Monday, June 27, 2011

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


“Where are you going?  What are you going to do?”  Kris demanded as she followed Dillon back inside the dome.  The rumbling and shaking was growing ever more ominous and pronounced.  It was as if a giant under the Earth was turning over and over in a restless sleep.  Dillon spotted the elevator and darted inside.  “Ah-ha!  Just what I was looking for!”  He reached up into the rear left corner of the elevator and unsnapped the small mirror there, standard in all elevators so that someone entering the car could see if somebody was already inside.  “I need something to signal Eli.”

            “Eli?”

            “I hear the engines of his plane.  He’s probably been searching for us all this time.  I need to let him know where we are so we can get outta here.”  Dillon ran back outside, heading for the long concrete path that was just about the nearest open area.  Kris looked up anxiously into the sky.  She could hear the cargo plane’s engines now herself, but she was at a loss to understand just how Eli was going to land and take off, especially with the ground shaking like Charo having a conniption fit.  Dillon angled the mirror to catch the sun’s rays and flashed a signal straight up where there could be no mistaking it for what it was: a call for help.

            Shortly, the cargo plane roared overhead, flying as slowly as it could without stalling out.  Kris did her part, jumping up and down and screaming until her tonsils hurt.  Dillon kept flashing the signal as the cargo plane continued on its way.

            “He didn’t see you!”  Kris wailed.

            “Hold on a sec!  Wait!”  Dillon was a seasoned pilot and he could tell by the sound of the engines that the plane was turning and coming back their way.  Strange groaning sounds were coming from the ground and zigzagging cracks began opening in the concrete path.  Foul smelling gases belched out into the air.

            The cargo plane appeared overhead again and this time, a large gray bundle was thrown from the hatchway to thump to the ground some ten feet from them.  Dillon ran over and began undoing the bundle.  Kris looked on in total bafflement.

            “Isn’t he going to land?” Kris demanded.  Dillon didn’t answer her.  He was totally focused on his task, and Kris watched in amazement as he removed a bulky nylon and canvas harness from the bundle and quickly strapped it on.  A large sheet of orange plastic was removed next, which he threw on the ground.  He pulled out a black canister and twisted the valve.  Kris heard a loud hissing and to her wonderment, the orange plastic sheet began to fill out and shortly resolved itself into the shape of a balloon.  It was attached to a nylon cord as thick as her wrist, which was attached to Dillon’s harness.

            More cracks were appearing and spurts and bubbles of red-hot magma were seeping upwards, oozing outwards in all directions.  The dome itself has thousands of cracks and jagged gashes opening in its surface.  Something exploded inside the dome and Dillon yelled, “Get down!”  They wrapped their arms over their heads for cover as debris was thrown far into the air and over the clearing.

            “We’re not going to make it!”  Kris screamed.

            “Just hang on tight to me!  Whatever you do, don’t let go!” 

            The balloon rose into the sky, and suddenly Kris knew what Dillon was up to.

            “You can’t be serious!”

            “You wanna stay and blow up?  Do what I tell you!”

            Kris wrapped her arms around Dillon’s neck and her legs around his waist as the cargo plane appeared again.  It was flying somewhat higher now and a metal loop hung from the rear.  The speed of the plane increased.

            “What if he misses?”  Kris yelled.

            Dillon grinned and gave her a quick kiss.  “It’s gonna really ruin our day, then.  Hang on!”

            The cargo plane roared overhead and the metal loop dropped right over the balloon. It tightened on the nylon rope and Dillon and Kris were yanked off the ground and up into the sky.  Kris’s scream knifed through the air, in counterpoint to Dillon’s joyous “WAH-HOO!”.  They were tumbling wildly, twisting this way and that.  The trees at the edge of the clearing were coming up fast and Kris yowled “The trees!  The trees!”

            Inside the plane, the cable was being winched inside as Eli yanked back on the yoke, climbing for altitude. Dillon’s legs brushed the top of the trees as they barely cleared them.

