Monday, June 20, 2011

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN


Dillon smiled as he looked up into the face of the man who had expended so much time and effort in trying to kill him.  “And now that we’re finally face to face, how is this business between us going to end?”

            “The only way it can end, of course.  With you dying in total agony, begging for a mercy that will not come.”  Odin’s eyes bored into Dillon’s with a fiery hatred.  “Oh, you have caused me much distraction and anguish.  My delicate timetable has been rescheduled far too many times due to your insufferable interference.”

            “Oh, cut the bullshit and let’s get down to it, shall we?  You didn’t bring me here just so you could go through the standard ‘Ha-Ha, I win and you lose,’ speech, didja?  Now that would truly disappoint me to no end.  You’ve shown so much flair for the dramatic so far.”

            “I wanted you here at the last.  I am planning another attack with The Voice in two hours.  The final attack that will bring the world to its knees.  You will watch it here.  After that attack, nothing will matter.”

            Dillon’s eyes narrowed in sudden alarm.  “What are you planning, Odin?  What are you going to attack next?”

            “Even as we speak, The Voice is being configured for a specific vibratory wave pattern that will trigger a disruption in the local weather.  But the effect will spread rapidly.  Within sevnty-four hours, there will be storms and hurricanes and tidal waves the like of which the world has never seen.  And they will scour the face of the Earth.”

            “This was always about revenge, wasn’t it?”  Kris said suddenly.  She had been quiet all throughout the exchange between Dillon and Odin but she could be silent no longer.  “You had always planned this.  The other attacks were just preliminaries, warm-ups before the main event, if you will.  You just wanted to be sure that The Voice was powerful enough for you to do what you really wanted it to do.”

            Odin’s head turned slowly, almost as if he were in pain as he regarded Kris.  “Very good, young lady.  And yes, you’re absolutely right.  My intention was always to bring destruction down on the head of a world that should have ended long ego.”

            “And you’re going to hide out here in the jungle and do what?  Hang out after the apocalypse and watch millions die?” Dillon asked.  “Awfully wasteful, don’t you think?”

            “I created a device that would have ensured lasting peace on this planet for eons.  The Voice would have made nuclear weapons obsolete!”  Odin’s already deep voice boomed as he turned back to look at Dillon.  “What nation’s leader in his right mind would keep nuclear weapons when The Voice could detonate them right in their home silos?  None!  Every nation would have willingly disarmed their nuclear weapons and that threat would have been removed forever.”

            “Leaving only The Voice for them to worry about,” Dillon said.

            “The Voice has a flaw that can be exploited and one I would have revealed eventually.”

            “Don’t you see, Gynt?  That was the real reason the intelligence agencies rejected your Voice and exiled you down here!  Because you were the only man who truly understood The Voice and the principals behind it.  They would have never been comfortable trusting one man with all that knowledge and power, and if you thought they would, then you’re worse than a naive fool.”

            “But I would given the knowledge to everybody!”

            “Exactly the danger.  Don’t you get it yet?  If you had approached the United States alone or Russia alone or England alone, they’d have snapped up The Voice and you’d be living in a palace today.  But you wanted to be an idealist and give The Voice to the world.  And you know what the world decided?  That since one nation alone couldn’t have The Voice, then nobody would have it.  The very nations you approached made a pact to shut you down.”

            Odin was silent for perhaps thirty seconds.  Dillon cocked his head to the side and looked at Odin carefully.  There was something strange about his mannerisms.  Maybe it was because he was up there in years and old men did move oddly, but still..

            Donovan Gynt and the two mercenaries behind Dillon had been silent so far but now Gynt spoke up.  “We should lock them up now and get them out of our hair until—“

            Dillon leaped straight up into the air, bringing his handcuffed wrists from behind his back, under his feet and up in front of him.  He landed and whirled around, seizing hold of Donovan Gynt, whose brain was still trying to catch up with the speed at which Dillon was moving.  Dillon grabbed the machine gun Gynt was holding and tore it loose from his hands, swiftly smacking him with the butt and kicking his legs out from under him.

            Kris squealed and dived for cover as Dillon cut down the two startled mercenaries and then turned the machine gun on the curving banks of consoles and instruments.  The technicians screamed and ran like a flock of startled chickens surprised by a starving fox.  Monitors burst with impressively loud explosions and thick dark smoke billowed from the ruined and smashed instruments.

