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Flames lanced out of shattered glass, and for a moment the screams of the wounded were inaudible over the roar of raining shards. There was a pause, almost as still as the quiet before the current chaos, when the shock of what was happening overrode the survival instinct, and no one thought to run. Then the silence was ripped apart by the first wave of pain hitting the first survivor, and the crowd broke like lemmings for the sea. Office workers poured out of the building onto the street. In their midst, they carried the source of their confusion, the chaos creator. His face was a practiced mask of fear as he pushed his way through to the street. By the time help began to arrive, the area was packed full of victims and onlookers, and escape was just a matter of letting himself be pushed out of the way by the authorities who would soon be searching that same street for him.

The ease of his success made his head swim. This was not his first attack, but it was easily the most notable. The papers would call for a city-wide data search, and a turn-in -your-brother-fest would ensue by morning, but nothing would be found to point to him. He was non-existent and omni-present.

He looked for the next alley and found a quiet corner in which to await his ride home. Not that anyone was coming to fetch him, but anytime now someone would be by. It would be a quick ‘catching’ of a loose mind, and he would be on his way. Youth and smug energy oozed from him as he watched the sidewalk for an easy target.

And here she came. The passive face of a city worker, almost his age in years, and years behind in life. He felt no compunctions as he stepped out on the walk behind her and paced her from a few feet back. When she turned off the walk and into a cul-de-sac, rummaging for her keys, he reached out with what made him the ‘new thing’ he was, and caught her. She looked up just in time for him to watch the change slide over her as he took her mind in his and shadowed it. The mild bemusement was not the typical reaction, but the objective was subjugation, not psycho-analysis. And she was not running, nor screaming for help; she was subdued.

With the most basic of commands, she turned and headed for the street again. As she passed him this time she glanced curiously at him, looking him in the eye for a second. Annoyed at this peculiarity, he squeezed  her thoughts a bit tighter. He was getting sloppy, perhaps, letting his success go to his head.

On the street, they returned to her vehicle and she unlocked the passenger door, holding it open for him chauffeur-style. He smiled to himself at the extra touch. Power was meant to be used, and he was full of it.

She chuckled softly, for no apparent reason, and he turned to look at her better. Where was this feedback coming from? Had he tired himself in the building? This was unacceptable. He reached out again, this time clamping down on her fully, no leeway given. Looking at himself through her eyes, he started the car, and set out. It was irritating to have to go to such extremes, but he would tolerate no resistance. If necessary, he would open her mind and remove her. An unpleasant but occasionally used solution.

Within minutes, they were out of the main streets and on the highway. He was careful to be one of a group of dull cars, drawing no attention, going with the flow of traffic. It would be a long drive by her standards, surely; He was doing her a favor by showing her what was beyond the bricks.

He could feel the occasional movement of thoughts trying to escape beneath him, but he avoided looking into her. He had no interest in who she was, what she felt, etc. That was a bad habit best avoided by those who would keep out of guilt’s path. And if it became an absolute that he had to twist her later, for some unseen reason, he’d prefer it be the first time. Those who had been ‘twisted’ more than once sometimes developed … problems. And each successive twist was more likely to stick, or tear the mind being twisted irreparably. Better not to unless he knew he would be shutting the mind off permanently when he was done. It was actively unpretty to witness the creatures people became when twisted too far.

Not that he was squeamish.
He just saw no need to do or watch it.

The scenery had changed dramatically while he mused, and when he made the last turn before home, he let her see what lay outside her dull existence. Man had never been kind to his mother the earth, but when he decided to sacrifice a place, he gave in to his worst nature. All that showed this to be an earthly place was a lone, twisted tree, bereft of all but a few leaves. The resemblance to a movie set of the apocalypse was sharpest when she saw the remnants of the factory. It settled into the ground as if stepped on. It was also their destination.

