Bewildering Stories

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The Soul Hunter

part 4

by Michael J A Tyzuk

“The Soul Hunter” began in issue 97.
Part 3 appeared in issue 99.

Now that we knew what it was that we needed to do and why, we needed to figure out just how we were going to do it. There wasn’t any way that we could plan every single aspect of the operation, and we knew it, because there were just too many variables, but we could plan how we were going to find this soul hunter of ours.

We were all pretty much agreed that Dorian was feeding on the souls he was taking, and we were also agreed that this kind of activity would leave behind a trail of bodies, which we could use to isolate the areas he was operating in and maybe figure out where he was going to be. Once we knew that then we could try to intercept him and take him down.

We were certainly right about him leaving behind a trail of bodies. The uniformed constables that we set to the task of tracking Dorian reported no less than twenty more victims in a thirty block radius centered on one of the cities industrial parks. The neighborhood in question was ringed by several residential developments, and thus would prove to be an almost ideal place for him to feed, and the presence of the industrial park would give him a perfect place to hide. There were other reasons in favor of us starting our operations out there, but mostly it just felt right.

Alan and I had originally intended to handle this by ourselves and leave the Navy boy downtown at the station, but Kevin rightfully pointed out that Dorian might be more than the two of us could handle so I reluctantly agreed to bring Richardson along with us under the condition that he agreed that I was in command of the operation, and that he agreed to take orders from me. It surprised me when Richardson agreed to those conditions, for I had expected him to refuse.

I mentioned that to Alan while the two of us were getting ready to head out, and that’s when Alan told me that Richardson’s decision hadn’t surprised him in the least. “Tamara,” he told me, “the man is on a mission, just like we are, and the discipline of the service requires that he do whatever he has to in order to carry out his orders. If that means taking orders from a local detective sergeant then that means taking orders from a local detective sergeant. The fact that he agreed means that he has a certain amount of discretion in the way he carries out his orders, but that may not necessarily be a good thing.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked.

Alan smiled a wry smile. “There’s a little known and seldom used clause in the Armed Forces regulation books, and the heading reads Unusual Breadth of Discretion. Basically what it means is that for certain missions the officer tasked with carrying out the mission is free to use whatever means he feels are necessary to accomplish his objective, but everything he does is going to be subject to review. If the review board likes the way that he handled things and endorses his solution then he’s likely to get a medal and Her Majesty’s Thanks. If the review board takes issue with anything that happens on the mission then the officer in question can look forward to a dishonorable discharge and a life sentence on a prison colony, the kind where life expectancy is measured in hours. I guess you could say that on the one hand it’s a compliment to be given that kind of mission, but on the other hand every officer dreads the day when they may see that heading in their orders. They live in fear of it.”

“So you think that heading appeared in Richardson’s orders,” I surmised.

Alan nodded. “I’m willing to bet vital parts of someone else’s anatomy that this mission of his falls under the heading of Unusual Breadth of Discretion. And I’m also willing to bet that he’s so deathly afraid of failing that he’s willing to do just about anything to make this work.”

I grinned. “Surely you wouldn’t be betting any parts of my anatomy,” I teased.

Alan returned my grin. “I might be tempted,” he answered, “but if I did then there’s always the possibility that I might not be able to make use of them myself later on.”

“Oh really? And what uses did you have in mind?”

Alan seemed to consider the question for a moment. “Let me put it this way: handcuffs, whipped cream, maraschino cherries, spurs, a jug or two of wine, and thou.” “Sounds good. I kind of like the thought of you handcuffed.”

“The handcuffs aren’t for me. Neither are the spurs.”

“What are the spurs for?”

“In case we start horsing around. Ouch! Why do women do that?”

“Why do women do what?”

“Why do women resort to physical violence when they can’t think of a witty retort? Ouch! What the hell was that for?”

“I couldn’t think of a witty retort so I resorted to physical violence.”

While Alan and I were gearing up, Kevin made a few calls to the Mayor’s office and the Commissioner, who gave him the authority to call up all of the Special Weapons and Tactics teams from each division in the city. They were all waiting for us when we left the station.

Richardson managed to make a contribution of his own too. I don’t know how he was able to do it, but there was at least a complete division of Rangers waiting for us at the location we had picked to set up our command post. I thought about the wisdom of asking, but in the end I decided against it.

