it!" The metal edge of the door slammed into Harry's face. It split his lip and bruised his forehead. He fell to the ground, food flying all over the sidewalk. The lady walked on. The child disappeared into the crowded store. "People just aren't fuckin' polite anymore."
The sky had been dark all day. It now burst forth as Hunter crawled over the pavement, collecting his bruised Psue-casavasTM, watching his spilt milk simulant wash into the gutter with the cold rain.
Evil still had its moments: nothing to really hold a candle to the distant past, of course. Major episodes of really calamitous shit-rains from Heaven had been infrequent for some time. They were much less prevalent than Human-made disasters; your run of the mill burning rivers, toxic rains, and deadly disruptions of population equilibrium among vermin.
Oh, there was a good spell of differing and diverse plagues over a period of some past generations; several mighty fine famines, and the world-wide socioeconomic convulsion that issued forth from the Schonsovo quake in Eurasia at the dawn of this latest century.
In general, however, Evil had to choose it's efforts with an eye toward ever more surgical precision. Gone was the flourish and bombast of days past. Indeed, Evil now faced its first and only "competition" in the form of Humanity, itself. And, Humanity was giving it a run for the money.
Evil had learned to act with economy, with a conservative, even elegant grace. This was a time of well chosen battles, skirmishes, tactics, not grand strategy. Its favorite tactic was one that may well have dated back to a time when that first, legendary, hirsute harlot was induced to taste the fruit of forbidden knowledge.
Anyhow, Hunter was having a bad day. It had been a bad week. A bad month. The past couple of years had not been that good. The events of yesterday merely added some sleight weight to the burden that perennially bowed his head and furrowed his brow.
Peddling his aerocycle toward the gates of Endidium IncoRG, Hunter had but one thought foremost in his mind. "I'll talk to Sencovich in personnel, first thing. She'll straighten out the computer mess." He clicked his left thumb and middle-finger together. The Viso-AideTM glasses responded as programed, projecting a translucent display of the day's appointments.
8300: PREVIOUSLY SCHEDULED ACTIVITIES CANCELED PENDING UPDATE. REPORT TO PLANT DIRECTOR ASAP. AS PER CENTRAL.
"That's weird. I wonder what's up?" Hunter eased his cycle to the entry booth and handed old Mulchahy his card. "Hey, Mac, what's cookin'? I got a priority advisory on my coupler. You heard anything?" Mulchahy had been at this gate, coupled to Central, from roughly the day before Time began. If anything major was afoot, his information would be among the most explicit, his judgment the best informed.
"Just go on through, Hunter. Everythin's gonna be A-OK." He didn't even look up, just zipped the card through the reader and, without needing to take precise aim, flashed Hunter's retina with the OccuscopTM. "G'on in."
"You're fired Harry."
"My name's Hunter, Mr. Aflerd." Hunter's knees trembled terribly. He knew that he shouldn't sit down, but it was either that or soon find himself sprawled insensate on the boss's office floor. He collapsed, slack-spined into the green felt, overstuffed divan that ornamented Alferd's tacky, mock regal office-suite. "Are you sure this isn't a mistake? My work's been very good. I received a plus ninety-two rating on my last rev..."
Aflerd was a bear of a man, in both bulk and manner. Leaning forward over his desk, he loomed oppressively over Hunter's sleight, shivering frame. "That is not the problem, Harry." Hunter felt like a warm prey, about to have his intestines extracted by the teeth of a large, reptilian predator.
"Uh, my name is Hunter, Sir."
Aflerd's massive, many-ringed right fist came crashing down on the filigreed lucene desktop with a mushy thud. "The problem is our Employee/Output Index! We are at .945. Corporate tells us we should be at 1.006. Something has got to give!!! "
"But, I... you..." Hunter's tongue and thoughts sputtered on ineffectually, seeking some rejoinder to this imponderable turn of business logic and personal fortune. "I mean, I'm in R&D. We're not a profit center, Sir."
"Exactly! We've cleared out your office. Pick up your things from Mack on the way out and turn in your debit and ID cards." Aflerd peered earnestly into Hunter's eyes, eyes welling with tears. "Son... Harry, everything is for the best. That's my motto. Get out there and run like Hell! Go for the gusto. You'll be fine, I just know it."
