Sunday, April 9, 2017

Retribution: Better The Devil You Know by David Smith Part Twelve

Retribution: Better The Devil You Know
Novel by David Smith

Available through Amazon and his official website.

“The strength of two connected neural pathways is thought to result in the storage of information, resulting in memory. This process of synaptic strengthening is known as long term potentiation.”


“Who can say where inside a man’s body his soul is kept? Who can pinpoint a part of his brain, or even a single synapse, and say this is or is not the essence of that person? Can one body be possessed by two souls, and if so is one equally as guilty of the crimes committed by the other?”

Part Twelve

We only go a few paces. We don’t want to get into gunshot range before the nerve gas hits the guards at the gate. Krillik looks at me then smiles as he lifts the canister into the air. He flicks off the protective safety cap over the nozzle and presses the dispersal button. There is a loud hiss as the aerosol disperser spins inside the nozzle and a cloud of gas shoots from the end of the canister, spreading in an ever widening cone on the breeze. In the bright lights from the security towers on the main gate the gas looks yellow as it leaves the canister, but as it spreads it fades to invisibility about twenty yards down wind from us. We stand and watch.
The guards are stupid. They stand and watch too as we spray the killer toxin into the air. It doesn’t occur to any one of them to run away to the side to avoid the deadly cloud as it drifts towards them. It doesn’t occur to any of them to unload their weapon’s magazine in our direction in the hope a lucky bullet might just cover the distance and kill one of us. They stand like cattle in a line at the slaughterhouse door, dumb, curious but not afraid, patiently waiting their turn.
The effects of the nerve gas are almost miraculous. The first guards are hit about thirty seconds after Krillik releases the gas. They drop their weapons and clutch their throats or scrub and scratch frantically at their skin before collapsing. There is no screaming. There’s no time for the histrionics that usually accompany violent death. They die quietly. It’s a macabre sight watching these people die like this. It’s almost comical, like watching puppets collapsing after their strings have suddenly been cut.
Someone further inside the facility must have survived long enough to press an alarm button. Suddenly the whole area is blasted with the deafening sound of bells and sirens, and the accompanying red flashing lights. But there are no guards left alive now to run out of the buildings, no one to shoulder their weapons and take pot shots at us.
I start walking towards the main gate but Krillik grabs my arm and pulls me back.
‘No,’ he says, ‘We wait ten minutes. It’s better to be safe.’
‘Will there be time?’ I ask.
So we wait, standing about five hundred yards upwind of the main gate, watching for any signs of survivors. But there are none, just the alarms’ empty screams.
‘Let’s go,’ says Krillik when enough time has elapsed and he thinks the toxin will have decayed.
We walk briskly away from the van, over the parking lot and across the open road towards the main gate. There are bodies everywhere, tortured faces from their quiet agonizing suffocation. We walk past them unmoved. These people mean nothing to us and their deaths are of no consequence.
Inside the facility the security systems are easy to bypass. Once again the stupidity of the human species astounds me. The systems are not automated but manually managed. With all the troops and security people dead we simply walk in. It only takes a minute and we’re through to the inner sanctum and at the site of the shuttle portal itself. I expect to see heightened security in the main chamber but what I see really surprises me.
When I was last here the portal mat was exposed to the elements, uncovered, out in the open. Now it is all hermetically sealed and enclosed in a huge clear acrylic dome that has been erected over the portal. I can see what looks like Titanium rods built into the acrylic, criss-crossing it to form diamond shapes about six inches long and three inches wide. The diameter at the base is about six times the width of the portal mat, and the height from the centre of the mat to the top of the dome is about twenty yards. There is only one entrance to the dome, and hence the portal. This is through a set of double airlock doors about three yards wide and six yards high. Inside, the portal is brightly lit by halogen spotlights fitted to the top centre of the dome.
The control panel for the portal is mounted outside the dome on a steel framed desk beside the airlocks. Two dead technicians are slumped over it. The airlocks themselves are wide open. No codes are needed and no biometric security devices have to be bypassed. There’s nothing to stop us walking straight inside.
I turn towards Krillik and I can tell by the look on his face he’s as surprised at the new construction as I am.
‘What do you figure this is for?’ I say, and he looks at me as if I’m an idiot.
