Mischa Bakunin headed up to Anton Mittlewerk’s office. He was prepared to deliver the lockbox that carried the object Mittlewerk was so obsessed with finding. That charm on a chain.

As the elevator door opened, he hesitated for a moment before exiting, when he heard that scream, once again, echo down the halls. That inhuman scream that came from what was left of Mittlewerk’s wife. Bakunin had heard that scream many times since coming to work for Mittlewerk, but it still sent a shiver down his spine.

It reminded him, not of the strangeness of the creature that Mittlewerk kept controled within a high intensity electro-magnetic field, but that scream was identical to the sound humans made, while they were being shredded by a weapon Bakunin had used during his stint in the Russian Federation Army so many years ago.

It was on the streets of Kiev, where his own father, Mikhail, had patroled and was seriously wounded many years before,* in service of the once proud Soviet army. The very same streets where Mischa Bakunin had found himself on that fateful day.

The Georgian Rebel Army had been using children as human shields to cover their tracks and lull the RFA into dropping their guard. These “cute as a button kids” would happily wave as an army patrol drove by. They would beg for the soldiers to stop and give them candy.

If the Russians did stop, some kid would toss in an incendiary device that would immediately detonate, trapping the soldiers inside their burning assault vehicle. If they drove on, the kids would signal to the snipers up ahead to set up an ambush.

So on that day, the day Mischa wished he could forget, it had been his turn to be “The Tenderizer Man”. Which meant he was charged with carrying an Ashkinov 108 portable assault rifle nicknamed “The Tenderizer”. The Tenderizer was named for what it could do to any flesh that happened to get in the way of its 500 round per minute velocity.

That day, Mischa was on patrol with five other soldiers. They were soon approached by a little girl. She looked to Mischa to be maybe ten or eleven years of age. She smiled and offered him some flowers. He refused, aware it might be a trap.

“Please take them,” she begged, “I picked them myself.”

“Watch yourself, Bakunin!” he heard his squad leader warn.

Mischa nodded, then turned back to the little girl.

“Go on home now, sweetie,” he sternly had told her.

“I have no home,” she innocently replied, “because you Russian pigs bombed it!”

Suddenly, the sniper fire began.

“TAKE COVER!!!” Mischa heard the squad leader cry out, just before a bullet split open his skull!

Before Mischa could react, a Georgian rebel soldier suddenly came from around a corner and took aim with a grenade rifle.

Mischa immediately engaged the Tenderizer. It wickedly spit out a stream of flesh piercing polymer bullets, pulverizing the rebel rifleman. He made no sound, as he “melted” into the ground.

But what did make a sound, a sound that Mischa would never forget for the rest of his life, was the one made by the little girl, who had just stood there when the battle began.

Who had just stood there in the path of the Tenderizer that Mischa had ignited.

Who had just stood there as the right side of her body vaporized into a bloody mist, as the polymer projectiles passed through on their way to Mischa’s intended target, the rebel rifleman.

And she screamed. Oh, how she screamed! An inhuman scream! Like nothing Mischa had ever heard before in all his time in battle.

A scream that went on forever, it seemed, but in reality for no more than a few seconds, as what was left of the little girl finally dropped to the ground!

Mischa dived for cover, as the snipers continued their assault. Later, when the battle was over and the dust had settled, he received a commendation for acting with “Grace Under Fire.” At least that’s what the commendation read.

In reality, he had reacted without any grace. Just reacted, as his training had provided, to be able to defend himself by shredding to death a rebel soldier and vaporizing half of a little girl, whose inhuman screams of agony he would hear within his mind for the rest of his life.

Just like what he heard this evening from that back room in a Candy company headquarters.

Bakunin entered Mittlewerk’s office, to deliver the charm, but Mittlewerk was nowhere to be found.

Bakunin set the lock box down upon the desk, then subtly heard Mittlewerk’s voice in an adjacent office. Mittlewerk was still engaged, over the phone, in conversation with the Oldham girl. ‘That would take awhile,’ he thought.

So he decided to take a short walk down the hallway, to the secret lab that held what used to be Mittlewerk’s “wife”.

Bakunin knew Elke’s story. Mittlewerk told him all the details, but Bakunin had never ventured into the lab. Had never met “Elke”.

He guessed the screams had finally gotten to him. He had to know. To see for himself what all the threats, manipulations, kidnappings, and fraud, he had committed for Mittlewerk and for his “wife” were all about.

