Monday, November 10, 2008

Time out of place

Kyle was a man with a problem.

What he had been told wasn't as it should be.

Something was wrong, very wrong.

He had been waiting in the parking garage and she never came or went. Exasperated and wary he crouched his way to the security door and waited until a couple left by it and turned away from his direction and went to their car. He sprung up and grabbed the door and went into the building quickly. He looked at the panel of names and numbers on mailboxes, and remembered her friend's name and checked the number.

Standing as straight as he could he put on an air of nonchalance, as if he belonged there, even though he didn't. He passed many doors, and heard the television from one of them.

"...and a police spokesman at the scene refused to speculate on a motive for the execution-style slaying of the Encino housewife. He did however say that an accurate description of the suspect has been compiled from several witnesses..."

Paying it no heed he walked on until he found the door to the apartment he was looking for. He heard sounds... barely... a rhythmic thumping, gasps. He saw a bag of what was obviously trash left outside the door, a brown paper bag filled with an old lamp, a basket and some magazines. He picked up a magazine and saw her name. There was a yellow label that asked if the forwarding address was correct. He stared, then pocketed the magazine and took up the bag of trash, noticing the little 'Donation - Salvation Army' sticker on it. Walking out of the back door into the garage he headed out into the gathering night, shaking.

Something was horribly wrong.

* * *

Father Casull was used to the poor coming into his church, and he kept it open for all that needed God's protection. The man that came in sat near the back, with a bag of junk and started rummaging through it. He had seen many like him before, mind lost and clutching to whatever they could find that they thought was worth something to them. Slowly he closed his eyes and shook his head, as truly the poor of this world could be broken by life. He was about to approach the poor man when he saw him start to take things out of the bag: an old lamp, magazines, some sort of technical brochure, a straw basket with trinkets in it, an old watch, a pocketbook, change purse, and some pencils.

The man pocketed the change purse, put the brochure in a coat pocket, checked the watch and looked at the clock on the wall and adjusted the watch. He took a magazine and put it into another large pocket of his overcoat, then he gathered the rest up and put it back into the bag, stood up and lifted the bag with him and walked to the box Father Casull had placed for small donations and set the bag down under it, before he walked out of the church.

Puzzled, Father Casull walked to the bag and saw the donation tag on it, and closed his eyes. A man so poor that he needed to take such small things. Truly one of the dispossessed in life.

* * *

Kyle walked out of the church.

He needed to contact her. Warn her. He couldn't go to the authorities. Walking he went into a library and looked to see where the reference section was. Walking to it he found the major metropolitan phone books, but not the exact one he wanted. The information section told him the number he could phone for getting the number he wanted, but knew he would frighten her more than warn her if he tried. Then he checked the maps and put down the North American Road Atlas, and he checked for the city he wanted in the back. With its look-up numbers his fingers traced over the grid until they came together at the city he wanted, which was close to New York City.

On the other side of the continent.

Something was very, very wrong.

* * *

Father Casull was tending to some homeless in the kitchen attached to the church. Sister Cathy was there with him and when he saw the man from before come into the church he gestured to her that he was going to see to him.

The man sat down in the last pew, his elbows on his knees and his face pressed to his hands. He walked up to him in the semi-dark at the back of the church.

"Is there anything I can do to help, my son?"

The man looked up at him, blinking.

"You seem to be in distress, my son. Is there anything that I can do for you? A warm meal, perhaps?"

The man smiled, wanly.

"That would be good, yes. Thank you."

"Of course, my son, follow me to the kitchen. We have a good barley and beef stew that Sister Cathy made up today."

The man got up, and followed the Priest back to the kitchen, where Sister Cathy smiled with a bowl of stew in her hands.

"Be welcome here," she said as she led the man to a table that the Father had indicated. He smiled at her and the man turned to her.

"Thank you."

"It is my pleasure, sir. Bless you for coming to us."

The man nodded and sat down.

"May I join you, my son?" Father Casull asked.

The man nodded yes and sat down across from the man. Father Casull had been changing his mental estimation of the man. It wasn't a 'beaten down by the world' look he had, yet it was familiar to him. Very much like some of the veterans who had lost their luck but not their dignity of self. And yet, for that, the man was clearly troubled.

Slowly the man started to take up the spoon and eat the stew, not noticing it as he ate it.

"Perhaps you would care to tell me about it, my son?"

The man looked to him.

"You wouldn't believe me."

Father Casull smiled at that.

"My belief is not as important as yours, my son. If it would ease your burden, I will listen and not pass judgment, for that isn't my place in this world."

The man nodded, and ate another spoonful of stew.

"My... close friend sent me here to warn his mother. She isn't... doesn't live where he told me she did. She is in desperate danger, but doesn't know it. I was sent to protect her, and I can't."

Father Casull sat back and looked at the man.

"He must be very close to you and he must trust you deeply to send you like this. Perhaps I can help you...." Father Casull looked with just a bit of askance on his face.

"I'm Kyle."

Father Casull smiled.

"... Kyle. And I'm Father Casull. I have seen men like you before, from the war. Why would he send you and not come himself? Is he hospitalized?"

Kyle smirked.

"I could be spared from the fight for this. He can't."

"Still fighting...?"

"Yes, Father Casull, he is still fighting."

Father Casull had heard variations on that a number of times. Men so lost after returning that they couldn't distinguish between the fight they had left and normal life. But Kyle did not have that look. It wasn't a distant enemy he was fighting, one lost in the past.

"I understand, Kyle. And he sent you to protect his mother?"

Eating another spoonful of stew the man nodded.

"Well then, let me help you in contacting her. It is the least I can do."

Kyle looked at Father Casull. Perhaps there was just a glint of light, or a speck of hope to be seen in Kyle's eyes.

"I... thank you, Father Casull. That isn't necessary..."

"Of course it is! I am here to help the lost, Kyle."

* * *

Matt didn't know what woke him from his post-coital nap, but the motion he saw caused him to move. The large blade sliced the pillow open where his throat had been. He was caught by the powerful man with the knife and his strength brought the knife closer and closer to his throat. Matt gathered his strength and deflected the knife and it snapped against the headboard of the bed. He pounded his fists into the temples of his attacker's head and rolled out of the way. As he gets to the side of the bed he picks up the bedside lamp and smashes it on his assailant's back.

The powerful man knocks the lamp aside, grabs Matt and tosses him through the glass doors onto the balcony outside the room.

Matt gets up and rushes the man and they crash into a dresser, then a closet door as they hold each other and spin through the room. And then the man presses his fingers into Matt's gut and lifts him off the floor and throws him through the door into the next room.

A woman screams as she sees Matt on the floor, apparently lifeless.

A towering figure steps through and the woman runs, screaming.

The man calmly pulls out a .45 caliber Colt and shoots the woman once in the back. She falls to the ground and then scrambles towards the bathroom. The man steps slowly down the hall , takes aim and empties the magazine into her.

He steps away.

The phone rings and the man whirls pointing the empty pistol at it as if by reflex.

The answering machine picks up: "Hi there. (pause) Ha ha ha, fooled you. You're talking to a machine but don't be shy, it's okay. Machines need love too..."

The man turns, bends over and checks to make sure the woman is dead.

" talk to it and Ginger, that's me, will get back to you. Wait for the beep."

A man's voice is heard through the answering machine.

"Hello, this is Lieutenant Vukovich from Homicide Division, LAPD..."

The man in the room steps past the phone but something catches his attention. A picture of a woman in front of a fountain in a park. It is signed. The man picks it up and looks at the lifeless body of the woman and back to the picture.

"... trying to confirm if she still lives there. If she does tell her to come to the nearest police station right away as we believe her life is in danger."

The man looks at the answering machine, the picture, the dead woman. He then slowly looks around the dimly lit room until he sees a small phone book by the phone. He picks it up, flips through the pages and stops and examines one, then puts it down. Stepping over the dead body of Matt, he leaves as he entered.

* * *

Kyle made a decision: he had to. Not to act was out of the question, even if the act was to talk. He would face a long, hard journey without help.

"The woman I came here to protect, my friend's mother, apparently moved out of town. I have her address but, no way to get to her, warn her. And... she won't be expecting me, doesn't know me. Her son could never tell her... not directly."

Father Casull's brows pressed together.

"She is truly in danger? Physically?"

"Yes, Father Casull, she is. I heard on the news... the enemy is here to get her. This is all I have to go by," he said handing Father Casull the magazine with the change of address notice on it.

Father Casull arched an eyebrow. Sister Cathy did have the television on, but the sound off, and he saw a man in front of a building, apparently a plainclothes police officer, trying hard to answer questions. There was a flash of 'Phonebook Serial Killer' and the last woman he had killed. Father Casull trembled as he looked at one of the names on the screen that was repeated more than once, and the one on the change of address notice.

It was the same name.

"Dear God," he whispered almost silently to himself. He swallowed as he looked back to Kyle. "Someone is here to kill her?"

Kyle nodded, no.

"Not someone. He looks human but isn't. It can't be stopped by bullets, knives or normal weapons. It will not stop until he kills her."

An sketch drawing appeared on the screen.

"What does he... it... look like, Kyle?"

"It is tall, bulky, short cropped black hair, lean face, somewhat gaunt..."

Kyle's back was to the television set. He was describing the man in the sketch, that had the words 'Suspected Serial Murderer'.

"A moment, my son," he waved to Sister Cathy who came over.

"Sister Cathy, how is Lewis doing?"

"Oh, he is still very shaken and frightened, Father Casull. He said... well, Father, he is afraid of going back to the neighborhood after what happened."

"Do you think he would be well enough for us to ask him a question or two?"

"I don't know, Father. He really is quite shaken up."

"Thank you, Sister Cathy, bless you."

"Of course, Father," she said before going back to the kitchen area.

Kyle had been finishing off the stew.

"The ... you describe is strikingly similar to one that a young man named Lewis told us about this morning. Lewis had been running most of the night and came here and nearly collapsed. It was hard to get him to calm down and tell his story. He isn't from this neighborhood, but God's house is open to everyone. The encounter that he and his, ahhh, friends had with this... man... shook him deeply, and he is still afraid of meeting him again."

Kyle arched an eyebrow as Sister Cathy brought a glass of iced tea to him.

"Thank you," he said softly.

"Of course," she said before walking back to tend to one of the older homeless men in the kitchen.

"It would instill that kind of fear, Father Casull."

