`The truth is such a sacred thing that I guard it well.'

- `Madwand' by Roger Zelazny


by Andrew L.


Slowly…gradually, Brian’s consciousness returned to him. The first thing he noticed was the humming…it was coming from all around-a steady, rhythmic vibration that seemed to press against him, though it was not ungentle.

Brian attempted to move his hands, but found his arms bound in place, though he couldn’t actually feel anything binding them. His legs suffered the same restraint as well, and he wondered dazedly why he was lying face-up, strapped to the bed. And more importantly: Where in hell was he?

His eyes remained closed as he searched his hazy memory for answers…He remembered standing on the roof of his apartment building…then, for some reason, he was flying at high speed over LA. There was something chasing him…and there was a ship hovering over the city. Huge and impossibly silent and…A voice. A terrible, hissing voice…Full of malice and contempt…

‘No!’, he muttered to himself and his eyes snapped open as he remembered the creatures that had assaulted him.

Brian’s eyes adjusted rapidly to the diffuse lighting in the room(he couldn’t pinpoint a light source) and he quickly scanned his surroundings. The room was about twice the size of his living room, or possibly a bit larger, though the two couldn’t have been more different. There were numerous panels embedded in chalk-white walls filled with buttons and video displays. The screens all seemed unnaturally elevated, as if the people that might use them were exceptionally tall. The ceiling, he noticed, had a number of devices mounted on mechanical arms suspended from it(sensors of some sort?) which moved and adjusted themselves ever so often. Brian figured that the place was some sort of high tech lab or observation room.

His eyes finally came to rest on a large, gray door in the wall to his right. It didn’t seem to have a doorknob or locking mechanism of any kind but it was the only way out that he could see. The more pressing issue, of course, was his inability to move and he wracked his brain for a way out of this predicament.

It actually took him a couple of minutes to realize that he was thinking like any other normal person in his situation instead of, well…whatever it was he had become lately. After the way that creature had brushed him aside however, Brian was feeling a little less than invincible right at the moment. In any event, he should at least be able to break whatever bonds were holding him down.

He craned his head and tried to get a good look at what might be restraining his arms and legs, and was astounded to see nothing but his bare wrists and ankles. It didn’t make sense. He tried with all his strength to lift his hands but couldn’t manage more than a centimeter of movement. Yet there was nothing visible binding him.

‘Fine, lets do this the other way then,’ Brian whispered to himself as he concentrated and called to the energy within him.

He received another shock when nothing happened. There was no response to his mental command…not even a tiny spark of electrical energy erupted from him. He couldn’t understand it. This had never happened before. Even when he was drained, there was always something, no matter how small the manifestation.

‘Just what the hell is going on here?’ Brian said out loud. He could somehow feel the power inside him…building, surging, yet something prevented it from reaching the surface. He felt somehow useless and impotent without his abilities and those feelings in turn, enraged him because he had never wanted to depend on his power in the first place.

Just as he was about to give up and look for another way to free himself, a sound to his right caught Brian’s attention. He turned his head and saw that the door had slid smoothly into the wall, allowing entry to the room.

What came through that door in the next second was a creature more alien and terrifying than anything Brian had ever seen in the movies or even his own nightmares. Not because it was the most hideous thing he had ever seen (although it was right up there in the top four or so), but because it was real… something which couldn’t be said for movies and nightmares.

Moving with a speed and grace that might best be described as eerie, the alien being swept into the room on two powerful, raptor’s legs. Brian recognized it as one of the monsters that had attacked him on his apartment’s rooftop minus its strange armor.

His examination of the being before him was interrupted when it spoke in a sibilant voice that was fast becoming familiar to Brian. ‘Greetings human, I was concerned that you would not awake…a tragedy indeed, since we have sssoo much to discuss.’

The young blonde woman known as Kara Zorel strode purposefully down a long walkway on her way across the UCLA campus. She was strikingly beautiful, tall and exceptionally well built…facts that were not lost on the numerous gawking males she left in her wake, but barely entered into her own consciousness as she tried to make it to her next class on time.

As her long, perfectly shaped legs propelled her along her way, Kara barely noticed the guys she passed staring at those same legs, revealed in their glory by her above knee-length skirt. In actual fact, Kara knew full well the effect she had on every man she met…young and old alike, but she also knew how to ignore the attention when she wanted to concentrate on something else. Her intense blue eyes looked straight ahead, her mind set on getting to her class on time.

An absent glance at her watch told her that it was 9:28 am. Just two minutes until her next class…she would definitely be on time if she kept her present pace. Of course, if she really wanted to, she could be there in a few seconds but it might be a bit difficult to explain the slipstream succeeding her entrance to the people in the class. Being nearly invincible wasn’t always as great as it might seem.