Alan and I discussed the best tactics to follow with Richardson, and between the three of us we came up with a workable plan. We would use the SWAT constables and the Rangers to set up both an inner and an outer perimeter, with the constables on the inner line and the Rangers on the outer line to provide back up. Richardson would come with Alan and I on a walking tour of the cordoned off zone in an attempt to draw out Doctor Hunter. We were using ourselves as bait, and truthfully I really didn’t mind. If that bastard wanted to feed on souls he was welcome to try to feed on mine, and he wasn’t getting it without a fight. I think that Alan felt the same way. I didn’t bother to ask Richardson.

Richardson wanted to bring a company of Rangers into the zone with us, to sweeten the pot, he said. I was all for having the extra firepower handy, but something happened that gave me pause. Richardson introduced me to the company commander, a Captain, and briefed him on our mission. The captain listened intently, then came to attention, saluted Richardson, and requested permission to sack the city. I could hear Alan stifling a chuckle behind me.

Richardson frowned. “Permission to sack the city denied,” he answered. “Now, do you have anything constructive to contribute to this operation?”

“That was my constructive contribution, sir,” the captain answered.

“You’re kidding me.”

“I’m a Ranger, sir. I have no sense of humor that I’m aware of.”

Alan stifled another chuckle.

“Why do you want to sack the city?” Richardson demanded.

“Sir, it seems to me that this hunter of ours would find the pickings a lot slimmer in a city that had been sacked and occupied by trained military forces. This would serve to bring him out into the open where he could be dealt with quickly and efficiently, and with extreme prejudice.”

“Very well,” Richardson replied. “Now, what’s the other reason?”

The captain shrugged and looked sheepish. “Well, you see, it’s been a while since the lads have been in a major operation and the one thing we haven’t done in this service is sack a city and I just thought it would be good practice for the boys. Sir.”

I was sorely tempted to grin but managed to restrain myself. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Alan folded over the hood of a speeder, his body shaking with silent chuckles. Richardson shook his head and tried not to be too obvious about the fact that he was hiding a smile too.

“Permission to join the perimeter contingent granted,” he said.

The captain aye aye’d, saluted, turned on his heel, and sprinted away. That’s why we didn’t take the Rangers into the zone with us.

Alan and I went into the zone with our traditional sidearms, but we were also carrying some extra gear. Richardson had seen fit to obtain a set of Marine armor for each of us, which caused Kevin to breathe a sigh of relief. I had toyed with the notion of going in there with the armor that our SWAT teams use, which is actually quite good, but I wasn’t all that sure it would keep the talisman from working its magic. Since Doctor Hunter wasn’t carrying any traditional weapons, we wouldn’t need the armor to protect us from blast impacts, so there just didn’t seem to be any point in taking along the extra weight.

I hadn’t been intending to use the Marine armor either, until I saw just how much better the military stuff was compared to the police models. For starters, the helmet had a small scale sensor suite built into it. The repeater display for the sensor flashed against the inner surface of our visors, which only came down to the tips of our noses. The communications gear built into the helmets was exceptional, too, and was easily calibrated to broadcast on the police operational frequency. There were a few other bells and whistles, too, making me long for the chance to try them all out. However, I knew there wasn’t time.

One other thing. Marines are trained that you can’t rely on just the one weapon, and their armor reflects that. There was a holster on each hip for a standard issue sidearm. Just underneath the holster an impressive array of fighting and throwing knives was strapped to the thigh. Again, this arrangement was repeated on both legs.

I wasn’t all that sure why, but I had a feeling that the knives were going to come in handy.

Richardson commandeered a suit of armor for himself and came with us into the zone. When I asked him why he wasn’t just sitting this one out he said that ultimately the entire mission was his responsibility, and he just wouldn’t feel good about making us police types take all the risk while he sat on his ass in a nice comfortable speeder and waited. I still wasn’t all that happy about the way that he had lied to us, but when he signed on to go with us into the zone I started to respect him a little more. Maybe he actually hadn’t had much of a choice in what he told us. Really, it didn’t matter any more. He was sharing the risk, and that earned him points in my book.

I’m pretty sure that Alan felt the same way.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2004 by Michael J A Tyzuk

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