Father Casull nodded.

"If you are done then bring your glass of iced tea and I will see if we can't get you in contact with her," he said standing up.

Kyle picked up the glass of iced tea and followed Father Casull through the kitchen and into a room that was obviously a common room attached to living quarters further on. The Priest gestured to a seat and Kyle sat down. Father Casull sat down in a chair next to a table with a phone on it. He picked up the phone and dialed a number.

"Hello, information? I'm trying to get the phone number..."

* * *

It walked into the old train station and looked at the schedule and the time. The next train to New York City would leave in an hour for its cross-continental trip, stopping at many places in between and would then go on to the next city after that.

It walked out into the night.

* * *

He set down the phone.

"No answer. Do you have anything else that might help, Kyle?"

Kyle shrugged and checked his pockets. Then took out the technical brochure and handed it over to Father Casull. He arched both his eyebrows in surprise and checked the time. Add three hours and... he smiled and picked up the phone and dialed a number.

* * *

She was at her desk early, as she wanted to keep this job and have a good record at it. It was a godsend that she didn't have to get yet another degree, this time in something useful! She didn't expect that she would get this job, from a standard application and basic interview at the job fair. But you don't know if you don't try, and she filled it all out and remembered the talk with the nice, older African-American fellow, Lucius Fox.

A good job was a dream to get her away from the cashier's job she had while trying to get another degree. And this was a very, very good place to have a job, too! So she wanted to make sure that she didn't screw it up.

She picked up the folder of the job she was working on at the moment when the phone rang.

That startled her, as almost no one ever was awake this early. She picked up the receiver.

"Hello, this is Sarah Connor, XP Division, how may I help you?"

She listened.

"No, Father Casull, I hadn't listened to the news.... I... what?" she gasped.

She sat, stunned.

"I... yes... hello, Kyle.... I... for me? But I haven't done anything...." she listened, perplexed,"...what I will do? I don't, that's just so insane.... I... yes, Father Casull. Can I have your number? I will check the news and get back to you."

Sarah Connor wrote down the number, hung up the phone numbly, and went out of the office to the break room. The television was on and the morning show was on with its vapid content. They were talking about the 'LA Phonebook Serial Killer' going after Sarah Connor. Three so far and one possible mistaken...

"Ginger," Sarah whispered, "oh dear god..."

She stood there, stunned, as the face of her friend and old roommate from LA was shown. That Sarah Connor had moved recently. Her.

In disbelief Sarah turned from the television and was obviously lost in thought as she walked back to the office and her desk. She stared at the cubicle wall and then at the company logo. There was an 'Emergency Numbers' sheet under it, like there were at all the desks. She picked up the phone and dialed a number.

"Hello, security? I think someone is coming to kill me."

* * *

Lucius Fox had been at his desk for all of ten minutes before the phone rang. Almost like clockwork. Probably some project detail or schedule problem. He picked up the phone.

"Hello, this is Lucius Fox. Security?" he listened, "Yes I saw something on the news this morning... seriously?"

This was obviously not the average early morning call.

"I will be right there," he got up from his chair, grabbed his jacket and walked out to the secretary's desk and left a note. He walked briskly down the hall to the elevator bank and waited for a car to arrive. He punched the button for the third floor which had security's offices.

* * *

Planes were too risky.

Trains took too long.

It was driving a car down the freeway and was merging onto the thruway. The previous owner had not wanted to give up the car.

That was his last mistake.

* * *

"She must be taking this hard, my son. Perhaps you would like to lay down while we wait?"

Kyle was tensed up, nervous. Resting was the last thing on his mind.

"When the phone rings you will hear it, Kyle."

Kyle Reese smiled and nodded. He walked over to the sofa and took his sneakers off and lay down. He didn't intend to do more than just stare at the ceiling. Soon he was deeply asleep as Father Casull lay a light blanket on him, and then walked to get a cup of coffee.

"Sister Cathy, could you get Father Kelly here to take care of things?"

"Of course, Father Casull. How is he doing?"

"He is resting, the poor soul. We are waiting for someone to call us back and I will be in there with him when that happens. Make sure that Lewis is tended to, would you?"

"Yes, Father Casull. I hope things will go well for him."

"Bless you, Sister," he picked up the cup of coffee and walked back to the common room of his quarters. No sleep for him, that was obvious. He sat down and picked up his folder containing the draft of his next sermon and started writing further.

* * *

"And he is coming here to kill you?" Lucius asked, sitting next to the young woman on the sofa in security.

Sarah Connor nodded. "He went to my old apartment and killed my friend and her lover last night. That phone call..."

"Yes, Sarah, security is getting the phone number at your desk. I will phone up... ahhhh... Father Casull, don't worry."

He saw the security man come in with the notepad and stood up, then walked over to him.

"Does the name check out?" he asked the security man in low tones.

"It does, Mr. Fox. Within a mile of where she lived." He handed the notepad over to Lucius Fox, who took it and looked at it.

"Ok. Get me a good woman officer from security to be here, plus let the techs know I'm going to phone out in a couple of minutes, ok?"

The security man nodded, "Yes, Mr. Fox. I will let them know. Give it about ten minutes and I'll let the person who will be here know."

"Good! Get on it," Lucius turned from the man as he turned to leave and then went back to sit next to Sarah.

"I have the number, but want our technical staff to tap and record the call, Sarah. No matter what, you are in the safest possible place you can be. We protect our own here."

Sarah was shivering and nodded slightly. "Thank you, Mr. Fox. I never expected anything like this..."

"No one can, Sarah. And please, call me Lucius. We know a lot about sudden tragedy here and we will see you through this."

She looked up and smiled, after she had obviously been crying.

"Thank you, Lucius. I... Ginger was killed... instead of me."

"This killer obviously didn't care, Sarah," he looked up as woman in the security uniform came in and he waved her over to the other side of Sarah.

"Sarah this is..." he looked at the woman's badge, "Wendy Johnson, and she is here to make sure you get what you need. Do you want to be with me when I call Father Casull, Sarah?"

Sarah looked up while Wendy held her hands.

"I think so, Lucius. Someone is trying to save my life."

"More than one, Sarah. I will wait with you here until we get the word," he said shifting over to another chair in the utilitarian conference room.

* * *

The phone rang and Father Casull picked it up as he put the folder down. He saw Kyle's eyes open.

"Hello, this is Father Casull."

Kyle got up and walked over to the chair on the other side of the table, after picking up his sneakers and putting them on.

"Yes, that's right, Mr. Fox... I do have the gentleman here, Kyle... yes... his description matches, Mr. Fox and I have another young man who gave a similar one for an encounter the night before... yes... that's correct... he is here with me... of course..." he looked at Kyle then placed his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone.

"This is Mr. Lucius Fox, Sarah's boss where she works, and he wants to talk with you..."

Kyle pressed his lips together and nodded, taking the handset from Father Casull.

"This is Kyle... yes... its hard to describe.... you wouldn't believe me, Mr. Fox... it will sound as if I'm crazy... yes... she needs protection... it isn't a man, Mr. Fox... what is it? You won't believe me... uh-huh... ok... it is an infiltration unit from the future, a cybernetic organism that has a living flesh exterior on a metal internal skeletal frame... a miniature nuclear cell.... yes... very advanced, yes... a time projector... only living or highly similar material can pass through... that's right... no no weapons beyond what it can get here.... uh-huh... yes... that's right... a highly evolved cybernetic program called Skynet... yes... no... ok..."

He handed the handset back to Father Casull.

"This is Father Casull... yes, Mr. Fox... I can do that, yes... thats right... in four hours? I think Kyle can be ready by then, yes.... me? I don't... ahh, I understand, yes... that would be most generous, Mr. Fox, ahhh 'offer I can't refuse' of sorts..." the Priest chuckled softly,"... no, Mr. Fox it is quite reasonable, actually. Yes... good, I can arrange things here in that time, yes. Very good. We will be there in four hours. Good-bye to you and God bless you."

Father Casull put the phone in the cradle.

"We appear to have a jet that will be coming for us in four hours."

"Us?" asked Kyle.

"Yes, Mr. Fox wants to meet me and, ah, corroborate your story such as I can. I understand the feelings and the company he works for will be able to make a donation to the church for my time. I really can't refuse that. So you will need to get some rest, Kyle and I will nap, myself, after getting a travel case ready. You don't have anything else, do you, Kyle?"

"No, Father Casull. And it probably is faster this way... you don't seem to think I'm crazy, Father Casull."

"I told you I would not sit in judgment of you, my son. And everything you have said and done leads me to give you leeway in understanding."

Kyle Reese grunted.

"Thank you, Father Casull."

"Of course, Kyle. I don't think that the type of thing you describe will make better time."

"No, Father Casull. It is murderous and capable. Not stupid. Never that."

"There is a small room with a cot off the hallway to the back. It would probably be best for you to rest there. I will get you up in three hours or so, time enough for Sister Cathy or Father Kelly to get us to the airport."

"Thank you, Father Casull."

"Rest well, and God give you strength."

* * *

It drove the car into a gas station and pulled into the 'Full Service' lane.

"How can I help you, sir?" the young man asked when he got to the open window.

It handed a bill over to the young man, "Fill 'er up."

The young man unfolded the bill, "Yes, sir!" he said moving quickly to the pump and then opening the tank and filling the tank of the sports car. When it was full and he closed the tank and walked back, the driver said,

"Keep the change."

And drove off. The young man pocketed the $50 bill. That was a lot of change to keep.

* * *

"Master, Bruce?"

The butler was being polite but firm, as he stood in the doorway of the gentleman's room. The man in question was sprawled out on the sheets of his bed, in a room holding many antique pieces of furniture for all that it was a room in a high-rise. He had been out late last night, as was his custom, and had needed some hard rest. Still he had gotten in at a relatively reasonable hour, all things told. The butler, getting no response, stepped further into the room and knelt down next to the bed.

"Master, Bruce, its Alfred."

The man's eyes shifted and then opened, looking at his butler.

"Good... ",he checked the bedside clock that slowly ticked off the seconds, "...morning? Alfred. Is it time for my breakfast already?"

Alfred smiled.

"I'm sorry, sir, you will have to eat as you go. Unless you like what I can fix in the kitchen as the cook didn't expect to be needed for another few hours."

Bruce shifted in his bed and stretched, muscles flexing as he did so, stretching forward and back. Alfred moved from the bedside as Bruce stood up.