Hunter floated like a sleepwalking ghost to the velour quilted door. Leaning heavy on the oddly spongy Plastimetpp Bronze handle in his sweaty palm, suppressing nausea with a deep breath, he turned to face Aflerd one last time. He hoped to make a final appeal for sympathy. Aflerd was already on the vid, speaking to the home office about "pro-active, maximizing, negating contrary wise" steps taken to bring that Employee/Output Index up .061 points. Hunter just left.
Evil had nested, not sleeping, only brooding, waiting for the next good idea. It had folded up in spaces adjacent to and just below the basement stairs of 48 Riverdale Drive. It rotated just so slightly toward our dimensions on one ephemeral axis, peeking almost imperceptibly into our Space/Time. It is "next" to the an electric furnace badly in need of repair.
"More of the same, Carter." The bartender, Maxi Carter, brought over Hunter's fifth vodka martini. Our man was slumping badly, vision slurred, speech blurred.
Hunter had forgotten about the two Somamine tablets he'd gotten from Sencovich. She was kind enough to medicate him as she processed his discharge papers. Events would very soon apprise him of the depth of his oncoming impairment.
"Ya'know, that really says it all. More of the same. It's all the same, jus' more of it. An'it's shitty. Hell. It all started when I married that crazy woman. Two years in Hell. The fuckin' divorce. Hey, I don't need a job. My job is going to my lawyer n' giving him my money. Why? So there won't be any left when goddamn Shaula gets done with me. Hah, Shaula; pretty, lil, sweet, psy... psychotic Shaula."
Carter, an expert in these matters, married and divorced four times, had absolutely nothing to offer but an oft' bent ear and a keen eye for the obvious. "Hunter, you are smashed. Why don't you slow it down on the vodka?"
"Fuck that. My problem is, I got a leaky roof. My house does. Got a bad 'lectric furnace. Hah, I got a bad brain! That's what I got. Fuck it. She can have it. Big ol' empty... leaky... col..cold house with no... money. No job. Hah; job, money, furnace, roof, house, brain, fuck it!" And with that brilliant flourish on an otherwise incisive analysis, Hunter proceeded to dump his drink into his lap.
Without missing a beat, without turning from the sink, aiming through the much fractured, beveled mirror, Carter flipped a wet bar rag smack into Hunter's face.
"Thanks." He would have liked to have dried up, but Hunter was having a hard time finding the sopping puddle in his crotch."Hey, bud, uh'll have 'nother."
"The Hell you will." Carter, vid in hand, sauntered congenially over to his bibulous patron. "And you ain't driving home. I'll get you a taxi."
Hunter awoke some nine hours later on his kitchen floor, clad only in his business jacket and underpants. The floor, indeed the entire house, was cold. And it was wet. Hunter was lying in a puddle. The puddle, almost an inch deep, extended across most of the three rooms of his "luxury" unit. He crawled to the cabinet under the sink and grabbed a bucket. He barfed in the bucket. He fell over. He got up on his knees and looked to the ceiling. There were enough leaks that he might have placed the bioplast container anywhere on the floor and caught a leak, doing nothing to stem the tide. "Guess it's raining again."
Stumbling down the basement stairs, he found his "modern" electric furnace billowing acrid fumes, arcing three meter, purple strings of static current, ionizing thin air at a cost of only eleven-hundred, sixty-eight points per kilowatt. And, it did so without generating any appreciable heat. This situation was perfectly normal and of less concern than the water now accumulating in a small lake at the base of the self-destructing electrical device. "Let's just go back upstairs. I'm better off asleep than electrocuted... Well, maybe."
Hunter thought he'd noticed something under the stairs on his way back up; a kind of glimmer, a shimmer, a bending of dim light, a reflection of something off of nothing, for nothing was really "there". Hunter felt a queasy chill shiver from the soles of his bare feet all the way through the crown of his head.
"God, I need some sleep." He stooped to take another look, but began to lose his balance. Grabbing the railing and righting himself, he proceeded swiftly to the bathroom to vomit again, and again, and thence to the bedroom and unquiet slumber.