They pulled close as the sun turned the clouds crimson above them. There was no reason for him not to keep her overnight; traffic was dilute of an evening, and she might be more easily noticed. Not to mention the possibility of a self-congratulatory celebration. He would find excuses for her later, and send her back with subdued memories of the explosion’s aftermath.

No harm, no foul. He/she/they parked out of sight and left the car.

The first tremors began for her as she realized she was intended to stay here. The door magically appeared behind a fall of rusted sheet metal and they were inside. He found control of her taking more of his energies with every step they took away from it. By the time they had reached his space, it was a real battle for him not to become claustrophobic himself with the backwash from his captive. The first real doubts began as he tried to keep his head enough to find lights. If he could not hold her, he would have to end her now. Her escape would mean less if not for the events of the afternoon, and he couldn’t let her jeopardize the headway he’d made today. The Goal was in sight now.

The light was at hand, and the fear ebbed a bit as illumination washed over and away the fantastic images she was creating. He waited a moment to breathe; he’d been holding his breath. Or had she? The line between them was not as sharp now. There was no room to squeeze further, and it was time to change something. At this level, her panic might keep her memories too acute to overlay effectively, so could he trust them enough to let her leave? He was beginning to realize how serious an error he had made, and the consequences loomed. His choices narrowed with every possible flaw in his plans. Limitations he’d never known he’d possessed became insurmountable when minutes before he’d considered himself deified. Drowning in the loop of their combined fears, he chose self-preservation, finding the willingness to sacrifice her came easily to his over-taxed senses. A speeding arrow, his will shot out along the connection he’d forged so indifferently, and split her thoughts wide.

He/ she saw a moment of wonder at a new awareness, then shock and revulsion. Invasion. Rape of Self. No term in her experience was sufficient for this. Primal screams of will shook him as she tried to rid herself of him. And he,… he had never run into anyone so self-aware. SHE knew very well where she ended and he began, and had inner strength even if she was unaware of the weapons to wield with it. Wildly flung and powerful, waves of pressure and demands for release buffeted him as he struggled for self. A random thought slid by, almost gone before he noticed, then he was grasping at it desperately.

If he could not separate them, he could not kill her without damaging himself; could he seduce her into submitting? In the effort to hide his thought from her, he almost lost the greater battle, and ran out of time for consideration.

His plea for peace, his offer of surrender was met with a immediate thrust of hate, his pain and surprise loud in the small space; then the hostilities eased a moment. The killing blow waited while he reeled, stunned by her instincts to attack so, realizing a parallel to his own need. As did she, apparently, holding him at bay, yet holding her assault, waiting. He gathered himself to himself, wondering if she knew it freed him to attack her fully, knowing every moment’s delay meant she drew from him what she needed to defend herself.

When he could think again, he envisioned his mind surrounding hers, first bars, them arms as he he-directed the focus from imprisonment to sanctuary. She remembered for him the lack of choice in her coming. He recreated desperation and being hunted - he ‘d needed to escape. She re-felt for him the smug disdain that had been the reality. He felt regret at her, remorse for the wrongs he had casually committed; she held up the plans that had led him to keep her overnight. He showed her herself in the alley with the sun on her face. Flattery bought him nothing as she pulled the images of past ‘celebrations’ from him. And still her defenses did not fall.

The fight had accomplished his first task for him, however. Fear of confinement was long forgotten in the greater battle. He closed his mind for a moment of consideration. It was dark - she was in an unfamiliar place. If he was tired, she would be exhausted. Time could be bought.

He took a step back, found a second light switch. Her eyes never left him, though he doubted she actually saw him.Inner sight tended to override any other.When he opened his thoughts to her again, he saw for her hands opening to release a butterfly, but left the winged beauty perched on the fingers, flexing it’s wings.And let her go.