"That'll be fine, Alfred. What's up? Is the champagne shipment late again?" he asked with a wry grin.

Alfred smiled and tightened his lips.

"Perhaps permanently, Master Bruce. Apparently their importer was discovered to have some Mafia connections last night. You may have to see about a different vineyard for the next month or so."

Bruce arched his eyebrows in surprise.

"Just how do these people get involved in these things?"

"I'm sure I don't know, Master Bruce."

He nodded.

"What's up? The early wake-up must be something important. Another hostile take-over attempt?"

"No, nothing so easy, sir. Lucius says that he has a 'developing situation' and would like you to examine it."

Bruce had been heading to the bathroom, but stopped and turned.

"Lucius? It must be important. I'll see you in the kitchen in 10 minutes and have something light and portable to eat. Luckily its only a few floors down..." he said as he turned and wandered off to the bathroom.

"As you wish, Master Bruce. Your clothes for the daytime will be awaiting you..." he trailed off, and then said far more softly, "...not that you pay attention to mere dress suits..."

* * *

It pulled the car onto I-70.

The previous car had suffered a breakdown and was not worth the time to fix. This one had more space and better gas mileage.

That is what the salesman said.

He would make no more sales.

* * *

Lucius Fox looked up as he heard the door open to the room, he stood up.

"Hello, Mr. Wayne, I'm glad you could get here."

Bruce Wayne smiled as he looked to Lucius, then Wendy and then to Sarah.

"Well, when you told me you had something that was going on that I should hear about, I came as fast as I could, Lucius. Hello, Wendy, good to see you again,"

"Thank you, Mr. Wayne, it is good to see that you are doing well," said the security officer.

"...and you must be ..." Bruce looked to Lucius.

"Bruce this is the newest hire in the XP Division, Sarah Connor. She apparently has a killer after her."

Bruce was taken aback for a moment, then held out his hand. Sarah stood up and shook it, obviously bewildered.

"I... its so hard to believe, Mr. Wayne... its just so insane..." she half-sobbed that last.

Bruce clasped her hand and moved next to her, guiding her back to the sofa and then made sure that Wendy was available to help, easing her down.

"Killers can be that way, Sarah," Bruce looked over to Lucius who was sitting down, "could you fill me in, Lucius?"

"Of course, Mr. Wayne. Sarah received an incoming call routed from our switchboard at 6:05 AM. The caller had asked to be put through to Sarah Connor and the woman at the board looked up Sarah's number and transferred the call. From what Sarah said it was from a priest in her neighborhood in Los Angeles, a Father Casull, who had a man with him that needed to talk to her, a 'Kyle'. He informed Sarah that the 'Phonebook Serial Killer' in Los Angeles was after her. Father Casull then talked with Sarah and gave her his phone number so that she could get caught up on the news from yesterday. When she did that she saw..."

"My friend, Ginger..." Sarah said, shaking her head and looking down,"...and her lover... had been murdered... by the same killer that had killed three other Sarah Connors..."

Bruce slid his arm around Sarah's shoulders. Bruce had encountered many strange things in his young life, but was still unprepared for this.

"Sarah was shook up, Bruce, and called security here."

"That was the best move you could ever have made, Sarah," Bruce said softly. He looked back to Lucius Fox. "I take it you called Father Casull back?"

"I initiated the call after getting our technical people on it, Bruce. I felt we couldn't wait for... legalities."

Bruce Wayne nodded.

"A potential threat to the workplace, we are covered Lucius. We have the recording?"

"Yes, Mr. Wayne. I don't know... it is strange, but Father Casull vouches that the man is not the killer and his identification is cross-checked locally. But what 'Kyle' told me... we may want to keep this under security."

Bruce looked to Wendy.

"You are cleared, Wendy?"

She nodded.

"Yes, Mr. Wayne. TS."

Bruce Wayne nodded.

"Then lets move to the tech lab and talk to the audio engineers."

"Yes, Mr. Wayne. Ahh... Sarah hasn't heard the entire conversation, Mr. Wayne."

He gave a sharp look to Lucius.

"If it is about the person trying to kill her, then she needs to hear it all, Lucius."

Lucius nodded.

"Of course, Mr. Wayne."

"Good. Wendy, you will escort us, but I'm afraid you aren't cleared for the full lab. Sarah is by having a 'need to know'."

Wendy smiled.

"I understand, Mr. Wayne. I can wait for you out in the break room."

Bruce smiled and nodded, getting to his feet and helping Sarah to hers.

"And could you put a call into Alfred? I think that Sarah needs some light fare, to keep her out of shock. He will know what to fix if the cook doesn't."

Lucius smirked and Wendy smiled.

"Of course, Mr. Wayne," she said.

"Ok, lets go. Sarah you can hold on to me if you need to. I understand what it means to lose someone close to you unexpectedly."

Sarah Connor looked up into the dark eyes of Bruce Wayne... she had heard something about a murder in his family... within a few steps she was walking on her own. And they headed out of the room and down the hall.

* * *

"Thank you for driving us here, Sister Cathy. Give my regrets to Father Kelly that I need to leave him in charge of things for awhile."

Her face looked up out of the dark interior of the car to the gathering dawn at the municipal airport.

"I will, Father Casull. Be careful and let us know that you arrived safely."

"I will, Sister Cathy. God Bless you."

"God go with you, Father Casull and with you Kyle."

Kyle Reese looked back and gave a slight smile, "Thanks."

"Come, my son, lets not keep the plane waiting..." he picked up his bags and Kyle shrugged an old backpack that had been left at the church over his shoulder.

Sister Cathy watched them go into the bright building then drove off as they were directed off to a side hallway.

Father Casull and Kyle say the pilot holding the small white sign with a black cross on it, and with some sort of outline of a gun cartridge. He shook his head at that, as it was something he was living with for over a decade - he could not help having the same last name, and learned to realize it was just another way that God shows irony in the world. What did take him back for a moment was that the pilot was female, dressed in a blue shirt with black jacket and pants, with hair pinned up under a black cap. Almost like a chauffeur for planes... which she was.

She looked at them and smiled, while placing the sign off to the side.

"Father Casull?"

"Yes, that's me,"

"And this is Kyle?"

Kyle nodded in the affirmative.

"Good! I'm Vivian Rose, pilot of Mr. Wayne's western airfleet operations, which is currently in the desert just east of here. Come on out, the short flight to there is about 20 minutes and then we take something better as Mr. Wayne has put a 'rush' order on this."

They looked out at the sleek private jet waiting for them on the tarmac.

Father Casull looked back to Vivian, "Something better?"

"You'll see. Come on, I have ten minutes left on my take-off window, and I don't want to wait for a half-hour for my next one." She stepped to the doors and Father Casull picked up his bags, and followed. Kyle followed him, looking over the aircraft.

"Keep your luggage with you, its a very short flight."

The light whine of the engines increased as they got closer, still just idling. The Priest and Kyle stepped into the aircraft, which was a small corporate jet that had room in front for a small meeting, an open area with four seats around it and what looked like a small sleeping compartment in the rear.

After they stepped in, Vivian hauled up the stairs, and secured the door.

"Find a place to secure your luggage, under the seats is fine, then fasten yourselves in. It will be a short flight, but a fast one."

They nodded, noticing the co-pilot, a young man similarly attired to Vivian in the right hand seat. Vivian took the left and was going through the checklist as she strapped herself in. Then she started talking with the control tower. The co-pilot looked back.

"Hi! I'm Richard and if you have any problems just holler out."

"Thank you, Richard," said Father Casull.

"My pleasure, Father," he then looked out the forward windows and checked the area around them, then went to the controls.

The aircraft started to taxi to the runway, with Vivian in contact with the tower as they went.

The intercom sounded.

"It's a bumpy ride as we never really get into proper airspace, and this always makes the flight controllers antsy," she said over the intercom.

Kyle watched as the nearby buildings slowly went past the front of the cockpit and then further buildings until a turn brought the long expanse of the runway into view. Richard checked back, gave a 'thumbs up' which Kyle gave back and nodded.

The jets roared to life and the sound became almost deafening. Then a high pitched keening and the plane trembled, still stationary. They could see Vivian nod and shift while pressing some levers down. The plane jumped forward and almost immediately went nose up, while the entire aircraft shook. Flaps re-configured and wheels pulled up as the jets gulped in air and the plane took off almost directly into the sky, did a corkscrew and then came out on a flat course and trajectory headed east.

"Those flight control guys just hate that," Vivian said over the intercom.

Father Casull had not so much as spoken one word in prayer. He couldn't. He was gripping the armrests too hard and looking out the window to be too amazed to give any prayers. Kyle looked at him.

"It's the landings that count," he said.

"You got that right, Kyle," Vivian said over the intercom. The jets started backing off, to flight idle, and Richard looked back.

"Any prayers are best said now, Father," he said with a wide grin.

Kyle grinned in approval.

"Oh, hush, Dick. I haven't crashed a plane since I was 13!"

"Yeah, but you've left some landing gear in odd places."

"Sub-standard work, I tell you. No one ever keeps that shit up to specs."

"Uh-huh, and no one ever does a touch and go at full throttle, either."

"Hey! The boss wanted it, he got it!"

"And what do you call the landing without landing gear?"

"A controlled skid. Perfect, too, right through the foam and restraints and everything. Didn't need that stuff, could have done it on the grass and been tons safer."

"Viv, the 'grass' ended in a lake."

"A shallow one! Perfectly safe."

"Well, you walked away from it."

"That's right, Dick. It is what counts."

Father Casull looked to Kyle, who looked back. Neither had ever flown with test pilots before, and they seemed to have a different definition of 'safe' and 'good landing' than most of the rest of humanity.

"Ok, starting descent."

The plane had veered to the side of the desert towards some mountains. It was below the tops of the mountains.

"Well, not descent, really... close your eyes if you haven't done it before. I haven't lost a passenger yet, and I don't want to start now."

That brought the Priest and Kyle's attention to the cockpit windows, as they heard and then felt the jet slow, flaps start to deploy, wheels go down. The desert rushed beneath them in a beige blur and the mountains loomed. Then one mountain. They were not going to fly above it.

Richard had turned on a small video screen with boxes appearing and getting smaller into the distance. The plane banked slightly, and shifted with the boxes. There was less and less of desert to land in, while the sheer, black wall of the mountain loomed.

"Dear God," Father Casull whispered.

