Babylon, you were the beauty among all cities.
History has been so terribly unkind to you.
Only I remain. Only I remember your truth.
It was mid afternoon in the congested city of Paramount. However, from the population's viewpoint on the ground, the constant smog made it seem like twilight throughout the day. Paramount was the Capitol of the Eastern American Imperium, located near the centre of the former state of West Virginia. There were no more States. Everything had changed after the holocausts, including borders.
From his small hotel window, a man looked down to the street far below. He wiped the window with a black sleeve, but most of the pollutant dirt was on the outside, resulting in little improved visibility.
The downtown streets were bustling with crowds and vehicles. A few hours from now it would look like a ghost city when the curfew went into effect. Every major city had a curfew during these times of marshal law. Civil rights and laws had gone out the window, a very high window. The government's propaganda machine had convinced most of the population it was for their safety. Minorities had been blamed for these drastic measures. It started with the vampires – an obvious choice – aliens quickly followed, and the list grew longer with each passing month.
He backed away from the window. "Light," he said in a low, raspy voice. The room instantly lit up with a cool, unnatural light, illuminating the sparse furnishings. His wide-brimmed hat and long coat lay neatly on the bed next to his curved sword. He was dressed all in black: long sleeved shirt, pants, and shiny leather boots that came up to his knees. His long, dark hair was a strong contrast to his angular, anemic face. He looked to be in his fifties. The 'hard life' lines on his face added years that the lack of grey in his hair couldn't completely offset.
The few people that crossed his path in the evening might have mistaken him for the main reason the curfews were in effect. However, in the daylight, he was just another tall, pale, eccentric man with odd taste in clothing, a pale rider with a hint of Goth, a figure that would have looked more at home on a horse than on foot. But horses were rare, an animal that had been eaten to near extinction.
He went over to the bed, picked up his sword by the hilt as he produced a pen-shaped tool from his pocket. He turned on the small device and focused its white beam along the edge of the blade. Small sparks flew off where the angled beam kissed the blade's sharp edge. It was a metal working tool he had adapted to sharpen the alien metal to a near impossible thinness.
"Screen, on," he snapped. He sat down on the edge of the bed, more intent on sharpening his sword than whatever would appear on the wide monitor mounted on the dirt-stained, beige wall.
On the screen, two men in cheap suits were sitting in a mock living room. They were in the middle of an intense discussion.
"...Yes, but doctor, are they vampires?"
"No, of course not. Vampires are fantasy creatures from literature and film. Some call them vampires because it is human nature to try to make sense of the unknown. We tend to categorize or label something so that we feel we have some kind of control.
"So what are they if they're not vampires?"
"I'm certain the government knows more than the rest of us, but they aren't sharing their information. What we do know is that they started to appear shortly after the missiles hit. It may sound cliché, but I believe they are a mutation, or the result of genetic manipulation. Perhaps government funded experiments to create a super soldier, or my personal opinion, a human designed to survive the harsh conditions on other planets. After the missiles hit, members in our government decided that America would survive no matter the cost. In desperation, they..." The screen faded to black.
"Fools," the sword sharpener whispered at the screen and changed the channel.
A close up of the next imperator quickly focused into high pixel resolution. The soon to be commander-in-chief is in his sixties with slicked back, grey hair and a vainly trimmed van dyke beard. He was nearing the end of his acceptance speech.
"...and furthermore, when I assume power next month, I will make it my priority to deport all aliens from our country. Also, I will open talks with our allies to convince them it's in all our best interests for them to do the same. Now listen, I'm not just talking about undocumented aliens from the neighbouring planets, I'm referring to every last one of..." The screen faded to black.
His sword sharpening finished, he laid the weapon gently on the bed and changed the channel to the local news.
A familiar close to retirement news anchor came into focus.
"...were horribly killed last night. The police have no comment, but it's this reporter's opinion that they are the latest female victims of the serial killer known as 'The Twilight Stalker'. If true, these will be victims 55, 56, and 57."
