“A spotless mind”

George Frank

All rights reserved by the author

 

Awakening

Lan stood up from the bar and began to stumble to the back exit.  He mumbled apologies to those he bumped into, which was everyone in between him and his destination.  The big man watching the door didn’t give him a second look as he approached, but did share a questioning glance when Lan tried to pull the door open when the large print sign above clearly stated the need to push it.  Finally, he managed to open the big door but almost tripped on the long step down to the asphalt street and the darkened alley.

            The alley was dark but for the faint florescent light above the door.  The ironic thing was that it was only 3 in the afternoon.  The sun never shines here in the underworld thanks to the mega skyscrapers of the upper city.  They cast an eternal shadow on the ground levels of the city that is now the home of the poorest and most poverty stricken people of the metropolis.  Skywalks lined the airways in between the massive buildings to that those people who lived at the top never had to see the likes of these bottom dwellers.  Large air taxi busses made the upper levels a perfectly sustained traffic and living system.

            Lan spotted a particularly good looking dumpster upon which he began relieving himself.  The sensation was delightful.  However, it was interrupted by a shuffling sound behind Lan.  He may have been heavily intoxicated, but he could still turn and defend himself from an alley robber who suspected him to be easy prey.  The thief was in for a big surprise.  Turning on his heel and drawing his concealed knife at the same time, he spun and faced his opponent with perfect balance and finesse.  But what he faced was no enemy at all.  Lan looked down and faced the small child.  He couldn’t have been older than eight and had dirty smudges on his hands, face, and clothes. 

            “Please help me,” the child begged Lan as they faced one another.

            “Get lost, kid,” Lan returned in a harsh, slightly shuddering voice.  Fully relieved and relaxed, Lan turned to go back into the bar to continue his daily ritual of drinking till exhaustion. 

            “Father,” the kid sobbed.  Lan, now at the door, stopped in his tracks at that word.  A tear rolled from his eye at that word and those painful memories came back into his heart.  He had kept them hidden for so long that he had even forgotten about them.  Sounds of screaming and glass breaking and bullets flying filled his intoxicated brain.  The image of his family, wife and children, bloody and tattered on the ground filled his vision.  The last image he remembers is that of a figure shrouded in a motionless, black cloak.  The toxic alcohol only caused him to become more disillusioned.  Somehow, this child had stirred his hidden memories from their resting place and they now threatened to overwhelm Lan again.  That word had also miraculously sobered him completely up.  He turned to the lone child and said:

            “OK, kid, you win.  You can come with me.”

            Lan took the child’s hand and walked down the dark, lonely alleys towards his small home.

 

New Dawn

Lork ran down the small alley and turned onto one of the major streets.  He flew by all sorts of craft and food shops that lined the gloomy road on either side, gaining curses from many people that had to jump out of his way before he trampled them down.  Then, just as those people regained their places, they were again thrown aside by the police force that followed Lork’s trail.  Putting on an all out burst of speed, he raced down another side alley.  Turning another corner quickly, he threw himself into a large culvert opening on the side of a building and shrank down into the darkness.  The sound of heavy boots passed his hiding place just moments after he jumped in.  They didn’t see him and ran past the culvert, down to the next street.  Lork waited for some time to pass before he emerged from the culvert.

From this spot, which he had used in the past to escape the sharks, as they were called in the underworld, in the same fashion, it was not a long walk to his small home.  Some thirty minutes later, he stepped into his little apartment in an old, crumbling building that he shared with his father and teacher, Lan.  The aging man stood over the stove that held a pot of boiling water.  Lork could smell the herbs Lan had added to the water for flavor.  Lan asked:

            “You were chased again?”

            “Yes,” Lork replied “the sharks must have sent reports out to their agencies around here for them to know my face.”

            “I believe they must be trying to finally bring their law down here to the underworld if they have put out the faces of us in the resistance.  This could lead to some trouble in communicating if we don’t do something fast.  Did you at least accomplish your mission?”

