The Reincarnator #1 (of 4)

A Crowd of One

Imagine if you will, sitting in the center of a high school classroom, a young man of slight, yet powerful build. He has black hair, brown eyes, and has a conservative hair cut for a boy his age - about sixteen. He's wearing a name tag that says he's 'Robert'. Of course, there's about twenty other folks around him, all of varying age, sex, nationality, and dress - and they've all got name tags that say 'Robert' as well...

(That should do for a 'cover', shouldn't it?)

Notice for the faint of heart: the following tale isn't precisely what one would consider G-rated in nature. It contains a plethora of excessive and unnecessary violence, not to mention a surplus of other content that might see it burned, were it in a printed form, by the more fanatical elements of various societies across the earth. In other words, if violence, robots, and mad science offend you, you've been warned.

(That should do for a 'disclaimer', shouldn't it?)

***

"Can we get this over with already - I've got school tomorrow!"

The young man continued to hide behind the slowly dissolving rock as his current enemies chipped away at it with their automatic rifles. He'd already expended all the rounds in his Uzi's magazine - the last of six he brought along for the ride - and had neglected to bring his compound bow on this particular outing. After all, you would think that six magazines of ammo would be enough to handle a small group of would-be nuclear nut cases. He thought so, anyway.

The shooting then stopped abruptly. Robert knew better than to peer around the rock to see why; no, he assumed that the remnants of the group he had journeyed all the way to this godforsaken desert to eliminate were up to no good. Thinking that it was about to hit the fan, figuratively speaking, Robert removed his katana from its sheath and prepared to get personal. And he hated personal, what with the diseases you could catch nowadays.

Crouching such that he could spring into the air with but a millisecond's notice, Robert remained motionless while he listened to the noise around him, listened for the telltale sound of boots on sand. After about thirty seconds, he heard the tentative steps of one who had a good idea that he was the cannon fodder of his group, and this was rightly so; Robert had eliminated most of this thirty-man outfit with trickery, deceit, and of course precise aimed-fire.

As the man's shadow stretched into view, Robert leapt into the night, filled with the light of six different spotlights aimed at the rock before him. Before his would-be assailant could react, Robert had already cleaved his gun-arm off. Before the severed limb could reach the ground, Robert had it in hand, and had removed the weapon from it. Before the wounded man could turn to flee, Robert put his arm around the man's neck, and started firing under the bleeding stump.

As the man's six surviving allies opened fire at Robert, they filled their cohort full of holes even as Robert reduced their number by half; he was using the disarmed man as cover from their AK-47s even as he used this fellow's own gun against them. Once they'd expended their own ammunition magazines, Robert deactivated (in a rather hostile fashion) the lamps beaming their light on his person, and found new cover, that being the wall his foes were hiding behind.

Since they were seeking cover from his return fire, his remaining enemies did not spy Robert's movements - especially after he shot up their lamps - and as such, were easy prey for the young man once they resumed fire on his last location. Hitting them from the side, Robert finished out the rounds in his purloined weapon by felling the three gunmen, and then skewered them with his katana to make sure no surprises would waylay him.

Spending a few seconds to count the bodies, Robert decided that he'd dealt with all of these jokers once and for all, since his week of surveillance here told him that this was the last batch he needed to eliminate. Enjoying for a scant moment the sound of silence, since gunfire always gives him a headache, Robert entered the last building standing in this now-vacant compound. He then found what he was looking for: the plans and parts for a nuclear device.

Sans radioactive fuel, of course; his foes hadn't got that far just yet.

Collecting all of the above, Robert made his way into the desert, flinging one part here, burying another there, and of course burning all the plans (and the discs that he presumed they were on) in the fire he set to destroy the building he found them in. He couldn't stay to keep warm, though, for he wasn't joking when he said he had school tomorrow; Robert had a plane to catch in a short while, and it would take him over an hour to get back to the airport.

Four hours later, after he had gone through all the normal motions of declaring his sword as a family heirloom to the airport security fellows (after cleaning the blood off of it, mind you) and using his false passport to get through customs, Robert was finally in the air. Satisfied that he could rest at long last, Robert dozed off into an uneasy sleep, and reflected on his actions this day, and just what he might be up to next weekend.

***

As he slept, Robert's unconscious mind reeled with the sights and sounds of ages long past, as it usually does when he dreams. That is, of course, because he is essentially the product of human history. Blessed (or cursed) to be reborn time and time again since the dawn of human history, if not before then, Robert has lived out countless lives over the centuries. He's been both men and women, generals and slaves - in other words, he's seen plenty in his time.

