The werewolf beheld the operator.
Yamamoto was a man. A weak, fragile, puny man, barely worthy of his teeth and claws. And yet…
And yet, he stood unflinchingly before him, cold green eyes clear yet inscrutable, short sword held loose but at the ready, his muscles ready to explode into a symphony of motion. Something within the werewolf stirred, something that spoke of a lone warrior in crimson armor standing his ground on a blood-soaked battlefield, naked sword in hand, heart as clear as still water. In Yamamoto he saw a knight of a long-dead kingdom, a samurai who marched for a tattered banner, an operator wielding his blade for virtues and ideas long faded but never forgotten.
Here was a man who had long ago embraced the inevitability of death, yet would live every moment in total dedication to his mission.
The wolf stood down.
He departed from Karim, returning all the mass and materials he had borrowed, reforming them into more familiar substances in places long committed to muscle memory. As he shrank down to a mere human form, his plates, his tools, his ammo, most of all his pistol and carbine, reassembled themselves by the secret methods only Galen had at their disposal.
“Well done,” Yamamoto said. “Now step aside. I have work to do.”
Karim stepped aside. Connor sidled up next to him, apparently none the worse for wear. Yamamoto positioned himself at the feet of the dying Husk, sword ready to respond to a dying blow. But his face, his eyes, had softened. Once they were hard and unyielding as steel; now they were filled with… compassion.
The Husk was dying. This much was clear. Lying in a claret lake, the Husk moaned and twitched, grabbing its neck with what little strength it had left. Blood squirted from his wounded arm, boiled from his burst eye, gushed freely from its eviscerated throat. Karim scarcely believed that so much blood could exist within a creature, much less be poured out without immediate death.
“Finish this,” the Husk said, his voice deep and gravelly, filled with echoes from an otherworldly dimension.
But his mouth did not move.
Yamamoto’s face hardened.
“You, most foul and unclean spirit, leave this man and never come back.”
The turtle’s face twisted into a mask of rage, his eyes glowing a defiant green.
“I will never leave.”
The voice that emerged from his lungs was low and clear and resonant, yet suggestive of rot and decay. It was mold degrading dead matter in triple-quick time, it was the thick poisonous fumes of invisible swamp gas, it was fingernails clawing and scraping the inside of the soul. Karim shivered.
Yamamoto remained steady.
“This man is a child of God, the finest creation of the Creator of the Universe. You have no claim to him.”
The creature laughed. No mortal could have laughed like that through a closed mouth and torn throat, yet the Husk’s voice filled the world with a terrible and otherworldly sound, sneaking past Karim’s earpieces and burning into his brain. Galen woofed in rage. At the edges of Karim’s vision, black spots danced and swirled.
Lights cracked and burst, plunging the world into darkness. A strange chill fell, gnawing at Karim’s bones. Inaudible voices whispered at the edges of his hearing. His human self screamed at him to run. Galen the Wolf commanded him to stay.
“Unclean spirit, you have no place here. In the name of God, go now, return to the hell from whence you came!”
“You go to hell.”
The turtle opened his jaws.
Yamamoto tore open a chest pouch and held out a small object.
“Gaze upon this and know your Maker!”
The Husk recoiled from the sight, screaming in agony and fear and terror.
Karim blinked. Yamamoto was holding up a necklace of some kind. But what necklace could inflict such agony on a Dark Power?
“Witness the symbol of God! The Uncreated Creator who made all things! The Prime Mover who set the cosmos in motion! The Lawgiver who divided good and evil, clean and unclean, light and darkness! The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, the One and the All!”
A strange blue-white light emanated from the necklace Yamamoto held in his hand. A faint light, but it chased away the cold, the voices fell silent, and the darkness retreated.
“In the name of God, I command you, give me your name!” Yamamoto demanded.
“Noooooooooooo!” the turtle screamed, flailing and thrashing.