‘It’s all to contain and secure whatever arrives here,’ he says, ‘They must have taken the threat that Grow would send down an unannounced parcel of the modified Revelation spores very seriously. This has all been constructed very recently. I can sense it.’
‘Do you have the modified Revelation spores down here already?’
‘Of course I don’t,’ he snaps at me, ‘My contract with Grow is specifically to catch or kill you, nothing else. Grow intends…or more precisely intended to send an open container of the spores to the portal in Polk, not here. Grow figured correctly that as soon as its threat was made the UN would enclose this portal with biohazard controls of some sort. That’s why the Polk portal was so important to them. That was their only portal left down here after you destroyed the base at Anglesey. They’ve lost all their leverage over the UN now that I’ve blown up the Polk portal.’
Krillik walks over to the control panel and pushes the two corpses onto the floor. I follow him over. I’m familiar with portals and how they work but Krilik is on a different level again to me. In his earlier life before he became a mercenary he was a portal engineer. He hands the canister of toxin to me while he manipulates the controls. The first thing he does is cut the power to the alarm system and in an instant the building becomes eerily quiet. Then he cuts the power to the portal mat. I know why he does this. The terminals supplying the mat with energy can’t be inverted while the mat’s still powered up.
‘Come on,’ he says as he heads towards the double air lock into the dome.
I’m a couple of strides behind him as we walk straight through into the portal chamber. Inside the floor is made from the same material as the dome. They must have floated a raft of acrylic inside the dome across a matrix of Titanium rods. Nothing short of a nuclear blast could break through this structure.
Krillik stops and looks at the portal mat, then at his wrist watch. It’s been fifteen minutes since he released the nerve gas. I know what he’s thinking. Reversing the power terminals is an intricate job. Both he and I need to detach each connection at precisely the same time otherwise the residual static left in the mat will cause an electric arc that could be fatal to one of us. The terminal’s electrics are complex. To expose the parts we need to access, the covers and organic seals need to be removed. That’ll be tricky to do wearing a biohazard suit.
‘Troops will be here soon,’ he says, ‘They’ll be wearing anti-vision helmets. They’ll no doubt have snipers. We’ll need to have our suits on when we leave if we’re to escape using the toxin. I can’t risk removing my gloves.’
‘Can you do it with them on?’
‘Yes but it’ll be much slower.’
He sets about the task of exposing the terminals in the housing closest to us. After about a minute Krillik manages to remove the outer casing and the organic seals, then unhitch the locks holding the terminals in place. We both then move around the mat to the other terminal housing. The process is repeated and it’s slow going, the thick gloves a real hindrance to Krillik. Finally both sets of terminals are exposed.
‘Go round to the other side,’ he tells me, and I do as I’m ordered.
The terminals carry the main power feeds and look more or less the same as three phase electricity cables used on Earth, except they are partly made using high conductivity organic material. It isn’t easy to remove them from the place they are supposed to lock onto. The cables are like thick strands of muscle that contract and bind tightly onto the terminals when the current passes through them. The residual static left in the mat when the power is shut off keeps the terminals in place. That’s where the risk is to us.
‘Uncoil the blue terminal first,’ he shouts across at me, ‘But don’t pull it away till I tell you.’
I put the canister of toxin on the floor beside me before I do as he tells me. But what he asks for isn’t easy. The cable seems to grab hold of its terminal like a Python crushing its food. I fight hard to uncoil the cable. The biohazard suits aren’t built for their wearers to carry out high physical exertion work. The sweat from my body makes the suit sticky and smothering. I look across at Krillik. He’s really uncomfortable in the suit and looks exhausted. The Krillik I knew was the strongest person I’d ever met, all power and muscle, very physically fit. He nearly killed me with his bare hands in our last encounter at Joint Base Andrews. But I’d half forgotten his illness, his near death when he was contaminated with the original Revelation spores. He’s a much weaker creature now. I now believe I could take him easily if we ever had to face up to each other.
‘Have you loosened the cable?’ he shouts across to me.
‘It’s ready to be taken off.’
‘I will count down then say go,’ he says. I nod my head to let him know I understand. He takes a short rest to regain his strength before he starts the countdown.
