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Authors: Chet Williamson

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When she got back to her office in the late afternoon, there was a message on the machine: "This is Martin Leech calling for Inspector Fraser," the man said. He then gave a number and requested she call back.

Now, what the hell was this all about? Martin Leech had joined MI5 several years before Molly'd left. He had been very unlike his name, a gentle young man eager to learn, and to serve his queen and country. A bit
over
eager, she had thought, like a puppy rather than a leech.

Then she thought about the possibility that his call might have something to do with the glowing cloth she had confiscated from Tom Kerr. The day before, she had driven over to the Mellangaun Stones and given the box and cloth to a Dr. Ewing, the head of the dig, but had cautioned him that it was glowing and might be radioactive. He had tentatively identified the box as fourteenth-century, and had said that he would send it directly to the university for examination. Molly had asked that she be informed of whatever was learned about the cloth, and Dr. Ewing had promised her she would be. But what, she wondered, might MI5 have to do with it? And so quickly, too?

She dialed the number, identified herself, and was put through to Leech. "Molly," he said. "How are things in Scotland?" His voice sounded jovial enough, but she sensed an undertone of tension.

"Fine, Martin, just fine. So tell me, is this about the cloth?"

There was a moment of silence, then a small laugh. "I'm sure your detection skills are proving useful up there. Yes, it
is
about the cloth. They called us from Edinburgh University just about an hour ago. For the past twenty-four hours they've been mucking about with this blanket or cloth or whatever it is, and they've found some rather . . . amazing things. It is indeed radioactive, and it seems to have been inside the box for the past five hundred years, at least. Now, I don't pretend to understand all this scientific terminology, but the gist of it is that at first they thought it was emitting gamma rays, because the electromagnetic waves had a very short wavelength. Apparently these gamma rays are very dangerous, but when they did whatever they do to measure this sort of thing, they found that they
weren't
gamma rays, because they didn't seem to harm . . . oh, what's the word? . . ."

"Ionize," Molly said.

"Yes,
ionize
any atoms. And they found something else very odd indeed. Gamma rays travel at the speed of light.
These
rays, well, they tested again and again, and far as they could determine, these travel . . .
faster
than light."

"That's impossible, isn't it?"

"Apparently not. There are these things called tachyons that they believe might exist that go faster than light and can't be slowed down, but nobody's found them. Yet."

"If they can't be slowed down, how could lead contain them?"

There was silence for a moment. "I don't know. Maybe they just bounced around faster than light inside the box. I'm not really a scientist, Molly, and I don't pretend to understand everything that I've heard today, but that's about the gist of it."

Bull shite
, Molly thought. There was more to come. Leech wouldn't have spilled all these secrets otherwise. She waited, and Leech spoke again.

"Now, all this is very top secret, of course. But the reason I'm telling you is because we need your cooperation."

"In what way?"

"Well, if these tachyons could be found and somehow harnessed, it would change the history of the world . . . or of communication, anyway. Imagine, instantaneous communication to anywhere in the universe. There's a feather in the cap for England, eh? Now, the cloth came from the area in which you're CI, and you'd sniff out an MI5 investigation as soon as one of us popped up his head. So the powers that be figured it would be better to have you with us from the start. And let's face it, we
know
that there's no security risk involved with bringing you onto the team."

"Wait a moment, Martin. What do you mean, 'onto the team'? I resigned from MI5, you know. Not retired,
resigned
."

"We understand that. You would merely be our local police liaison, but you would assist us in maintaining our cover."

"Which is?"

"An archeological team. To all intents and purposes, we'll be part of the group from the university that's over at . . . Mellangaun Stones, is it? We intend to investigate the area where this artifact was found. And at the same time anything else of a suspicious nature that may crop up."

Molly thought about the three alleged ghosts that had been reported. "You might have your plate full in that department," she said, and told him about the sightings.

"No worries," Martin replied. "Just sounds like the usual backwater foolishness. No offense intended."

"None taken. When will you arrive?"

"It'll take a week to get the team together and the bona fides all in place. Needless to say, this is for your ears only. Not a word to anyone about our teams' connection to MI5, not even to your friend Mr. Keith, yes?"

She didn't respond to the slight teasing in Leech's voice. Of course they would still know everything about her. Once you were in MI5, you never fully left their surveillance. "Of course not," she said shortly. "I
have
learned to keep a secret, Martin."

"Right then. We'll be in touch."

Martin Leech and MI5 were not the only things to be in touch. Within a half hour after she hung up the phone, she had received four more reports of sightings during that day and the night before of ghosts or aliens or spirits. Molly Fraser was pretty much a staunch materialist. Still, she had seen her share of horror movies on the telly, and the thought naturally came to her of that creaky plot of the reemergence of something that should remain in the ground, and its cursed aftermath.

The thought left her as quickly as it had come. Whatever was happening with the unearthed cloth, it smacked of science. And as for the purported ghosts, fraud was still the most likely answer. After all, the work of the crop circle hoaxers might have been considered alien for decades had they not come forward and shown how it had been done. The ghosts were probably nothing more than a well-organized bunch of scrub footballers looking for a cheap laugh.

Besides, why would ghosts bother to show themselves and scare crofters and housewives and truckers? Just for the fun of it? It was too preposterous. Surely ghosts would want more than that.