            Behind them, the ground under Odin’s complex seemed to sag as if tired and then with a rending BOOM!, a jet of super hot magma burst through the concrete path and leaped upwards for a thousand feet, spewing this way and that.  A rush of hot air washed over them as the plane climbed higher.  The dome broke apart as if it were made of plastic, another terrible explosion ripping through the structure.  The building that had housed the mercenaries caught fire and burst apart as if it had been dynamited.  Odin’s dome collapsed, crumbling into rubble, and the dreams of a doomed family crumbled along with it.   More explosions tore The Voice apart for all time and the components fell into a lake of magma to be melted into sludge.  Great gouts of magma arced into the air, washing over the dome and covering it as if it had never existed.  It was as if the earth herself was determined to eradicate the offensive structure.
                                                                                                                      
            Dillon and Kris were winched into the plane and helped inside by Eli’s men, who were grinning in relief at the narrow escape.  Eli hurried into the back, jerking a thumb at one of his men to go forward and take the controls.  Kris was helped to a bucket seat that folded out from the bulkhead while Dillon just leaned up against a cargo container, his sweat-streaked face displaying his usual Cheshire Cat grin.

            Eli shook his head and laughed softly.  “Can I ask you just ONE question?”

            “Considering you’ve just saved my life, why not?”

            “Do you have a reason why you cut these thing so damn close?”

            Dillon shrugged and gratefully took a bottle of water from one of Eli’s crew before answering: “Wouldn’t be any fun otherwise, now would it?”  He looked over at Kris, who was breathing loudly with her head between her knees.  “How you doin’ over there, kid?”

            Kris sat up straight, her lovely face flushed with excitement and fear, and pushed back her hair before answering:

            “One of these days you are going to have to get a real job.”

            Eli roared with laughter.  “So we through here?  The Voice of Odin destroyed?”

            Dillon swallowed more water and nodded.  “Blown to pieces.”

            “Bad guys dead?”

            “Roasting in Hell where they belong.”

            “So where do you want to go now?”

            “Back to Antofagasto.  Take a couple of days to rest up and relax.  Then New York.”

            Eli frowned.  “You sure that’s a good idea?  You remember what happened the last time you were there.  The cops’ll be on your ass in no time.”

            Dillon grinned again and gestured at Kris.  “Gotta take my date home, don’t I?”





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!”


Friday, June 17, 2011

And Now, Behind The Scenes: "Dillon And The Judas Chalice"

DILLON AND THE JUDAS CHALICE is the third story in the upcoming FOUR BULLETS FOR DILLON.  Which is scheduled to be available in August, btw.  So start saving those pennies, hear?

It’s different from the other stories for a number of reasons.  Right from the beginning when this book was being planned, I wanted to have at least one new story in it that had never been seen before.  I felt it was only fair for readers to get something new as the other stories had been bopping around the Internet on various websites or in the case of “Dillon and the Escape from Tosegio” had seen life as an actual-to-Cthulhu comic book story.  I always figure folks deserve to get more bang for their buck so I started work on “Dillon and the Last Rail to Khusra”, a heartwarming story about Dillon getting involved in a North African country’s revolution and his mission to get the child empress of the country to safety against overwhelming odds.

However, as it happens so often while writing, characters demanded more time, additional scenes occurred to me and I saw how I could tie in “Last Rail To Khusra” with the second Dillon/Sly Gantlet crossover; “Dead Beat In Khusra”.  So I promptly changed gears and decided to put that story aside.  The current plan calls for “Last Rail to Khusra” and “Dead Beat in Khusra” to see print in 2013.

But something had to go in the damn book.   I turned my eye to an idea for a story I’d had in mind for some time that has its roots in something that had always puzzled me for a long time: what happened to the forty pieces of silver that was paid to Judas for betraying Jesus after he gave it back to the temple priests?  According to The Bible, the priests decide they can’t put the money back into the treasury because it’s tainted.  So they use it to buy The Potter’s Field.

Me being me, I decided to take it a step further and have the silver pieces stolen by a fanatical sect who worships Judas and they use the silver pieces to create a sort of anti-Holy Grail they call The Judas Chalice.  The Chalice has a very extraordinary history and properties that are revealed during the course of the story.  Properties that lead to Dillon and his cohorts having to steal it from the obligatory nut job wanting to conquer the world.

I also wanted to showcase other members of Dillon’s network of friends and allies.  I tend to rotate them from story to story depending on which of them are available and who has the skills needed for a certain job.  In this adventure, Dillon recruits his technical expert, Wyatt Hyatt (and believe it or not I named him after a real person I used to work with) and master thief Reynard Hansen.