As Hunter stood on the stairs, Evil had looked clear through him, making measure of the man; inside and out, the microscopic and the macroscopic, the physical and the spiritual. Here was an individual bereft of self-esteem or direction, out of control, battered by misfortune, wracked by loss, with nothing to lose; his tattered personality held together only by the merest force of habit. In infinitely less than an instant, Evil had gained the certain knowledge that this human would fit quite nicely into its nefarious plan. "This man is meat for the Devil! Just a little push in the wrong direction and..." Evil had only to conceive of that plan. "Let's just see what we can come up with, working together, my new friend."
Evil unfurled and rotated across dimensions, through the floors and ceilings, into time, into Hunter's bedroom, and into Hunter's head. "Let us dream together, tonight." And so Evil nested into Hunter's synapses, folding around and through the wet circuitry and salty fluids of his slumbering brain. Evil mirrored and cleaved to the plumbing and neurochemical transactions; it did not take over, not yet. Evil first wished to more fully assess the nature of this opportunity.
But Hunter was way too spent to exhibit any significant human cerebral activity. "What we need here is a bit more heat!" His Neuro/Immune systems were instructed to crank up a nice fever. "That's a little better." And so the dilerium, the fever dream ensued. And from it flowed Hunter's full story; his trials, his defeats, his suppressed and unrecognized lust for just revenge.
"I feel goddamn great!" Hunter bounded from his bed. It was Three O'clock in the morning and pitch-dark outside, but he could sleep no more. "God, whatever I did yesterday, I ought'a do all the time." Ravenous with hunger, he proceeded to the kitchen and turned on the light. "Yuck, what a fuckin' mess. Well, never mind that now, let's see what we got in the fridge." He side-stepped the bucket of barf and tip-toed through the subsiding lake on his floor. "OK, we got some badly bruised Psue-casavasTM, a few clonal pheasant eggs, a pound of yeast-meat, and some cashews."
In all likelyhood, no cook had ever deliberately cooked a gustotorial abomination on the order of what Hunter was about to create. "What I need is lots of protein! Good, raw, all purpose protein." With an arm-load of clonal eggs, yeast meat and a bottle of unroasted cashews, Hunter moved over to his counter-top food proceesor. He dropped the whole mess into the maw of the machine; egg shells, meat wrapper, everything. He put it on maximum blend, no heat, just blend, and began to create a new benchmark for gastronomic disasters.
"Let's see, some seasoning. Lot's of salt. Some garlic. Hmm, I know I've got some dill. Yes, here it is! Some tumeric, pepper..." By the carton, every herb and spice in his kitchen cabinent went into this disgusting gruel.
He stuck his finger into the resulting emulsion, and sampled a bit of his handywork. "Mmmm... nope, still needs something. I know!" Rushing off to the bathroom, he returned with a bottle full of aspirin and a tube of hair styling cream. Into the mixture they went. "OK, let's try it now." It slid down his gullet like a lead balloon sinking through the clouds.
For the next few seconds, he just stood there. His concoction did not taste all that bad; in fact, it was somehow pleasing. A strange apprehension came over him. "What did I just do? What's going on here?"
He still felt goddamn great, but by all rights he should have been throwing up at any moment. Despite this, despite last night's profound abuse of his body and mind, he does feel absolutely wonderful, as full of energy, as straight and sober and well rested as he's felt in many months. Befuddled, he shook his head and made his way back to the bathroom, just in case.
Hunter was primed. He was on the starting block; revved-up and ready to go. He only required that one final push in the wrong direction.
Evil awaits, just down the hallway, just one dimension out of view. Hunter stumbles smack into, more accurately, three-quarters into the body of Evil, itself. In this instant, Evil turns. Evil melds into Hunter's space and time, into the fabric of the man. From Hunter's point of view, the change is barely perceptible. He feels only that queasy chill, again.He marches on to the bathroom, unaware that his mind and body have just been hijacked. He is no longer, in any sense whatsoever, in control of his destiny.
For Evil, though, the picture is considerably more exciting. Evil is back in a favorite haunt; the throbbing, bloody gristle and guts, the sloppy neural goo of a living human being. Evil cleaves to the meat, caressing the slimey warmth of Hunter's visera and interstitial membranes. It gilds the white sticks of his skeleton with darkness, sops into his very marrow and courses to the center of his fragile heart. In Hunter's brain, a black rose blooms, squeezing his own tattered consciousness into a tenuous film about as substantial as a cobweb.