When he’s ready I put both my hands around the cable and prepare to put my full weight into ripping it away from the terminal.
We both pull hard at each of our cables. Luckily they both come away at near exactly the same time. There is a huge blue white flash of static electricity that leaps from the end of each of our cables back towards the terminals but there is no fatal arc.
One set down, one set to go.
We start removing the second set of terminals. It’s easier going than the first ones and it’s not long before Krillik and I are ready to rip the cables away.
This time I’m slightly behind Krillik in ripping away my cable. There is a huge blue white flash and a powerful bolt of energy fires out of the terminal and hits me in the wrist. The pain is instant and excruciating, and the force of the charge knocks me backwards across the floor of the room. I land on my back spinning slightly from the shock. For a moment I have no idea who or where I am, my body shaking and my brain momentarily scrambled. It takes a few seconds to regain my senses and when I do Krillik is standing over me.
‘We still have to reconnect the terminals. Don’t fuck it up,’ is all the sympathy he gives me.
He reaches out his arm and I grab his hand. He pulls me to my feet and our eyes meet. I see a flash of hate in them that he can’t disguise. I resolve to kill this man before leaving the dome and I know he’s thinking exactly the same thing about me. But we need each other now to complete this task. If we fail to destroy this terminal then The Powers will send their forces to Earth through it.
The Powers are the ruling force in the universe and we have defied them. Our crimes will never be forgiven or forgotten. Their forces will be relentless in their pursuit. They will find us and kill us both. But if we destroy this portal the Earth will be isolated. Without a portal there is no longer any way The Powers can land their forces on this planet to hunt us down. We will be safe here, one of us, at least. The other will be dead soon. Whichever one of us survives our inevitable and imminent confrontation will have the Earth as his spoils, to rule and to plunder to his heart’s content.
I check my biohazard suit where the spark hit to see whether the bolt of static has compromised the integrity of the material. To my relief there’s no sign of any damage. The terminals have discharged all their static so we can now touch them without the risk of a fatal shock. This should in theory make replacing the cables on the opposite terminals a piece of cake. But the cables are partly made of organic material and have been designed to be attracted to the correct terminal. It’s extremely hard to wrap the cable ends around the terminals Krillik wants them attached to. It’s as if they are alive. They fight like snakes, refusing to bind onto the terminals we want them to but finally all four cables are re-attached. Now all that’s left to do is replace the terminal covers and organic seals. When they’re back in place the portal mat can be powered up again. Krillik will then make a transmission, it doesn’t matter what or to where. This will cause the fibrils of the mat to drive deep into the machine itself, tearing it apart, breaking it down into the molecules and atoms of it’s original construction. The machine will be trying to deconstruct and regenerate itself simultaneously. A massive energy build up will occur that will be released catastrophically in one huge explosion that will destroy the machine, the building and the whole site.
I will operate the portal from the control panel, not Krillik. As soon as the portal transmission is initiated I’ll have to get clear very quickly. I’ll only have about a minute before the whole place blows. I doubt if Krillik will be with me. I intend to kill him now. He is on his knees fixing in place the final part of the cover on the second terminal. As soon as this is done I will make the transmission.
But first I will deal with Krillik. I pick up the canister containing the deadly toxin and walk over so I’m standing right behind him as he pushes the last piece of the cover into place. I point the nozzle at the tear I know he has in his biohazard suit and move forward till it’s about a foot away. Then I flick the protective safety cap off the nozzle and press the dispersal button. The yellow gas blasts out of the canister and covers Krillik from head to toe.
The shock of what I’ve just done causes Krillik to tumble forward and he lies sprawled face down across the portal mat. For good measure I quickly move forward, take hold of the bio-seal strip that runs the length of the back of his biohazard suit and yank it hard downwards. The back of his suit splits wide open revealing the bare skin of his back to the Botulinum toxin.
I take a step back away from him and wait. I feel very pleased with myself. I’ve sealed Krillik’s fate without having to take him on in hand to hand combat. It’s all been so easy. I am the dominant one, the winner. In a few minutes I’ll blow up the portal and be safe from The Powers and their forces of justice. Soon after I’ll go to the UN building where the leaders of the Earth are assembled and speak to them. I will declare my intentions to rule this planet and mercilessly destroy anyone that stands in my way. The Earth and all it has will soon be mine and mine alone.