Kyle's eyes widened, his hands gripping the seat arms.

Soon there was only sheer mountain side in view and getting very, very close.

Father Casull and Kyle braced themselves for the upcoming impact... then suddenly everything went very bright and the wheels touched down on a landing surface and the jets throttled in reverse. A mountain tunnel far larger than the jet they were in opened up, and even now outside light was disappearing, as the plane slowed and then taxied to a circle marked with a large 1.

Vivian cut the jets, and started the power down procedure. Richard double-checked and when the last of the controls were going dark he got up and went to the door, opening it, and jumping out as it dropped down. He ran to the side of the circle, picked up some chocks and quickly headed back to the plane, positioning the chocks as the last of the engine motion ceased.

Vivian got up and stood in the cockpit door.

"Welcome to Wayne Corp. Experimental Products Division, Aircraft Test Unit - West. Everyone else is still in bed, but we have a plane to catch. Grab your bags and follow me."

Kyle looked at Father Casull.

"Who the hell are these people?"

Father Casull had never been prepared for anything like this in his life. Even time he spent in the local hospital's emergency ward didn't prepare him for this sort of thing. He had only heard OF Wayne Corp. but never much about it. And almost all of that from its Medical Equipment Division, which all the doctors and staff had praised.

"I have no idea, Kyle. I've never encountered anything like this in my life."

"Me neither," said Kyle who was taking the seatbelt off.

Father Casull let go of the armrests and then started to get his things, and followed Kyle out of the aircraft. Vivian and Richard were checking over a sheet with a member of the ground crew and then handed a clipboard back to him.

"Come on, you two, the plane is waiting, follow me," said Vivian.

Richard picked up another clipboard from the ground crewman, and walked next to Vivian. They went down a corridor that had been chiseled from the rock and yet had modern lighting and flooring. They came to a freight elevator, a large one, and stepped into it. Richard pulled the doors shut as Vivian hit the control for 'G'. The elevator went down from their level of '9' floor by floor. When it arrived at 'G' Richard opened the door and Vivian walked out and stepped to a table in what was a large hangar.

She turned and smiled.

"Everyone gets a vest, helmet, and flight coveralls. All the fittings will be obvious once you are seated, just get the stuff on now."

She turned and picked up the black coveralls and slid into them, leaving her jacket and cap on the table. Richard was doing similarly and Father Casull went to the table and saw the coveralls were OSFA, but someone had put little tags of 'Somewhat small', 'Medium more or less', 'Larger than OSFA', 'XL factory reject special made'. Father Casull to the 'Larger' and Kyle stepped up and took a 'Medium'. Vests also had such labels and they put those on. Similarly the helmets were adorned.

Richard came over to help Father Casull get the right helmet, and when that was on, both Richard and Vivian checked over the Priest and Kyle. The helmet intercom came on and Vivian spoke up.

"Looking good, you two! Have you worn-in as test passengers in no time. Follow me."

She turned and threaded her way past a number of aircraft, some small jets, some military types, a helicopter, until she reached the end of the hangar area that was sealed off by a large metal door. She went to the side and hit the control and the door slowly started to roll up. The aircraft that was slowly revealed wasn't as large as many of the military jets, but was very, very sleek looking. Plus it was on a rail going that went upwards at a very steep angle into a space hollowed out of the mountain. She walked under it, inspecting it with Richard.

"Head to the elevator just beyond and I'll take you up in a minute, I just want to check out everything, first. You can never trust just the ground crew."

The sleek, black plane had neat grey letters 'XP LS 01', the two men went under it avoiding contact with the aircraft that was gently humming. They waited in the open elevator as Vivian and Richard checked into various parts of the aircraft, checked its mounts on the rails, and then came over to a panel to the side of the elevator and started pressing buttons. Parts of the hangar floor rose up.

"Blast redirection shields." Richard said.

Vivian closed the panel and walked over to the elevator and then Richard brought up the small bar on it and their platform started to ascend.

"Each of your pieces of equipment has a feed for it. The passenger section is simple. Just take the right shaped feed and plug it into the right shaped connector on the wall to your left. When it is all plugged in and functional, the center light will go to green in each of your sections."

Vivian's voice was matter-of-fact as the elevator rose next to the aircraft. It reached the level of a catwalk and Richard opened the bar.

"Baggage in the rear area, Father Casull is probably best just in front of that and Kyle to the forward of the passenger section."

Kyle nodded and tossed his backpack into the rear area... or dropped it in as the case may be. He took Father Casull's two bags and followed suit. Then he stepped up to the railing on the platform and clambered into the top area of the passenger section, followed by Richard who helped him strap in and find the connections. Vivian was doing the same with Father Casull. As each section showed green it was sealed along with the last area. Then they each took up gangway ladders to the next catwalk and stepped into the aircraft.

Being strapped into a small seat, with 5-point restraints with a helmet, vest and flight suit on was not something a Priest should be doing. But then God does work in mysterious ways.

Vivian was on the intercom as the front compartments sealed.

"ATC this is Long Sword One, we are in final prep, what does the flight plan look like, over."

"Roger that, Long Sword One this is Wayne Desert ATC. We have contacted Mil ATC and they don't like it, over."

"ATC this is Long Sword One, yeah, thats normal, they always bitch on the daylight ones, but they usually do give clearance, over."

"Long Sword One this is ATC, Roger that. Approval given, but the Canadians are pissy and refusing today, want Flight Plan 2 or going with 1A, over."

"Roger ATC from Long Sword One. We will do the one alpha and let them wet themselves, I hate the seaboard approach. Do we have a clearance time, over?"

"Roger One Alpha. We have clearance opening in 5 minutes and closing in 10 minutes."

"Roger, five to ten minutes, Long Sword One going into final prep and topping off. Will advise on ascent, over."

"Long Sword One from ATC, Roger that. You have final clearance and window, will advise. Good flying, Long Sword One. Over and out."

"Ok, Richard start the disconnect and retraction sequence."

"Gotchya, Vivian. Fuel and oxygen disconnect proceeding. Gantry retraction in three minutes. Final check-out proceeding."

Thereafter came a list of things, one by one, checked and cross-checked by the pilot and co-pilot. The light thuds of hoses dropping off were followed by the sound of mechanisms moving the catwalk structure into an alcove in the wall and then a metal door rotating into place around it. Exterior lights dimmed then shut off.

"Forward camera is on. Passengers can use the layout pad under the screen to get views from that part of the vehicle."

The screen lit up in front of Father Casull and showed darkness with bright indicators for which camera was on and dull ones for those that were off.

"ATC this is Long Sword One, starting final sequencing, over."

"Roger that, Long Sword One, we are coordinated. You have all clearance and 'systems go'. Break a leg, Viv. ATC out."

"Roger that, ATC. Thanks Frank, its a milk run. Over and out."

Somewhere deep in the back of the craft there was a vibration, then a rumble, then sudden light all around them briefly illuminating the secluded hangar.

"All systems check. Locks disengaging in 5....4....3....2....1..."

The vehicle suddenly sped hard upwards at a slant, and Father Casull saw a light dot on the screen suddenly show up. A speed indicator was climbing past 100 mph.... 200....300... 400... the bright circle grew, turned blue then suddenly the vehicle was out into the air and accelerating rapidly upwards. The craft rumbled and shook until it suddenly grew still.

"Mach 1, ascension as planned. Good-bye to the bonds of Earth."

Light blue sky started to deepen in color, turn deep blue then briefly violet then slowly fading into black. Father Casull had been pinned to his seat as if a Sumo wrestler had decided to sit on him.

Richard spoke up.

"If you need a flight sickness bag, its in your upper left pocket. Just attach it to the mouthpiece and it does the rest. Waterbottles under your seat. Sugar cubes in the upper right pocket of your suit."

Not that anyone could get these things.

"Cut-off in 5...4...3...2...1...."

Suddenly the Sumo wrestler disappeared and things were weightless.

"Cruise mode at 80,000 feet. ETA in 1.1 hours."

"ATC this is Long Sword One, over."

"Long Sword One this Denver Center, over."

"Good morning, Denver. We are on Flight Plan designation Wayne One Alpha to New York, over."

"Good morning early riser in Long Sword One. We have you at 81,000 feet, parabolic, for the next 20 minutes then you will be on Kansas City control before switching to Chicago Central, over."

"Roger, Denver ATC. KC and then Chicago. Did we wake anyone up in Utah, over."

"Negative, Long Sword One. You are clear sailing with nearest Mil track three five zero southeast at 50,000 at five four five at distance one zero five miles. All other traffic is below you, over."

"Got that Denver ATC. Someone has an F-16 ferry ride, huh, over."

"Roger Long Sword One, no idea, just flight plan, you have clear space in front of you. Denver ATC over and out."

"Roger, Long Sword One, out."

* * *

As it drove it heard a distant sonic boom and stuck its head out the car to look up and to the south, but could catch no sight of the aircraft.

Aircraft had too low a probability for survival once landed.

Trains were too slow.

Assured kill was necessary to complete the mission.

This required infiltration. It was time to infiltrate.

* * *

She looked up as the door jingled and a tall man stepped through.

"Hello, and welcome to Marty's Consignment shop, how may I help you?"

"Men's clothing." he said in a flat voice.

She smiled.

"That is on the back and to the right, boots are along the wall."

He turned and walked to the back of the shop, his black t-shirt, pants and boots having that big city look to them. In a few minutes he was back with an armful of clothes, and a pair of boots.

"Oh, my! That is quite a lot! Is there anything else I can get you?"

His eyes looked around the shop and caught on something on the bulletin board. He walked over and took it down. It was a picture of an old truck, with 'For Sale, Cheap' on it.

"Where can I get this vehicle?"

"Oh, that's Naz's old farm truck out back. Something busted in it and its been gathering dust for a year or so. He couldn't figure out what was wrong with it and it wasn't worth taking to the shop, so he just put it up for sale. Probably going to scrap it soon."

"What's the price?"

She looked at him and smile.

"Well, that and the clothes should do just fine at a $100 even."

He took a bill and put it on the counter.


She was taken back, a bit, then reached under the counter and got him the keys.

"There you go! Oh!" she pulled out a slip of paper and signed it then put it on top of the clothes, "That's the title, just put in your name so its all legal, like."