And I also manage to drop in all sorts of nifty Easter Eggs.  One in particular will be of exceptional interest to those of you who have read DILLON AND THE LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN BELL and I managed to get in what I think is an awfully cool car chase that is a homage to two of my favorite car chases: the Las Vegas car chase from the James Bond movie “Diamonds Are Forever” and the final car chase from “The Blues Brothers”.

The story is one I meant to be a roller coaster ride from start to finish and those who have read it agree.  And I hope that those of you who will read it in FOUR BULLETS FOR DILLON will think so as well.


Monday, June 13, 2011

CHAPTER SIXTEEN


“…And there is still no word on exactly how many are dead or injured from the latest attack by the international terrorist known only as Odin.  He has indiscriminately attacked mass transit operations around the world with a weapon he calls The Voice of Odin, and has so far knocked at least nine airplanes out the sky.  The airplanes belonged to airlines of American, Japanese and British origin.  Five ocean liners sunk were of Dutch and Bahamian registry.  Several hours after the attacks began, all air travel was grounded and all ships were ordered to return to their homeports.  Odin’s latest attack has effectively ended air and ocean travel around the world.  To repeat our top story…”

“Wake up!  Wake up, you lout!”  Kris shoved Dillon hard enough to rouse him out of his sound sleep.  He sat up on the air mattress and blinked the sleep out of his eyes.

Kris had already climbed out from under the covers and was getting dressed quickly.  Dillon took a few minutes to admire the wonderful effect of the early morning sunlight on her tanned skin.  “You know, you don’t have to climb out of bed so quickly, Kris…”

Kris yanked up the zipper on her khaki shorts and looked for her boots.  “Don’t you hear the radio?  Odin has struck again and we’re out here in the jungle dallying while the world goes to hell!”

Dillon stretched his long arms and yawned lazily.  “Seems to me you weren’t all that concerned about dallying last night when you—“

“I’ll thank you to not remind me of what occurred last night!”  Kris laced her boots with quick, snappy movements of her fingers.  “What happened last night was the result of us being together for quite a long time.  It’s only natural—“

“A beautiful full moon helped as well…not to mention a couple of bottles of chilled Bollinger…”

“Are you going to get dressed?”

“Are you going to keep pretending you didn’t enjoy last night as much as I did?  I especially enjoyed the way you —“

Kris stomped out of the tent without so much as an angry comeback, which was kind of disappointing as Dillon actually looked forward to those.  She’d gotten quite good at them.   He sighed, threw back the covers and began hunting up his clothes.

Once they’d gotten Chew Mi off their backs, Dillon had found a suitable campsite and set up tents for both of them.  The tents came with their own air-conditioners and firm air mattresses, as comfortable as any feather bed.  They’d spent an agreeable few hours making and eating dinner and then they’d listened to big band music on the satellite radio and Dillon had produced champagne.  He couldn’t say exactly when he and Kris had ended up in his tent but he had no trouble recalling the torrid, passionate hours that followed.

He washed up quickly while continuing to listen to the radio.  He had to admit one thing; Kris was right about the world going to hell.  But if Dillon had it figured right, either they would find Odin’s hideout today or Odin’s people would catch up to them.  If that happened, Dillon would allow himself to be captured and taken straight to Odin’s lair, saving time and effort.  He wasn’t sure what he was going to do after that, but he was confident that he would think of something.

He dressed, picked up his Desert Eagle, checked to make sure it had a full clip and shoved it in his shoulder holster.  Then he stepped out of the tent, whistling ‘Anything Goes’.

A dozen gun barrels were thrust in his face and all around him he heard nothing but the ratcheting of automatic weapons and handguns.  Dillon looked around very slowly.   Armed men surrounded his tent and pointed weapons at him.  Kris struggled in the firm grasp of two more men, her eyes wide and frightened.  A bandana had been jammed in her mouth to prevent her from shouting a warning.  A short, muscular man dressed in fatigues stepped forward.  He looked Dillon up and down with hate filled eyes.  “So you’re the great Dillon that’s got even Odin shaking.  You don’t look like much to me.”