            Lork grinned.  “Of course.”  He pulled out the contents of his sack.  The synthetic chicken carcass was slightly damaged from the intense run, but remained intact and would serve as a good meal.  Lan took it from Lork and lowered it into the pot.  The small kitchen had only a single sink, stove and small oven and was only big enough to accommodate one person.  Lork stood in the living/dining area of the home.  It was furnished with two rusting metal chairs and a wooden table.  One other chair was in the room, a Lazy-boy recliner that Lan used to read in.  The chair had a tall standing lamp next to it and faced a fireplace.  An old, ratty rug covered the cold cement floor.  The room’s only extension, the bedroom, with its bathroom, was adjacent to the kitchen.  A pile of books sat on the stand next to the bed.

            “Clean up,” Lan said, “dinner will be ready soon.  There’s hardly any meat on it for God’s sakes.  Next time if your going to go through the trouble of getting chased, pick a better chicken.” 

After the not so filling meal of chicken broth and bread, they gathered up their cloaks and left the house.  The meeting place was far away.  Lork tried to start several conversations, but Lan would have none of it.  After a while, he gave up altogether.  Lan looked deeply troubled by something, but Lork wasn’t going to attempt any more talking until they arrived.

            Several miles later, the two men stood just outside the appointed meeting building.  Lork proceeded to open the door, but was stopped by Lan who broke the silence between the two.

            “Son, before we go in there to find out our fates in this, I want you to know something.”  Lan then paused and seemed to collect his thoughts.  Taking a deep breath and sighing, he continued.  “Since you’ve come into my life, I’ve been a changed man.  No drinking and no more self-pity.  You’ve brought out the best in me, Lork.  For that, I can never repay you.”  He embraced Lork right there in the street.  Lan held onto the taller man for a long time before releasing Lork from his clutches.  Together they entered the building.

 

“As you all have noticed,” Torros said “we are becoming increasingly pressured by the sharks and military forces since they began garrisoning the underworld.  Many of us can’t even walk down the streets here without seeing pictures of our faces hanging from lamp poles on the streets or on the holo-vids.  Something must be done soon before they manage to identify and arrest every one of us.”

            Torros finished his speech but the room stayed silent.  Over 100 resistance leaders and fighters sat and stood in the room.  This was the largest meeting they had ever held in the open like this.  Should the sharks attempt to raid the building now, it would mean disaster for everyone in the room and the resistance as a whole.  Jargan decided to break the silence.  He said:

            “Perhaps we can relocate again.  There are other parts of the city where the police don’t have all the influence that they have here.  The resistance in those areas would gladly welcome us in to help with their efforts.”

            “Relocating is out of the question.  We have been on the run too long.  Our plan is still intact.  If we push it forward just a little bit we can launch it and make all our sacrifice worthwhile.”

            Torros is right.  I don’t believe we have any more time.  Even pushed ahead of schedule, the plan should still be effective.”  That was Camilla speaking up.  She was tall and lean and commanded great respect from everyone in the room.  She was one of the masterminds behind the plan.

            “So we put it to a vote then.  If you vote no, you vote for relocating once again and for putting the plan on the back burner.  If you vote no, you may never get another chance to vote again.  If you vote yes, we push the plan forward and begin its operation immediately.  This will have drastic consequences.  I don’t think I need remind all of you that if we fail, no human in this city will ever live free again.  So let’s vote.  All that say no, raise your hands.”

            Not one arm went into the air.

 

Two days later, Lork was preparing for the upcoming operation.  Torros had sent messages to all the other resistance groups in the city defining the time schedule for the plan.  At midnight tonight it was going to commence.  He strapped on his holster and loaded the 12 shot Colt .45 caliber pistol that the resistance had supplied for him.  It was an old model but made with the quality of days long past.  Then he put on the black leather jacket that had been Lan’s.  It was a perfect fit.  Lork looked in the mirror.  He saw a handsome face with an angular jaw that came down to a focal point on his chin that held a small dimple.  Living in the underworld, it wasn’t unusual to see scars across faces, and Lork was no exception.  His scar ran from his sideburn line to the middle of his right cheek.  Greasy black hair hung to his shoulders and covered his forehead.  As a last measure, he tied a red piece of cloth around his head to keep his hair away from his eyes.  On his mission, he needed no distractions.  There would be enough as it was.