He nodded pocketed the keys and title, then picked up the clothing and walked over to the truck putting it all inside. She watched as he looked it over, tried starting it, then lifted the hood. He walked around the side of the building for a few minutes, then came back with a battery, wires and a duffel bag that looked full. He put the duffel bag in the truck, worked under the hood for a half hour then started the truck and drove off.

She thought for sure that he would come back for the car.

* * *

It was a minor fix.

Outside of town it changed clothing, stashing the old clothes in the duffel bag.

It tipped its cowboy hat and rolled the sleeves of the old, red plaid shirt up, untucked the shirt from the jeans and made sure the old brown boots had the jeans tucked into them. It had placed the shotgun and rifle it had picked up from the store in Los Angeles in the rack in the truck.

Now it 'fit in'.

That took less than one hour. It was satisfied. Infiltration was necessary.

It pulled onto I-70 outside of Grand Junction, CO, heading east.

* * *

"Hello, is this Kyle?"

"This is Kyle..."

"The man who wanted to warn Sarah Connor about something coming to kill her..."


"... I think you gave the impression it wasn't just a man, could you tell me what it is?"

"...its hard to describe..."

"Thats ok, Kyle, just go ahead and tell me what you told Sarah..."

" wouldn't believe me, Mr. Fox..."

"... we are used to strange things here at WayneTech..."

"... it will sound as if I'm crazy..."

"... Kyle we are used to crazy things, too, but you do need to protect her..."

"... yes..."

"... and so do we, we are in this together, Kyle..."

"... she needs protection..."

"So tell me about this man coming to kill her..."

"... it isn't a man, Mr. Fox..."

"Then just what is it, Kyle?"

".... what is it? You won't believe me..."

"Kyle I'm trying to help here, understand?"

"... uh-huh..."

"There are many strange things we have seen here at WayneTech, strange technology..."


"... so believe me when I say you will have a hard time being incredible no matter what you say."

"... it is an infiltration unit from the future, a cybernetic organism that has a living flesh exterior on a metal internal frame..."

Bruce Wayne hit the PAUSE button and looked at the two technicians analyzing the recording.

"That is the third time I've heard it and it is still a very strange call. Marty, John? What's the analysis?"

A tall, thin and somewhat young blond hair man in a lab coat with a name tag that had Martin Keller on it spoke up.

"No changes in stress or intonation, Mr. Wayne. Mr. Fox did a good job of drawing him out so that changes would be outside of normal range if he was attempting to hide something."

Mr. Wayne nodded.


The other man, a bit shorter, stockier, with unkempt dark hair and black rimmed glasses nodded his head in agreement.

"Not artificial, Mr. Wayne. He might be psychotic, but that would demonstrate some variance in intonation and enunciation. 'Kyle' shows none of that, but normal human variations, like someone who is patiently trying to get something across, perhaps a bit under stress, but used to stress."

Looking over to Sarah Connor who was looking at the speaker and then looking at each of the techs who wanly smiled, then to Lucius Fox.

"That was Father Casull you heard earlier, right?" Lucius asked.

"It was, Lucius. I've seen him a number of times and that is him. He runs a small shelter for the homeless and for 'wayward youth' who come to him. A good man." she said.

"Not easily taken in with fabrications and used to seeing the mentally ill, then?" asked Lucius.

She nodded.

"Yes, he is. He is willing to listen to their stories from what I've heard, to give them solace and help them."

"A good man... a very good man," Bruce Wayne said softly.

"He is, Mr. Wayne. I didn't attend... well... I went with Ginger as she liked him and attended church... 'someone had to forgive my sins' she was always saying."

"So that leaves us with a man who Father Casull in no way hints as being psychotic, or he would have gone to proper authorities in Los Angeles. Plus he gives us local verification that the individual involved in the killings is the one described by Kyle. Either Kyle is very deranged or believes that he is telling the truth," Mr. Wayne said looking at Lucius Fox," or is telling the truth as he knows it."

"Yes, Mr. Wayne, that about sums it up. And I think it would take a truly great fraud to attempt to fool a priest for something that has no real chance of payback. A fraud in character, morals and financially. There are very few of those around in LA or anywhere. That's why I sent for them, high priority."

Wayne nodded.

"I agree wholeheartedly. Were those the police records you got a few minutes ago?"

Lucius nodded handing the folder over to Wayne. He smiled, nodded and opened it on the table in front of Sarah and himself.

"Let's see what we have here. Three murders of Sarah Connor in the LA Basin area... one shot with a 9mm, two shot with a .45 pistol... the deaths at your old apartment... Matt Lloyd? I believe you mentioned a lover of Ginger's?"

"Yes, thats him..."

"... brutal killing with multiple broken bones, obvious signs of a struggle... snapped neck, broken spinal cord... trauma... Ginger killed with a .45 pistol... evidence of some things moved around the phone stand by a gloved hand... truly horrific, cold blooded killings, each of them. Housewives, mothers, your friend and her lover, all killed brutally and directly, not caring about their lives."

Sarah was still in shock, but less so. Seeing the reports, descriptions, even photos... she stopped to look at Mr. Wayne.

"How did you get these?" she asked softly.

Smiling shyly he gave her a side glance, "Lucius has his sources," he said in a surreptitious tone.

"Sources?" Lucius gave a 'humph' sound, "No magic, Sarah. We got these going through our security unit out west as we were and are worried about employee safety. Plus the FBI got involved just before we got the folder."

Bruce looked at Lucius.

"It did? Why?"

"Police place Ginger's killing around 10pm, no later than 10:30pm when a unit was sent to see if Sarah still lived there. Apparently there was a man killed in a carjacking about two blocks north of the apartment building between 10:15pm and 10:30pm. The car has been found at a small dealership outside of Las Vegas. A 24 hour used car sales lot. The night shift owner was found killed around 2am local time. The security cameras got a good shot of the man who killed him." Lucius handed over a manilla envelope to Wayne.

Bruce Wayne opened it and took out pictures to see a tall, obviously muscular man in dark leather jacket, dark leather pants, sunglasses, cropped hair, black leather gloves and black boots. In one he was walking in, a second he was meeting a salesman, a third he was looking at the camera, a fourth had the salesman dead on the floor and he was turning towards the camera.

"He shot the camera?" Bruce asked softly.

"That's right," Lucius nodded.

"He took a late model Toyota."

Shuffling the photos to one side he took out the three different artist sketches of the 'Phonebook Serial Killer' in Los Angeles. They were all the same man.

"Cold blooded, methodical, uncaring murders."

"Very much so, Mr. Wayne."

Coming to a decision, Bruce Wayne gathered up the materials.

"Sarah, do you need any rest? It will be a few hours until the people we sent will get to Father Casull and Kyle. I need to do some research on this. And I will want Lucius to let Commissioner Gordon know we have an employee that is in shock over the killings and thinks the killer might be coming after her. It will sound outlandish, but it will keep missing persons inquiries for you on notice as no one will be looking for you, right?"

Sarah nodded 'no'.

"No one will be worried about me, but a couple of friends will probably try to get a hold of me about Ginger."

Wayne nodded.

"Sarah, I think you will be very much safer here than in your apartment or talking to a police psychologist or 'bereavement officer'. We have some quarters that WayneTech built a decade ago and that now serve as our archives and military equipment test facility. Those are spartan and normal VIP quarters with decent security can be yours in this building complex or the one north of here. If the police are interested, they can ask for you or send an officer here, but I doubt they will be. I take this threat very seriously, and the stature of that individual in the photos and drawings would be obvious to Father Casull. Whoever 'Kyle' is, he is not a cold-blooded, methodical killer. If you stay here I can get you much safer living arrangements, have your calls forwarded to you and, if you like, have someone stop by to pick up clothing and any essentials at your apartment. That choice is yours, Sarah. If you go home I will assign a competent security detail to watch over you, but you have seen what the Sarah Connor killer is like."

Sarah smiled and nodded.

"Here is fine, Mr. Wayne. After seeing those incidents... I'm shaken. Nervous. I've never experienced...."

Bruce Wayne smiled and held out a hand to Sarah. She stood up and took his hand.

"Nervous energy? Worried?"

She nodded.

"You couldn't sleep even if you wanted to, right?"

She smiled and nodded again.

"I have just the thing... Lucius, could you get the training unit to free up some time and teach Sarah the basics? A couple hours of that, and some range time and she will be ready for a cat nap, then meeting Father Casull and Kyle."

Lucius chuckled.

"I'll arrange it, Bruce. And secure quarters for Sarah... would you like the high-rise or the Vault, Sarah."

Sarah looked at Lucius as she let go of Bruce's hand.

"Against that?" she nodded at the folder Bruce had opened to page through, reading, "Any place called the 'Vault' sounds very safe."

"It is that, Sarah. And training will be on the level below it, so I can show you to both of them and get you situated. Anything you will need from your apartment Sarah?"

She smiled, nodded, "Clothing mostly. A few odds and ends..."

Bruce smiled, "I'll leave you two to get things arranged, while I look a bit more at this... thing."

He opened the door to the analysis room to see Alfred holding a tray with paper bags, talking with Wendy, and then he looked up and smiled.

"There you are, Mr. Wayne! Wendy wouldn't let me deliver your meals as you had requested."

"No clearance, Mr. Wayne," she said.

Bruce glanced at Alfred.

"Did you forget your pass again, Alfred?"

"No, sir, I didn't. Your employee, however, seems to be under the belief that you were not to be disturbed. My ID is currently hidden behind the tray I'm holding. She told me to stay as I was while she confirmed your wishes. Apparently no one was answering the phone inside."

Bruce looked through the open door to the two techs.

"Sorry, Mr. Wayne, we muted it and didn't see the small flashing light."

Bruce Wayne shook his head from side to side, smiling.

"Thats ok. We'll eat in the break room. And Alfred will need to get some things for a room in the Vault, anyway."

"I will, Mr. Wayne?"

"Yes, Sarah needs a safe place to stay for awhile."

"Ah, yes, Mr. Wayne. The Vault is very good for that, but tends to be a haven for those liking the night shift."

Bruce smiled deeply.

"I will eat and run, Alfred. Corned beef sandwich?"

"Yes, Mr. Wayne, swiss cheese, mustard and a glass of tomato juice."

He nodded.

"Good enough. Lucius you get Sarah situated, get a security team on re-routing Sarah's calls and picking up anything she needs. If she needs more, get it. She can use company clothes for training if she doesn't have anything appropriate here I am sure that some of our VIPs have left something that will fit. If not, the local stores will provide, I'm sure."