Dillon smiled politely as he replied, “You most certainly have me confused with somebody who gives a damn about your opinion.  You must be Paul Gynt.  And that’s—” Dillon jerked his head in the direction of the taller man, who stood just a few steps behind Paul. “-your brother Donovan.  The smart Gynt brother.”

Donovan spoke in a somber, even tone.  “Watch yourself, Paul.  That’s one of his favorite tactics.  He likes to insult and cause his opponents to lose their temper.  Don’t let him bait you.”

Paul laughed explosively.  “I’m tired of everybody making such a big deal about this one.  It wasn’t much to capture him, was it?  Not when he and that blue-eyed slut over there were raising such a ruckus doing the horizontal bop.”

Dillon’s copper eyes slowly began to darken to molten gold.  “No reason to be vulgar, Paul.  The lady doesn’t deserve to hear that.  Especially not from you.”

Paul Gynt laughed again.  “Lady?  Her?  Any slut that would willingly let a nigger give it to her right up the old-“

Dillon’s head whipped forward, quick as a striking snake and his strong teeth crunched down on Paul Gynt’s nose.  Blood spurted as Gynt screamed in a high-pitched womanish squeal; “MY NODE!”

Dillon was seized and yanked off Paul Gynt.  There was something in Dillon’s teeth and he spat it out; it hit Paul in the chest and thumped to the ground.  It was Paul’s nose.  There was only a gushing hole in his face where it had once resided.  Paul screamed incoherently as blood squirted from between his fingers.  Dillon’s laughed wildly as he yelled: “It’s always funny until somebody loses a nose, ain’t it, Paul?”

Donovan Gynt’s eyes were slits of cold anger as he lifted a hand and fully a half dozen men piled on Dillon, slammed the butts of their automatic rifles into his face, sides, chest and back and threw in lusty kicks with their steel toed boots.

Kris could only avert her gaze from the savage beating.


***


Dillon slowly came back to consciousness with his head in Kris’s lap.  His entire body was one throbbing ache and it felt as if there hadn’t been one square inch that had been left out.  Kris smiled down at him and kissed his forehead.  “Oh, Thank God!  I was afraid you were never going to wake up!”

Dillon painfully sat up on the cot.  They were inside his tent.  He could hear men shouting orders outside, the sounds of vehicles being started up.  “How long have I been out?”

“About an hour.  Paul tried to come inside and shoot you twice.  But his brother has four men outside to make sure that nothing happens to you until they contact Odin and report to him.”

Dillon stood up and started a series of exercises that would let him know exactly how much damage had been done to his body.  He asked, “And did they?”

Kris nodded excitedly.  “From what I could hear, Odin wants you brought to him.  Paul is frothing with rage.  He spoke to Odin himself over the radio and tried to convince Odin that you should be killed on the spot.  He’s walking around with bandages covering half his face and his nose packed in a Thermos of ice.  He thinks it can be put back on.”

Dillon snorted in derision.  “Fat chance of that.  He’ll have to pay for a new nose.  That’s assuming of course he gets away from me alive, and that’s something I don’t think is gonna happen.”

Kris smiled weakly.  “You don’t have to be brave for me.  I know this is pretty much the end of the line.  Once we’re taken to Odin, we’re sure to be killed.”

Dillon sat back down next to her on the cot.  “Hey, now…nobody on my team goes into a mission contemplating failure, okay?  We’re still alive, aren’t we?  We’ve beaten everybody Odin’s thrown at us, haven’t we?  So what’s this talk then?”  He tenderly kissed her on the lips.  “I wouldn’t have brought you this far if I didn’t have a plan to get us out.  Now, put on your game face and don’t let the bad guys see you sweat.”  Dillon stood up and resumed his exercises.  Except for being sore as hell, there wasn’t any real damage done.  Thanks to his rigorous exercise regimen and his exceedingly active lifestyle, he was pretty much 220 pounds of solid muscle. 
                                                                                                        
The flap of the tent was pulled aside and the lanky form of Donovan Gynt entered.  He eyed Dillon with his glowering, mournful eyes.  “You can thank your lucky stars that Odin wants to see you.  Otherwise my brother would be having his way with you.  And I’d be helping.”

“You tell your brother he insults this lady again and I’ll bite his whole head clean off.  He wants to pick a fight, fine.  Pick it with me.”  Dillon kept on exercising as he spoke.  “And what does Odin want to see me about?  Does he think I’m going to make restitution for the damage I’ve done to his organization?”

