by Roger Crow
Seven: Dominion Slark
An hour later a helicopter touched down in the desert by the metal tent.
A man six feet tall, dressed in black with long grey hair stepped out.
"Why does this thing look like a giant teacup?" He said
"It's part radar, part weapon," replied his flame-haired assistant.
"Does it hold tea?" he asked.
"Probably," she replied, assuming everyone had said the same thing at some point.
She would have been right.
His name was Dominion Slark; he was about to enter one of Aibork's universes and become integral to its destiny.
Her name was Lisa Herald, former FBI agent turned Jacketman, and she was capable of remarkable things with a Monoset.
'A who what now?' You may wonder.
A five-foot long staff, part rifle, part torch, part spear, it was a Swiss Army penknife of a weapon which came with retractable viewfinder, grenade launcher, flamethrower and mine deployment unit.
It was the Jacketman's favourite weapon, wielded like a majorette's baton, and capable of all manner of mischief.
"Did I ever tell you about the time I tracked down Mark George?"
"No sir," said Lisa Herald, knowing she was about to endure a long, convoluted story.
"0kay, fire her up."
Lisa entered a code into the Cascade, and waited.
"Is it supposed to do something?"
"That's the idea sir,"
Then it started to whine and howl like a cat on heat. It wasn't an attractive sound.
"That's an attractive sound," he said sarcastically.
"So there I was, in a world of strange gravity and floating rocks. I blamed him for my wife's departure you see, but I was a younger man, full of angst and venom..."
"You tracked him down, got your revenge, and swore to never wreak it again?"
"Err, something like that," he replied.
Dominion took her hand and they entered the pale vortex.
The lounge singer nodded, a little worried.
"Please back away from the piano."
Valerie did so, while Slark and Herald scanned it.
"Yep, it's a positive," Herald showed Slark an x-ray of the instrument.
"Semtex. C4." Said Slark, erasing the threat with a few deft movements and a hard shell container.
"Weren't you big a few years ago?"
Storm nodded. "Four top 10 hits," she smiled, weakly.
"Nice to meet you," smiled Slark, wheeling the explosives bin from the hotel.
Slark thumbed his headset.
"Bob? Slark. We've neutralised one threat."
"Good man." Came the reply.
"One down, 294 to go." Said Herald.
"Resort to plan B. We want you to kill two birds with one stone. We're sending you the coordinates."
Slark looked back at Valerie Storm and felt a twang of empathy. She had 38 minutes to live, and he couldn't do a thing to change it.
"Intel suggests this point," said Herald.
"Looks like a shed," he replied.
There was a smell of ozone and the sound of popping flashbulbs and then they were gone.
There was a single, decaying fuel cell, two inches long which was leaking precious fuel, and as fate would have it, it would only take a match to ignite it.
So, as the lunar lens started to heat the shed, dry old timber started to smoke.
Surrounding the shed in rings and rings were pianos. 294 of them, all as lethal as a heart attack.
"That should do it."
Herald smiled and flicked a switch on the assorted lamps on stands surrounding them.
There was no sound when the pianos vanished. Or the shed full of explosives.
The only sound was of birds tweeting.
It was strangely peaceful.