            Lan was sitting at the table just starting to nibble away at his potato and soup.  Another potato and bowl of soup was placed in Lork’s place.  Lork sat and the two ate in silence until they both finished the meal.  Then Lan said:

            Lork, I think there’s something you should know before you leave today.”  He paused and took a deep breath.  “I love you very much, son.  I have taught you everything I have ever known, but I still fear for you.  If I were 15 years younger, I would be doing this mission instead of you.  When you’re out there, don’t hesitate.  Feel through the situation and act with your instinct.  It has kept me alive more times than I like to remember.”  He rose from the table and went to the bedroom.  He came back out with a sword and sheath.  “I want you to have this.  I know that guns seem much more effective but when you get into a close-quarters fight, this will come in very handy, plus you’ve had the training from the best damn swordfighter around.”  Lan grinned and handed it to Lork.  His face took on a more serious complexion then.  “Just do me a favor, kid, come back to me, OK?”

            Lork took the sword and gentle felt its length and strength.  It was light and flexible with a razor sharp straight blade.  He knew how much it meant to his father.  “I won’t let you down.”  Lork strapped the sword upside down on his back so the hilt wouldn’t stick over his head.  He took the long cloak from the hanger and wrapped himself in it.  It was supposed to look like the ones that people on the surface wore.  “Good bye.”  He turned toward the door.

            “One more thing.”  Lan fumbled in his pocket and withdrew a small envelope.  “When you get back, I will explain those.  I just thought you should have them now in case something happens to me down here.”  Lork looked at the contents.  It contained three pictures of children.  He raised a questioning eyebrow at his father but nodded and put the envelope inside his leather coat.  He knew to trust in his father’s judgment.  He had a reason for not telling Lork about them now.  “Good bye, my boy.”

            As Lork left the house, Lan leaned on the doorway watching him lope off.  He knew he left too many things unsaid and felt bad about it.  He didn’t need Lork thinking anything other than the mission ahead.  Even if his entire life was a lie, that would just have to wait.

 

Resistance

            Red surveyed the surrounding buildings, all glowing and sparkling in the bright orange light of the setting sun.  The sight was nothing he hadn’t seen a hundred times before, but every time he looked out over the city at this time, he couldn’t help but stare in awe.  Skyscrapers filled the skyline as far as the eye could see, some so tall that the tops were covered with wispy clouds that streaked the sky.  He stood on the balcony of his office on the 289th floor of the Imperial palace.  The palace was the largest and centermost building in the whole city.  Below him, people walked home from their jobs by way of the skyways that linked the buildings, in effect creating a gigantic steel spider web.  He couldn’t help but grin as he looked out on his city, the grandest and largest city in the entire world.

            A buzz brought him out of his dreamy state.  The pager announced that he had someone waiting for him in his office.  His office was more like a huge hall right out of the middle ages.  It was lined with bright tapestries of antiquity and the floor was covered with a long, red carpet that ran the length of the room, from its huge, wooden doors at one end, to his throne at the other.  The throne was purely a sign of power and for striking awe in those who wished to speak to him.  He rarely sat in it, but made use of the desk at the side of the throne.

            Red was of an intimidating height, with black hair and bright green eyes.  He now looked down on a little man, but one who possessed great strength in his compact frame.  Meshiff, Marshal of the Imperial guard, kneeled to Red, pressing his right fist to the ground and holding his left hand tight behind his back.  He then rose and said:

            “My lord, holographics just confirmed that a large number of residents are on the move in the underworld.  They are gathering in the old gardens as we speak.  Every minute that passes results in the doubling of their numbers.  Soon they will outnumber my men in the underworld.  I believe this is the beginning of a revolt, my Lord.  How do you wish to proceed?”

            Meshiff may have been a strong and smart man, but he always thought by the numbers.  Red knew that there was more to a fight than just numbers.  Raw emotion could not be ruled out of any battle.  Still, the news was troubling.  It would be better to let the rebels gather in their underworld. 