She staggered, the rigid stance faltering as she came back into herself. The floor boomed as she went to her knees, but he hesitated to go to her aid. A half-made gesture in her direction died as she heard his step, startled, and her grasping hands missed their mark. Chin and elbow met the steel to a second loud boom. To his credit, he winced and felt his first selfless regret as she whimpered and panted. She should have been crying, should have passed out at release, should have been knocked out by the fall, should have, should have, should have. The question was now Why not? He had seen HER, and had no answer.

Was she a New Thing as well? He saw no active evidence until his arrival, and then only in passive measure. Was there simply a little hope for her kind after all? But she was the first of so many not to submit and forget. An anomaly, not a trend.

She lay so still, except for the shuddering breaths. Perhaps shock would do the job for him after all? He watched a few more minutes, hoping to avoid physical violence. But no, now she shifted, putting a hand to her chin, a hand to the floor to lift herself, turning to look at him with that sharp clarity, now filtered through experience. Did the cute dog bite, dear? Then don’t pet him again, dear. No, Mam.

When his eyes couldn’t meet hers anymore, he found she was dripping on his one respectable rug. “Hold on.”She blinked at the sound of his voice in the stillness. His first words to her. He moved through the room, found a rag. He considered handing it to her, but determined she wouldn’t appreciate him being that close and tossed it to her. She tucked one end to the bleeding mess at the bottom of her face, used the other to wipe her neck and dab at the rug. Curiouser…

He was at a loss as to what direction to take now. He couldn’t let her leave, couldn’t keep her here any real length of time, …. Maybe he was squeamish.What a time to find out,eh? And now she stood.Did he have a gun? He remembered looking at a few; had he bought one? The only knives he had were old kitchen knives, as he had never thought he’d be challenged here. She looked around slowly, glancing back at him often. Anything heavy he could swing? Now he felt the ludicrousness of his situation. He had wanted to keep her; now he couldn’t get rid of her safely. He imagined himself bludgeoning her to death on the carpet of his sanctuary and felt sick and giddy. He realized he must have made some sound when she turned around to eye him indignantly.

“I’m glad you’re getting such enjoyment out of this. I’d hate to think you went to all this trouble and got nothing out of it,” she stated with soft measured tones. Speaking obviously hurt, but the anger was not to be contained, nor the pride diluted. Perhaps she will be beating me to death on my own rug, he thought dizzily.

“I would like to leave now, if you’re quite through. But I wouldn’t want to rush you,” she told him.

“I can’t do that. But you Know that now, don’t you? And you Know why, and what I am … to a degree. My hands are tied,” he responded slowly, watching for her reaction. Her apparent puzzlement was puzzling to him in turn. No shock or pleading, no understanding, either.

Her eyebrow cocked, and she studied him a moment, so he continued. “We’re at an impasse here, it seems. You can’t and won’t stay, I can’t let you go. Nor, it seems as well, can I relieve you of the memories that make you a threat. I admit to being impressed; I never met a stronger mind. I will regret the loss. You are what I wanted to preserve in the world. But to save the whole, I am willing to lose a few parts.” He began to feel strong again, as he remembered The Goal, felt it swell his soul with it’s greater purpose, as he spoke the words one more time in a life’s litany. “I am close now, I feel the end of the struggle approach with every newscast, every person that realizes the City Planners can’t keep them safe, every thought they think that questions the order of the world around them.” His eyes closed, and he saw the Vision that pulled him in it’s wake. He did not see her scan the room for a weapon, or see her bend quietly to grasp the edge of his ‘respectable’ rug.

A sharp pull, and he was tumbling back onto the floor, which rewarded him with the same hollow ‘boom’ it had given her,( lessened by the rear padding), as it was an impartial floor. His obscenities were not as impartial, however. Now was the effort she put into lifting the chair behind him to swing at him. No movie chair this. He rolled, and kicked her feet from beneath her.

This was better, he thought. Fuck why she would attack, fuck why she wasn’t weak, fuck it all. He was good at this. This was where he’d started out, with basic, ground-level brutality. All his hesitations (he wasn’t squeamish) were forgotten in the adrenaline rush. In the energy, he could almost forget she was a she, smaller, weaker. He could almost not care. And almost forget why almost was important. It felt good, and that was enough.