Hunter stops before the bathroom mirror. "Why did I come in here?" For the first time, his reflection has an answer: "Hunter, you've got to get ready to take care of things, don't you." This should seem odd to Hunter, but it doesn't. It makes perfect sense and he knows just what he has to do to take care of things.
First thing, he has to take off all of his clothes. Then he has to grab a couple of test-leads and a random frequency generator from his workbench. Finally, he gets some rubber galoshes out of the closet, puts them on and goes over to the neighbor's garage. Hunter has no crowbar and he knows that Miller does. Miller was a big Mr. Fix-it type and Hunter needs his crowbar. Breaking into the garage was not that hard. Hunter had the skills required to disable the electronic lock by breaking off the face of its keypad, hooking up the frequency generator to the proper contacts and yanking out the appropriate chip. "These things are worthless, totally worthless." Eyeing Miller's recently completed autogyro, Hunter muses: "Ah, finally! An easy to build autogyro kit for the common man. That'll come in handy."
Back in his own basement, Hunter wades into the ankle high water, moving gracefully, fearlessly among great, leaping arcs of ionized air like a naked, dancing shaman seeking to raise the ghost of Tesla. Hunter's revenge begins with the furnace. The crowbar comes crashing down on the main circuit box.The resulting shower of white sparks and burning metal is a sight that greatly pleases Hunter, even as they burn into his skin and set his hair smoldering.
What Hunter is really after, more than simple violence against a furnace, are the cryopacks at the heart of the beast. He joyfully rips the machine's composite cover and frame to pieces, revealing two yellow tanks and their associated plumbing. With the skill of a surgeon and the knowledge of an engineer, he deftly secures the potentially lethal feed and return lines and has the units in hand in minutes. "OK, back to Miller's garage. This is gonna be GREAT!"
Actually, before it can get great, there will have to be some murders. Hunter knows that he can't avoid making some noise in the garage. He needs to replace the normal fluid in the autogyro's torque converter with cryofluid. The Miller's will have to be silenced before they can alert the police. In fact, the only noises that they will make are the mushy thud and splat of a crowbar crushing a human head. The sleeping Mr. Miller goes first, with one good whack. Mrs. Miller is startled out of her slumber and begins to rise. She is taken down before she can scream, but requires a few more well aimed strokes until she stops writhing. By the time Hunter is done with her, she is, for all purposes, decapitated by means of crowbar. There is blood and brains all over the room. Hunter's naked body gleams red in the dim light. He likes it.
It is quickly time to hit the skies. Hunter opens the sliding garage door to reveal the rising of the sun. "A glorious day!" With the improved torque converter, Hunter has calculated that the autogyro would be able to get off the ground with less than thirty meters on his runway, Riverdale Drive. Of course, this improved performance and higher speed would also shred the rotor gears into a fine dust in a big hurry. He runs the numbers in his head and estimates: "I think we've got enough margin to get the job done. With a "Hi-Ho and Here Goes Nothing!", Hunter is blasting down the street, turbine screaming, rotor roaring, gaining speed and scaring the neighborhood dogs from their sleep. Only three meters from take-off, Hunter's craft manages to neatly clobber the Taylor's new puppy, who has bravely darted into the street to do battle with this Giant Insect from Hell.
As they bolt from the house to see what the god-awful commotion is about, garbed only in night robes, the Taylor's, Bob, Marji and young Trevin, are dismayed to find the spaniel's battered corpse on the lawn. And, they are more than a bit concerned at the sight of their quiet neighbor from down the street, utterly naked except for his boots, caked in blood and guts, hair on fire, taking to the sky at the helm of Mr. Miller's new autogyro. They later told the authorities, as he disappeared over the tree tops, " We heard him screaming something about the end of all our troubles.".
Within minutes, Hunter is nearly over the Endidium plant. He shuts down the engine and throws the machine into auto-rotation. For all of their state of the art security, no one had thought to prepare for this type of scenerio. Mr. Aflerd's successor's report on the matter stated: "It had never been considered that it might be necessary to secure our facilities against madmen silently floating out of the sky on autogyros. Appropriate steps are now underway to remedy this ommision.".
Once on the roof, circumventing the electronic sentries was again no problem. When the plant was built, twelve years ago, Hunter was on staff and had consulted in the design of the R&D wing.He knew exactly where all of the cameras and sensors were and how to simply avoid them. He employed the classic trick of generations of storied spies and alien monsters. He went in through the environmental ducts.