            “We will let them gather, Marshal.  Double the guard at all stations into the upper city, and triple the guard at all the power plants.”  Red gave the Marshal the orders in a flat voice.  He didn’t get where he was today by showing emotion at the wrong times.  The Marshal rose and saluted Red, turned on his heel and marched from the hall.

            Red didn’t secure his post by throwing away lives.  An attack on the gathering in the old gardens would have been a disaster for any force he could send at the rebels.  He would not give them the luxury of having home field advantage.

            It has begun.  The voice pounded in Red’s head, causing a brief moment of nausea that quickly subsided.  Then the voice spoke again:

            This rebellion is not what it seems.  Now is a time to be cautious and on guard.  Remember, when he comes, you must bring him to me.  Is that clear?

            “Yes, I will bring him to you,” Red spoke out loud to no one.  The hall may have been empty but Red knew that he was never alone.  That would all change soon.

 

The explosion a couple blocks away indicated that the operation was in motion.  Lork already had his team past the checkpoints and into the upper city by that time.  Dressed in cloaks that resembled those worn by pedestrians here, Lork led his small team of six towards their objective.  They had only small arms and bladed weapons, as they would be the most useful and easy to handle if it came to a fight with the local law enforcement.  However they would be heavily outgunned. 

            Lork led the team through the buildings and over skyways by the map he had memorized in his head.  They arrived at a small outcropping on the side of a low building.  A large hovertruck soon pulled up to the side of the building and the team jumped in.  This truck was flown by an inside resistance member who’s identity was only known to the few leaders of the movement, not even Lork new the man’s name.  The garbage truck swerved and cut around buildings until it reached the Imperial palace, where it pulled up to a garbage vent.  Lork and his team climbed from the truck into the vent, walking on the small walkway designed for the controlled mechanical workers of the upper city.  With a last wave to the driver, they began making their way into the Imperial palace.

 

The monitors showed complete chaos enveloping the stations between the underworld and the upper city, essentially between night and day.  The rebellious mob had swelled to huge numbers and was now concentrating their attack on a few seemingly random stations throughout the city.  So far, the double garrison of troops was holding each station, but that wasn’t what bothered Red.  The revolt had the effect of drawing attention and that was what Red believed it had been planned to do.  Somewhere, he was missing something, something that he couldn’t afford to miss.  His life depended on that.  He began checking the palace’s video cameras.  That’s when the alarms went off.

 

Although the garbage vent had been disgusting and hard to climb, it was the easy part of the mission.  Lork’s team now was about to pass through the security checkpoint that would grant them access to the upper part of the palace, most importantly, to the throne room.  His heart raced as he presented his forged identity pass to the guard.  The big man wearing the badge took a look at Lork, then at the pass, then at Lork again.  Noting the name and office number, the guard handed the pass back and waved him through.  Lork walked slowly forward, stalling until the rest of his team was through.  Staying together was imperative. 

            The last team member made it through and Lork let go a heavy breath.  He turned around to begin walking when he met eyes with the last man in the world he thought he would see.  The same shark that had chased Lork just four nights ago looked at Lork.  The man went on walking another few steps before doing a double take.  He grabbed the guard next to him and yelled:

            “Stop, you!”  The cry echoed down the hall and brought the attention of all the guards at the checkpoint.

            “Run!”  Lork shouted.  He and the team took off at a dead sprint down the hall.  Alarms began screaming along with all of the workers in the area.  “Move into phase two.”  The group split, two men following Lork and the other three going down a different hall. 

            Guards appeared in front of Lork with guns drawn.  He dove for the floor just as a bullet flew by his head, drawing and firing his gun at the same moment.  One guard ran for cover but the other stayed in the open on a knee.  Lork’s teammate, Zander, snipped off a round that caught the guard in the arm, shattering bone and spraying blood.  Heart racing, Lork rose and squeezed off three shots at the wall the other man was hiding behind.  They penetrated and the man fell in a bloody heap.  The team began running again.  They rounded a corner expecting to find the entrance to the throne room; instead, they found only a bulkhead door impeding their way.  They were trapped.  Dozens of guards rounded the corner, all with guns drawn.

            “Stop this,” a voice said over the speaker system, “drop your weapons and you will be given quarter.  Attempt any more heroics, and you will be shot down where you stand.”