I don’t know or care what you think you are,” she screamed at him as she scrambled behind the various obstacles. She could hear him vaulting the sparse furniture, and felt the floor shake as he landed. Her hands landed on a loose pipe, the fitting still heavy on it’s end, but when she turned to swing, he was there, hand outstretched. She screamed again in anticipation of the blow, but his hand fastened on her face instead.

I have seen you from the inside. I will not allow you to jeopardize what I strive for.”He pushed out for the second time, and twisted.This was the second invasion, without warning, and without limit. In the place where resistance had bent in the alley, her will folded and gave beneath the onslaught. Somewhere something vital screamed in agony, but the hold was firm. He felt her passing lament, then the silence missing before. Strong, but I was stronger, he thought to himself. But then, there was no one else to think to now.

He stepped back a moment, feeling his power, enjoying the low, electric pleasure of her subjugation. It was not a good thing to enjoy, the crushing of a strong mind, but he would not deny himself this. It ran through him like a wave. Was it not a tribute to her, in its way? A worthy opponent; he wished the circumstances had been different, the battle expected, that he might have savored it. Already forgotten was the fear and self-recrimination of the battle itself.

He walked slowly on the way back to his chair. Better than any drug, his head would swim this way for a while. He collapsed into the padding. Where to dispose of the shell? Would she be missed? It was so hard to think of such things yet. He lifted his head from the chair back and looked at her again. The face was not slack, but with the other oddities, he could not find it in himself to be surprised. Why waste the rush? His plans were altered, but she was here, regardless of condition. So be it.

“Come here.” There was no inhabitant to respond, but it was an illusion he gave himself. A stretch of mind, and there was movement in the empty body. He stood it up, and pulled it to him. Balance aside, it was easy to imagine it on it’s own power, coming to him in slow shyness. He stood it before him, trying to remember what its smile looked like. He leaned back, trying a few on its face before deciding he didn’t want a smile. A mild resentment passed over him. It stole so much to be the driving force. An unaware but filled body could be suggested to, and allowed to do as it was told. He could lay back and enjoy. This was almost masturbation. Only filling it himself would be less satisfying; as it was he would keep half a mind directing it. Two thoughts at once, the puppeteering, and the enjoying, neither complete.

He dropped it to its knees less than gently, and reached out to touch its hair.

So tempting to consider it ‘she’, but he knew better. Its eyes were dull as it stared ahead; he spared a thought to blink them a few times. Shiny wet, he focused them on his face, looped the command. They followed him when he looked down, finding closures on her shirt, popping the catches on her pants. Too complex to have her undress; he wished her mobile enough to undress him. Again the resentment. He did for himself, leaned against the chair back, and considered. So many limitations this way. And no hope she would dream of him later in unknowing longing for what she didn’t remember. Foolish, that, but young egos… And it was possible.

“Touch me,” he whispered, and tried to lose himself in the illusion he created here. A set of nerves fired, and the arm moved. The hand opened with urging, and closed around him, warm and soft to his skin. City dwellers hands, without callous. “Lower.” He shifted her again, the long fingers cupping his balls, curling around to the base of his cock. He sighed, feeling content for a moment. “I need some recreation; what do you recommend? Would it be that hard to create a response? He followed the pathways, found nothing prior in her memories that would suffice the occasion, and left off. He would have to be satisfied with silence. Hell, some men paid for a quiet partner. Here was a goldmine of it.

He sat the shell on it’s heels between his knees, and eased the balance over to rest it on his thigh. Warm and soft. Nice. Quiet. And empty. Had it really never bothered him before? Perhaps it was the almost-a-person quality to the face, as if she were thinking on other matters. He adjusted the hold of the fingers, and filled his mind with better things. A moment’s work, and he had her mouth on him, moving slowly. Loop the neurons, repeat indefinitely. His fingers found her hair again, sliding through to her nape, moving with her, wishing vainly for the ability to replace what was gone for just an hour or so. The rush was going, pulled down by the efforts involved here. He might look into her before disposal, maybe he could find some reason for his difficulties with her. Such a nice skin, soft hair, such a warm mouth. Perhaps he would be content with this.