            And Odin sat impassively throughout this destruction, not moving.  His powerful eyes blazed with hatred.  Dillon dropped the spent machine gun and reached for the holstered gun of one of the slain mercenaries.  He whirled and fired seven shots from the large Browning automatic, all of them smashing into Odin’s chest.

            Odin did not move, did not cry out, and did not even blink as the large caliber bullets tore into him.  His eyes remained open, still looking at Dillon with that same hideous hatred.  Dillon stopped firing and looked closely at the still form sitting on the dais.

            Kris was looking through the pockets of the slain mercenaries for the keys to their handcuffs and found them.  Donovan Gynt lay on his side, groaning and struggling to get to his feet.  Dillon coolly walked over to where he was and brought the barrel of the Browning down on the back of his head.  Gynt slumped into unconsciousness with a strange gargling gasp.   Kris ran over to unlock Dillon’s cuffs.  “You certainly took your time about it!”

            “Wanted to be sure we had the right guy.”  Dillon gestured for Kris to follow him.  “And I’m still not sure that we do.” Dillon ran lightly up the steps of the raised dais.  Odin did not move, did not even acknowledge Dillon’s getting closer.

            “What’s wrong with him?”  Kris asked.  “Is he catatonic?”

            Dillon bent down and looked right into Odin’s eyes.  Odin did not react in the slightest.  Dillon jammed the automatic into his belt and reached out with his strong hands to seize Odin’s head.  Tendons and sinews bunched like pythons on his arms as Dillon twisted and yanked Odin’s head right off his shoulders.  Kris squealed and leaped back, expecting a fountain of blood to gush forth.

            The only thing that gushed was oil and other lubricating fluids from several tubes protruding out of the neck.  Dillon held up Odin’s head, from which wires and cables and fiber optic lines and computer webbing dangled.  Kris’s mouth flopped open in astonishment.  Dillon muttered a curse and dropkicked the head across the room.

            “What does this mean?”  Kris asked, totally stunned.

            “Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain!”  Dillon snapped.  He put his fist right into Odin’s chest and yanked out a handful of circuitry.  “I’ve been chasing the fucking Wizard of Oz, that’s what this means!  This is nothing but a robot!  A highly sophisticated animatronic device I’ve been jerking around with while Odin’s sitting somewhere in this complex laughing his fool ass off! While I’m been patting myself on the back thinking I’m saving the world he’s been talking to me through his high tech puppet!”  Dillon yanked the automatic free and went back down the steps.  “Get those guns from those guys and let’s go.”

            “Go?  Go where?”

            “To find Odin and turn off The Voice.  That thing up there may have been a fake but I don’t think that Odin’s threat was.”

            “What about him?”  Kris gestured at the still form of Donovan Gynt.

            “Him?  Oh, I got a quick answer for that.”  Dillon walked over to Gynt and bent down, aiming right at Gynt’s forehead.

            “Oh, please, no!  In God’s name, I beg you, NO!”

            Dillon brought the gun up to aim at a thin, small woman with pure white hair and a lined face.  She was one of the technicians who had run screaming from the room when Dillon had first begun firing.  Her wrinkled hands trembled and tears coursed down her aged face.  She ran over to where Gynt lay and kneeled down next to him.  “Please.  Don’t kill him.  He’s all I have left.”

            “Exactly who are you, lady?”

            The old woman looked up at Dillon and wiped away her tears.  She said with a mixture of pride and sad amusement, “I am Odin, Dillon.  I am Odin.”

            Dillon and Kris exchanged amazed looks.  Kris lifted her index finger to the side of her own head and twirled it in a corkscrew, crossing her eyes at the same time.  Dillon shrugged and hunkered down next to the old woman.  “You’ll forgive me if I’m just a little bit skeptical that you could be Odin, ma’am.  It was my understanding that Leopold Gynt had created The Voice and it was he who was codenamed Odin.”

            The old woman cradled Donovan’s head in her lap and stroked his forehead.  “He was known as Odin for many years.  And after his death, I adopted his name and his mission as my own.  Who had better claim to his name and his work than his wife?”

            Dillon nodded in sudden understanding.  “Of course.  If it was a snake, it woulda bit me.  You were mentioned in the files I found but no one had heard or seen anything of you for the past twenty years.  It was assumed that you had died and nobody bothered to record the death.”

            “Exactly what I wanted the world to think.  My husband died a broken, bitter man.  He drank himself to death, filled with self-loathing and guilt.  For years I tried to persuade him to either use The Voice or destroy it.”  The old woman laughed softly.  “If he never used it, I knew I would, or our sons.  The Voice is the legacy of the Gynt family.”

