Bewildering Stories

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The Soul Hunter


by Michael J A Tyzuk

“The Soul Hunter” began in issue 97.
Part 4 appeared in issue 100.

It didn’t take us long to find evidence that the Doctor had been active. We were barely an hour into the search when we found the first body. Less than five minutes after that we found the second body a couple of blocks I’m not going to try to describe what it was like to see what the Doctor had done to those people. Truth be told, I don’t think that I can, there just aren’t any words for it. I’ve never been able to come up with any, and I don’t think that Alan ever was either.

I never bothered to ask Richardson what he felt when he saw those victims. Maybe he felt nothing, but I don’t believe that to be the case. It occurs to me that my initial judgement of the man may have been somewhat flawed. At first I was suspicious of him because he was lying to us and I knew that he was lying to us. Not only was he lying to us, but he was so bloody casual about it too, as if he did that kind of thing every day.

But the more I was exposed to him, the more I came to understand how much he hated the orders that he was given and the people who had given them to him. You could see his displeasure in his eyes when he looked at the victims. A whole brigade of emotions passed across his face; pity, sorrow, anger, helplessness. Another thing, you could see in his eyes a desire to want to do something about it all. He wanted to stop the slaughter, wanted it in the worst way, and he also wanted a shot at the bastard who was doing this to these innocent people.

They were innocent, too, all of them. Every single person that the Doctor assaulted was someone who had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. And for that one moment of bad luck the fates had decided that the ultimate price, one far worse than any death of the body, must be paid.

I’ve always believed that life just ain’t fair sometimes, but it was this case that proved it to me. Then I allowed myself to forget that one little lesson, and that moment of inattention had cost me the life of someone who I loved more than life itself. I don’t think that I will ever be able to forgive myself for that one.

We found the Doctor waiting for us at the end of a dead-end alley between two warehouses. He stood silent between the two buildings, his arms folded across his chest and an insolent grin on his face. The grin widened when he saw us, and he beckoned us forward. “So, you have finally found me,” he said. “That is good, although more for me than it will be for you.”

“If you think that you’re going to take us without a fight,” Richardson replied, “you’re wrong, Dorian.”

The Doctor arched his brow. “So, you have translated the runes.”

Richardson grinned. “We didn’t have to,” he said. “Your host’s colleagues did it for us. You just neglected to destroy their notes and records.”

The Doctor cocked his head. “Perhaps it was not neglect,” he offered. “Perhaps I wanted you to find me. Perhaps I wanted the challenge of hunting someone who would fight back. These locals are so incapable. I do hope you and your companions can do better.”

Alan shrugged. “The only thing that we plan to give you is a case of indigestion,” he said.

The Doctor clapped his hands. “Ah, you have spirit!” he crowed. “Excellent. And what of the young lady? Does she share your sentiment?”

“Stick your neck out a little farther and we’ll find out,” was my answer.

The Doctor gave a very theatrical bow. “As you wish, Milady,” he said. The Doctor sprinted forward, covering the distance between us in a matter of just over a second. None of the three of us had an opportunity to fire our weapons, and that made it a hand to hand slugging match.

Richardson was the first to engage him. He pivoted and drove his right shoulder into the Doctor’s chest, but somehow the Doctor evaded the charge and swept Richardson’s legs out from under him. His hands darted into his jacket pocket and came out holding the talisman. He dropped to one knee and drove the talisman down towards the fallen lieutenant. Alan came out of nowhere pounded the Doctor with a full body tackle that sent the two of them rolling across the duracrete away from Richardson. The Doctor came out on top and maneuvered the talisman closer to Alan, who responded by head-butting the Doctor. The Doctor lay there on top of Alan, dazed and confused, which gave me the opportunity I needed to close and administer a good solid kick to the Doctor’s face. He rolled away from Alan and I stepped over beside him and reached for my binders. The Doctor grabbed my ankle and yanked me down to the ground. His elbow was poised over my face to administer a finishing blow but he never got the chance. Richardson came up out of nowhere, grabbed the Doctor and hauled him to his feet. He pivoted and moved to throw the Doctor into the wall, but the Doctor anticipated and made his own pivot, which slammed Richardson face-first into the wall.

I jumped to my feet and turned to the Doctor just as his fist came at me. I cross-blocked, turned, and rammed my free arm into the side of his neck. My hands went to the Doctor’s chest and I made to push, but he batted my arms apart and drove two stiffened fingers into my belly. I folded and staggered back. Alan’s side-kick took the Doctor in the face, causing him to stumble off to the side to where Richardson was waiting with a pair of binders of his own.

Richardson grabbed the Doctor and tried to maneuver him into a submission hold. Alan bound forward to take the Doctor from the other side. The Doctor wasn’t having any, though, and grabbed both of my men and drove them into each other, face first. They slumped to the duracrete.

Maybe it was the two fingers in the belly, or maybe it was just PMS, but I kind of lost my temper at that point. Okay, I’ll admit it, I didn’t kind of lose my temper. I downright lost my temper. I rose to my feet, closed the distance between me and the Doctor, and started raining a flurry of punches, jabs, and kicks on him. The Doctor took a step back and steeled himself for his defense. He did a credible job of defending himself too, but he hadn’t been prepared for that kind of attack, and the sheer ferocity with which I went after him caught him off guard.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Alan climb to his feet. He looked up and saw me fighting the Doctor and his eyes went wide. He was on his feet and closing and I allowed myself to breathe a mental sigh of relief. The Doctor saw Alan coming. He stopped parrying my attacks, took two good shots on the chin, parried the kick I aimed at his gut and batted my leg aside. This had the effect of putting me off balance and I dropped to the ground in front of Alan.