Krillik rolls over onto his back and groans. I smile as I look down on him trying to see through the visor in the helmet. I want to see the terror in his eyes. But what I see fills me with terror. His face isn’t contorted with agony in its final death throws. What I see instead is blind fury, hate and rage. He’s very much alive and as mad as hell! The toxin has had no effect on him whatsoever.
‘You treacherous scum,’ he snarls at me as he scrambles to his feet, ‘I was a fool to trust you. I’m going to rip your throat out and watch you die while I drink your blood.’
Krillik tears off the helmet of his biohazard suit and slowly pulls back his lips. The teeth of a Torp are its natural weapon for killing an enemy in unarmed combat. When a Torp’s lips pull back the jaw and teeth extend forwards on large powerful muscles. I’m a Torp and belong to the same species as Krillik. My teeth are sharp and my jaws powerful, just like his.
If Krillik is unaffected by the Botulinum toxin then I calculate I’ll be immune too. I’ve seen the trail of death it has created. But they were humans, I’m not. I’m a Torp just like Krillik. If he is immune to the toxin then I will be too.
I snatch my helmet off and throw it aside before I too, pull back my lips and bare my teeth. Krillik sees I’ve accepted his challenge and that I’m as prepared to fight as he is. We move away from the portal mat and face up to each other ready for what will be our final encounter, a fight to the death.
We slowly circle each other, each sizing up his enemy, neither one wanting to commit too early.
‘I should have killed you in the hotel lift,’ he snarls at me.
‘You should have,’ I say, ‘It’s a mistake that’s going to cost you your life.’
Krillik lets out an almighty ear splitting roar and takes a step away from me, widening his circle. The huge acrylic dome we’re in amplifies the roar. It’s so powerful I feel my rib cage shake. It’s meant to instill terror and I feel the moment of weakness such fear brings. But it passes. I know he’s weaker now than he was when we last locked in combat. I’m ready for him.
With a sudden massive bound he’s high in the air and falling towards me, his powerful jaws wide ready to bite at my flesh as soon as he’s within range. I fall onto my back and throw my leg forward, kicking him hard in the stomach just before he lands on me, his strong hands grabbing hold of my shoulders. The force of his momentum causes him to flip right over the top of me, but his grip on my shoulders pulls me sharply across the floor as he lands behind me.
He quickly twists so he’s on his knees, still with my shoulders tightly in his grip. In a flash he moves his huge muscle bulk on top of me, pinning my body to the floor. But this puts his chest and stomach too close to my jaws. I tear into the flesh of his stomach with my first bite, pulling and ripping at his skin. It’s a deep bite and my mouth is filled with Krillik’s flesh and cloth from the biohazard suit.
I know I’ve injured him. I feel his warm blood spurting over my face. He screams and pushes himself upwards so his body is out of range of another bite. I twist and wrench my shoulders free from his grip, then roll over and over till I’m once again a safe distance from him.
I watch his every move as he stands up slowly, facing me, his eyes half on me, half flicking down at his stomach checking out the damage I’ve inflicted. His right hand cups the wound, blood pouring through his fingers. It’s a deep wound, but not fatal. He has plenty of strength left for another attack. I know Krillik. His first attack on me should have been conclusive. I should be dead. He is getting weaker with each passing second as his blood pours from the wound. His next attack will be all or nothing for him. It will be ferocious.
We start circling each other again.
‘I think it will be me drinking your blood,’ I say, ‘Yield and I’ll kill you quickly and without pain. Fight on and I’ll eat out your eyes while you’re still alive.’
He smiles at me and steps away from me again. I do likewise and my head lightly brushes against the inner curve of the acrylic dome. I can go no further back.
‘You’re a fool, Jek,’ he says as he moves slowly in his circle, watching me, waiting for the right moment, ‘We could have ruled this planet together. We could have had everything we wanted in our own little thiefdom.’
‘…and how long would I have lasted? How long before you’d want to take your revenge for what I did to you? I know the fate that awaits anyone who betrays you. I know it would only be a matter of time before my merciless torture and death at your hands. I will rule this planet and I will spit on your grave from my throne.’