But no, this was not enough. Somewhere in there had to be something he could work with. His head was heavy and hard to lift; he was startled to find her eyes still on him. He closed them by hand before beginning the search through her memories. No chance encounters, no short, steamy romances. In this one thing, she had to be a norm? At every turn today, she had balked him with strange behaviors, but here, nothing? Unfair. He searched deeper, looking for anything. A wish, a dream, a repressed fantasy...wait. Hidden, buried and desperately forgotten under layers of more social behaviors, something darker. It was uncertain, but he NEEDED, and it was sure to be better than what was at hand, so to speak. Load and run. Pressing the stimulus home, he set it in motion and waited. The shell resisted for a moment, shudders taking it as the patterns adjusted to the situation. Then it moved.

He feared for a moment as he considered what he’d done. With a filled, active body he could turn what he dug up as he liked. Would an empty one respond the same? Could he re-empty it in time to save his more ‘delicate’ skin? But it continued as it had before, and he decided the ‘overlay’ had not taken, after all. You learn...

But then again, something had changed.A second hand came up to join the first, then moved to cup his balls. Pleased with his discovery, he relaxed. And smiled when he felt lips and tongue at his sack. Who had she been? This was a puzzle more pleasant than the rest. Slowly the hands moved over him, and gently the mouth caressed. And grew demanding. What a lovely surprise.He imagined her in the dark, wishing, and crying for having such a filthy wish. If I had known, dear, if I had known…And the pleasure grew, her hands roaming his body now, pushing his shirt open, her tongue teasing at his tip, then grasping at him. He gasped in the waves, the realization growing with it that he was no longer in control. He tried to push her away for a second’s breath, and was himself pushed away as she worked. His own hands were not his anymore either. Alternately pushing at her, then resting on her neck, they betrayed him to passion’s whim.

To be helpless in such a manner might be novelty. To be helpless was frightening. Yet his body was unaware that anything was wrong, by all appearances. Skill or instinct kept her lips in all the right places; his eyes closed of their own accord and he cried out in his blindness. Would she notice when he came? His heart stuttered as his breathing almost stopped; could he survive another round like this if not? But thought was fading, and he gave himself over to the cries that filled his throat.

Something in the sound filled a niche in program, and she whispered around his cock. The third time he caught it, hearing “beg me” when he stifled himself long enough. God, what was in her, for how long had she hidden it? This was real, this was heaven and hell, joy and fear. How could he beg if he couldn’t breathe to talk?

“please,” he gasped before she missed the cue. “I’m begging, PLEASE,” as she found a new motion, carrying him higher.

“Please what,” was the heated reply from below.

Please let me come or let me die, he thought. What better way is there? A willingness to give all for the orgasm on the way stole over him. To die in such ecstasy would be glorious. Please, NOW,” he screamed, both hands in her hair, his body demanding. And she heard. And she paused, and touched there, just so, and his body buckled around her. If he screamed again, he didn’t hear it, lost in this.

Forever had always been meaningless; now it became his whole reality. All he was was trapped in the moment, drawn out long by mouth and hands. She held him, as surely as he had held her, no escape and no pity, but he asked none. Bliss, rapture, agony of joy. Forever. And when he breathed again, years had passed. Must have. She moved softly against him, kissing and fondling, smiling softly to herself. And while he gasped and sweated, she whispered a last time, ‘you’re welcome’ and laid her head in his lap, her cheek on his beleaguered cock.

His eyes opened to the ceiling above, and her warmth below. Had he dozed? He didn’t think so, but would suspect it possible. She hadn’t moved, and he slipped inside to see what was left.Empty once more, the shell waited, silent. The scenario, memory, fantasy, whatever he had found had played out, and She was It. Gone.