Lucius smiled and looked to Wendy who nodded.

"Easy enough, Bruce. What kind of training were you thinking?"

Bruce looked at Sarah.

"You do aerobics, some personal defense routines and gymnastics in high school, right?"

She looked blankly at Wayne and nodded.

"Good. H2C3 intro and basic firearms with pistol range time I should think, but security will know better once you get there. I'll leave it to you, Lucius. Alfred, let me see what you have for my repast."

"Of course, sir," as Wayne headed to the break room, "I have bag lunches for Mr. Fox and Miss Connor, front two with the tags on them."

Lucius Fox stepped over to take the one marked for him, and then Sarah did the same.

"Thank you, Alfred," Lucius said.

"Yes, thank you," said Sarah.

"My pleasure, to you both," Alfred then he turned with the tray, two bags on it and a glass of tomato juice also on it. His ID tag was clearly visible just above the first button of his suit jacket.

Sarah looked at Lucius.

"I don't know what I pictured Mr. Wayne as, but nothing like this," she said.

"Most people don't need him like this, Sarah. Come on and we will get your purse and anything else from your desk."

He went with her down the hallways that were starting to see the morning staff arrive.

It would be a busy morning.

* * *

Bruce picked up the bag and looked to see if it did have the promised sandwich in it, and it did. He smiled taking it out and taking a bite from it while standing, then swallowing some tomato juice.

"Delicious as always, Alfred, these early mornings are always difficult," he said smiling.

"Yes, one accustomed to the lifestyle you lead doesn't often get to greet the morning part of noon, sir."

Bruce smirked and took a second bite and repeated with the juice.

"Alfred, I'll need you to pick up a couple of people at the East facility. One is a priest, a Father Casull, and the other is a man by the name of Kyle. They may be a bit shaken after the Long Sword trip, and might appreciate something to calm their nerves. They should be coming in just a bit after 2pm, so you still have awhile."

Alfred nodded, "Of course Master Bruce, will there be anything else?"

"See about contacting the Archbishop of New York and Father Casull's diocese, probably through your social contacts, and see if we can get some good PR for a donation from WayneTech and a matching donation from me, the first to Father Casull's church or work he sponsors, and the matching to local work sponsored by the Archbishop. Make it an 'in kind donation' for help needed. I'm sure you can work out the details and let me know if Wayne Corp. can donate any equipment from its various divisions and make me personally available for ribbon cuttings and giving checks plus any social gatherings to back these up. Some of our Hollywood social contacts would be a help, and free PR there is always something to gather more funds for charity."

Alfred Pennyworth was often caught off-guard by Bruce Wayne's mind. He could fight off a merger one moment, plan the takedown of a criminal the next and then put in for a number of donations plus gala events right after that. The PR teams and overall division for that had complained that they were overworked just because of Mr. Wayne's good ideas. But no one argued that these lowered profitability of Wayne Corp. Quite the contrary, it was one of the few large corporations that had excellent standing in both defense and social circles, plus the medical community bought up Wayne Medical equipment as fast as it could be made as it was done to the highest tolerances: the Dr. Thomas Wayne medical kit for poor doctors was the common 'black bag' carried within two years of its introduction and overseas sales skyrocketed.

"Of course Master Bruce. Will the two guests be staying with us?"

Bruce looked up with the last of the sandwich in one hand and a report that was on the tray in another.

"They will, Alfred. Good penthouse rooms or standard VIP, your choice. And any dossiers of Father Casull you can get from our PR division. I will be corralling some of our research scientist from the weapons group and a few parts of Wayne Corp. for a quick discussion. Do we still have any research physicists on staff?"

"Yes, Mr. Wayne, I think the XP division in Wayne Tech or their equivalents in Wayne Defense Systems will have what you need. This sounds like a different sort of project, if I may say so, Mr. Wayne."

"It is, Alfred. There is a lot to track down and almost none of it by my night time contacts, although I suspect a few will need to be, ahhhh, asked for a job or two."

Alfred smirked.

"Of course, sir."

"Ok, thats it for now, I'll be on the phone for a few minutes, probably from Lucius's office and I'll work with him when he gets back from looking after Sarah."

"Yes, sir, Mr. Wayne. And I will be doing similar as you requested."

Bruce Wayne handed the financial report back to Alfred, smiled and looked him in the eyes while clasping a hand to his shoulder.

"Alfred, I don't know where this will lead. I've never encountered anything like it, so I expect we will all be working very hard the next few days. I'll see if I can't arrange a meeting of the principles for this evening, because this isn't normal night time work."

"What will it be about, if I may ask, sir?"

"Fighting the future that has sent its war to us."

Alfred furrowed his brow.

"Should I be contacting my old friends?"

Bruce arched an eyebrow and nodded.

"No cowboys, but good survivor types. What we have can't be dealt with normally, so anyone used to the abnormal would be a help."

"I'll phone a few up, Master Bruce. I am sure a couple could use a good paid vacation."

Bruce Wayne lowered his arm and smiled.

"A working vacation, Alfred. Now we both have a lot of work to do."

* * *

Sarah had known there was a 'Vault' under Wayne Corp's offices, but had never realized just how extensive it was. Mr. Fox had explained how they had to go for bedrock to get good foundations for the buildings that went up in the 70's, and Wayne Corp was more heavily defense and medical, system-wise, back then. When Bruce came into his majority and started to receive controlling shares of the corporation, he diversified the company into multiple other areas in pharmaceuticals, industrial machining and chemicals, plus areas of technology that were just starting to get cheaper by the end of that decade. Even with somewhat absentee ownership, the Wayne Corporation and its subsidiaries all did well as Bruce Wayne's management team slowly removed those that had gotten corrupt or were ill suited to positions of responsibility. Wayne Financial also did well and became its own profitable sub-unit, helping small and medium sized businesses with finding good financial advice. The 'Vault' slowly moved from hardened test facilities to archiving and some safe quarters for people who needed them. Most of the old weapon testing facility had moved upstate or out west, but there was still some of that for equipment to bulky too move or innovative technologies that needed to be kept under lock and key.

Sarah was in the upper administration and housing area, and experienced the voice analyzer and hand analysis unit that allowed her to open the door to her room. Mr. Fox handed her off to Sally Wentworth who helped to administer the upper levels and she arranged for clothing and other goods to be brought in to stock the room. Sarah's gym bag had been retrieved from her locker and brought down, and Sally was soon introducing her the man that would be handling her introduction to Hand to Hand Close Combat Conditioning or H2C3. The gym a level up was used, which was a sub-basement of the building and used by a number of people, herself included during the weeks she had been working at Wayne Tech.

Martin Carstairs was obviously fit, physically, and the visible scars on his arms and legs indicated that he had been in a few close combat situations.

"Hello, Sarah," he said in a moderate tenor voice, his short red hair and speckled complexion would be described as 'boyish' if it weren't for the hard muscles and compact stature, "I'm Martin Carstairs and Mr. Fox has let me know you need some basic training in H2C3. So lets go to the stairs machines and talk about that while you get warmed up."

"Nice to meet you, Martin. I really don't know what to expect..."

He laughed lightly.

"Who does? That is what I'm here for. I have two tours of 'Nam, 10 years on GCPD ending up at Special Crimes Unit then decided to get a job with decent pay here at Wayne Corp. when my brother told me they were hiring. So I've seen some more of the unexpected than I've ever wanted to in my life."

They got to the machines and Martin set his for a fair amount of resistance and started stepping methodically.

"Go for a low resistance if you haven't used one before then dial it up as your muscles get used to it. Don't strain your muscles and back off when you start to get tired."

Sarah looked and saw the resistance controller, set it down and then turned on the machine and started climbing in place. As she found her pace she dialed it up just a bit and then backed down when it was starting to fatigue her.

"Good! Now, Mr. Fox says you are being stalked by a person responsible for a series of killings, and that he isn't normal. Basically its like he has no organs or nerves to deal with and something like armor to protect everything else. Well that is hard to deal with, let me tell you. But he is still in man shape and maybe taller and bulkier, but still has basic kinematics and body-mass distribution problems. You probably don't want to get into a hand to hand or close quarters situation with him."

"Isn't that kind of hard to do in a city?" Sarah asked breathing hard.

Martin laughed, merrily.

"Damned right it is! And if he is armed with guns or rifles, you don't want to give him a clear shot, either. Still if you have to deal with him close up the best thing you can do is: avoid getting hit. If he is down to that, then the basic physics of his body come into play. So the basics will be avoidance, and we will practice that with gloves and padding, then how to break free of grappling with him as he will outmass you, and then the last ten minutes or so will be how to apply your mass to him when he shifts his center of mass so as to push him forward and/or down. There are some techniques I've picked up from a number of courses to do that, but if he is immune to the effects of kicks and punches, then most of those go out the window. So a bit of Savate, some Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, and maybe a tempered steel knife, if you have a second to use it, if he is face down and you can get to something 'vital', which will probably be the neck or back. Sounds good?"

Sarah nodded, and gasped, "Yeah..."

"Great. You're winded now, so dial back and then we will hit the store room for pads and gloves... remember slow down and lessen resistance."

Sarah realized that Mr. Wayne had suggested this, and that she was already working off her nervous energy and had been able to actually listen to what Martin had said.

There was more than one person trying to keep her alive.

* * *

Sitting down at the small meeting table in Lucius Fox's office was Bruce Wayne, which didn't surprise Lucius too much. He already had the folder material spread out in front of him and was on the phone.

"Renny? I'm trying to arrange a meeting and need a specialist.... yes, thats right mil systems specialist, someone with a background on the latest command and communications systems, helps if they know computers, too... Richard Bennington? We hired him after the GM layoff two years ago, right? .... uh-huh, sounds like the man. Ok, look its..." Bruce checked his watch, "... 12:30 and I would like to get him here by 1:30 to read some materials and then give me his opinion... good... earlier is ok. The materials will be with Lucius Fox. Ok? Good, earlier is fine. Thanks a lot, Renny, I know its a short fuse but... still its appreciated. Have other calls to make so no chit-chat time, but catch up with you later. Good-bye."

Bruce Wayne set the phone down.

"Raven runs a good shop, Bruce, and I knew Richard from the Urban Vehicle contract. We've kept his clearances up so he is a good source to go to."

Bruce nodded.

"I knew she would have someone good. So, Lucius, before all the experts get here, what do you make of it?"