Donovan Gynt said, “The Order of The Black Sun is larger than Odin, even though he was one of its architects.  I’m sure there is a good reason for keeping you alive.  But I’m giving you fair warning right now: you want the woman left alone, fine.  Then you leave my brother alone.  You’ve ruined his face for an insult that children in a playground would have laughed off.  You say another word to him or even look at him wrong and I’ll kill you myself and suffer Odin’s displeasure gladly.”

Dillon stopped his exercising and sized up Donovan Gynt carefully.  This was not only the smarter Gynt brother.  He was also the truly dangerous one.  “You’ll have no more trouble from me, Gynt.  I know when I’m beaten.”

Donovan laughed sharply.  “You mean you know when to bide your time and wait for an opportunity to turn the odds in your favor.  We move out in fifteen minutes.  You’ll be placed aboard one of my trucks with a guard.”

“What about my Land Rover?  My equipment?”  Dillon demanded.  Donovan only looked at him as if he were a total idiot and left the tent.

Kris asked, “Just what was that about?”

“Have you forgotten Eli?  He’s my cavalry, remember?  If I could get to the Land Rover, I could send a signal for him to come in and get us.  Damn!”

Kris walked over to the tent flap and opened it just enough to peek out.  “I can see the Land Rover.  It’s about 90 feet straight ahead.”

Dillon was peering over her shoulder.  “Might as well be 90 miles.  There’s nothing but armed men between The Land Rover and us.  The second I stick my head outta here, I’ll---say, what the hell are you doing?”

Kris was rapidly peeling out of her clothes.  “Soon as I pop out and start my act, you make a run for the Land Rover and make it count.”

Dillon could only gawp in surprise as Kris slipped out of her bra and panties.  She had only left her boots on and was otherwise naked as Godiva the day she said “gee, it’s a lovely day to go horseback riding”. Kris took a deep breath and said, “You ready?”

“Me?  Are you ready?  I’m not the one who’s going out there bucky-tail nekkid in front of an army of horny mercenaries.”

“Just be sure I’m not doing this for nothing,” Kris muttered, and then she burst from the tent and running flat out, her mane of golden hair streaming behind her as she bolted right through the camp.  The men Gynt had hired were all seasoned mercenaries, true.  Professional soldiers every last one of them, battle-honed and hardened in a hundred wars in the wild parts of the world.  But they were still men, and when men see a naked woman running, especially one with such splendid assets as Kris possessed, they stopped what they were doing and looked.

Dillon charged out of the tent, bowling over the four guards and sprinting toward his Land Rover.  Despite his height and weight, he was a remarkably fast runner, and he  covered fully half the distance to the vehicle before a hue and cry was raised.  He could hear Paul Gynt’s shrill screams over all, exhorting the men to kill him.  He jinked right and then left as bullets chewed up the ground around him and hummed past his ears.  He reached the door of the Land Rover, yanked it open and jumped inside, slamming it shut and rolling up the window.  He then did the same to the door on the driver’s side and by then, they were on him.

A dozen mercenaries ringed the vehicle, their weapons chattering as they pounded bullets into the armored sides of the Land Rover.  Dillon ignored the hellish din and felt up under the dashboard, flipping what he called ‘the panic button’.  This would send a signal to Eli that he could home in on using the GPS tracking console in his plane.  Now if only Eli got the signal before they busted open the Land Rover and dragged him out.  Dillon looked out the windshield and saw that, not only did they have Kris, but also Paul Gynt was running up to the Land Rover, grinning broadly despite the thick white X of bandages on his face, a rocket launcher in his hands.


***


Eli was shaving with his Bowie knife when one of his men jogged over to him.  “Eli?  There’s a signal coming in from Dillon.”

Eli nodded.  “I want a solid fix on his position.  And get the plane prepped.  Soon as you can tell me where my boy is, we’re gonna go get him.”

“Sure thing, Eli.”