"Unless you've been living in a cave on Proxima Prime for the past three months, you're aware of this psycho's MO: throats cut ear to ear, abdominal mutilations, and the removal of internal organs. He strikes between sundown and 10:00 pm. A time when there are still a few people on the streets. Some trying to get home before the 9:00 curfew, and the more reckless or criminal types still on the streets even later, before the police's deadly force option goes into effect at 10:00."
"Prostitutes have been his targets so far. Why? They are an easy target of opportunity, but is there more to it than that? Is it an intense hatred towards prostitutes, or perhaps all women in general?"
"As soon as I hear anything new, you can be sure I'll be back on to give you the very latest on this story. And now, an important message from one of our..." The screen went dark.
The man in black sat in silent thought. The news camera had shown it for only a second, but he recognized the area where the last killing took place. It was in the red light district, one of the worst parts of the city, the sector where the criminal, the addicted, and the depraved congregated. All vices were catered to there. Drugs, gambling, and debauchery were the common pastimes that would come to mind to the less morally corrupt citizenry. But there were also vices and perversions that were far beyond the thoughts of the majority. The only limits were the imaginations and finances of those that went there for their self-indulgent amusements.
He decided to wait in his hotel room till dusk and then investigate the area for himself. The police wouldn't be out enforcing the curfew at that earlier time, and there would be fewer onlookers. Also, that's when the killer of whores came out. Maybe he would get lucky.
The Sun was straddling the horizon when he arrived at the location where the woman had been killed less than twenty-four hours earlier. His long, leather coat looked like a black cape as he strode through the parking lot toward the exact spot. He stopped just short of the dried pool of blood and looked down upon the strange shape on the pavement. Where a left arm had been was clearly visible, but the rest was just a large blob that only remotely resembled a human form. It looked as if the outstretched arm was trying to pull itself free from the rest of the gore.
Obviously, the city workers scheduled to clean up such messes hadn't been here yet. For once the high number of murders in the city benefited him.
The body had been found at this backside of an old ten-story apartment building. The first responders had assumed it was a suicide, not an uncommon assumption given the location and condition of the body. He looked up at the building only three metres from where he stood. It was a well-known location and a frequent stop by the police. The buildings on either side were the backs of two and three-story structures. There were the usual porn shops, smoke shops, strip joints, whorehouses, and worse.
He removed a leather glove, squatted down near the blood handprint, and placed his spread hand an inch above it. He remained motionless in this position, eyes closed, the strain of concentration furrowed on his face. Most humans have five senses; he had more. The weather had been cool. The blood cell degradation was minimal. It was a long shot, but he hoped the victim had put up a good fight. Somewhere in this gore there might be a few drops of the killer's own blood – if he could sense it – and the best place to start was where her hand had been.
He had almost given up when he detected the foreign blood. Had she scratched him? Probably. Once located, the different blood was easy to separate from the rest.
Still motionless, he went deeper, focusing on a single white blood cell.... Its nucleus... Its DNA.... YES! He had suspected. The crime scenes had so many similarities. He was now sure. It was him. He had come back. A different body, a different continent, a different time, but he had come back. The man in black stood up, slipped on his glove, and strengthened his resolve to find this special killer.
A loud scream brutalized the silence! It startled him; a reaction he rarely experienced, but the quiet of the evening, and his prior trance-like state intensified its effect on him. He instinctively squatted down and turned toward the direction of the unexpected sound. He saw two brawny men exiting the three-story whorehouse next door. One was carrying a large, grey canvas bag over his shoulder. The bag moved! Another shrill scream!
"Shut the fuck up!" the empty handed one yelled as he walked over to the one carrying the bag and hit one end of the bag hard with his fist. The bag's contents went limp, the screams stopped.
The man in the shadows remained motionless, sizing up the situation. The two thugs were probably the muscle for whatever gang or crime syndicate operated in this area. Before he decided on a course of action, the choice was made for him. The empty-handed one, pausing to massage his knuckles, looked in his direction, spotting him in the apartment's shadows.
