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| There Ain't No Justice |
| #44 |
- Final Mission -
On the street corner, a holovision blared the latest official news.
"The filthy traitor who attacked the hospital yesterday has been arrested.
The Emperor in his wisdom shall deal with this scum personally. All hail
the emperor!" The passers-by all stopped in their tracks and saluted with
their left hands on their hearts, a common ritual. The picture switched to
the blue- and-white starfield of the United Stellar Empire's flag.
Elsewhere, Cal Danning was sitting alone in his cell, his head down.
His black hair was knotted and messy from its recent neglect, and a day's
growth of beard covered his chin. His brown eyes seemed to be looking
inward. The holovision in the room was permanently locked on the official
news. Lies as usual. He had never attacked a hospital at all. It had been a
He heard a shrill beep as the lock on the door opened. Five inches of
titanium steel slid back to reveal armed and armored guards. They were at
least ten inches taller than his 5'6 stature and were built like
linebackers. They made him look like a flimsy twig. The black composite
body armor made them look still more formidable. The larger one said, "Come
The large one walked out the door, and Cal docilely followed. The
smaller one brought up the rear. They proceeded through long corridors,
until they entered a huge open room. They bound him securely to a pole,
with his hands behind his back and every inch restrained by heavy cords
that bit into his skin. Then they stood at attention on either side of him.
At last, the moment came that he had been hoping against hope for,
knowing all too well the reliability of the news reports. His Highness,
Emperor Joran II, son of the architect of the Empire, entered the room with
his full retinue of bodyguards, attendants, and ministers of state.
Cal was born on Ratrira, the capital of the Empire. He was raised in a
politically orthodox home. He had heard of the Cabal, but had been told
they were evildoers who raped and slaughtered women and children and warned
to turn in any Cabalists he might spot.
He grew up in Foofootra, a city near the capital city of Yatrirtra. He
attended all the Sons of Empire meetings and generally lived a good,
patriotic life, at least outwardly. But he found that something was
missing. When he lay alone in bed at night, he would think, and he would
think of doing unimaginable things...letting his facial hair grow, or
walking the streets in darkness, alone.
He was in his teens when he met Bil. As he got to know Bil he noticed
the boy had strange habits. He said strange things. As it turned out, Bil
was part of the Cabal. Cal considered turning them in, but he knew that his
hunger, his emptiness, would go on forever unfilled. He wanted something
different and unimaginable, and...here it was! He soon joined the Cabal
Cal was trained as an assassin/terrorist. He went around bombing
government buildings and shooting policemen and officials. He was greatly
skilled at his "job". He had gone on hundreds of assignments without
getting caught. Until now, that is.
The emperor wasn't nearly as imposing in person as on holovision. He
wondered how many rooms full of image distorters it took to make this
short, stout man look tall and regal. His blond hair was nearly hidden
beneath the Imperial Crown. His bloodshot blue eyes regarded Cal with
distaste. He would have been a laughable figure if this wasn't so deadly
serious. As it was, his personal bodyguards looked more than imposing
enough to make up for him.
The Emperor mumbled to himself, "This could be entertaining." Then,
aloud, he commanded Cal, "You will tell us who has sent you. If the answer
is useful to us, we may decide to let you live for a time."
Cal would never have betrayed the Cabal, even without the hypnotic
blocks against torture and truth drugs that had been implanted in his mind
by a Cabal psychosurgeon. He defiantly called back to the Emperor, "Never!
I would die first!"
Emperor Joran smiled, a cold and feral grimace with no hint of humor
in it. "You leave us no choice, then, Mr. Danning. Guards! Bring in the
As the guards left to retrieve that great expert in pain, Cal
restrained himself from smiling the same smile.
It was after midnight when Han escorted him into Jef's office, deep in
the mazelike sub-basements of Jaycees. The room was small, austere, and
dim. File folders sat in neat stacks on the Sector Chief's desk. Cal
reported and stood quietly. Cabalists never saluted.
Jef spoke in his usual businesslike manner. "Cal, you have been chosen
for a very important mission. I can't order you to do this one. It's not
just risky. It's nearly certain death."
"Whatever it is, if it helps to destroy the Empire and bring freedom
to the worlds, I'll do it."
"Very well, then. Your mission is to kill the Emperor. Be warned that
to do so will almost certainly require your death."
"I am prepared to die. But how this possibly be done? You know the
security that surrounds the Emperor's palace."
"True. But he is known to be overconfident, thinking he is perfectly
safe in there. It has been rumored that he sometimes oversees the torture
of his prisoners personally. This can put a Cabal agent within easy
"But what can he do once there? He would be bound so tight he could
hardly breathe, much less fight. And any weapon would be taken from him."
"Well that is where our new development comes in. It is an atomic
bomb, made of Californium. It will be implanted in your breastbone, and
coated with lead. It will pass their scanners. The fools only use X-rays.
The only problem is that it's unreliable. The size of the explosion is hard
"I'll change it. And how will I detonate the bomb?"
"There is a keyword you must whisper. It doesn't matter if you are
gagged. The detonator will still recognize the word."
"I'll do it. How do I start?"
"Hit the Emperor where it hurts. Destroy a secret police headquarters.
Utterly. No need for discretion, you're meant to get caught."
The torturer was here. He was setting up the thumb screws. The Emperor
said, "One last chance for you to reconsider. If you tell us now the names
of your co-conspirators, we shall let you die quickly. Come, now. It is
time for you to come clean."
"No, Your Lowness, it is time for YOU to DIE!!!"
Cal's scream was followed by a whispered word, then all was heat and
light. The Cabal's scientists had not let him down.
The passers-by on the street corner stopped and hid their eyes from
the blinding flash of light, then stared at the mushroom-shaped cloud
rising from the center of the city.
The holovision shrilled a loud alarm. "This is an emergency bulletin.
Activities of the evil underground group known as the Cabal are increasing
rapidly. All citizens are advised to stay off of the streets. If we all
work together and maintain our solidarity, His Majesty's forces will soon
have this situation--AAaaagh!" The news anchor slumped over on his desk,
his head a bloody wreck. Someone shoved his body roughly from his chair and
sat down in his place.
The new face proclaimed, "This is Freedom Network. We have taken over
this broadcasting station for the people of Ratrira. The Emperor is dead;
his palace is a radioactive crater. It is hereby declared that Ratrira is
The passers-by watched, dumbstruck. They hardly knew what to do.
Fifty years later, in Foofootra's Central Park, an old woman and her
four- year-old granddaughter were admiring the beautiful metallite statue
in the central square. The girl's eyes lit up with wonder.
"Grandma, who is that?"
"That's Cal Danning, our greatest hero. He came from right around
here, you know. Way back when I was your mother's age, he saved us from the
Emperor. He gave his life to bring freedom to this land. And that's why
we're all free people here now. I heard the Constitution we have now is
based on one from someplace called the United States of America. Only ours
is much better. The United States turned into a tyranny somehow, I heard.
Well, they said they fixed the problem up. You mother would know that
better than I would. She was almost born free, she grew up with the
The grandmother was still talking as they walked away down a dirt path
set into the grass of the park. The girl stared back over her shoulder, her
eyes still wide.
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