***


Paul Gynt laughed hysterically as he aimed the rocket launcher at the front of The Land Rover and pulled the trigger.  So intent on killing Dillon was he that he ignored the fact that a dozen of his men stood around the Land Rover.  They dived for cover as the rocket sped from the launcher and hit the Land Rover squarely between the headlights, kicking the vehicle backwards and up into the air.  It was a tribute to the armoring job Dillon had done to the vehicle that it did not blow up, but was flipped over and landed with a tremendous crunch of shattering glass and crumpling metal on its side.  That was about all. 

Well, not quite all.  Paul Gynt threw the empty rocket launcher away and was fumbling with another one hanging on a strap around his neck, trying to release the safeties so he could send another rocket into the vehicle.  He wanted to see Dillon burn.  He wanted to hear Dillon shrieking in hellish agony as flames consumed his flesh.  Paul’s thirst for Dillon’s death only hastened his own as he was shaking so from excitement that he dropped the rocket launcher.  It hit the ground and activated, and the rocket shot from the launcher with a whoosh, hitting Paul right square in the middle of the X on his face.  Paul Gynt was totally obliterated, pieces of him raining all over the camp and the mercenaries.

Donovan Gynt watched all of this in stunned astonishment.  If someone had just described the events he himself had witnessed to him second hand, he wouldn’t have believed such a dark comedy capable of happening.  The naked girl sprinting through the camp.  Dillon getting to his Land Rover to do God knows what.  And now his brother had somehow blown himself up with a rocket meant for Dillon.

Some of the mercenaries pulled Dillon from the wreckage of the Land Rover and dragged him over to where Donovan stood, dumping him at his feet.  Dillon was unconscious.  Donovan Gynt ached to put a bullet in this man’s brain for causing his brother’s death.  But there was Odin’s order to think of.  And certainly, Dillon did not deserve the quick death of a single bullet.  No, his dying would take many, many days, and Donovan certainly wanted to be there to enjoy every single drop of agony he could wring out of him.

“Tie him up and put him in a truck.  And the girl as well.  Let’s get out of here.  We’ve wasted too much time as it is.”

One of the mercenaries jerked a thumb at the Land Rover.   “What about that?”

“What about it?”

“We oughta blow it up.  Maybe he tripped a homing beacon or somethin’ in it.  We shouldn’t take any chances.”

Donovan was still looking at the smoking spot where his brother had died.  “Take care of it, then, since you’re so worried about it.”


***


 “What do you mean, the signal’s stopped?”  Eli entered the cockpit of the cargo plane, dropping into the pilot’s seat and beginning his pre-flight checks.

“I was locking in on the signal as you ordered and all of a sudden it just . . . stopped.”

“Would you say that it was manually cut off or forcibly interrupted?”

“I’d have to say it was interrupted.  The break was just too abrupt for it to be anything else.  But I can put you within five miles of where the signal originated.”

“That’s all I need.  Knowing Dillon, we’ll see explosions or something.  Seal this sucker up and let’s grab some sky.”


***


This time when Dillon regained consciousness, he was in the back of a truck.  Two men sat with their backs to the driver’s cab, their weapons pointing at him.  He was restrained with two pairs of handcuffs and his ankles tightly bound.  Kris sat across from him, similarly bound and once again fully dressed.  The truck bounced along what could only be referred to as a road by the wildest stretch of the imagination.  He smiled at Kris.  “I see you found your clothes.”

She shrugged.  “You should have heard what Donovan said to me.  You know, it’s strange that for someone who’s so indifferent to human life, he’s awfully Puritan in his attitudes about nudity.”

Dillon struggled to a sitting position as he replied.  “You’d be surprised how many psychopaths are like that.  Where the hell are we going in such a hurry?”

“There’s some sort of timetable they’re supposed to be sticking to.  We upset it with our last stunt.  Oh, by the way, Paul Gynt’s dead.”

Dillon blinked.  “Can’t say I’m sorry to hear that.  How’d it happen?”

Despite their danger and the constant threat of sudden death at any moment, Kris had to giggle as she said; “After he hit you with the first rocket, he tried to fire another.  The butterfingered fool dropped the rocket launcher and killed himself with it.  The rocket hit him right….” Kris burst out into a gale of laughter.  “…it hit him right where his nose used to be!”

Even the two guards were grinning broadly and trying to smother their own laughter.  Dillon looked from the guards to Kris and back to the guards and then back to Kris.  “The jackass blew himself up with a rocket?  Right in the face?”  He shook his head sorrowfully.  “And I missed it.  I’d have paid good money to see that.”

