Part of: EXTRAS
From: The Alembic Plot
St. Thomas, Wednesday, 19 June 2571
"The goddamned Bitch is still alive, Raidmaster."
Lawrence Shannon looked up from the shabby table he was using as a
desk, smiling as one of his doubles threw a newspaper down in front of
him. "Yes, excellent. Thank you, James."
"Excellent!" the double snarled. "I said she's alive!"
"You weren't mumbling," Shannon assured him. "If I'd wanted to kill
her then, I would have. I chose to let her live for now, maimed and
crippled; that will make it all the more satisfying when I do decide to
kill her." He smiled in a way that made his double flinch. "Isn't it
better to have her alive and in pain than dead and free of it? Doing
something of the sort to her was my purpose in leading that raid, after
"But I thought--"
"Yes, I know." Shannon raised his hand, silencing the other. "For you
Brothers, the hospital was the target; for me, Cortin was. We both
accomplished our objectives, without casualties and with bonuses. I
also warned you from the beginning not to question my motives. I use
my powers on your behalf because our desires generally coincide and
your help is convenient, not because you are necessary to me."
"You've made that clear often enough," the double admitted. "If I had
your powers, though, I'd wipe out the Church, the aristocracy, and
Enforcement so we could rebuild from scratch."
"Which is precisely what you would be doing." Shannon chuckled at the
man's turn of phrase. "But there's a much more artistically satisfying
way of accomplishing the same end--one which will also increase their
suffering many-fold. Would you deny me that little pleasure?"
"Not me, Raidmaster!" the double exclaimed hurriedly, his face paling.
Shannon was normally a charming man, polite and undeniably attractive,
his blue eyes and wide smile almost irresistible--but the double had
seen what happened to a Brother who cut short Shannon's enjoyment of a
priest's slow death, and the memory still sickened him.
"Good." Shannon read his subordinate's discomfort, and projected
encouragement. "You really must learn to control your sympathy for the
oppressors, James. Our work is difficult enough without that."
The Raidmaster smiled again, and this time his double relaxed. "Damn
straight! It just seems so slow!"
"Anything worthwhile does take time," Shannon said, "and you have to
expect setbacks. The raid was a success, the whoring Bitch can't any
more, and she bears the marks of those who brought her justice on her
hands. Not a bad accomplishment, all in all, don't you think?"
"Not bad at all, Raidmaster. What's next?"
"I haven't decided," Shannon said thoughtfully. "Any raid will be far
more hazardous now that Special Operations is going to be responding to
all of them, and for at least a couple of months we can count on them
being after revenge for the Bitch as well as doing their jobs. So
we'll have to pick our targets carefully." He tapped one of the papers
he'd been working on. "Until we get them out of our hair, we can't do
anything constructive. And we haven't enough people or resources yet
to strike their strong points, so while they're on an increased state
of alert, it might be interesting to attack their recreational
The double smiled. "I like your thinking, Raidmaster. Such as the
whorehouses they frequent?"
"Exactly," Shannon agreed. "Pass the word along to your colleagues,
please. And I'd say you've had enough theoretical training; unless you
need specific help, I'll expect you to plan and carry out your
operations with as little inter-group communication as possible. Keep
me informed, of course--but as far as others are concerned . . . well,
what they don't know, an Inquisitor can't force them to tell."
The double grimaced. "True--but can't you protect us against them?"
Shannon smiled briefly. "It's more economical to use them. Anyone
incompetent enough to get captured deserves their attentions, and it
saves me the bother of reprimands. Maintain reasonable security, and
you should have no serious problems."
"Yes, Raidmaster." The double would have expected Shannon to prefer
handling his own punishments, but he did have a good point about making
use of the Inquisitors. "If that's all, I'll go pass along your
"Thanks, James." Shannon sketched the Brothers' sign in the air.
"Revenge for the oppressed."
"And death to the oppressors." His double returned the gesture and
Shannon looked after him for a moment, then stood and went to look out
the window. He was putting a good face on it, he thought, but in truth
he'd like nothing better than to have Cortin dead and in Hell, or at
least lying bloody at his feet.
But that wasn't to be. Not yet, at any rate, and perhaps never. She
was as vital a part of this damnable charade as he himself, so he could
neither kill her nor cause her death, at least until after her role was
played out. He couldn't even use many of his powers against or around
her until she realized and began using those that would be hers for a
time. He could do anything short of those, however--and he smiled at
the delicious memory of torturing her.
Although he'd known it would cause her relatively little distress--far
less than a normal woman, and certainly far less than being branded
with the marks he'd suggested to the Brotherhood--he had particularly
enjoyed raping her. It would have been even better if she'd been a
virgin, but given what she was being primed to accomplish--whether she
realized it yet or not--and the fact that she was an Enforcement
trooper, he'd known better than to even hope for that. Still, it was
the rape she'd get support and treatment for, when the marks were the
real violation; he could take comfort in that.
He cursed the fate that was making him fight to preserve the prewar
morality. It served his purposes, true, but having to live by it
himself--having to set a God-loving example!--was going much too far.
Celibacy was definitely not his style. At least his favorite
sado-sexual activity was expected behavior from terrorists, even those
calling themselves freedom fighters--but it was so hellishly long
between opportunities, and when they did arrive, he usually had to
The Brotherhood of Freedom had, after all, started out as the champions
of freedom, family and justice they still claimed to be. To lead it,
he had had to seem the most conservative of them all--and much as it
went against his personal inclinations, he reminded himself yet again
that it did serve his purposes. The Adversary's as well,
unfortunately, but the Adversary was willing to tolerate his existence;
those who were going to invade this universe could and would destroy
him as easily as any human. So he had no choice but to cooperate.
He'd be living with these attitudes for some time yet, so he really
should learn to tolerate them, at least in others.
That thought made him smile. In others, yes, as long as it was he who
controlled their behavior--and really, he should only have to live by
those old standards himself for a brief time. There was ample
precedent for a charismatic leader like himself to be free of the
constraints that bound his followers--and to be so with their full
knowledge and consent, because of his "special needs and burdens". It
wouldn't hurt, either, that they were already accustomed to the idea of
special dispensations, such as the one Cortin had enjoyed until he took
the ability away from her.
Cortin! Shannon fumed at that name. Maimed and crippled as he'd left
her, he had no illusions that she was harmless. Not that she could be
and still fulfill her role, he conceded grudgingly, and the other two
currently alive would be worse yet, never mind the one who would be
returning from his tomb. But they were all necessary to his continued
existence, even though they would seriously reduce his influence. The
living one yet to arrive in the Systems would provide no entertainment,
but much of Cortin's and the other's development involved considerable
stress and pain, for them and those around them--which he could and
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