"What the hell are you lookin' at, asshole?"
An insult. He disliked them even more. He greeted them back in language they could understand. "Two scum bags who don't know they're already dead." There was more grave than gravel in his voice.
He rose up slowly, like a shadow coming out of the ground. At two metres tall he stood silent with a hunter's scrutiny. The only movement was the bottom corners of his long coat caught by the light breeze.
Although the thug became a bit concerned about the escalating situation, he was confident in the two against one odds. "This is none of your concern," he cautioned as he pulled out a large knife from its sheath on his belt. It glinted in the light of the setting Sun, a small beacon, warning of the violence to come. "Get out of here or I'll bleed you!"
To their surprise, the stranger walked leisurely toward them. The second man dropped the bag to his feet and pulled out an equally large knife. The two thugs stood their ground shoulder to shoulder as the stranger walked out of the shadows, closing the fifteen metres separating them.
"What's wrong with you, man?" the second thug spoke with pretend confidence. The outsider's complete lack of fear bothered him. "Are you suicidal?"
When the stranger was almost within arms length, the first thug lunged forward, thrusting his knife at the man in black. For a brute of his size, he moved swiftly. It wasn't his first time stabbing a man in the heart, ending a fight even before it began.
At the last second, the stranger's left hand came out of nowhere, grasped the thug's wrist, and stopped the point of the knife only a finger's width from his chest. The stranger squeezed with phenomenal strength, resulting in the sickening sounds of bones being slowly splintered. The thug wailed in pain, overlapped by the sound of the knife clanking to the pavement.
"Fuck!" yelled the second thug, his eyes bugging out.
The stranger shifted his attention to his right, the direction of the profanity. He released the first man, who in shock, fell to the pavement. He walked up to the second thug who stood confused and anxious. The stranger's right hand thrust out like a cobra, grabbed him by the neck, and lifted the 250-pound man clear off the pavement. His feet dangled, toes straining down to the pavement in a futile attempt to reaching it.
The heavy-set man, now struggling for breath and in desperation, stabbed his knife deep into the stranger's right upper arm. The man in black only winced, but he didn't release his hold. Instead, the vice-like grip became even tighter. In distress, the thug released the knife's grip and with both hands and in futility, tried to pry the rock-solid hand from around his neck.
With his free hand and unwavering determination, the stranger grasped the knife's handle. With a grimace, he slowly pulled the blade free, and swiftly plunged it deep into the thug's forehead. The force was so great the knife's guard contacted his skull and continued crushing it inward until the point of the knife burst out of the lower back of his head. He then threw the lifeless body over his shoulder with the ease and indifference of one discarding a bag of trash. The corpse landed in a crumpled heap like a marionette that's strings had been cut.
The grim man then refocused his attention on the first thug who was sitting on the pavement, cradling his mangled wrist, and producing inhuman guttural moans.
"You have ten seconds to get out of my sight," the stranger said calmly in a deep, raspy voice, "or join your friend." He pointed with a black-gloved hand.
From the thug's delirious point of view, it looked like the Grim Reaper towering over him, directing him to his inevitable doom. He rallied what little willpower he had left, stood up on wobbly legs and ran erratically away.
The stranger flexed and examined his injured arm. In a few minutes the injury would be fully healed. A bronze spear tip through his heart didn't kill him, or even a musket ball through his skull. He smiled and shook his head. A knife in the arm was insignificant by comparison. Still, why did he let that waste of human flesh stab him? Did he desire the pain? Did he need it to convince himself that he could still feel, that he was still among the living? Perhaps. There was a time when he would have screamed in agony. Now it had become nothing more than a discomfort. When he no longer felt anything at all, then what?
He picked up the knife covered in his own blood and walked over to the grey bag. There were signs of movement. He knelt down beside it, cut the rope that tied the one end shut and opened the bag to look inside. Within the bag's dark interior, two large, green, cat-like eyes opened up and met his stare.
