The Professor gave his orders to his lieutenants, dispensing them throughout the city in preparation for the coming day. It was obvious that there would be some resistance to their taking the city, and he was prepared for it. Or soon would be.
His soldiers would fan out through the urban jungle, each group prepared to uphold the new rule by force, until the evil mastermind could put his entire plan into effect. Of course, inevitably, he would have to demonstrate again the awesome power he controlled, but he decided to wait until the worst of the chaos broke out. Those who tried to resist would be the next to melt away in the streets.
Which would quiet any other dissenters. Through fear he would control the city. Terror would keep the populace in check, but it would also bring like-minded individuals to his side, like scum bubbling up to cover a still pond. The power would invite them, and the reward of that power. The ranks of his followers would fill.
Once it was large enough, the state would fall easily, and the process would begin again.
He had no fear of opposition. The incredible force he now controlled could as easily be turned on an army as on the citizens he would enslave.
Within a few months, the entire country would be his.
After all, who would dare oppose him?
They stood on the rooftop, far from the site of carnage, listening to the sleeping city.
“How?”, she asked quietly.
He turned to her, motioning her to his side, and pointed down to the street below.
Fifteen stories down, a car slowly trudged along, winding though the silent labyrinth of the city.
“I have to leave you here”, he said. “Not for long, though. Make your way to the street. By the time you get there, I'll have what we need.”
Before she could protest, he threw himself forward, off the side of the building, diving into the shadows.
She watched him fall, twist, glide, descending towards the street below, and disappear into the night.
Turning around she raced toward a rusty ladder that would lead to the fire escape.
There were five of them in the car. One in the commanding red hood, four in the black hoods of the subordinates, all prepared to do their unholy part in taking the city. They carried with them the passion to control, to dominate, to see before them the subservient men and women of the city. They hungered for it, the control of others. They told one another that it would bring a peaceful order, that it was the way of the powerful to control those who needed a firm grasp to exist, but the reality was quite different. Inside their dark minds, twisted images of the power they would hold made them eager to drive on, to do their work.
A heavy ker-thunk, as if an anvil had been dropped onto the roof of the car, crashing in the windows and plowing the metal roof down six inches caused the driver to swerve, nearly losing control. He managed to lay on the brakes preventing them from driving head-first into a streetlight.
“What the hell was that?”, he asked, turning to his crimson-masked superior.
The lieutenant shook his head, trying to open his door to investigate, but the damaged roof had buckled on his side, warping the frame so it couldn't be easily opened.
“Get out”, he barked. “Find out what hit us.”
The others reached for their respective handles, but stopped as the red mask was ripped from their leaders face, and he was pulled, screaming, through the shattered side window.
They could see him being dragged quickly across the asphalt, into the darkness of an alley, but there was nothing there! It was as if the night itself had come alive!
One of the soldiers got his door open, and nearly fell out of the car trying to get his machine gun up and ready, when his leaders scream suddenly cut off into silence.
“What is it?”, cried the driver, unable to get his door open, as the others piled out into the street through the open door, fanning out, looking in all directions. Seeing nothing.
The driver was watching as they moved cautiously toward the alleyway, guns ready, nerves on end. He was staring intently into the darkness when something appeared next to the first gunman, something dark and swift and horrid. Something that slammed into the gunman with such force that he was lifted off the street and thrown onto his back, a wheezing cry coming from his broken throat before he hit the ground with a thud and a death rattle.
The second gunman brought his weapon around, finger already tightening on the trigger to trace a deadly volley into the night, but the thing was behind him, sweeping low, taking him at the knees so that he fell back, his fire spraying into the air and into the third gunman who twisted with the near-point-blank impact like a child's doll flung about by a playful dog. A loud crunch as the attacker kicked down into the gunman's face with such force that the thing seemed to step into his head and then kick out with a squelch that sprayed blood and bits onto the side of the car, through the window and across the drivers horrified face.
Unconsciously, the driver floored the gas pedal, and the car careened forward into the light pole, shattering his nose against the steering wheel with the impact.
He raised his head from the wheel, disoriented, when the thing reached through the window for him, wrapping leather-gloved hands like a vice around his neck and pulling him through the twisted window frame and out onto the street. The thing threw him onto the hard pavement, knocking the wind out of him, and then stood over him, a demon preparing judgment for another lost soul.
Staring up, the driver saw the thing, all billowing, shapeless shadow, and cold, hard featureless head. The thing had no face, like the artists dummy that had terrified him as a child. It had almost no shape, but seemed to whisper in and out of existence, one second there, the next, almost not. The driver began to wail when the thing reached down for him again.
The Black Mask brought the keening, terrified man up with disorienting force, driving him to a standing position that he couldn't maintain on his own.
“Where were you going?”, he commanded.
The driver shook his head, trying to raise his arm, and the Black Mask batted it aside with enough force that it snapped at the wrist.
The driver screamed, and the Black Mask let him fall to the ground, where he crumbled like a marionette in a child's forgotten playroom.
“I will break you, joint by joint until you answer me”, he whispered loud enough for the black-hooded killer to hear him.
He reached for the man again, and the driver cowered away.
“The East boroughs!”, he yelled, averting his eyes from the thing that was killing him.
“Why? What are you doing there?”
The driver looked up and then quickly away.
“We have something in the car...to put up...a transmitter in the trunk. We're to put them on the highest building. Please-don't-kill-me!”, he rushed out.
The Black Mask reached down, laced his fingers around the man's throat, twisted the driver's head up to look into the nothingness of his face.
“How many transmitters?”
He could feel the drivers throat through his glove, swallowing, his Adam's apple moving spasticly with each word.
“There are six! One for each area of the city!”, he croaked out.
“Now. Where is the Professor?”
The man could barely speak under the constriction of the hand around his throat, choking the life from him, choking the truth out of him.
“I don't know! In the center! Somewhere in the middle of it all! Please-please...”
But there was no pleasing the Black Mask, whose fingers were clutched so tightly now the driver could feel the crushing of his larynx in the vice. His vision was clouding, sparks of light flashing before his eyes as his oxygen deprived brain began shutting down systems it no longer had use for.
With a snap of his wrist, the Black Mask let the dead man drop to the ground, and stood to his full height, moving towards the alley and this groups leader, unconscious amid the trash there.
Maybe he would have more exact information.
Rose finally hit the street, her legs aching from the climb, her hands covered in rust and beginning to blister. She pulled her pistol from her belt, ready to step into the street, when the Black Mask appeared before her.
She jumped back, startled.
“God, you scared me!”, she gasped.
“I'm sorry. Are you ready to go?”, he asked, calmly.
He turned, sweeping past her, back down the alley she had emerged from. She hastened to fall into step with him.
“Where are we going?”, she called as he quickened the pace.
From the street they were racing away from, there was a loud whumpf as the car caught fire, it's cargo of dead bodies burning along with the transmitter in the trunk. Rose stumbled , turning back, only seeing the reflection of the flames on the building behind her, not knowing what had happened. She turned back to him, forcing her legs to follow, to catch up.
As they began to run, she could barely make out his words over her own breathing.
“We're going to stop the Professor!”