            “It’s a legacy that has killed your husband and one of your sons,” Kris said softly.  “And now you would use it to destroy the world?”

            The old woman looked up at Kris with red eyes that brimmed with tears.  Her cracked, raspy voice was a saw blade of rage that had festered inside of her for years.  “My husband was deprived of his life’s work by an uncaring world that asked him to create the ultimate weapon!  They came to him, not the other way round!  He devised The Voice with the aim that if it was properly used, it would be the ultimate deterrent and no one would ever have to fear war again!  It wasn’t his fault that the same people who asked him to create The Voice were too small minded and petty to see the true potential of the device!  They decided that if they could not use the weapon, then the creator should be shuttled off to some remote corner of the world where he could not create another!  And I had to watch him waste away!  And you say I have no right to avenge the miserable heap of steaming excrement his life became?”

            Dillon seized hold of the old woman’s thin upper arm and firmly, but gently pulled her to her feet.  “Mrs. Gynt, I’m truly sorry for what’s happened to you and yours.  But the bottom line is this: I’ve come halfway across the world and stepped over a lot of bodies to shut you down and I’m going to do just that.  You’re going to take me to The Voice and you’re going to show me how to turn it off.”  Dillon cocked the automatic and pointed it at the still unconscious Donovan.  “Or I’m going to kill your son.”

            Mrs. Gynt looked up into Dillon’s hot golden eyes.  “Oh, I have no doubt you will do exactly what you say you will.  If I had you working for me…” She shook her head ruefully.

            “Time’s up, Mrs. Gynt.  Are you going to take me to The Voice or not?”

            “You’ll leave my son alive?  And myself?  You won’t kill us?  Or turn us over to the authorities?”

            Dillon sighed heavily.  “Ma’am, I’m supposed to radio British Intelligence and tell them where to come get Odin.  Far as I know, Odin is that robot sitting up there.  You play straight with me and take me to The Voice and you have my word that you and your son can leave here alive.  Where you go and what you do after that is up to you.”

            The old woman nodded and motioned for Dillon and Kris to follow her as she walked toward a bank of elevators.

            Kris whispered in Dillon’s ear; “Are you sure you’re doing the right thing?”

            Out of the side of his mouth, Dillon whispered back, “No, but what the hell am I gonna do?  Look at her, Kris.  The woman’s on her last legs.  It a miracle she’s lived this long and she’s probably hung on through sheer willpower.  She’s maybe got another year or two at most to live.  What’s the harm in letting her go?  Without The Voice, she’s just another old woman.”

            “An old woman who controls a worldwide terrorist organization!”

            “Then you take her to Tipp and tell him that a 90-year woman who looks like Norman Rockwell’s grandmama brought the world to its knees.  I’ll come visit you in the nuthouse he’ll throw you in.”

            “You may have a point there,” Kris admitted reluctantly.

            “It’s my guess that nobody outside of her sons knew who Odin really was.”  Dillon raised his voice.  “How about it, Mrs. Gynt?  Anybody ever knew you were the real power behind that souped up dummy back there?”

            Mrs. Gynt reached into a pocket of her lab coat, drew forth a keycard, and inserted it into a slot.  The elevator doors whooshed open and they stepped inside.  A moment later, the elevator was moving upwards.  “No.  I communicated with my agents completely by electronic means.  Occasionally I would have them flown here for brief periods and they would return to the world and tell others that they had seen Odin.  They were unknowingly helping me to convince the world that Odin was a large, powerful man.  Aged, yes, but still a man.  It was useful to have the robot as it kept all eyes off of me and allowed me to continue working in peace behind the scenes.”

            “Where did you get the idea for such a thing?”  Kris wanted to know. 

            Mrs. Gynt shrugged thin shoulders.  “My people needed an Odin who was strong and powerful and looked the part of a world terror.  I provided such an Odin.”  The old woman leaned against the wall of the elevator.  “Not bad for a 90 year old woman who looks like Norman Rockwell’s grandmama, eh?”  She grinned at Dillon and he couldn’t help but grin back.


***


            Donovan Gynt sat up suddenly.  A bandanna soaked in cold water from a canteen had been slapped on his face, jolting him back into consciousness.  He wiped the water out of his eyes and looked up at the faces surrounding him.  Most of the technicians had run outside and alerted the mercenaries, who had then piled into the chamber.  Gynt struggled to his feet.  Nobody else knew the reality behind Odin and he meant to keep it that way.  “Everybody out!  Out!  I’m fine!”