‘Hey, Kara! Hold on a sec!’ A female voice hailed her from behind, bringing Kara’s thoughts fully back to the present. Turning toward the source of the voice, Kara saw a slim, short young woman that she didn’t recognize immediately though she seemed somehow familiar. Her freckly face was framed by a shock of blazing, curly red hair that reached just past her shoulders, and she had a newspaper in one hand.

The red-head immediately picked up on Kara’s lack of recognition and introduced herself: ‘Hi, I’m Debra Hale remember?’ When Kara hesitated she went on animatedly, a big smile on her face. ‘We met about three weeks ago at the opening of that new ‘Prehistoric Marine Life’ display at the museum. You do remember right?’ Her green eyes narrowed questioningly.

With an inward groan Kara suddenly did remember the redhead…vividly. Even though her Velorian brain never really forgot anything, her mind would sometimes file away unimportant or unpleasant facts and memories until she really needed to recall them. She now recalled all her memories of the time spent with the freckly young woman at the museum that afternoon. And while Kara probably wouldn’t classify Debra as unpleasant, she did fit right into the annoying category.

Debra was without a doubt one of the most clumsy individuals Kara had ever met, and she’d seen her share of klutzes in her life. They had met when Debra slipped on the polished museum floor and toppled backwards to what could possibly have been a dangerous fall. Kara had seen her from across the room and used her inhuman speed to zip around behind the smaller girl and literally catch her in mid fall. No one in the area saw Kara’s display of super speed, including Debra who had been too busy falling at the time. They had introduced themselves then, and spent the rest of the afternoon examining the various exhibits, several of which Kara had ended up saving from Debra’s accidental bumps and trips. Still, Kara found that she kind of enjoyed the shorter girl’s company…sort of. Debra had told her that she was pursuing a degree in journalism with hopes of becoming a field reporter.

‘Oh…hi Debra. Sorry about not remembering right away. Had something else on my mind. Everything Ok?’

‘Great. I just happened to see you walk by and thought I’d say hi cause we never seem to run into each other. Clashing class schedules I guess.’ Debra pushed back a scarlet lock that had strayed onto her forehead.

‘Well, that and the fact that I keep pretty busy during most of my free time.’ Kara replied glancing at her watch and seeing that she was cutting it fairly close with her class. On principle, she hated being late and drawing unwanted attention to herself even if it did make her seem more human. ‘Look Deb, I really have to get going, maybe we’ll talk later Ok?’

‘Sure Kara, I’ll catch you later. By the way, have you been reading the papers lately?’

‘Um…not really. Why?’

‘So you haven’t heard about him?’ Kara’s brow wrinkled in perplexity.

‘Who?’ Kara asked, glancing again at her watch, she was going to be late now for sure unless she took steps of the unusual kind.

‘Here,’ Debra said, handing her the paper she was carrying. ‘Page 2, first headline. I’m not sure if it’s for real or not but it might be. See for yourself.’ Kara opened the paper and began to read.

As she quickly read through the story(actually she read it three times in rapid succession), Kara’s eyes widened at the implications of it. Could it be true? Was it possible that a MALE protector had been sent to Earth without her knowledge? Or was this something else entirely?

‘Kara? You Ok? For a minute there you looked positively flustered.’ Debra’s face was puzzled.

‘I’m sorry, Deb, I was just a little surprised, that’s all,’ Kara replied, still looking at the paper.

‘With all the weird stuff that’s been going on in LA recently, I’m surprised that you’re surprised,’ Debra said smiling.

Kara didn’t reply. Her gaze was fixed squarely on the mysterious, dark-clad figure in the picture next to the story, and she swore to herself that whoever or whatever Livewire might be, she would find out…no matter what it took.

The creature closed the gap between itself and Brian with a few quick steps. A series of clicks, made by its reptilian claws striking the polished floor accompanied each of its graceful strides.

‘I must, of course, apologize for your rather…confining accommodations. They were however, necessary to prevent further unpleasantness between us…’

‘What are you? And what the HELL do you want from me?’ Brian shouted at the creature as he strained against his invisible bonds.

‘Hmmm, impatience and brashness…defiance,’ the alien creature hissed. ‘You are so like your creator. And yet, it is those same attitudes which ultimately claimed him and made you. Ironic, is it not?’ Brian’s gaze was drawn to the creature’s face as it spoke. Its eyes with their green slit pupils seemed to burn into him as the creature held his gaze, almost as if he was being hypnotized.