Kris was shaking all over from laughing.  “It was something to see, let me tell you.”

“But Donovan’s still set on taking me to Odin, I see.”

Kris’s laughter subsided as she nodded agreement.  “He must truly fear Odin.”

“I don’t think it’s only that.  I’ve pretty much wiped out Odin’s crew…. Lady Thelma, The Whale, Paul Gynt, Chew Mi…. Donovan’s in a good position if he can stay alive…. he’s the only one left to reap the rewards.  Don’t fool yourself for a minute and think he hasn’t thought of that.”

The truck was slowing down, coming to a stop.  Kris shook her head as if to dislodge a nagging thought.  “But what could Odin offer him?  He’s already extraordinarily rich.  How much more wealth can one man aspire to have?”

“None,” Donovan Gynt said from the rear of the truck.  He was unlatching the rear tailgate so that Dillon and Kris could be hauled out.  “I’m not doing this for money.  I’m doing this to right a grievous wrong done to my father.  He sacrificed his life for his work and that work was refused, ignored.  Locked away.  And he was told that he could never see it come to fruition.”

Dillon’s feet were untied but the handcuffs were left on.  “So Odin is your father, Leopold Gynt?  He’s still alive after all this time and he still wants revenge.  And like the good little son you are, you’re helping Daddy destroy the world.”

Donovan smiled thinly.  “There’s so much you don’t understand, Dillon. But you will.  You will.”  He gestured to the guards.  “Bring them!”

The trucks had stopped next to a concrete path that looked as if it had been put down recently.  It was comfortably wide and most of the jungle vegetation on both sides had been cut down, stripped in order to provide a clear view on both sides of the trail.  It would be virtually impossible to sneak up on anybody navigating the trail.  Dillon was much more interested in what was up ahead in the clearing.  A group of sixteen buildings, none of them over two stories and painted dull gray and green to blend in with the trees that towered over them.  And behind the buildings, a gigantic black dome that appeared to be made of some kind of ceramic material, from what Dillon could tell from that distance.  He and Kris were led into the clearing, and he saw that some of the buildings were barracks for the mercenaries, housing for what appeared to be technical support, a radio shack (the location of which he committed to memory) a kitchen, an infirmary, an armory.  It was a regular little military outpost Odin had for himself here.

Donovan Gynt noted Dillon’s interest.  “Don’t miss a trick, do you?  I’ll let you in on a little secret: you won’t live to profit from what you’re seeing here.”

Dillon grinned wickedly.  “Don’t make the same mistake your brother did, Donny.”

Donovan Gynt said nothing and continued to lead the way inside the dome.  Once there, most of the mercenaries stayed outside and Donovan motioned for Dillon and Kris to come along.  They walked up a ramp that slanted upwards until coming to an elevator.  The guards stuck their guns right into Dillon’s midsection.

“He makes one wrong move.  Just one.”  Donovan said.  “Kill him.”

Dillon did not make a wrong move.  He had no intention of doing anything until he came face to face with Odin.


***


Eli lowered the binoculars and turned to his co-pilot.  “I got smoke.  Something’s burning up ahead.”

The co-pilot nodded as he took the binoculars.  “Matches the location fix Harry gave us.  You think Dillon’s in trouble?”

Eli sighed as he pushed the yoke forward, dropping in altitude to take a closer look.  “As long as I’ve known that guy, he’s never not been in trouble.”


***


The elevator stopped and the doors opened.  Dillon and Kris were shoved forward into what could only be described as a combination control center and throne room.  Technicians who were bent intently over the readouts on their screens manned curving banks of consoles.  While many of them were spouting out scientific data, others were tuned to the various news services of the world, monitoring events as they happened, gauging the world’s reactions to Odin’s attack.

Past the curving consoles was a dais of some sixteen steps high, upon which a massive chair of metal rested.  Various controls were set into the arms of the chair, and the big hands of the man who sat in it idly manipulated them.  He dressed in a simple one-piece steel blue jumpsuit.  His face lined with age, and his deep set watery gray eyes blazed with intelligence and purpose.  His lips barely moved as his deep and commanding voice said: “Dillon, here at last . . . and I . . . I am Odin.  I believe that you and I have business between us to settle.”