            Lork lowered his gun and his team wisely followed suit.  He had just put his hands in the air when an electric shock hit him.  Searing pain ripped through his muscles, convulsing and paralyzing him.  Lork lost his senses and fell to the floor.

 

Birthright

Red entered the holding cell of the rebel leader.  The man hung suspended from the wall by a pulso-pneumatic field that held his arms and feet.  He had lean muscles hardened over long years of life in the underworld and a look that Red just couldn’t quite place in his head.  He wasn’t sure if this was the first time he had seen this man.  Red admired the young man’s courage.  No man could have volunteered for the mission without a large amount of courage and hate for the government.  He had already learned most of what these people had attempted to do by infiltrating the palace.  If only they knew the real truth about the ‘emperor,’ he thought.

            The table that stood before him held all the things this prisoner had on him when he was captured.  He noted the sword; it had a precise balance to it and a sharp blade.  That would be something worth keeping when this interrogation was over.  The envelope sitting at the corner of the table spurred his curiosity.  Red took the envelope up in his hands and felt the aged paper.  He opened it and pulled out the three pictures that were inside.  He realized why he felt so awkward around this man.

            There he and Lork were playing on the new swing set their father had brought home that day.  Red pushed Lork back and forth laughing at Lork’s apparent uneasy swinging on the new toy.  The grass felt soft and cool to his feet.  He dug his toes in and felt the moist dirt squish between them and get into his nails.  The sun was at its peak, focusing its strong waves and warmth onto the two children as they played in the yard.  Their parents, now only a fuzzy blur in Red’s memories, clung to each other and smiled at their two beautiful children.

            Shift.

            It was Lork’s fifth birthday and there was a party at the house.  Lork sat at the head of the table surrounded by his presents wrapped in beautiful, shining paper.  These days always made Red jealous.  He never got as many presents as Lork did.  His parents loved Lork more than they did him!  Sitting there, glum and grim, Red watched Lork open all his packages to find brand new toys and games.  Then Lork ripped into his last present.  He came up with the one thing Red had really ever wanted and hadn’t gotten his last birthday.  It was Radio-Active Man’s new Radioactive mobile.  It could shoot crippling radiation from the headlights and even had an ejector seat.  Red couldn’t take it.  He rose from the table and stormed off to his room, slamming the door behind him.  He sat on the floor, wallowing in his own self-pity, tears streaming from his eyes, when a knock came at the door.  He threw the door open, ready to yell at his parents as they came to console him; instead, he looked down to where little Lork stood.  Lork held up his new toy and said, “Want to play?”  Red and Lork then sat on the rug and played for hours with all of the new toys.  From that moment on, Red had supreme love and respect for his little brother, who was so pure of heart.  Red vowed then that he would always love Lork.

            Shift.

            Red and Lork walked up the driveway towards the house.  This had been Lork’s first day at school.  They talked about it, Red being in second grade and clearly the more knowledgeable person on the topic.  Red teased Lork saying that if you didn’t do your work in school that the teachers would come and take something very dear to you, like toys.  Lork said that he would never let them have his toys; he would fight them before he let them have his toys.  Red said that Lork didn’t stand a chance against an adult but they agreed that later tonight they would assault their father to see how they could do.  That was the last happy memory that Red had.  They entered the house.

            The interior of the house was in shambles.  The sun was setting and its golden glow lit up the shattered picture glass covering the floors.  Furniture was split and scattered all over the house along with dishes, ornaments, glasses, and family pictures.  Lork began to cry and Red shouted for his parents.  From around a corner came a man dressed all in black with a kind of gas mask on.  The eyes on the mask glowed yellow, filling the darkening room with amber light.  He snatched up Red in his arms and began to walk to the door.  Little Lork attacked the man, kicking at his shins in a vein attempt to save his brother.  The attempt was hopeless.  The man kicked Lork to the ground and continued to the door.

            A black van now sat in the drive.  The masked man opened the door and tossed Red inside.  He stood in the door and spoke to Red.  “The revolution is over, little one.  Your life is over.”  With these words, he closed the door and the van slowly rolled toward the street.  A cry pierced the air.  Lork was running after the van that held Red, still hoping to free his older brother.  Red began to cry.  Suddenly another masked man swept Lork up in a powerful grasp.