‘MADE me? What are you talking about? What ‘creator’?’ Brian found it difficult to drag his eyes away from the creature’s, its pupils seemed to glow with some hellish, inner light.

The alien raised a four-fingered claw and motioned it’s bound captive to silence. Instinctively, Brian’s first impulse was to tell the thing exactly what it could do with that claw, but he managed to keep his growing rage(and fear) in check.

‘You who are called Con-way,’ the thing hissed. ‘Know that I possess knowledge of you and what you have become and that I am willing to share it…conditionally.’

‘You’ll excuse me I’m sure, but I like to know exactly what I’m dealing with before I sell my soul to it.’ Brian congratulated himself on being able to sound so calm when every cell in his body was screaming at him to run.

‘My apologies human, allow me to rectify my lack of manners.’ There was more than a hint of sarcasm in the creature’s tone. ‘I am Vort Ak Grich, a Hunter born of the Xeniky… a superior race from far across this galaxy, and I offer you your life for the price of a small favor.’

‘You’re an alien?’ Brian said incredulously, even though the evidence was right before his eyes.

‘From my perspective, you are the alien human. But yes, I am of a vastly different race than the one you were born into. The Xeniky were a powerful and advanced civilization when you…apes were just learning how to make fire.’

‘Yeah well, while that just impresses the hell out of me, it doesn’t explain what you want or why you think I have it.’

Vort regarded his captive a moment longer and then turned and began to pace slowly up and down the length of the examination table to which Brian was bound. His lizard-like tail swayed rhythmically with each step of his powerful legs.

The effortless ease with which the large creature moved was again brought to the forefront of Brian’s thoughts. He knew instinctively that even without the strange armor it had been wearing when he first saw it, that no ordinary human could ever hope to defeat one of these things in single combat.

‘Why,’ the alien hissed suddenly, startling Brian who had observed two odd lumps on the creature’s back and was trying to determine exactly what they were. ‘Why do you think you are here?’

‘You tell me,’ Brian said, ‘You’re the one from a superior alien civilization, right?’

The creature hissed in annoyance. ‘When I noted your brash and defiant attitude earlier and compared it to your creator’s, I wasn’t insinuating that I found those qualities desirable in a human. Your time is limited, as is mine if I am to benefit from this trip. I have much to tell you, and the more you waste the time available, the less you will be prepared for your task.’ The alien pointed one of its clawed fingers at Brian. ‘I suggest you lay aside the human tendency to believe that the universe revolves around you and your pathetic little planet. We have conquered and destroyed countless worlds and races far greater than your inadequate human mind could even begin to comprehend. And the only reason we have left you untouched is because you have nothing we want…that is, until now.’

‘Ok,’ Brian said after a long pause, ‘I’ll hear what you have to say. Why am I so important all of a sudden?’

‘You…’, the alien hissed, ‘are ‘so important’ because you are believed to possess a quantity of…material which originated on our planet, created by what was, quite possibly, the greatest scientific mind in the galaxy.’

‘That’s a bunch of crap. How in the hell would I get my hands on this ‘material’?’

‘It was transported to your planet approximately 11 Earth years ago.’

‘Who transported it?’ Brian asked, giving the creature before him a suspicious look.

‘One of our own race…a Xeniky branded a traitor for his removal of the substance.’ Brian noted with surprise that the alien’s hissing reply seemed somewhat apprehensive…even nervous.

‘You know, for a ‘superior’ race you don’t hide things very well. Maybe you should take some lessons from us humans on deception.’ The human’s observation was tinged with sarcasm and elicited a harsh glare from the creature standing over him. ‘Why don’t you try the whole truth this time…what is this thing you think I have, and why is it important enough for you to traverse the galaxy just to get it?’

‘Our alliance is not dependant on you knowing every detail,’ the creature replied shortly.

‘Our ‘alliance’ doesn’t exist unless you start talking, because I’m not agreeing to a damn thing until I know exactly where I stand in this.’ Brian gave himself a mental A+ for keeping his voice steady and holding the creature’s unearthly gaze long enough to deliver his ultimatum.

‘Do not think for a single second that you have a choice in this matter, human. Either you work as my agent or you die.’

‘Then I do have a choice…don’t I?’ Brian shot back.

‘Perhaps, but if you die, who will protect the pathetic stellar flotsam you humans call your home-world?’ There was a malicious tone in the beast’s sibilant voice as it spoke.

‘You’re threatening to destroy the Earth?’ Brian asked, not quite believing what he was hearing.

‘Your rotting mud-ball is unworthy of the might of our race…a pity that there are others who don’t feel the same.’

‘What the hell are you talking about?’ The human gave the alien a suspicious glance.