Lucius Fox had taken off his jacket and hung it up next to Bruce's on the stand, closed the door and then sat down across the table from him.

"It's different, Bruce. I really don't know what to make of it. This 'Kyle' is describing something fantastic, more science fiction than science, particularly the time travel part. That's just..." he shook his head from side to side.

"We need an expert on that, Lucius. Even just the theoretical end. Anyone like that on staff?"

Lucius smiled then pressed his lips together.

"Just about every science-fiction fan we can round up, but you mean from the theoretical physics side?"

Bruce nodded.

"That isn't a normal Wayne Corp area, but we do have some fundamental research contacts in-house. Probably Don Carstairs of the simulation group has the best grounding in it, not only relativity but quantum physics, plus a bit of cosmology thrown in. Anne Dickerson from the nuclear defense group might serve for that also, very much in the applied area more than theoretical."

"Good, get them here. Also someone from your cybernetics branch and good on computers should be here..."

Lucius smiled.

"The entire department will want to be here, but Ken Chapman is the head and he will know if its smoke or truth, Bruce."

Bruce nodded with just a hint of a smile.

"That is what I'm looking for. And if this is true, these are the kind of people I want for the applied work, probably someone from the industrial chemical and controls group. Can do?"

Lucius Fox nodded.

"I'll get the conference room down the hall, and have my secretary make copies of this material. Eyes Only?"

Bruce Wayne nodded.

"See if you can keep everyone separated, maybe use some of the reading rooms two floors down? I'll be back at 1:30 to talk with anyone who has gotten here early."

"Will do, Mr. Wayne. Really I don't know what to make of the story. It sounds fishy from so many ways, yet it does hang together."

Bruce stood up and nodded.

"Those pictures didn't come from fish, Lucius. And a hoax this elaborate would have fallen apart at this point. I'm taking it as credible and actionable. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to see Father Jordan, as I think we really should have someone local to help on that end of things."

"It can't hurt, that's for sure."

"See you in an hour or so, Lucius, and will phone if there are any delays. Get a good recording for the meeting as it will have to be short and intense. Overtime for everyone because I will want them for a first-hand talk after we have a talk with Father Casull and Kyle once they arrive."

"No problem, see you in about an hour."

Bruce Wayne nodded, shrugged his coat into place and headed out of the office. It had been a few months since he saw Father Jordan at the Mission, but he made sure that it was always provisioned for the poor and homeless that came in. Really one must have sustenance for the body before addressing the soul.

* * *

It had noted the posted speed limit. It had noted the average speed of other vehicles. It utilized average speed which was higher than the speed limit and had passed one place where it had noted radar use by police in two cars.

They paid no attention to a car only mildly speeding.

It 'fit in'.

The drive would be long, and it powered down higher thought processes and left driving necessary ones active. Its neural net slowly built to adapt to its necessary infiltration needs.

The mission objective was primary.

Parameters were non-conforming.

The neural net adapted to non-conforming parameters.

That would take time.

* * *

Sarah Connor ached all over, and she had picked up a variety of bruises, which the after-workout shower hadn't really addressed. After showering and dressing into her regular clothes, Martin checked to make sure that there was no swelling and that she had a small ice pack for her left shoulder, which had taken one fall a bit hard. He had handed her a glass of ice water, and disdained the various 'energy' drinks available in the well stocked refrigerators.

"You just need some re-hydration, Sarah. You'll get enough to balance your lost sodium and electrolytes at lunch."

She smiled watching watching Martin sit down across the table from her with a liter bottle of water and he swallowed three or four large swallows from it.

"Ahh, Gotham City water direct from the hills of Gotham. I'm surprised that its not toxic, but it meets all EPA standards, and that must be a miracle of some sort."

She smiled, it had been difficult to adjust to the somewhat harder water of Gotham City.

"You mean with all the old chemical plants on the mainland side?"

He nodded.

"Just that. Axis Chemicals, Dupont, Stalar Combine, Johnson Municipal, and the old Rock Oil plant really were pretty unregulated back in the day. Dupont, at least, was able to clean their emissions up and somehow stay in business. Axis really went downhill once it was abandoned back in the 50s and the fire and explosions there a couple of years ago really have made it a toxic wasteland. Stalar still has one part of the facility open, mostly its old photo unit. Johnson went under a decade ago, and couldn't meet emission standards if it tried. Rock Oil is still chugging along, and got some of its stuff grandfathered into place, which accounts for the sooty smog we sometimes get rolling off the mainland at night. Not that being downwind of New York City is any prize, but at least the air gets pretty well mixed from that direction."

Sarah smiled.

"It beats LA any day! You can at least see the hills if you don't have anything blocking you. But the traffic downtown! When will you ever get a modern freeway in here?"

Martin grunted.

"The cross-town isn't good enough for ya? You should have seen it 8 years back before that went in and most of the truck traffic from the port went through city streets. Now the cross-town and north link keep most of the worst of that out of street traffic. And you can't widen the roads, either... well, not without knocking down half the buildings."

"Are you going on about urban planning *again*, Martin?" came a voice from the door to the lounge.

"Nah, Loren, just comparing notes with the LA native. We have better air and worse traffic, although I bet the latter isn't that much better in LA."

Sarah chuckled.

"Its worse during rush hour, actually. Here its just clogged up most of the time."

The tall, dark haired woman at the entrance to the lounge stepped in and walked over to the table. Martin spoke up.

"Sarah, this is Loren Seifert, our small arms expert and Mistress of the Range when she's on duty alone. Loren, Sarah Connor from XP Division, the lady with the serial killer after her."

Sarah stood up and shook Loren's hand, and realized she was only an inch or two taller than Sarah, but more slightly built which made her seem taller.

"Glad to meet you, Sarah. Well, actually for you it would have been better if this was social or related to a project, I guess. This has got to be playing hell with you."

"It is, Loren, but... after the workout and training with Martin, I'm not as shaken as I was."

Loren smiled and nodded.

"Glad that you got fixed up to do something about it!" She turned to Martin, "And I'll take her off your hands now and get her the quick and dirty lesson of how to point a gun in the right direction."

"No prob, Loren. Sarah, I hope we get a chance to work out some more, you have good instincts, balance and are quick on your feet. A damned sight better than a number of partners I had on the GCPD, let me tell you," he reached out to shake Sarah's hand.

"I hope so too, Martin. This really has calmed my nerves." She let go of his hand and turned to Loren.

"Come with me and we will see what we can do for distraction of your killer. Say, Martin, you got the same layout of the guy I did, right?"

"Tall, dark, armored and nasty? Uh-huh."

"Thought so, just checking. Ok Sarah, come with me and I'll take you down to the range and stock area. Cya later, Martin."

"Catchya, Loren. Take care, Sarah."

"I will Martin, thanks for everything. Really."

Loren led the way out and down the hallway.

"Never handled a gun before in your life, right?" Loren asked.

"Not to fire, no. Helped my father on cleaning his rifles after hunting, but that was when I was a little girl."

Loren nodded.

"Thats ok," she stopped at an elevator and hit the down button, and the door opened immediately. Loren and Sarah stepped in and Loren hit the button for L2.

"I think we will do some basic orientation with a target pistol and then... hmmmm... shotgun will get you used to long arms, and I don't expect you will be doing anything at a long distance."

The elevator door opened and Loren led the way to an armored door. She put in her pass key and palmed the device in the wall and the door clicked open.

"Come on in and welcome to the armament room, small arms. We'll go through the stacks so I can pick out a nice variety of stuff for your range time," she said stepping into the room beyond which had multiple upright locked metal cabinets, gray ones in the interior of the room and red around the sides. Sarah followed her and heard the door click softly closed as she entered.

Loren took a small supply cart and went down the rightmost aisle, finally stopping at cabinet. She then went to the lock, spun the tumbler deftly and opened it, then initialed a small card attached to the locker and flipped over a magnetic sign from CLOSED and red to OPEN and white. The doors opened on five racks of pistols.

"Lets see... Ruger and Browning for starters..." she took out two pistols, one totally black and another dark blue with walnut grips, and placed them on the cart. She closed the doors and went to the red locker opposite and did the same as she had with the first, taking out some small boxes off ammunition that she placed in the cart.

"Hmmmm... hold out your hands, fingers outstretched," she said to Sarah.

Sarah did so and Loren looked at them, then held one hand between thumb and forefinger and gestured for Sarah to put her palms up, which she did. Loren let go of the one hand.

"You can put them down now. Ever play tennis?" she asked.

Sarah smiled.

"No. But some lacrosse in high school."

"Good enough. Should be good for the basic Colt and maybe a .357 revolver," Loren said walking down to the end of the row and opening another cabinet, which had a number of revolvers in it. She picked one out and put it in the cart, and went to the ammo container across from it and took out a box of ammo and put it in the cart. Then she went down to the end of the aisle and up the next one, stopping at a cabinet which had the OPEN sign on it.

"Keith must have been doing some early practice. Figures." she said softly opening the container and looking at racks of pistols. Loren looked them over and took a couple to look at them, then placed one on the cart. Then she guided the cart down to the last cabinet in the row and opened that one to an array of all sorts of different pistols.

"Time for something heavy. I hope you will never need anything like this stuff, but if you need it there is no replacement for having one. Lets see... nope, come over here and hold your hands out. I am going to hand you some possibles and I want you to hold each. Keep your trigger finger off the trigger, but let your hand just naturally grasp the pistol and keep it pointed towards the floor."

Sarah stepped up and Loren selected one pistol and handed it to her. It was a light black pistol and Sarah could barely get her fingers around to grasp it. Loren held her hand and gently shifted the pistol and it fit a bit better.

"It's Israeli, pretty nasty and jams once in awhile, but is really quite smooth to fire. Heavy as a brick, though. How does it feel?"

"It is heavy, and is a bit hard to get a good feel of it." Sarah said.

Loren nodded.

"Put it in the cart. Here, try this one."

Sarah was handed a long, sleek chrome pistol, very much like one of the previous ones, just larger.

"That feels nice, easy to hold."

Loren nodded, "Wish the company could figure out how to keep operating. Mr. Wayne doesn't want to buy them up, though. Put it in the cart," which Sarah did.

"Ok, this next is really more of a rifle but made for handgun size. It is heavy, nasty and bucks like freight train. Hold it and see how it feels."

Sarah was surprised at the weight, but grasped the pistol first with one hand, then two.