"You are safe now," he said in the kindest voice he could muster (which for him was a challenge).
The almond shaped eyes, unblinking, remained focused on him.
"Come out. I'm not going to harm you."
The eyes blinked once and an oval-shaped, pink head cautiously emerged. It was a Proximan, a young female, perhaps no more than eighteen in human years! She was naked and bound hand and foot with atmosphere grade sealant tape. He pulled the bag down off her and cut her free.
Except for their hairless, pink skin, Proximans looked somewhat like humans. The females didn't have the wider hips of a human female; they were more boyish in figure. It was the shape of their bald head and facial features that displayed the greatest differences. Eyes that were twice the size of a human's, a tiny nose that was no more than a bump with two nasal openings, small ears, and a large, full-lipped mouth. The only aberration on this one was a large bruise on her temple that hadn't been there a few minutes ago.
She stood shaking with folded arms, looking fearfully around, as if expecting someone to jump out of the shadows any second. He removed his coat and wrapped her in it. "Do you speak English?"
"Yas, some words I spake," she said in a soft, strangely accented voice.
"What is your name?"
"Kithoolay.... Your name?"
"My name?" He had had many names over the years, and several on various forged passports even now, but he rarely used a name in public so as to maintain a low profile. "Lex," he lied at the spur of the moment. It was Latin for 'law'. It was a touch sarcastic, as he rarely followed the rules; he often made up his own. It would do, he thought.
"Well, Kithoolay, let's get you away from here. It's getting dark and it's almost curfew." He gently picked her up, hid her face in his coat, and carried her away like a newborn. He kept to the alleys and used the stairwell of the hotel to get her to his room without incident. He was very adept at avoiding trouble when he had to. This was one of those times.
That night he spent a couple of hours patiently talking with Kithoolay and learning about her tragic story. Even he – the one who thought had become numb to all feelings – shed a tear.
Her entire extended family had been killed during the Gulrathian occupation of their planet, Proxima Prime. Most had perished in the labour camps. Extermination camps would have been a more accurate name for them. The Proximans were literally worked and starved to death. Because of her youth and beauty, Kithoolay had been separated from her family and sold into slavery. She was passed from one buyer to the next until she ended up here, doomed to sexual slavery.
On Earth, crime syndicates dealt in the alien sex trade, and special consideration was given to young Proximan females. Whether a novelty or a kink, there were those who would pay a high price for the sexual services of an alien teen.
It had been a long day. Kithoolay was hungry and exhausted. He ordered in some Indian food; it was the only Earth food his young guest found appealing. After her second helping of Aloo Gobi he gave her his bed for the night. He would sleep in the armchair. He could go days without sleep, but this night, he closed his eyes and seconds later was fast asleep.
Less than an hour later, Kithoolay woke up suddenly. She was having a peculiar nightmare, one she didn't understand in the least. It was so foreign to her.
Across the dark room she saw her rescuer asleep in his seated position. His head was flopped back and his left arm hung limply toward the floor. His right hand held the hilt of his scabbarded sword with white-knuckled tightness.
He was having a nightmare too. No, she was mistaken. It was the same dream! She felt it. It wasn't her nightmare. It was his. That's why it made no sense to her. She approached him. Yes.... She opened her mind to him. His dreams were the strongest she had ever experienced....
He was at the reins of a chariot traveling at full speed. The two black horses were frothing at their mouths, they were near exhaustion, but he whipped them on. He looked behind to see a billowing trail of dust in his wake. He gazed down at the cause; a bloodied corpse was being dragged over the rough, parched ground. Nearby, hundreds of people standing atop a great kingdom's wall yelled terrible curses and insults at him. A horrible feeling of regret overcame him. It was like a dagger pushed slowly into his gut. He became lightheaded. To get his bearings he looked down at his feet.