Endidium is funny stuff. In its final, fully alloyed form, it is quite useful and in no way dangerous. In fact, it is the ideal, superhard substance, capable of cutting even diamonds. It is the prime material used in fusion reactor vessels, space radiation sheilds and every type of modern bearing and cam. It is almost completely resistant to mechanical wear and maintains tolerances even under extreme conditions of heat, tensile and compression stress. It is chemically inert. At two degrees above absolute zero it retains virtually the same electrical and physical characteristics possessed at eight-hundred degrees Centigrade. It is the latest and most commercially developed product of subnuclear chemistry; not really a chemistry at all, but the engineering of subnuclear particles and the creation of previously "impossible" materials.
Hunter worked in R&D. He was very good at what he did. He got a plus ninety-two rating in his last review. His specialty was the design of new and better containment vessels for the storage of purified subnuclear particles. Such a device is called a flux. Right now, he is feeling very proud of his last creation, a new type of gluon flux. As he slithers through the air return duct to what was his lab, he can picture his goal. It sits on the big, black bench; round, gleaming, metallic white, festooned with injector tubes, feedback pick-ups and digital displays. It is small enough to be held in the palm of one hand, but contains enough lethal material to destroy a major metropolitan area, if properly employed.
It is now Eight AM. Hunter is passing over Aflerd's office, just down the hall from his own lab. He can hear Aflerd talking. Aflerd is evidently using the vid, but Hunter cannot see him as the desk is directly under the wall-mounted vent by the ceiling. What Hunter hears, however, tells him that the authorities are on to him. The net has already gone out. Aflerd declares: "Good gracious, no! No, he doesn't work here. We fired him yesterday.".
Hunter cannot clearly make out the voice on the other end, but Aflerd rejoins: "Well, he always was the quiet type. His marriage recently went to Hell, too. I guess we got him out of here just in time.". There is more unintelligible buzzing from the vid, and then: "Very good, Captain. Yes, I understand the situation well. I'll inform our security people and advise them that your people will be arriving immediately... Yes, very good. Thank you.". Hunter hears Aflerd click the line to "clear" and begin punching into the local network. That's the cue to action.
With a finesse and muscular coordination atypical of Hunter, he kicks out the grating and leaps like a flying squirrel into the office. All One-hundred and forty-eight naked, blood drenched, galoshed pounds of him come flying down upon the back of Aflerd's neck. "Sweet revenge!" Aflerd goes crashing, face first, onto the desk. Hunter makes quick work of him, strangling the boss with his own neck-tie and stealing his key-card to access the lab. "Pretty slick!"
By the time that the cops have arrived, Hunter has made his way back into the ducts and is proceeding again to the roof. The police find Aflerd's body, eyes a'bugging out, tongue black as coal. At the same time, one of the lab techs, Kelling, alerts them to the missing flux and Captain Arnold inquires: "What does this mean? What's a gluon flux good for?"
"It means that we'd better seal off this building and find Hunter, pronto. Only a madman would breach the flux, but that seem's to be a real danger now. If the flux is breached..."
"I see. Alright, Ferguson, punch in to Tactical Command. We're gonna need some back-up, airborne, too. Clieburne, take charge of securing the perimeter and you, Backswell, deploy our men on-site into search teams. And Clieburne, first thing, get some men up on the roof. With our people entering the building, he can only go up." Arnold turns to the young tech: "Are we dealing with a radiation hazard here, a possible explosion?"
"Worse than that, sir. I wouldn't wait for any rad-protective gear, because that won't do any good anyhow." Kelling pauses, seeking to put into laymen's terms the densely technical reality of the gluon flux. "You see, Gluons are the sub-atomic particles that mediate... I mean, they are kind'a like the stuff in matter that holds everything together at the sub-atomic level. We use them to break apart and reassemble materials, like changing lead and mercury into things like Endidium."
"From what you've told us, a maniac is loose in this building with a fistful of that stuff. Now, son, before one of my boys bumps into him, just tell me what to be ready for."
Kelling swallowed hard. "If he breaches the flux, we're screwed. As soon as the gluons migrate into the environment, they'll get into everything, and I mean into everything, maybe for miles around. The sub-particle imbalance will start it all just coming apart at the seams. I mean really, basically, coming apart from the inside out. Radiation is only a persistent side effect. For us, it'll be over in a few nanoseconds."