            The memories faded.

           

That was the last time Red thought he would see Lork.  He had been mistaken.  That person hanging there life-less, the leader of the rebel group, was his brother, the only kin he had left in the world.  Red turned to the one way mirror and said:

            “Wake the prisoner.”  Moments later, Lork bobbed his head as his senses came back to him.  He took in the room with a quick glance then looked at Red.  His eyes opened so wide, Red thought they would fall out of his head.  Red moved to the front of the room and punched a few buttons.  The camera and microphones in the room were now shut off.  “Hello, brother.”

            “Red, is that really you?  I never thought I would see you again,” Lork said.  He attempted to approach Red but was resisted by the electric fields.  “Red, what are you doing here, aren’t you with us?”  Red had to smile at this.  Because they were brothers, Lork thought that Red automatically with the resistance, like he was.  Red replied back:

            Lork, we were separated.  I had no idea what became of you.  They brought me here to this city.  Our father was apparently wrapped up in a conspiracy against the Emperor.  Not long after, war enveloped the world.  We were victorious here, and as a result came to control the entire country.  You and I grew up totally different.  I was trained as a warrior and rose through the ranks.  Now I control the city.”  Fear and comprehension dawned on Lork’s face.  “That’s right, brother.  You came here to kill me.”

            “No, you would never do this after seeing what they did to our parents,” was Lork’s reply.

            “When you live here, you learn to do whatever you can to gain a higher position.  I had to become ruthless, Lork.  It was the only way for me to survive.  You though, Lork, cause me endless trouble.  I look into your eyes, and I see our mother.  She was beautiful.  I remember her like it was yesterday, Lork.  I still hurt because of what they did, but they took me, and not you.  I have my destiny, and you have yours.”

            “You would kill your last surviving blood on this world, for a monstrous city?”

            “No, Lork.  I will not be the one to kill you.  Come, there is someone who wishes to meet you.  He will make your destiny clear.”

 

Loyalties

Red led the way down the corridor, followed by Lork in shackles and a dozen guards that walked in his wake.  He had a sword buckled to his hip.  Lork took in every detail of the place; he knew that if he were to escape, he would have to know his way around this mammoth building.  Finally, the group came to a huge wooden door.  All the guards turned on their heels and left Lork there alone with his brother.  The doors opened and the two entered.  The hall was huge, with a long red carpet that ran to a huge throne.  But this was not where Red took Lork.  Instead, he walked to a corner of the room and pressed a button hidden on the wall.  The wall opened, revealing a small elevator.  They both got in and it took them down.

            “This elevator goes to a room where my master waits.  It is in your underworld, ironically.  You have probably walked by this place many times in your little life.  Don’t look so dumbfounded.  What better place to have the seat of power that rules the city than right in front of those who wish every day for its destruction.  My master truly is brilliant.”  Red spoke no more as the elevator descended into the underworld. 

            The elevator opened to a large open room.  It was plain and had no furnishings whatsoever.  Dim light radiated from the center of the room from the small light fixture on the ceiling.  Red and Lork stepped into the room and the door closed behind them.  At first Lork thought there was no one else in the room.  Then a shadow stirred behind the light, just out of sight.  Fear enveloped Lork as he saw two red eyes looking at him from the shadows.  The creature stepped from the darkness into the edge of the light.  It wore a great black cloak that covered its entire body; only its eyes were visible.  The terrible things pierced Lork and he heard a voice in his head.

            You have come to me at last.  Blood calls to blood and finally I have you here, brought by your blood, to be sacrificed by your blood.  The voice was that of the creature.

            “What are you talking about?”  Lork questioned the rambling of the monster. 

            Red stepped forward.  “I have brought him as you requested, master.  Now what would you have of me?”

            The creature spoke again, but both Lork and Red could hear its shrill voice now.

            The Spotless Mind must be formed to bring me a new existence.  This body and mind grow weak, so long I have inhabited them.  A new one I now seek.  The Spotless Mind must be formed.  Then the voice changed.  Only Lork could hear it now.  Kill your brother!