His current dream was a chaotic mishmash of events, ranging from mastodon hunting with his trusty spear to the time he was the captain of his very own pirate ship; somehow this, and random high school references, made sense - at least within the context of the dream. He awoke with a start, though, when the plane landed in London. Robert, as he is named in his current life, collected himself to wait out the two hour layover.

Being very hungry after the rather... intense night he had, Robert indulged himself with a highly over-priced hot dog and Mountain Dew ™; he knew the stuff was bad for him, but since he didn't get wiped out down in Tunisia, he figured a small amount of celebration was in order. It's not like he'd get fat, what with the insane amount of exercise and training he had to undergo to maintain all of his skills - skills picked up over the span of his many lives.

Surprisingly filling, Robert found that said hot dog was making him rather drowsy (despite the sugar in his carbonated beverage), though eons of discipline kept him from falling asleep totally. However, he was just out of sorts enough to be taken surprise by a rather crotchety old man, who seized his hands suddenly. All that Robert could manage to say was "Whu...?" as his mind returned to the here and now, but the decrepit fellow before him was all scowl.

"Aha... aha! I have not seen these markings on a man for sixty years, yes? The mark of infinity!" Robert looked down on his hands, and he himself saw nothing. Of course, people have commented on that which they claimed they could see on his palms. While the exact thing that people see tends to depend on their personal interpretation, most folk these days tended to see the mathematical symbol for infinity - the 'crazy eight'.

"Not since World War Two have I seen these, Lieutenant Smythe - or whatever you call yourself these days. Heh heh. At least my prognostication was correct, for I knew I would encounter you this day. No, don't get up my dear tank jockey, for I must go now. But do not fret, for we shall meet again, and meet soon, you... mark my words!" The old man then disappeared into the press of people in the busy airport before Robert could stop him.

Though not fazed easily, Robert suddenly felt very, very uneasy. After all, the last time someone managed to recognize him from one life to another was in ancient, ancient Egypt - and that earned him a long, lingering death. While a fear of death itself held no power over Robert, the process was rather inconvenient, for he would have to be born and create a new life all over again, which would delay his agenda for the world even more...

***

The lunch bell rang, but Robert wasn't really paying attention. He'd been going over various facets of a former life of his, one in which he fought the Nazi scourge in Europe. He was trying to remember any psychics or mystics that he'd encountered who he didn't manage to kill, and was mostly coming up blank. The demon Thaz stood out, but other than that, the only person Robert could think of was an odd British fellow he knew as Horace Grayweather.

Without hesitation, Robert picked up his cellular telephone and dialed up his friend and confidante, Samuel Cator. This fellow, who has known Robert in this and his last two incarnations, has helped him to further his goal of bringing freedom and peace to all people of the world. In addition to managing his financial empire for him, Samuel also heads a small cabal of spies and informants that Robert relies upon to do his job.

You see, Robert spends so much time maintaining his skills and ordinary identity that he doesn't have time to seek out specific threats to his agenda. That's where Samuel and company come in; for instance, they identified the radical group of would-be nuclear terrorists that Robert so recently dealt with - and did all the ground work necessary to arm him to the teeth once he arrived on the scene. This always costs a lot, but then, Robert's got the cash.

Cash earned over several dozen lifetimes.

"Nice phone."

Looking up at the girl while he waited for Samuel to dig up information on Grayweather, Robert cocked an eyebrow at that comment, considering his old-school Iridium phone was clunky as heck and beaten to a similar state. "Heh. It's an old one but it's lasted me forever and I can get a signal almost anywhere..." Looking up at her, he saw a rather attractive young lady who aside from copious jewelry - was wearing very little; mostly a too-tight tank top and a really short-cut pair of jeans. And she was talking to him.

Which was in an of itself sort of weird, since people in school generally avoided him for being so 'antisocial'. But then Tari (as he recalled her name from a highly inaccurate history class) was wearing a 'goth' look at the moment, having obviously died-black hair and a bit too much 'gloomy' make-up on, so maybe that didn't bother her. Or something. "I like the tattoos too. You doing anything Saturday night, Rob?"

Impressed that he impressed without trying, Robert gave her a grin. "Nope, but if you've got something in mind, I'm all yours." He thought it sounded cheesy but he was making it up as he went along, so Robert decided to let crass confidence carry the weight here.

"Sounds good. Here's my number, give me a call Friday and we'll figure out something to do." Tara handed over the paper with her number and then walked off, leaving Robert to admire her very inadequate outfit.

And the eight-pointed 'chaos' tattoo in the small of her back.