"A few what?"
"Fast enough to be over before we know it."
As the first of the cops make it to the roof, they see the top rotor of an autogyro plunging over the edge. Hunter had calculated that with a enough of a drop, the plant was over one-hundred meters tall, he would only need a few meters of runway. Sure enough, fifty meters from the plant, less than one meter from a fatal crash into the EndidiumAG sign on the knoll, Hunter pulls the craft into a steep climb and hurtles through a small swarm of four Tactical Command choppers flying to the rescue, but flying in the wrong direction.
"What the fuck was that? Say again, Command; what was that? Over."
"Pull around! Pull around! That was our target! TC Two, TC Three, TC Four, this is Command, ready missles, cannons at ready. Pursue but do not overtake or fire, pending orders." Commander Ogren had little information on his target, other than he was crazy and in possession of some sort of potentially lethal device. A bomb? A chemical weapon? He didn't know. Until less than a minute ago, he didn't even know that the target was airborne.
"Tactical Base One, this is Command Chopper. We have the target in sight, a consumer class autogyro. He's heading due West over unpopulated country. Six miles from the reservior. We can overtake and destroy. Please advise: is it safe to blast this motherfucker out of the sky? Over."
"Kelling! What's the deal?" Captain Arnold is white as a ghost, but still in tenous control of his fear. "Are we at a safe distance? Will that thing survive a crash or bust open?"
"It can't be breached accidently, almost no way. It has to be deliberately unlocked, the safeties have to be deprogrammed. I think it's OK. But just don't let him get to the reservoir."
Arnold did not wait to ask why. "Roger, Command. Take the motherfucker out. Over."
As the superheated hail of laser-cannon rounds begin to tear through the airframe, and Hunter's body, he mashes the stick forward, diving, accelerating, then climbing. The first round of missiles buzz only centimeters over his rotor. "Well, that kind'a hurts!" Hunter's right thigh bone and elbow are completely severed and spewing blood. He turns around in the cabin, holding the stick steady with his left knee as he grabs the cryopack feeder lines from the under his seat. Their nozzles are exposed under the airframe. "Just one good yank..." as he climbs, Hunter's rotor is shattered by the second missile volley. The craft begins to spin out and he cries: "This is gonna be GREAT!".
The chopper pilots are completely befuddled. Instead of crashing into flames, Hunter's autogyro has become, for the moment, a rocket riding on white plumes of explosively decompressing cryofluid. The fuel quickly expends itself, but in the interval, it thrusts him forward at nearly eight Gs; enough to outrun his pursuers and deliberately ditch into the reservoir. He has already deprogrammed the safety mechanisms on the Flux. He needs only to flip the switch. As the cold, grey water swirls into close-up view, as he loses consciousness and plummets to his death, such is Hunter's last act.
Gluons really like water. There's not much there to work with; hydrogen and oxygen are pretty simple atoms. But, like the frugal chef, a few gluons can whip up a quick and meaty sub-particle hash, and lots of it, given enough hydrogen.
Evil rotates, folding away from our space and time. It no longer needs Hunter's bones nor marrow, his heart nor mind. "Meat for the Devil." From a far away vantage, as close as the next instant, Evil watches the surface of the great artificial lake convulse and shudder. It boils into a froth and the placid, cold grey flashes to a white hot mass of energetic sub-particles. It billows forth in a violently expanding cloud of death that consumes everything in a circle for many, many kilometers 'round and a hundred meters deep into the soil. The the local atmosphere is hiccupped into the seething quantum void, producing a wind and electrical storm that will pummel the entire continent for weeks to come.Tens of millions in the nearby cities die instantly, dissolved and subsumed in the propogating corona. Hundreds of millions will soon die as agriculture is disrupted by the mega-storm, its many less formidable siblings, and the residual radiation that they will carry across the entire globe.
Evil rotates once more and twists end over end. It free-falls in delight, tearing through the space of the Earth to slow and stop and unfurl on the other side of Terra. Here is a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Local time is Midnight. Asleep in his bed, President for Life, General Brendon "Our Nation's Saviour" Morishas turns and tosses. He's having some very weird dreams.
Hic Finis Est © Solomon