            The thought hit Lork’s mind like a hammer.  Suddenly, as if grasped by another person, he came to a decision.  The idea seemed to make perfect sense to Lork.  Ties of blood were strong, but his loyalty to his new master was stronger.  A sword fell from the hand of his master and landed at Lork’s feet.  At the same instant, his shackles came undone as if by a mysterious power.  He picked it up and drew the mighty blade.  It was Lan’s sword.

            “You have betrayed me!”  Red yelled.  He drew his own sword just in time to parry Lork’s first attack.  Lork struck again and again, blows just missing Red or being parried away at the last instant before they met flesh.  Then Red began a counter attack.  He deliberately feinted at Lork’s legs to get him to lower his guard and came right back up to strike at Lork’s now exposed head.  The younger brother just dodged the attack, losing only a couple of hairs to his sibling’s sword.

            The fight grew heated.  Each attack was turned back only to be charged again by the other.  Blades clashed in rapid succession that even the fighters had a hard time following the shining steel.  Low to high, side to side they attacked and parried in an elaborate dance created by the swirling steel deaths.  Each bore numerous red stains on their clothes, but the fatal blow had not yet been struck.  The brothers gasped for breath as they separated.  Red favored his right side where Lork had gotten a good swipe at his leg.  However, Lork’s sword arm was now almost completely useless thanks to one of Red’s feints.

            Suddenly Red lunged.  Lork dodged the attack at the last instant and ran for a wall, closely followed by his brother.  He did not stop at the wall.  Instead, he ran straight up it and flipped over Red.  He blade glided easily into Red’s back.  The man screamed with pain.  Lork, with his sword still imbedded in his sibling’s back, guided his brother toward the light where the creature stood.  Once there he quickly removed the steel and Red fell to his knees before Lork’s new master. 

             By this time, Lork’s mind held nothing but hate.  Hate for his life and his brother.  His master walked around the crippled warrior and stood before Lork.  His spell completely controlled Lork now.  There was no escape for the young warrior.

            You have beaten your brother and killed the only blood left to you on this earth.  Would you now become the Spotless Mind and take your brother’s place at my side?

            “I would do what you would have of me, my master,” was Lork’s reply.  With that, Lork could feel his mind empty of all things.  Nothing existed any longer inside him.  He was empty.

            Take your last breath as Lork.  The creature pulled back its hood.  A hideously scarred and contorted bald head, twisted with evil, it’s red eyes glowing bright, look at Lork.  White, skeleton hands grasped the side of Lork’s head so that he could not move.  He still did not feel fear however.  The beast opened its mouth and prepared to transfer is demonic spirit into a new host. 

            In this state, Lork still recognized the sound of a knife being drawn from its sheath, the wisp of that blade through the air, and the sound of steel penetrating flesh.  The monster shrieked an ear piercing sound and the spell that held Lork vanished.  He stood there confused, only to find Red standing with a knife in the back of the beast.

            “Get the sword!”  Red yelled and Lork was quick to comply.  Taking up the weapon, Lork prepared the fatal strike.  The voice rang inside his head.

            Kill him.  He is trying to take what is yours.  Destroy him!  With this last mental temptation in his mind, Lork brought the blade down on his enemy.

 

The scarred, white head rolled on the ground, oozing black blood.  The body went limp and fell to the floor at Lork’s feet.  He dropped the sword and took up his brother.  He carried the larger man to the elevator.  Once there he turned to survey the room for a last time.  Fear rose up inside Lork.  The headless body of the creature was on its feet and walking towards them.  Not even thinking, reacting on instinct, Lork took Lan’s sharp sword and stabbed through the heart of the headless being.  It contorted and collapsed in on itself, shrinking smaller and smaller.  Finally, in one last defiant burst, it expelled all its dark energy, which rose in a great dome that enveloped the whole city, although ordinary people couldn’t see it.  Everybody stopped where they were and looked around them.  They took in the city as if for the first time, like they had just stepped out of a dream.  The monster’s spell was broken.  The city was free.  Humanity was free.

 

© 2005 by the author