My head lightly touches the inside of the dome again, and I do a foolish thing.. I slightly turn my head to look behind me. It’s instinctive but a huge mistake It’s the moment Krillik has been waiting for, a tiny lapse in my concentration. In an instant he’s charging at me, his arms spread wide and his jaws ready to tear at my flesh, his massive bulk rocketing towards me at an incredible speed. But he hasn’t the power he had before. He’s a fraction of a second too slow and I’m able to side step his charge. As his right arm wraps round my waist and his head turns ready to tear at my stomach I twist away from him.
All the power Krillik has left in him is in this attack. All the force and energy from the momentum of his charge is meant for a bone crunching collision with me, smashing me into the side of the dome, cracking my head against the dome wall. I would then have been broken, bested, and at his mercy. He would take his time choosing how what’s left of my broken body would be deprived of any remaining life.
But I side step.
The massive impact is not with me but with the rock hard surface of the inside of the acrylic dome. His head hits the wall with a sickening crunch and I hear it split. Krillik crumples beside me, not dead but stunned and disorientated. I spin round and I’m on him in a fraction of a second, dragging him away from the edge of the dome. His broken skull leaves a thin trail of blood on the floor as I pull him towards the middle of the room near the portal mat. I look down at his face. His eyes are rolling back in his head and he’s breathing in quick, shallow gasps. He’s beaten and he’s at my mercy, mine to finish.
I have won.
There is a long split in the skin on his head where it collided with the wall. I kneel on his shoulders, pinning him to the floor to stop him moving. I want to see his face when I end his life. I want to see the pain and fear, and the look of hopeless defeat on his face. I slap him hard to bring back some consciousness. I want him to know who it is that finishes the great and powerful Krillik.
‘Are you awake? Can you hear? Can you feel pain?’
He looks up and I know he’s back with me. I want to relish the moment, make it last hours but I know I have much to do. I have to power up the portal mat and I know troops will be here soon. But I will enjoy this brief moment of pleasure.
The skin is torn on Krillik’s skull in a long strip from the top of his head to his right eye. I put the fingers of both hands into the wound and grip the flaps of skin hard before slowly pulling the skin apart. Krillik must be in agony but he shows no sign of pain on his face, a pleasure he will be working hard to deny me.
I smile and say nothing. I wipe away the blood that’s oozing from the wound. I can see Krillik’s skull. There is a hairline crack in it that runs the length of the wound. I drive my thumb nails into the crack causing the bone to split a little wider. The gap is sufficient for me to push my finger nails into. My knuckles touch as I dig my nails deep inside the crack in his skull.
‘I want to see what the great Krillik’s brain looks like,’ I say, grinning at him, ‘It’s time for you to die, Krillik!’
From nowhere a wave of pain and nausea hits my whole body like a cannonball. Suddenly I have no strength. My head is spinning and I’m so weak I can’t hold my body upright. I collapse on top of Krillik groaning and dry heaving, desperate to vomit. I’m disorientated, my balance gone, the world whirling around me. I’m finished, in hell, and I want nothing more than death to free me from this terrible suffering.
Then it stops as suddenly as it started. I lie on the floor next to Krillik, panting, gasping for breath, too weak to roll away to safety from him in case he regains strength. After a few moments I have the strength to move. I turn onto my stomach and try to push up onto all fours, but I don’t yet have the power in my limbs. I pant hard and some strength returns. I hear Krillik’s moans of pain as I struggle to my feet. I blink hard to try to get my swirling vision back to normal. The room still seems to be spinning but I can cope. I’m standing and I can see clearly again, but I can hardly believe what I see.
I’m standing looking through the clear acrylic wall of the dome. Whilst Krillik and I were locked in our struggle to the death the double air locks, the only way in or out of the dome, have been closed and sealed. The doors to the airlock are fitted with Titanium rods that bolt them tight, hermetically sealing the chamber.
I’m trapped. I’m a prisoner once again.
I see people standing the other side of the dome wall. Some are troops kitted out and armed with an array of weapons meant for me should I miraculously manage to escape from this impenetrable Titanium reinforced acrylic prison cell. Some are the technicians that work the portal. I recognize the two that were lying slumped across the portal’s control panel earlier, no longer dead but fit and well.
