The Shieldmen. Chapter 2: Militia for Worldwide Submission to the Holy Word


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The Shieldmen

By John C. Paschalis (All rights reserved.)

Chapter 2: Militia for Worldwide Submission to the Holy Word

Shieldman Netter was walking parallel to the façade of the Empire State Building, patrolling its perimeter, becoming accustomed to the silence.

He heard a whistle—the sharp swoop of air molecules breaking. His eyes widened as he heard the soundwaves. He turned his head to perceive the gelatinous form of a face portraying doubt and resentment. A flying man butted Netter with the force of a bicycle speeding out of control down a steep hill, before he rocketed upward through the misty yellow lamplight toward the middle stories of the building.

Netter swiveled his head toward the rocketeer, noticing the two flares of fire from his rocket pack extinguish in mid-air. The enemy rotated a stick on the metal shoulder strap of his backpack, and the fiery plumes returned. Posturing godlike in order to intimidate the Shielder, the rocketeer extended his arms perpendicular to his exposed torso, and bowed to a tuft of clouds that were dark blue in the moonlight. He turned the joystick again and initiated his return to the Shieldman, who was the focus of his destruction.

As the rocketeer descended, Netter opened a hole in his shield through which rose a glass globe at the end of a metal rod. The globe was a video camera whose entire surface received images from several perspectives; the camera transmitted the actions of the plummeting aggressor to the video screen on the inside of the shield. Watching the harpy approach him from the monitor, Netter encoded a message to eject a body net. The rocketeer fell backward into a prostrate position, saving himself from the net while disintegrating its fabric strands with the plumes of fire; then he regained his offensive composure.

The Shieldman directed one small cylinder to spring from each corner of the oval shield, as if it sprouted two ears from a head. A heat-seeking missile shot from each cylinder and sped toward the rocketeer. One missed; the other hit the muffler of his rocket pack, disabling the rockets. The human hawk, having been a few yards away from Netter and near the ground, fell to the pavement. Netter entered the command that caused a steel, horseshoe-shaped brace to detach from the outer depths of the shield. It fastened onto the fallen thug’s legs.

A streak of light that descended from the twentieth story, like the light of a falling star, caught Netter’s attention. It was the emission of fire from from the backpack of another rocketeer, who was carefully bearing down toward the Shieldman, feet first, with the earthbound force of the rocket propulsion opposing gravity just enough to allow him to land safely on the ground. When the rocketeer came within a yard of the ground, the Shieldman noticed a machine gun held in both arms, the barrel pointing in Netter’s direction.

At Netter’s command, the width of the shield expanded into a slightly concave dome the size of his torso; from each side a copper plate extended from the core of the shield, splintering off another plate, off of which splintered another, and so on, until the shield expanded to its full capacity. This function was intended to protect a Shielder’s upper body.

Netter looked at the video monitor and detected that nobody else stood in any possible line of the rifle’s shot at him, assuring himself that any gunblasts would not strike an innocent bystander.

The bionic eagle shot a round of bullets toward Netter , a few of them chiming as they ricoched off his shield. The aggressor took for granted his continued existence, and thought nothing of any impediment to his mortality. But Netter was about to contradict his intentions.

As he tracked the moving object that appeared on his screen, he entered the category of projectile functions and selected “automatic pistol.” A long barrel sprung from the shield; Netter shot twice at the rocketeer. The first bullet missed. The second struck him, and Netter watched an unfastiduous former warrior plummet from one story high.

Netter ran to the fallen body, whose gun had dropped to the concrete of an adjacent parking lot. The fallen man was gasping for air; the black cloth that surrounded a hole in his jacket was soaked with blood, the stain absorbing rapidly into the surrounding fabric. Shieldman Netter pulled a walkie-talkie from his belt.

“Send an ambulance—and a team of field agents—to the entrance of the Empire State Building.”

His attention turned to the fallen man’s face, wretched in exhaustion and pain. After reading him his rights, he looked at the other defeated man to make sure he was still incapacitated; his legs were wriggling in their steel clasp. Then he interrogated his immediate object for information about their mission for the Militia for Worldwide Submission to the Holy Word.

“Are you a member of the Holy Word?”

“I am a field agent acting to preserve freedom for the underprivileged peoples of the world, whom your country has shamefully neglected to carry out its duty in helping. As its goal is not the improvement of every soul’s lot, the protection given by your Society of Vigilant Protectors to American citizens is morally worthless—a sign of spiritual failure. If America is not consistently helpful, your Society’s domestic objectives are meaningless, and I would rather see your nation destroyed than rendered useless, which it is.

“So because we are primarily concerned with our own freedom, this means we are not a good political system, and hence you demand to annihilate us? Now answer my question. Are you a member of the Militia for Worldwide Submission to the Holy Word?”

“What good would the answer bring me if I am?”

“A relatively lenient punishment. You have been captured and will be tried for attempted murder. The Society of Vigilant Protectors will maintain a comprehensive profile on you for the rest of your life--and anywhere you go, you will be nominally monitored. But if you provide us with information, your sentence will be reduced by decades if you are found guilty in court. You should know that the Holy Word will know that you are a useless agent upon hearing about your arrest.”

The man groaned loudly, became silent for a moment, and then confessed, “I am Francois Gaulois of the Militia for Worldwide Submission to. . .the Holy Word. The badge in my coat packet will prove these proud facts. You may believe that your American system will be denying me complete freedom until I die—but it will not have the chance to do so, if it dies first.”

An ambulance followed by a black van pulled up. Dr. Kristoff ran out of the van accompanied by another man wearing a black suit. Netter’s report to them was brief. Kristoff had been smiling reservedly during the Shieldman’s assessment, as if an enthusiastic word of credit to Netter was too luxurious a gift. Medics had meanwhile placed the fallen warriors on a stretcher and wheeled them into the ambulance. Then everyone departed except for Netter, who was looking uncertainly at the spire of the Empire State Building, with the words “. . .if it dies first” resonating in his mind.

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