He was no longer in the chariot, but stood on metal floor plating. He was in a large, dark room. A giant, ape-like creature convulsed wide-eyed in front of him. Black, smoky tendrils came from its expressionless, black eyes, and disappeared into his palm. He consumed the alien's life force. He felt its presence within him, a second mind fighting for dominance. He wouldn't let it escape even though he felt delirious with fever. He closed his eyes, escaping into the quiet blackness.
The cry of a seagull broke his solace. He was standing below a clear, cyan sky. Hard dirt was beneath his sandaled feet. He heard waves crashing against a distant shore. The sky became dark. He looked up to see the Sun blotted out by thousands of locusts. No, they were arrows! Cowards! (They were afraid to face him with sword and spear.) All of them headed straight for him and his men. "Shields, up!" he yelled.
He awoke to hear the end of his scream. Wet with sweat, he looked up to see two luminous eyes staring intently at him from the darkness.
"Mister Laex, you have bad bad drame," Kithoolay said soothingly.
"It wasn't so bad. At the end, I was fighting in the shade," he joked. (It was a very old joke.)
"You are no hu-man," she whispered, as if to guard his secret. "You are soul reaper."
She stunned him. The past quickly faded as the man in black focused on the present and the two words that exposed him. "Soul reaper?" It wasn't exactly accurate, but it was disturbingly close enough. Early in his life he had known his capabilities, but it took an alien girl from a world thousands of light-years away to define him with two simple words. How did she know his secret?
"Light, low," he snapped. The room gradually revealed itself. "You're not afraid of me?"
"No. You help mae. Soul reapers hunt strong aevil only."
"Soul reapers are a myth, a folk tale from your people. They aren't real. You are mistaken."
"No, I see in your drame. You are soul reaper," she repeated, this time like a gleeful schoolgirl meeting a pop star for the first time.
Of course... it now started to make sense to him. A rare few Proximans were able to dream-bond; a form of empathic connection of minds during sleep. He remembered dreaming about his encounter with General Rog'Hu'Qua. That was the 'soul reaper' part of his dream that Kithoolay latched onto. It troubled him that a young girl could so easily penetrate that which he had successfully kept hidden for so many years.
Convincing her he wasn't a mythical creature from Proximan folklore wasn't going to happen. Besides, it didn't really matter. However, it was an intriguing myth. He would have to study it in depth at a future date. Sometimes the old myths contained some truth. He certainly knew that some histories contained old lies.
"Very well, yes, I am a soul reaper. Now, go back to sleep."
She did, as she was told, confident that no harm would come to her, as long as a soul reaper was around to protect her. For the rest of that night there were no more nightmares, and her dreams were her own.
The next morning 'Lex' made a call to his contact in the local underground. A passport would be forged, an orbital-craft ticket purchased. All the necessary steps were set in motion to have Kithoolay transported to Australia safely. Sending her back to Proxima Prime was not an option; it would be a death sentence. The Australian government had set-aside a large area of land for Proximan refugees. It would give her a chance at a decent life. It was the best and only option.
Kithoolay stayed with him for several days until everything was in place for her escape and immigration. Although the teen was as good a daughter as anyone could wish for, being around others for any length of time was fast becoming intolerable for him. He was glad when he received the call that the passport was ready.
Kithoolay was sitting on the bed nervously waiting to leave. Today was the day. She was wearing a simple grey jumpsuit he had purchased for her. It was ordinary and typical, so as not to attract any undue attention.
He walked up to her and held out a silver bracelet. "Please wear this until you are onboard the orbital-craft, for good luck. Think of it as a going away present."
Her large eyes widened, and for a moment, he thought she would cry. "Thank you, Mister Laex. It is the first prasant I have in long long time."
When the time came, he and Kithoolay went down and waited in the lobby of the hotel. It was 7:35 pm when a member of the underground came to escort Kithoolay to the orbital-port.
She hugged her solemn protector and kissed him on his pale cheek. "Goodbye, Mister Laex. You have nice drames, OK."
He awkwardly hugged her back, watched her go with the somber, white-shirted man, and enter the parked car. The vehicle traveled down the main street, turned and disappeared onto a side street. She would be OK he convinced himself, and he would keep an eye on her progress to the orbital-port via the transmitter hidden in her bracelet. He wasn't going to relax until he knew she was in a low orbit to Australia.