But it’s not these people that have me struggling to believe what I see. It’s the three figures standing together watching me through the clear wall of the dome. On the right of the three stands Noone and on the left stands Abel. In the middle stands Jane Krieff looking at me, the smile of victory across her treacherous face.
‘I don’t understand,’ I say, ‘Krillik…’
‘…injected a Torp,’ she says. I hear her words through speakers mounted somewhere inside the dome, ‘To be precise the same Torp he hired to entrap you back at the bar in Polk.’
‘…not the original,’ adds Noone, ‘It was a clone created from her dead body. The Powers have very strict laws against using portals to create living clones of humanlike creatures but in this case an exception was granted. We were permitted to create the clone’s working body but with no mind. All we needed was for you and Krillik to believe the clone was Jane. It was the clone, not Jane that came out of the restroom in the hotel. It was the clone, not Jane that went in the lift with you. I, like Krillik, can control a humanlike creature, make it bend to my will. It was me that had control of the clone’s body till Krillik did what he did.’
‘…and I remained very much alive and well,’ says Jane, ‘seeing what you see, hearing what you hear. Since you entered the lift in that hotel I’ve never been further than five hundred yards away from you, knowing what you were planning every step of the way.’
‘…but I could plant visions,’ I say.
‘No, you never could, not since the skull cap was fitted,’ says Jane, ‘Every single person around you, with the exception of the poor cop you killed at the Marriott, was an FBI agent. They were all connected to me by radio. I knew what you were thinking. I knew when you tried to plant a vision and what it was. I was guiding them, telling them to do this or that, fall asleep or whatever. Your every move since you left the hotel has been orchestrated.’
‘The Botulinum toxin?’
‘We substituted a fake. It’s just a harmless propellant,’ says Jane.
‘Abel contacted The Powers with the whistleblower’s video of you and Krillik planning to contaminate the oceans on Arginet,’ says Noone, ‘They are in the midst of disbanding Grow. That organization has lost the right to exist, and its top echelon is to be brought to justice alongside you two. Grow has been trying to eliminate you to prevent you giving evidence against it. Grow commissioned Krillik to kill you whilst Grow itself was working on ways to kill Krillik.
‘We were instructed by The Powers to arrest you and Krillik so you could face trial,’ says Jane, ‘Your evidence was to help reinforce the judgment to eliminate Grow, but that decision has already been made. All the planets seeded by Grow will revert to their original aboriginal species should they still exist.’
‘That means we regain our homeland,’ adds Abel, ‘Phalks will once again populate and rule Arginet.’
‘We have a problem with you though,’ says Noone, ‘We were originally ordered to capture Jek and bring him to trial. Since we started our quest The Powers have decided you will be given the death sentence for your crimes against humanlike species.’
‘So all the run around was just to bring me out of hiding,’ I say, the light of realization coming on suddenly in my head.
‘Some, yes,’ says Jane, ‘but not all. Our plans always had to be modified because of Krillik and his people’s actions.’
‘Jake Redwood is an innocent man,’ says Noone, ‘You became Jake Redwood as a camouflage so you could move freely on this planet to do your evil work. But the entity you created was a good man, a hero. Jake became the dominant of the two entities sharing the one body. Jake turned the dark places you hid inside his mind into your prison, keeping the universe safe from your evil. It was necessary to stress Jake to a point where he had no choice but to release you. Then and only then could you be brought to book.’
‘What happens now,’ I say.
‘Krillik will be sent home to face his trial,’ says Noone, ‘No doubt his fate will be the same as yours, the death sentence.’
‘I meant what happens to me,’ I snap at him. I couldn’t give a fuck what happens to Krillik as long as death is at the end of it.
‘You?’ says Noone, ‘You go to sleep.’
As he speaks jets of gas start spewing into the dome from tiny nozzles buried into the acrylic. It forms a cloud of tiny droplets that cascade down. I try to hold my breath but it’s pointless. In the end I gulp it down, whatever my fate is now it’s out of my control. My world darkens as I drift into unconsciousness.