"Hm, a date. Go figure..." Robert found himself bemused by that even as he was interrupted by Samuel as he finally got back from whatever fact-finding he was engaging in. After hearing what the man had to say, namely that Horace Grayweather was indeed still alive and kicking, and currently the owner/operator of a small fortune-telling business in London, Robert had Samuel book him a flight out that way, as he had some sudden business to take care of after school.

"Don't worry Robert, I'll have a convenient cover story handy to explain the time away from home. I always do, after all." Track meet? Spelling bee? Robert wondered what it would be this time, since he himself was running out of oddball ideas to keep his parents from figuring out something was amiss. Hopefully Samuel would come up with something convincing; the last thing he needed was to get grounded or somesuch.

He had a date this weekend!

***

It was all a matter of pretense, really. Robert knew that Horace here could predict his arrival, being some sort of prognosticator. And of course he did, but he pretended not to notice that Robert had snuck into his small shop to spy on him until, of course, Robert revealed himself. It was just one of those games that people in his temporal bracket seemed insistent on playing, so Robert grudgingly played along. "I'm here, Grayweather."

"Of course you are!"

"So tell me, what was so important to bring you out of hiding, to compel you to meet me at the airport like you did?"

Shuffling to the door of his small building, Horace turned the sign hanging from such to indicate the place was 'closed', even as he locked the door. Motioning for Robert to follow, Horace led him into the back of the place, which was more of a kitchen area than anything else. "Have a seat." Robert did so at the table. "I wasn't lying when I said I hadn't seen you since the War, Robert Jacobs. At least not with the physical eyes.

"With the Mind's Eye, however, I have viewed you many times, especially in what is for you the very, very near future. I have seen great adversity for you, Robert, and was hoping to at least give you fair warning that a threat nearly as old as your own soul stalks you. The reach of this threat is very far, and in fact... is in this very room at this moment. I implore you, do not return to the United States, for doing so will seal your fate! I -"

Horace suddenly stopped talking with that, as clawed hands literally burst through his chest from behind, pausing momentarily before ripping the old man in two. Leaping up, Robert pulled his two Uzi 9mm hand cannons out, and went full auto on... whatever it was that had dismembered the old man. "What a horrible death," thought Robert, who was feeling particularly responsible for all this, since the man died trying to warn him of something dreadful.

Looking at the pile of pulped organic material before him, Robert cursed when it started gurgling at him, presumably some sort of guttural laugh attempted without the appropriate functional (at the moment) organs. Realizing that this was some sort of vampire, Robert grabbed a small vial of holy water he'd brought with him in the event that he'd have to face such a beast, and flung it at the monster. It naturally shrieked in horror at this.

"Hargh! I'll feast on your eyes for that!" It then lunged at Robert, who was happy to see that this fellow was displaying true vampire behavior, and not the romanticized, goth chic wannabe dilettante behavior the media would like one to expect from such undead horrors. Sidestepping the lunge, Robert filled it with a bit more lead, and then dropped his machine guns to draw his sword - which he used to cleave the head clean off the monster.

Before it could perish anew, however, it decided to taunt him some. "My death means nothing, forever-born. We lie in wait for you in your new home, and nothing you can do will stop us now!" The decapitated vampire then suddenly experienced rapid aging as it was rendered inert, quickly turning to naught but bone and dust, leaving a frowning Robert to ponder this.

"Why did he do this? He knew I was coming, he must've seen this as well."

Knowing that he had rescued the psychic from similar beasts way back in World War II, Robert knew that Horace had sacrificed himself out of some sort of obligation, which only made him feel worse. He'd have truly rather died himself, since at least he could return to get payback - eventually, anyway. When other people died that was it - end of the line. Which was why he tried so hard to not get attached to folks... Robert knew it could only end badly.

Hearing sirens in the distance, Robert snapped back to the here and now, and collected his equipment in a hurry. He didn't bother with the bullet casings, as they'd been prepared to be impossible to trace, but grabbed the guns after sheathing his sword (intending to clean it with holy water later), and made his escape before he could get arrested. A murder rap in London would not allow him to avenge this poor old man, now, would it?

***

After this harrowing, guilt-laden encounter, Robert returns home to figure out just who is after him - a threat that could destroy him, after all, could easily decimate everyone he cares about in his current incarnation... and likely would out of spite. But with the exact nature of this threat still something of a mystery, how far will Robert have to go to flush him/her/it out? And the question remains - will he even be able to? Tune in next time to find out!

***

The Reincarnator #1 (of 4): A Crowd of One
© 2003, 2006, 2012 Denny Hill 2, All rights reserved and so forth.

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