Back in his hotel room, the man in black pulled out a utilcom phone from his coat pocket, turned it on and watched the small red blip on the digital map as it moved slowly toward the orbital-port.
Lex thought about what had happened on Proxima Prime more than a year earlier. All this wouldn't have been necessary if it wasn't for the Gulrathian Empire's invasion of that planet, and leaders like Rog'Hu'Qua, the butcher general.
Rog'Hu'Qua, Hitler, Nero, different names, different bodies, different times, even different planets, but it had always been the same foul soul. It traveled through space-time to continue on from one body to the next. They say evil never sleeps.... Well, it does, for a time, and then... it wakes up.
An alarm sounded on his utilcom! The red blip was stationary, too long to have been stopped at an intersection. Something was wrong. He tried to call the driver. No answer. The car was less than five miles away. Lex scooped up his sword and ran out of the room determined to find out what the trouble was. He didn't have time to flag down a cab, but swiftly ran and leaped the distance in less than ten minutes. He kept off the main streets as much as possible, keeping to alleys and side streets.
When he arrived at the location, he cautiously surveyed the scene. It was a desolate dead end street. Had there been any onlookers earlier, they would've quickly left the scene for fear of being implicated by the police. Also, the curfew was less than an hour away.
The bulbous, white car had crashed into a pole. The driver's door was open, as was the back passenger door on the opposite side. When he approached the car, he recognized the driver who was leaning back behind the wheel, his throat cut from ear to ear. His once crisp, white shirt was now a bright red. The sleeves were still mostly white except for some blood splatter. There was no sign of Kithoolay.
She must have exited the car through the passenger side, he thought. He walked around to the flung open passenger door and looked around. Where would she have run to while the driver was being attacked? The closest escape route was a small alley less than fifty metres from the car.
He ran toward it as he unsheathed his sword. The closer he got to the alley's entrance, the greater his feeling of dread. Adrenaline kicked in, another sense was accessed, and as he ran on, his mind pulled glimpses from the near past into the present. He saw a brief flash of the dead driver, Kithoolay running, looking fearfully back over her shoulder, a naked man in pursuit, and a nasty looking knife in his hand.
When he reached the alley, his heart sank. His worst fear was realized. Just inside the alley was Kithoolay's body. Her small throat had been cut so deep it had nearly severed her head. There was so much blood. Her grey jumpsuit lay in blood soaked tatters around her slender, mutilated body. He turned away, back toward the car. He didn't need to see any more. He knew what he would find, or more precisely, what he wouldn't find. Many of her internal organs had been cut out. It was him. His growing anger superseded his sorrow. It was deathly quiet except for the leather creaking of his gloved hand as he strangled the grip of his sword.
From behind him, a self-assured voice punched through the stillness. "Looking for this?"
Lex turned back toward the alley. And there he stood. The creature he had been hunting for all these months, 'The Twilight Stalker', aka 'The Ripper', and he was not what he expected. He was thirty something, average height, and wearing a black suit. He looked more like a banker or lawyer than the psychopathic killer he knew him to be. His skin was extremely pale, far too pale to be human. In his left hand he held a clear, plastic bag, heavy with its sickening contents. In his right hand he held up the object of his question, the silver bracelet.
"I paid a small fortune for that Proximan slut," he gestured toward the teen's corpse. He waved the bracelet in the air. "Two can play at the tracking game." He tossed the bracelet toward the body sending it clattering onto the pavement just short of the blood pool.
"Surprised? You shouldn't be. Knowledge is a weapon, money is the ammunition, and well, I have a sizeable stockpile of munitions. But where are my manners? I've been a terrible host. I would've greeted you sooner, but I needed to clean up a bit first, throw on this suit. I'm not like those other bare-assed, blood-sucking scum; I have pride in my appearance. Anyway, I know you've been looking for me for quite some time.... Well, here I am." He held his arms out to his sides, as if to give himself up.