When I wake up there are bright lights and noises around me. I don’t know where or who I am. As the fog in my mind starts to fade I see I’m in a hospital of some sort, lying on a bed, nurses flapping round me. I’m lying on my back, a thin blanket across my waist. I can hear machines and there are wires and tubes linking me to them. There is a mirror at an angle above my head so I can see my face. My head is a swathe of bandages and my eyes look bruised as if I’ve been manhandled while I’ve been out.
‘You’re awake at last.’
It’s Jane. She’s sitting at the side of my bed holding one of my hands, gently caressing it with her thumb.
‘Hi Jane,’ I say, but it hurts to talk and I start to cough.
‘Hi Jake,’ she says, ‘Want some water?’
I nod.
She reaches over with a cup with a straw and puts the straw to my lips. I suck on it gently and the cool liquid is the best thing I’ve ever tasted.
‘So what happened?’ I struggle to get the words out.
‘We’ve removed the skull cap,’ she says, ‘…and part of your brain, the part that the entity Jek used for his sanctuary. The human brain has a different structure to that of a Torp. The fibrils were programmed to analyze your brain to find these differences. The fibrils then de-constructed these parts, absorbed them, and removed them. The entity Jek has been expunged from your brain completely and forever. You’re free at last Jake. In a few months you’ll be fully recovered and can live the rest of your life as a normal human being.’
‘What, he’s gone forever?’
‘Yes,’ she says, ‘Jek’s gone forever. Noone convinced The Powers that you were entirely innocent of all the crimes he committed. But The Powers sentenced Jek to death and you share the same body. They would not allow you to be put to death alongside Jek for crimes you did not commit.’
Part of my brain has been removed taking with it the evil Jek, the creature that hid there. It’s hard for me to comprehend. What right have I to survive and Jek not? I was just a disguise, a personality Jek was given by Grow to use as camouflage when he was first sent to Earth as Krillik’s henchman. Now Jek is dead and I am the person living in his body.
I’m too tired to challenge the morality of what has happened. All I can think is that I’m so very glad that I have survived, still alive, no longer haunted by the creature whose body I possess by default.
My head starts to spin and I feel dizzy. Instinctively I know it’ll be a long road to full recovery; even these few moments of consciousness have exhausted me. I close my eyes to rest so I can build the strength to speak again to Jane.
‘I love you Jane,’ I whisper, and she moves her head closer to my lips, ‘When I’m out of here d’you want to have dinner with a dumb ass?’
I croak out my words just before sleep overwhelms me again.
When I wake again I feel a little stronger. Jane is no longer sitting at my bedside; she’s standing by the foot of the bed looking at me.
‘I have to leave soon,’ she says, ‘I’m going home. I’m helping the Phalks with their repopulation planning for Arginet. They’re evicting some of the richest and most powerful people in the universe. It’s gonna be tricky, but Noone’s got our backs. I’ll be down here again one day, though, when it’s all over. Then I’ll hold you to that dinner date.’
I smile contentedly. A date is a date, and I think I can count on the beautiful, treacherous Jane Kreiff to keep her word this time.
At last I feel safe.
At last I feel free.
I don’t hear Jane leave I just feel the gentle touch of her lips on my cheek as I drift back off to sleep.
But it’s a shallow, troubled sleep full of ghosts, shadows and nightmares.


Two years on and it’s the end of another easy shift. It’s two in the morning and I’m in Jessup’s bar with the guys. The music’s quieter than usual because we’re playing poker, so Darren keeps the noise down. I’m doing okay, about fifty bucks up on the night. I hear the phone behind the bar ring just before Darren hollers, ‘Phone call for Jek!’
‘Who the fuck’s Jek,’ says my best buddy Luke, not even looking up from his cards.
Nobody responds to the call and Darren shrugs then hangs up.
I know it’s another clumsy test, the FBI checking up on me. I know there’ll be an observer somewhere in the room watching my face for a reaction. It’s all harmless kid’s stuff. I want to smile but I don’t. Instead I turn over my cards.
‘Full house, aces over tens,’ I say and my pals all groan.
‘Lucky bastard,’ says Luke, throwing his cards down on the table.
Sometimes I win. Sometimes I let them win. It’s my call. After all, they only see the cards I want them to see.
Two things I learned from Krillik, bide your time and hide in plain sight.

The End

No comments:

Post a Comment