Bakunin continued down the hall. It was quiet now. Eerily quiet. He approached the doors and entered. It was dim in the lab. The lights kept low to preserve the power of the electro-magnetic pylons keeping “Elke Mittlewerk” in her place, so to speak. He slowly approached the cage that sat in the middle of the lab.

Bakunin could see his reflection in the plexi glas. It took on an eerie glow. As he cautiously approached, he noted what appeared to be a dark mist that gently floated, like a bubble in a breeze, at the cage’s core.

Suddenly, a “ticka-ticka” sound rattled the lab, like a rattlesnake before it struck! Several bright strobe-like flashes rapidly illuminated the entire lab!

Bakunin felt what best could be described as an “itch” within his brain. It lasted for only a second. It was then he caught his first glance of “her”.

Bakunin looked away twice, to confirm he wasn’t seeing an illusion. But both times, when he glanced back, she was still there. A beautiful blonde, standing in the middle of the cage, with a slight subtle smile. A Mona Lisa smile.

“Hello, Mischa,” the blonde beauty seductively said, “I’m very happy to finally meet you. Anton has told me a lot about you.”

Bakunin intellectually knew “she” existed but nothing could of ever prepared him to suddenly realize that “it” was now actually standing before him and attempting to engage in conversation.

“Maam!” Bakunin heard himself say.

“Please call me, Elke, “she” flirtatiously requested, “it’s much more intiment when we use first names, don’t you think? Are you comfortable with me calling you by your first name?”

Bakunin nodded.

“Good,” “Elke” replied, “would you be so kind, Mischa, as to do me a favor?”

“What kind of favor?” Bakunin suspiciously asked.

“Open the cage door for me, would you?” “Elke’ smiled, “I’d like to be able to stretch my legs.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that!” Bakunin answered.

“Oh, don’t be concerned about getting into trouble with Anton,” “Elke” continued, “he lets me out all the time. Besides, I won’t stay out for long and if we do hear Anton coming, I’ll immediately go back in. Anton will be none the wiser.”

“I’m sorry,” Bakunin nervously replied, “I must go!” He immediately turned and headed for the door.

“Wait a minute, Mischa,” “she” called after him, “don’t go! Stay awhile. I think I’m going to really enjoy your company. Anton doesn’t allow me any visitors. I think he’s jealous!”

“Elke” then laughed a hollow laugh.

“I really have to leave!” Bakunin replied.

“Where are you going, son!!!” Bakunin suddenly heard that unmistakable voice. He stopped and quickly turned to see Mikhail Bakunin standing on the other side of the plexi glas.

“You are not my Father,” Bakunin angrily said, “my Father is dead! Has been for over twenty years!”

“That’s what they want you to think, Mischa!” Mikhail replied, “but as you can see, I am very much alive and am here now! Come over and open this door, so I can shake my son’s hand, give him a hug, and tell him how proud I am of his accomplishments!!”

Bakunin laughed, “Now I know you are not him! My Father never hugged anyone. Not even my Mother!”

“Mikhail” suddenly morphed back into the image of “Elke Mittlewerk”.

“What can I do to get you to open this cage, Mischa?” “Elke” asked, “you name it and it’s yours!”

“Just quit playing games with me!” Bakunin angrily answered, as he turned once more to leave.

“I used to play games,” a little girl’s voice echoed. Bakunin turned back around to see a little girl with flowers in her hands, now standing in the center of the cage. He knew her! The little girl from Kiev!

“I loved playing games,” the “little girl” eerily told him, “hopscotch, jump rope, and jacks! But no more! You saw to that didn’t you, Mr. Tenderizer Man??!!!”

Bakunin stood in shock, unable to answer.


Bakunin ran out of the lab!

At the end of the hall stood Mittlewerk.

“Where have you been?!” he asked.

Bakunin tried to catch his breath.

“My God, man!” Mittlewerk said, “you’ve been in the lab, you’ve talked to “her” haven’t you?!”

Bakunin nodded.

“She asked about you, once,” Mittlewerk lamented, “asked me to send you in. That she was tired of probing my mind. Wanted someone new.”

Bakunin remained silent.

“Well, did you learn your lesson, Mr. Bakunin?” Mittlewerk sarcastically stated, “did you learn not to trust “her”? At least not until I can use the antidote? By the way, have you brought the charm?”

“I placed it on your desk,” Bakunin answered nervously.

“Very good,” Mittlewerk replied, “lets go back to the office. I’ll tell you what I want you to do next!”

Next: Chap. Thirty-Four “Slicer”

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