Then sleep was an option, and here would do. Not that he was sure he could move, mind you. When he woke there would be time to decide how to dispose of the remnant. A second’s shame hit him as he realized how absolutely he had botched the day once his Goal had been satisfied. The understanding of Life as a tangible thing to be lost weighed on him forthe frist time as sleep sucked him down. She had been someone....and she’d thought he was

The temptation to keep the husk a while was strong, but weighed against the work of caring for a ‘comatose’ adult, he could not seriously consider it. He had avoided pets for years, no matter how lonesome he might get, for the same reason. He could not be certain he would be back to feed it, ‘walk’ it, clean it. It would be cruelty of a separate nature to let this floating ghost live as it was. Granted it would never run off, like a cat, or make noise, like a dog, but it would atrophy if not moved frequently, starve unless force fed, and shit itself like an infant after. But to have it there, to experience the pattern/ program he had uncovered over and (with warning) over; he had replayed the scenario once when he woke, (half in curiosity) and even knowing what to expect, he’d had a moment’s fear when she did not immediately respond to his conscious, purposeful moans with the invitation to beg. Again, she /it had dragged him screaming to the edge of endurance before acquiescing to his entreaties. He felt weak yet, and feared for his resolve (as well as for his survival if resolve broke) if he did not move now. Warm and easy, the shell had been company in a cold bed, and now leaned lightly on his arm as he drove.

He regretted deeply the lack of vision and sheer selfish ego that had brought him here. To serve a higher purpose was noble; to serve it as he had for these few years, coldly for the pleasure of power, disregarding the spirit of the goal in pursuit of its letter- this was as low as that he sought to destroy. He had been as unfeeling as the corporations he fought, and could not undo. Growth hurt. He was in pain.

He headed further into the desolation that he had wanted to shock his ‘chauffeur’ with less than twenty-four hours before. The easiest ‘method of disposal’ was ahead. Large machinery, deep stone pits, few actual workers. Badly maintained safeties would allow him to slip by and deposit his package without incident, and he hoped for forgiveness, however irrationally, from what he left.

He turned off the rough road onto a rougher trail. Around and behind, not hiding, but not seen, he found the site. The car hidden in a gully, he guided/ propelled the body out of the passenger seat and down a hill to the edge of the work area. A foolish imperative took him before letting go, and he kissed the smooth forehead, and then each eyelid. “Goodbye,” he whispered, “ I never asked your name, so I can’t properly ask pardon of you for what I’ve done, nor what I must do now. I believe your soul will let go when this remnant dies.

“This is the most I can do.”

The idiocy of talking to this thing he had made overwhelmed him, and he grimaced as he turned to go. Several steps away, he realized he’d forgotten to put it in motion and paused to look back at the smallish figure standing so still behind him. The quiet thoughtful look had never left her face, but he imagined it was somehow tired now also. A quick curse and three long steps brought him back to bestow a final kiss on her lips while he filled the void inside with it’s last directions, held her close a long minute with his chin atop her head, then turned her to her task.


He was quick on the return trip to the car, the door open when he heard the squeal of belts and gears, then the sirens going off well too late for their intended purpose. A few raised voices, and he was gone before he could be caught on the cameras that would be belatedly active. The hundreds he’d killed yesterday were heavier now than then, a lead weight, whereas before, it was a number on paper. Yet all together they were not a mote beside this one small life he’d erased. They would be mourned publicly, and she would be a missing worker who forgot to call in. No memorials, no speeches. And he had no doubt - she was worth more than all of them.

Time to think, to seek counsel of the wise. Where did one find wisdom? He’d never found it where he’d thought to look before. If she could exist in this world of the soul-dead and mindless, could there be another? He would look for a guru, a teacher he could not best, and then learn what he could. The Goal would be better served, and would wait for him.

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