            Several of the mercenaries were looking at the headless body of the Odin robot on the dais.  One of them turned and said to Gynt, “What the hell’s going on here?  A few days ago I was standing here taking orders from that thing.  It’s a fuckin’ robot?  Where’s Odin?  Was that thing Odin all the time?”

            Gynt snorted convincingly.  “Don’t be crazy.  That’s a stand-in Odin had made up just in case Dillon tried something funny.  And it paid off.  Dillon tried something and Odin got the drop on him.”

            “Then why were you lying there knocked out?  Where’s Dillon?  Where’s Odin?”

            Gynt snarled back.  “You don’t get paid to ask questions.  You get paid to do what you’re told.  Now get back outside and secure the camp.  All of you crowded in here gawking at things you don’t even understand!  Get back outside!”

            The mercenaries were swapping knowing looks.  Something here had gone wrong.  Really wrong.  But it wasn’t their job to figure out what it was.  One thing experienced mercenaries could do was smell when the paychecks were going bad.  This setup suddenly smelled like three-day-old fish left out in the sun, and they knew exactly what to do about it.  Without a word, they filed out.  Shortly, they would loot the camp of everything that would make them an extra buck, and then they would melt into the jungle.

            But Donovan Gynt wasn’t thinking about the mercenaries now.  He sealed the room and checked his gun, making sure he had extra ammunition clips.  He had no illusions about why he was still alive.  Dillon wouldn’t harm an old woman, but he would hold the threat of killing Donovan over her head.  His mother must have made a deal and taken Dillon to The Voice.  That was where Donovan would find him.  Dillon couldn't be allowed to deactivate The Voice.  It was the last chance for Leopold Gynt to have his revenge, and his son would make sure it was carried out and any and all costs.


***


            “Dear God,” Kris whispered.  Dillon nodded in quiet agreement.  Mrs. Gynt stood next to them, watery eyes shining with pride as they all looked upon The Voice of Odin.

            They stood on a catwalk, one of a series that encircled The Voice, a huge, copper-colored cylinder a thousand feet high, veined with thick black cables that wound and snaked around it, sparkling and crackling with arcane energies.  The base of the device was a spherical control room that Mrs. Gynt led them to.  The room contained a single chair in front of complicated control panel.  Dillon examined the control board with fascination.  “So from here you can select the vibratory wave frequency needed?”

            Mrs. Gynt nodded.  “See here?  This is a computerized database that stores the various vibrational wave frequencies so that I don't have to keep recalibrating The Voice.  Now over here . . . ” She gestured at another computer whose face was a kaleidoscope of shifting cubes of color.  “This is the actual device that locks onto vibratory wave patterns.  My husband . . . he was such a genius.  Even back then he foresaw a day when the skies would be full of satellites.  The Voice itself can utilize those satellites by means of shifting binary programs, based on Petrozello’s Five Principals of Alternate Artificial Intelligences.  And it is those satellites that deliver the actual disruptive frequencies.”

            Dillon nodded his head.  “Incredible.  I am impressed.”

            “Well, I’d be impressed if you’d tell me just one thing,”  Kris said.  She was standing with her arms folded, tapping one foot impatiently.  “Exactly what in the hell was so important about that damned ring you sent an army of bloody murderous maniacs after us to get it back?”

            Mrs. Gynt laughed and just for a second, Dillon could see the young girl she had been many years ago.  “Ah!  The ring.  Yes, I suppose there have been many who have been wondering about that.  Come, come…I’ll show you.”  Mrs. Gynt walked around to the other side of the control board and lovingly patted a huge solid black case affixed to the machine.  “This can only be opened by my palm print.” She explained as she placed her other hand on the face of the black case.  After a few seconds, the front of the case split apart into four sections and opened with a hiss.  Dillon and Kris bent forward to look at what was inside.

            The golden ring with the large black opal, held in a web of electronic leads and connections.

            Mrs. Gynt looked at the shocked, surprised expressions on their faces.  “The black opal was carved from a meteorite that my husband found many, many years ago.  He performed exhaustive experiments on it and discovered that it was a power source unlike any that had ever been seen on Earth.  He fashioned the ring to hold that fragment that looks like an opal, and it is that which powers The Voice.”

            Kris was plainly flabbergasted.  “I don’t believe it!  You expect us to believe that that . . . bauble is capable of powering this entire complex?”