‘The end of your civilization. The complete and unalterable fall of all that is human.’ The reptilian creature was gloating now. ‘You think that donning a mask and uniform and then flying out to right the ‘wrongs’ within your primitive society will save your world? Think again human. Ask yourself how much you can afford not to know?’

‘How do you know about…?’

‘I watch the news. Now stop wasting my time and yours and DECIDE!’

‘Alright,’ Brian said, again looking the thing in its unearthly eyes. ‘This is the deal. You tell me everything…everything. And then I decide if I’m with you.’ The alien began to speak but Brian cut him off. ‘If I say no, then you do whatever you have to do with me.’

The creature pondered this for several long moments and then said: ‘Done!’

Brian exhaled audibly then swallowed while the alien approached the table on which he was resting. Suddenly there was movement behind the beast that Brian didn’t at first understand. Then, he watched in awed revulsion as twin, octopus-like tentacles extended themselves from the Xeniky’s back. Well that would explain the weird bumps back there, wouldn’t it Bri?

Each tentacle reached toward a small depression on either side of the ‘bed’ on which Brian was held immobile. There was a muted buzzing and then, as it stopped, Brian found that he could move his upper body again though his legs remained locked in stasis.
As he sat up, he touched his legs and found that there was a seemingly tangible barrier around them, though he couldn’t see it.

‘A neural stasis field,’ Vort supplied in answer to Brian’s unasked question. ‘An energy field attuned to the electrical impulses emitted from the nerves in your body. The energy attempts to suppress all nervous stimuli except for that which you need to maintain your bodily functions. Of course you have the power to escape it at any time.’

‘Don’t you think I already tried…?’ Brian asked in annoyance.

‘And failed due to your obvious lack of knowledge.’

‘Fine then, tell me how to break it.’ Brian was becoming increasingly annoyed by this creature’s attitude toward him.

‘You need to disrupt the field, nullify it long enough to move from under its sphere of influence. Not difficult if you know what must be done. The field cannot completely stop you from harnessing your power…only prevent you from accessing a lethal amount. If you tap just the bare surface of your power you will find you can gradually generate enough to attack the field with.’


‘Hardly…simply the truth…just as we agreed.’

Brian concentrated…calling to the power he knew was still inside him. Nothing. Or was there? This is pointless. Was it? Forget it Bri, a voice in his mind lazily said to him. Not gonna work.

He bore down and tried again… And there was something. A tingle, scarcely noticeable, yet suffusing his entire body. Closing his eyes, Brian reached out, willed that diffuse sensation to converge at one point…The process was slow, but when he opened his eyes a sphere of incandescent energy danced just in front of his face. Looking closely at it, Brian was able to make out tiny ribbons of electricity coming from his body, feeding the ball, making it gradually increase in size(It was now the size of a soccer ball). Brian found himself smiling.

‘Now!’ Vort hissed at him. ‘Attack the field.’

Almost before the alien had finished speaking, the ball streaked down towards Brian’s lap. There was a brilliant flash of blue-white light all around Brian’s body accompanied by a sizzling sound that seemed to fill the whole room. The sound increased in volume until, with a sharp crack, the platform on which Brian was sitting exploded, spraying bits and pieces of the strange plastic from which it was made in every direction.

When the dust and smoke had cleared, Brian found himself sitting on the floor in the midst of a small pile of rubble with his protective field softly glowing round his body.

Vort, who had had the foresight to move well away from the platform, strode forward to stand next to Brian. Looking down at the human, he spoke: ‘Very well done, Con-way, but did it never occur to you to neutralize the stasis field and then simply move away from its area of influence?’

‘Hey, lizard boy, you said ‘attack’ and that’s what I did. Deal with it.’

‘The technology you just destroyed hasn’t even been conceptualized on your world yet,’ the creature hissed in annoyance.

‘Then no one’s gonna miss it, especially me. Now, where were we?’ Brian’s confidence seemed to return along with the restoration of his power. Casually, he floated up from the floor, crossed his legs and turned towards the creature. It occurred to him then that without his armor, Vort was probably defenseless. Of course, he couldn’t be absolutely sure of that. And then there was what Vort had said about knowing what he had become and why…he had to know.

‘Now that you have learned your first lesson in control, ill-grasped though it was, we can begin your education in the truth about what you carry inside you and how it binds you to us. Then, you may make your choice.’ Vort’s reptilian tail swayed sowly from side to side as he regarded Brian.

‘Well, they say the truth will set you free.’

‘In your case, an exception was made, human. Listen well.’

In the subdued light of the room, Vort began to speak…

Livewire continues...