Lex strode swiftly toward the confident killer, rapidly closing the 20 metres between them. Anger changed to rage. He felt the blood pounding in his temples, white noise screamed in his ears. His curved sword became part of him as he held it straight out at a 45 degree angle from his side. "You paid those two men to take her to you."
"Yes. You see. I do so love the finer things in life." He held up the bag. "I've never had an alien before. I hear the liver is most flavourful." His face turned serious. "You should've killed both men; left no witnesses. I would never have found her, or learned about you." He pulled out an auto-pistol from beneath his jacket and pointed it at his advancing enemy. "Stop! This gun fires ultraviolet rounds."
Lex continued toward him without losing a step.
The Ripper fired, spraying half a dozen white beams across his chest. The hot beams burned smoking holes into his coat and shirt, but did little damage to his flesh.
"I don't understand.... You're a vampire, like me!"
"Is that what your man told you?"
He franticly changed the pistol's setting for a human target and shot off another burst. This time it hurt. It would have cut down the toughest of men, but the grim man only paused for a moment. He looked down at the new smoking holes; the smell of his burnt flesh hit his nostrils, and continued toward his target.
No longer interested in conversation, the Ripper threw his pistol, dropped the bag, turned and ran.
Lex caught the discarded weapon with his left hand and threw it aside. Without any loss of momentum, he bent down and like a boomerang, sent his deadly blade spinning a foot above the pavement toward the escaping killer.
The sickle sword found its mark; the Ripper's right leg below the knee. The razor-sharp blade cut the limb clean off, he screamed and crumpled onto the hard surface. His arrogance was replaced by terror as he looked back at his enemy, and hopelessly tried to drag himself away. "What the hell are you?" he yelled.
Lex walked slowly toward the Ripper. He stepped over the severed leg, admired the Italian leather shoe still in place, paused to pick up his khopesh, shook off some blood, and continued toward his quarry.
The Ripper now bargained from a place of desperation and pain. "What is it you want? I, I can give you money, lots of money... or anything, just name it... whatever you want."
Lex stopped and stood over him. He bent down, grabbed the Ripper by his neck and pulled him up off the ground.
The Ripper surprised him by produced a tanto knife from beneath his jacket and slashed him across his face, leaving a deep cut from cheekbone to chin. Lex released his hold, giving his opponent an opening, a thrust to his heart with the same deadly weapon. But Lex parried this potentially lethal attack with his sword, followed by a cut down into his hand. The samurai blade dropped clinking onto the pavement with the finality of a death knell.
Once again Lex stood over the serial killer. The Ripper had no more tricks; he just sat there exhausted and defeated. He had believed himself immortal, unstoppable, the top of the food chain – his mistake.
Lex looked over at what was left of Kithoolay. "You wanted to know what I am." He looked down for a moment in silence, then looked up and turned to the Ripper with piercing, cold eyes. "I am a soul reaper, and I am your final death." He said it with such conviction it stabbed fear into the heartless butcher.
The hand of retribution knelt down beside his beaten foe. He thrust his open, black-gloved hand toward the slaughterer of women. The Ripper convulsed as a force beyond the scope of scientific understanding began to absorb his life's essence. Black, smoky tendrils came from his lifeless, blood-shot eyes, and meandered toward Lex's hand to disappear into his palm. His gloved hand closed tightly into a leather fist. The Twilight Stalker quivered one last time, fell back and departed the world of the living, and soon too, the world of the dead.
Still kneeling, Lex shut his eyes, placed both hands on either side, palms down, lightly touching the pavement in an ancient ritual of invocation. Deep concentration showed on his face; an internal struggle between predator and prey. The large gash across his face began to heal at an astonishing rate. Colour came back to his face, wrinkles disappeared, skin became smoother, tighter, and the man that looked to be in his fifties, now looked no older than thirty.
He slowly opened his eyes. "Goodbye... Jack."
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