            “Oh, no, dear.  Not the complex . . . just The Voice.  And yes, that bauble as you call it has more than enough power for a dozen Voices.  And then, if it ever did run out of power, the meteorite is--”

            “That’s enough, Mother!  That’s enough,” Donovan Gynt snarled as he entered the control room, gun pointing at Dillon.  “Drop it.”

            Dillon carefully dropped the Browning on the ground and lifted his hands.  “Toss your gun away, Kris.  Don’t force the issue.”

            “There’s no issue to force!  I’m going to do what I should have done in the first place and blow your miserable brains out!  You won’t take my birthright from me!  Not now, not when we’re so close!”

            Mrs. Gynt started walking forward, throwing a triumphant grin over her shoulder at Dillon.  “Excellent!  Kill these two and then we-”

            Kris exploded into action, throwing herself at Mrs. Gynt and grabbing up the old woman, who squealed and kicked and spat.  Donovan fired, trying to hit Kris and only succeeded in blowing away his mother’s left knee.  And by then, Dillon was all over him.

            Dillon’s leg went up and out in a shattering sidekick, and took Donovan right in the chest.  Donovan flew backwards as if a bomb had gone off in his chest.  He hit the curving wall of the control room and tried to bring the gun up to aim and fire.  But then there was this horrible crunching noise and he suddenly had no feeling below his neck.  He looked into two eyes that were like swirling pools of hot molten gold and there was a low, soft voice in his ear that said, “When you get to Hell, tell the rest of the losers Dillon says hi.”

            And there was another crunching sound.  To Donovan it sounded like that terrible crunching was right between his ears. And then he was dead.

            Dillon turned away from the body and ran over to where Kris was holding Mrs. Gynt’s head in her lap.  The old woman was shaking all over as if she was having a seizure.  Dillon ran an expert eye over her ruined leg.  Below what remained of her knee, scraps of muscle tissue and cartilage were holding her lower leg together.  “She’s done for.  She’s dying from shock,” he said.  “There’s nothing we can do for her.  Donovan’s killed her and I’ve done for him.”

            A hissing sound made Dillon look at the case containing the ring.  It was slowly closing.  Dillon ran over and yanked the ring free just before the case shut completely.  “Hah!  At least this thing won’t hurt anybody else!  We’ve done it, Kris!”  Dillon held up the ring triumphantly. 

            Kris was bent over, listening to something Mrs. Gynt was muttering.  The old woman grinned wickedly at Dillon and then her eyes closed and she joined her husband and her sons.  Kris looked around at Dillon with terror in her wide eyes.

            “What the hell’s the matter with you?  We’ve got the ring and we’ve shut down The Voice.  World’s saved.  It’s Miller Time.”

            “She . . . she said that you needed a special code to remove the ring…she said that by just yanking it out like that, you activated the self-destruct…this whole place is going to go up in 30 minutes…”

            “She was probably trying to throw a last scare into us,” Dillon snorted in derision. 

            The floor under them vibrated ominously.  Dillon looked down and then looked at the ring.  “Shit on TOAST!”

            “If you’ve got the ring, then what could be powerful enough to blow up this whole installation?”  Kris asked.

            “Remember back at the villa when I mentioned that Odin was probably using magma pockets to power this base?  Well, that's what going to blow us up.”

            “Don’t you think we’d better get outside and get a jeep and get the hell away from here, then?”

            “Best idea you’ve had all day.  C’mon!”


***


            "Where are all the jeeps and trucks?!" Kris shrieked.

            She and Dillon were standing in the middle of the group of buildings where the mercenaries had been housed.  But there were no mercenaries left, the buildings had all been ransacked, and there were no vehicles anywhere to be found.  The mercenaries had cleaned out, taking everything with them that could be taken.

            The ground rumbled as if a generator deep inside the earth had suddenly come to life.  Kris looked wildly at Dillon.  “What do we do?”

            Dillon sucked on a tooth and looked up in the sky with an infuriating calmness.  “Die, prob’ly.”

            “Can’t we run?  Can’t we try to get far enough away?”

            “Sweetheart, in a little less than fifteen minutes, we’re going to be standing on top of a volcano and our chances of outrunning a volcano are roughly-” Dillon suddenly held up a hand.  It seemed as if he was listening to something.

            “What?  What is it?”  Kris demanded.

            Dillon began running back toward the dome.  “Maybe our only chance of coming out of this mess alive!  C’mon!”


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