Blood splashed over Yamamoto’s face and body. He continued, utterly unperturbed.
“Your name! Give me your name!
The turtle screeched in terror. The windows rattled. Books flew off their shelves. The floor trembled, the ceiling shook. Yamamoto carried on.
“In the name of God in Heaven, the Sovereign of all things seen and unseen, the Supreme Judge and the Father of Eternity, he who causes to become, he who decrees the beginning and end of all things, speak your name!”
An abhorrent sound flowed from the monster’s mouth. It was an unpronounceable word trickling through miles of superheated tar, combining with methane bubbles and the remnants of long-dead creatures, bursting out of primordial muck into an impossible sound. A sound like ‘Aruk’.
“Aruk!” Yamamoto yelled. “I know your name, Aruk! By the power of God, I command you to leave this man, Aruk! Retire, therefore, and flee before the name of the Almighty!”
The turtle howled.
The windows cracked and shattered. The earpieces shut off all noise. Claws tore deep rents in the floor. Tiles fell from the ceiling. Shelves toppled.
A great black cloud burst forth from the Husk. It covered the body completely, shrouding him in a veil of darkness. The inky cloud grew larger and thicker, sucking up the lake of blood into itself, blooming into a pillar of smoke that reached up to the ceiling.
It became a face.
“This is not over!” Aruk said.
Karim’s blood froze. His muscles clenched tight. His heart trembled. His eyes and jaw locked wide open.
“You will pay!” the Dark Power shouted.
Yamamoto raised his necklace.
The cloud dispersed like smoke in the wind. It blew out the shattered windows and dissipated in the storm outside. The air freshened and cleared, and in moments, it was as if it was never there.
And where was once a monstrous turtle, there was only the shriveled, naked remains of a man.
Yamamoto pressed his hands together and lowered his head.
“Was that… an exorcism?” Karim asked.
“Yes,” Yamamoto said.
“I… I don’t… how? Are you an Elect? A priest? What are you?”
Yamamoto faced Karim. His necklace reflected the faint light around the room. It was a strange symbol, one Karim had glanced a few times on the beat but had never investigated, so simple, yet so powerful.
It was a cross.
A cross whose ends terminated in three lotus petals.
“A believer,” Yamamoto said.
“A believer?” Karim asked.
“Yes. Only this, and nothing more.”
“How did you exorcise him?”
“It is not I who performed the exorcism, but God.”
Something within Karim trembled. He had known many of the words Yamamoto had spoken; he had heard some of them in the mosques of his childhood.
Had he been wrong about Allah?
More importantly, did this man have the power to exorcise Galen too? Was this the secret behind the sterling record of the Black Watch?
Who was Yuri Yamamoto?
“Black Watch, this is Three-TAC. We have a… a situation.”
It was Rogers, the SWAT commander.
“Go ahead,” Yamamoto said. “What’s the problem?”
“A Counter Assault Team from the SN is coming up. They want the body of the Husk.”
Connor shook his head, muttering softly under his breath.
“Stop them,” Yamamoto said. “This is our scene, not theirs.”
“We tried. Control told us to stand down.”
Yamamoto sighed. “Understood. We’ll deal with them.” Changing frequencies, Yamamoto said, “Black Watch, Samurai. On me.”
The six operators gathered around Yamamoto. They were battered, bruised and blood-covered, but their eyes were bright and their demeanor firm. Without orders, they reloaded their weapons and fanned out in a semicircle around the body.
The CAT came. Thirteen of them, all cyborgs, marching in lockstep down the aisles. Their uniform was a cross between tac gear and clerical clothing. Black long-sleeved armored greatcoat, black pants, black gloves, black boots. Their cybernetic eyes, three per cyborg, scanned in every direction, their hands held close to their waists.
And in the lead was Alpha Epsilon Eight-Two-Two.
If you like stories that blend sci fi, fantasy, horror and authentic combat, check out my latest novel HAMMER OF THE WITCHES.
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