Alan bounded over me, a knife in either hand. He feinted with his right and jabbed with his left. The Doctor recognized the feint for what it was, ignored it, and intercepted Alan’s left hand with his right. The Doctor slapped the knife out of Alan’s left hand and backhanded him across the face. Alan staggered back a step and tripped over me.

While all this was going on, Richardson had circled around behind the Doctor and wrapped his arm around the Doctor’s neck, gave him a couple of good kidney shots for good measure. The Doctor winced at the pain and grabbed Richardson’s arm, bent down and pulled. Richardson went flying over the Doctor to land in a heap in front of me and Alan. I somersaulted over the two men and came up in front of the Doctor just as he was bringing the talisman to bear on me.

I pivoted on my left foot and brought my right around in a back side kick that took the Doctor in his right hand, causing his grip on the talisman to falter for a critical second. I saw the talisman go flying out of the corner of my eye as I dropped to my knees, drew out my pistol and a knife. I heard the report of a pistol firing as I completed my turn. My left hand drew the blade of my knife across the Doctor’s belly, parting the flesh and spraying me with blood. The Doctor’s hands went to his belly and he started to fold as my right hand brought the barrel of my sidearm against his chin and pulled the trigger. I remember hearing the report of the pistol. I remember hearing the singularly wet sound of the Doctor’s head exploding from the force of the particle bolt. Then there was a flash of white light and an invisible hand reached out and backhanded me across the face.

I hit the ground on my back and skidded until my head slammed into the wall, at which point I mercifully blacked out. I don’t know how long I was out. I tried to ask but no one would really tell me. They all just shook their heads and told me not to worry about it. I was one giant sore from head to toe when I came around. I opened my eyes and discovered that this was a mistake, for the bright light hurt. I blinked my eyes to clear my vision and sat up to look around. That’s when a felt a gentle pair of hands against my shoulders, pushing me back down onto whatever it was I was lying on.

“Not so fast,” Alan said.

I opened my eyes again and discovered that I could see, so I looked around and discovered that I was on a stretcher in the back of an ambulance. The back doors were open and I could see that we were still in the alley. Dimly I wondered where Richardson was. “What happened?” I asked.

Alan shook his head, an expression of wry confusion on his face. “I swear to you, Tamara, I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years,” he said.

“Never seen anything like what?” I wondered.

Alan shrugged. “I don’t know if I can describe it,” he said, and then he told me what he saw. Alan remembered me kicking the talisman out of the doctor’s hands and dropping to my knees. He saw what I had in mind and climbed to his feet just as Richardson used his sidearm to blow the talisman out of existence. He was halfway to me when he saw me cut open the Doctor’s chest and blow his head off. That’s when things got extraordinary.

The Doctor’s body was flailing backward when suddenly it started to glow. And just like that the Doctor’s body exploded. It was as if all the energy from all the souls he had taken since his release from the orb saw an opportunity to escape and took it. The problem was, I was in the way. When Alan got to me I was unconscious, so he called for an ambulance.

The medics examined me and concluded that I would probably be fine, that the worst I would suffer would be a headache for a couple of days. To me it seemed a small price to pay for ridding Acheron City of a soul hunter.

The medics cleared me to go home, so I begged a ride from Alan. He walked me into my house, walked me up to my bedroom, looked away while I changed and then helped me into bed. I was asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, but I remember seeing Alan grab one of the spare blankets from the hall closet and wrap it around himself as he dropped into the chair I keep in the corner of my bedroom.

He was still there when I woke up the next morning. Richardson was waiting for us when we went to work that day. He shook Alan’s hand and gave me a hug. “I just wanted a chance to say thank you before I left,” he said.

“Where are you going?” I inquired.

“Back up to the Vanguard,” he answered. “We just got new orders calling for us to assume a patrol station on the frontier.”

“What kind of patrol?” Alan asked.

“Anti-smuggling, from what I’m told,” Richardson answered.

“Good luck,” I said and gave Richardson a kiss on the cheek. He gave me another hug, shook Alan’s hand, and then he was gone.

Alan grinned at me as I sat down behind my desk. “You like him,” he accused.

“I do not,” I responded.

“Yes you do,” Alan insisted. “I can see it in your eyes.”

I shook my head. “Impossible. Besides, even if Richardson and I were to get together it would never work.”

“Why is that?”

I shrugged and grinned. “I don’t think that I could deal with being involved with a Navy man.”

Alan nodded judiciously. “I always knew you had some taste.”

“To my way of thinking it would be as bad as being involved with a Marine.” Alan threw a data card at me. The really strange thing is that somehow, in the back of my mind, I always expected the Soul Hunter to come back. Given that Dorian cheated death once you would almost expect him to be able to do it a second time, but he never did. When Doctor Hunter’s body disintegrated, Dorian’s soul was lost forever. Good riddance, I say.

Still and all, I truly believe that Alan was taken from me by a Soul Hunter, namely that damn chip that was implanted into his head. The Soul Hunter did a good job of it too, but it took the wrong soul. Instead of taking Alan’s soul it took mine. Or maybe that was the objective all along. I don’t know, and even after all this time I’m still too close to the pain of those events to be able to think clearly. But I do know one thing: the best and noblest parts of my spirit were lost to me the day that Alan died. It was a long time before I got them back.

Copyright © 2004 by Michael J A Tyzuk

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