 

H
e wanted blood. But not the small amounts that had flowed from the individuals he had met while wandering in the desert. It had at least been entertaining, however, when he'd come across backpackers and hikers. Of the half dozen he had confronted, there were only two of them whom he had not been able to control.

Fortunately, one of them was a man hiking with his wife, and the woman had been all too susceptible to his desires. She had attacked her husband with the strength of the madwoman that she temporarily was, and had torn clean down to the jugular with her teeth. Then she had taken out a folding knife and disemboweled herself, precisely the way in which he had requested of her.

The other person whom he had met had been untouchable, his mind as impregnable as if there had been a foot thick layer of lead between them.
Ah well
, he had thought, as he'd smashed the man's head into a pulp with a rock, sometimes blood didn't tell. Actively killing wasn't nearly as rewarding as directing the mayhem, but it had to be done. He couldn't let the man go and tell of meeting a wanderer in the desert who looked like Jesus and was dressed like John the Baptist.

But he was bored, this creature who had been known by many names. The Roman Catholic Church had called him the Antichrist; a motley assortment of pilgrims seeking truth, power, and self-justification had proclaimed him the Divine, the Holy One, and the Lord; and Laika Harris, Joseph Stein, and Tony Luciano referred to him only as the Prisoner, the one behind the disappearance of a sculptor in New York and the dehydrated bodies in the desert. They had come close to finding him in New York, and were tracking him down in Utah, only to be outdistanced by Michael LaPierre, who, in releasing the Prisoner from the lead-lined Anasazi kiva, let the bestial genie out of his bottle, and died for his efforts.

It was good to be free at last, the Prisoner thought, after so many centuries of captivity. But he had wandered enough. This world's only true charms were the billions of intelligent creatures that bestrode it, creatures that he could anger to violence, and watch as they tore each other apart. What he had been doing was like stepping on ants when he could, with the proper planning and aid, raven cities, and turn countries against each other until this world ran red with the blood that flowed in its inhabitants' veins.

But he could not do it alone. There had to be others that he would control, those who would take the risks and organize the chaos, while he sat back and relished the sights and sounds of carnage, until the red madness that had exiled him here had spread like a plague among the dwellers of earth.

And those who would most easily fall under his control were those who sought him. Most of them were willing to be disciples in exchange for the power he could give them, like Swain, whose ability to touch the Prisoner's mind, even through his lead prison, had been far greater than most humans.

Swain, however, was dead. He had died, and yet the Prisoner's hold over him was so strong that he had called him from his sandy grave and Swain had come, though he had been useless to the Prisoner, a fat corpse bloated with other men's fluids. It was a pity to lose such a potentially powerful ally.

The only human in recent years who'd surpassed Swain's talent of mental contact with the Prisoner was the man Stein, to whom the Prisoner had appeared in dreams. His strength was formidable, and the Prisoner knew the blood must be strong in the man. But unlike Swain, there was no desire to worship in Stein. There was fear and denial, but also great knowledge, knowledge the Prisoner could use if he could persuade—or force—Stein to join him. If he could not, then he would destroy Stein.

Stein, however, was far away. East. It was a great distance, and the Prisoner wondered if there were any others closer who had been searching for him, for good or ill. If there were, he should seek them out. If they proved to be allies, that would be beneficial. But if they wished to find him to destroy him, then he would destroy them, were he not able to bend them to his will.

He reached out then, with the tentacles of his probing mind, trying to find not those whom he could contact, but those who wished to contact him. If they were untouchable by his mind, if the blood link was weak or nonexistent, they would remain unknown to him. But if the link was there, and their desire was strong, then he would know.

The Prisoner felt her. She was the foolish one, the one who had the strength to reach him but not the strength of will necessary to accomplish it. Swain's sister.

He had known that she and others were seeking him after Swain died, and he had called to her, but she had heard his shouts as if they were a whisper from the bottom of a great canyon. Still, she was the closest of those who had sought him, so he would go to her and find what power she had, to whom she was bound on this earth, and if she would be an effective partner in his reign of terror.

Effective, if temporary. Eventually, all would die. His purpose was nothing more nor less than universal destruction.

He did not have the patience to breed humans so that he might enjoy their torments and deaths indefinitely. If he could, he would rather destroy everything now, and then live alone in misery on a world empty of all but himself.

He could not help it. It was his nature.

Chapter 6
 

J
ezebel Swain sat alone in her cell, grinding her teeth and scratching her arms. It was the same damn thing all the time, just sit and stare at the goddamn walls, and wait and wait and wait. And then, every few days, one of those bastards in white would come and take her to see Dr. Ross again, and the sonofabitch would talk to her and ask her the same dumbass questions, and she would tell him the truth and he would shake his head and look sad and ask her again, and then she would get pissed off and tell him to go to hell and then start to scratch her arms again.

She was up to her arms now, because she had scratched the backs of her hands and her wrists raw already, and they were bandaged up. But she had to scratch something, because she couldn't keep her hands still. Dr. Ross had told her that if she continued to hurt herself, they'd have to put her in restraints. Then she would stop, and wait until she got back to her cell, because for Chrissake, she was already restrained
enough
, wasn't she?

BOOK: Siege of Stone
12.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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