"That is heavy, and balancing it is a bit hard."

Loren nodded.

"Yeah, its not anything I would call portable, but if you need to shoot an armored car, you would want one. Ok, put that in the cart. Next up the ammo for this lot and then a couple of shotguns, I think good old pump action will do you, keep you with solid slugs and 12 gauge, nothing fancy..."

Sarah Connor started to realize that Loren Seifert was taking this job very seriously. Just like Martin did. Everything in this room had a purpose to it, a time and a place to be used. Only a very skilled person could know what was needed and when, and the way Loren walked, carried herself and examined each weapon made Sarah confident that she knew what she was doing. A long day was getting longer, but better as it went along.

Her good friend and roommate back in LA had been killed.

That killer was coming after her.

Sarah Connor would not be unprepared.

Or alone.

* * *

Bruce Wayne stepped into the small office at the back of the mission after having the older parishoner in charge of the kitchen let Father Jordan knew he was here and hoped to see him for a matter of importance. Mr. Wayne smiled at some of the cooking ranges having the 'Wayne Manufacturing' logo off to the side of the front panel. The older woman came back and led him to the office and he let himself into the combined reading room and office of Father Jordan who was an older, somewhat balding black man who had run the mission for some years now as a personal effort.

"Glad to see you, Bruce! Anne said it was important and that you needed to see me, and I'm just doing some maintenance on the accounts, so I'm glad for the visit."

The two men shook hands, and both were smiling, "Do take a seat, Bruce."

"Thank you Father Jordan," Bruce sat in an old tapestry armchair next to a battered wooden table while Father Jordan sat in one with that had a small pillow for his back.

"Is this about supplies, Bruce? I know we did ask for more to cover recent layoffs at the docks..."

Bruce grinned.

"Not at all, Father, glad to have those supplies sent here. This is a matter involving one of my employees, a recent hire from Los Angeles, and a man who was sent to help her who turned to a Father Casull. The matter may be one of life or death, Father Jordan, and I am putting up $500,000 to Father Casull's mission to come with the man, Kyle, and I would like any help or advice from you, Father Jordan, and will pay a similar amount from my personal accounts to match Wayne Corporation's gift in Los Angeles."

Father Jordan sat back a bit, perpelexed.

"That sounds suspiciously like a pay-off, Bruce."

Bruce Wayne grinned then tightened it, looked down at the floor and then at Father Jordan.

"Father Jordan, I need someone to be able to see if Father Casull is not being coerced or naive. Plus, as this would be a matching gift, you two may want to see if there is any coordination you would like to do. I am willing to back a more ambitious project, but want to make sure it is in good hands from the start and has clear direction. But, beyond that, I trust your insight into people and this situation... needs more than I have as it is going across too many things."

Father Jordan leaned forward.

"I did attend and inter-faith retreat, oh, two years ago, and remember a panel on inner city outreach and how to deal with poverty, gangs and crime, plus lax city administration and police enforcement. Father Casull was on that panel, which had a long roundtable discussion after the main presentations. Although I didn't meet him, personally, he was a very straightforward and compassionate man, for all that he had some of the most violent criminals in California come through his door. I am more than willing to help on that, Bruce, no payment necessary."

Bruce nodded and leaned forward to be closer to Father Jordan, and lowered his voice.

"I know that, Father Jordan. It is the story with the man he is bringing, and the events that have taken place in LA and appear to be headed this way that are disturbing. Kyle's story has many fantastical elements, but some are corroborated by Father Casull, some by the media and some by other reports that were not available to either Kyle or Father Casull. So I can't discount a fantastical story offhand, particularly as it involves a serial killer out to kill one of my employees. He has already killed multiple times in that mission."

Father Jordan furrowed his brows together and looked at the floor.

"There may be little risked involved in helping, Father Jordan, but I can't say that it is zero risk. And the killer will, apparently, stop at nothing to get to my employee. I see that as a risk, and I want to make sure that those accepting it know that I appreciate their help."

Looking up from the floor to Bruce, Father Jordan nodded.

"Bruce I grew up on the streets of Gotham which were rough for their day, but not like today. After converting to the Work under the late Father Williams I was in the Army as a Chaplain, not a Base Chaplain, but a Service Chaplain. So I've seen a lot in service to Christ and my Nation, and to the City of Gotham. I don't shy away from risk, Bruce, you know that."

"And I want you to know I appreciate that and want that work to continue on to help those most in need. The responsibility of Wayne Corporation, in full, for all of its people rests on me, Father Jordan. To do good I must do right by them, from first day to last, that is part of my job. You may not appreciate that the glamor and visible part isn't all too... ahhh... moral and upright... but they are also part of the job. If I can't trust my employees to know that they can lift their share of the weight for me, it will be because I have not done my share for them. I will be arranging things for the donations through Alfred, and I really do want to make a lasting contribution to the city."

Father Jordan smiled deeply and sat back.

"You do, Bruce. Every other corporate headquarters here from your father's time has left Gotham City for New York, Boston or overseas. So I may have to face a stone, cold killer again. I've done that before."

"If Kyle is right, this one isn't human," Bruce said flatly.

"Not... ok, Bruce, you have whetted my curiosity. Not a demon or ghost or something...?"

Bruce chuckled.

"We should be so lucky. No, Father Jordan, lets just say that its... not amenable to reason or spiritual power."

"Bruce, you do have this knack of enticing people by saying so little. You should have been in the clergy, as I've always told Alfred."

Bruce smiled and stood up.

"No rest for the wicked, Father Jordan. So will you come along and help?"

Father Jordan stood up from the chair, picked up his pillow and took a small bible from the side table.

"I'll tell Anne that I have a lost soul needing to be looked after. She will be able to run the mission, and probably will long after I'm gone."

Bruce nodded and opened the door.

"Lets hope that is many years away. I'll give you the overview as we go back to Wayne Tech. I have a number of interviews on this before we meet up with Father Casull and Kyle, and it will give you a chance to talk with the woman being threatened, Sarah Connor."

"And you're a white knight on top of it! Bruce you are a tough man to figure out."

Bruce smirked.

"Never the white knight, Father Jordan. Somehow my life just hasn't led me there..."

The two men walked out of the room and Father Jordan closed the door.

* * *

"This is Long Sword One, Chicago Central, we will be doing the fast hand-off to Cleveland then New York control centers now, do you copy, over."

"Roger that, Long Sword One this is Chicago Central, we have firm hand-offs on frequency seven five to Cleveland then same to New York. Hey, give the Canadians a big hello from us, would you, over?"

"Copy that, a Chicago Mach shout for our friends to the North. Changing to frequency seven five and will use common if I can't raise anyone, over and out."

"Good flying, Long Sword One, Chicago Central out."

"Cleveland Control this is Long Sword One on flight Wayne One Alpha, we are ten minutes early, any traffic to be aware of, over?"

"We have you at 75,000 Long Sword One and currently alone for ten up and down, clear space until 35,000, over."

"Understood, Cleveland Control, we will be switching over to New York Control as we descend then to Wayne ATC East Test Unit for final approach, over."

"Give our best to Gotham, Long Sword One. Cleveland Control, out."

"Roger that, Long Sword One over and out."

The intercom went off with a click.

"There that ought to keep everyone happy. The Canadians will be toasty complaining about us and not looking North for central control over Lake Ontario. Screw 'em, I wanted a nice, lazy glide path over Ontario and Quebec, but noooo..."

Vivian Rose was obviously too cheerful for someone that had her preferred course of action blocked.

"So how are you holding up Father Casull, Kyle?" Richard asked.

"Well enough, thank you, Richard," said Father Casull, "it was a rough start but that sugar cube obviously steadied my stomach. Dramamine?"

"Nah, just pure carbohydrates," said Vivian, "always does the trick for me when I have a bender before a flight. Dramamine is in the other pocket of the suit, just never use 'em."

Kyle Reese, for all of having done a number of heroic and somewhat foolish things on the battlefield, wasn't prepared for something like this. There were large problems in this mission, but no one had ever checked on flight sickness. Or zero-g sickness.

"I'm doing ok, thanks," said Kyle, "the water and dramamine helped a lot."

"Yeah, Viv can get away with a sugar cube or chewing gum, but when my stomach starts to go, its gotta be chemicals," said Richard.

"Nudging back a bit on throttles to get the approach path," Vivian said.

The curvature of the Earth slowly started to go up and the nose of the plane went down. What stretched before was some clouds with patches of green and brown, then some blue peeking through to the left. The plane shuddered a bit as a whistling of air could be heard with the engine drone decreasing.

"Now the FAA and USAF like us to be nice and keep the sonic booms at 30,000 or above. That is for populated areas. Say, Dick, you got anything on the forward hi-res radar for Lake Ontario?"

"Checking, Viv. A couple of freighters, some pleasure boats wandering out of Rochester. And... ahh... the Toronto hover commuter looks to be right under the flight path."

"They going to be far enough out?"

"Ten miles of clearance, Viv."

"Cleveland Control this is Long Sword One, we will be switching over to New York Control, starting descent, over."

"On radar, Long Sword One and copy that. Give a screamer to our friends to the North, over and out."

"Yeah, you know it Cleveland, out from you switching to New York up freq one, over and out."

"New York Control, this is Long Sword One on flight plan Wayne One Alpha, performing approach manuever five, over."

"Long Sword One this is New York Control, we copy. Ah, we don't appear to have clearance for approach five, over."

"Yeah, New York Control, its a reverse of the outward twist and shout three, over."

"Hang a sec, Long Sword One."

Vivian keyed the intercom.

"As if! They can see the approach, know I have clear space and a window and will be through the flight lanes faster than most UFOs."

"They won't like it, Viv. You know how they feel about these things."

"Uh-huh, even when its all clear, in the regs and you tell them, they still excrete a brick."

"Long Sword One this is New York Control, do you copy?"

"New York Control this is Long Sword One, we are getting to the pot time, over."

"Copy that, Long Sword One, you don't want to see my manager he is screaming into the phone, but as I see it you got clear space and then sub-pattern work and its all regs, so screw it. Go ahead on the screamer and give a few extra nudges from the Empire State, over."

"Roger, one screamer special coming up. Will be switching over to Wayne East ATC by Syracuse, over."

"Copy that, Long Sword One. Give 'em the bat out of hell, New York Control over and out."

"Knocking on it Allen, you know I'm always glad when you got the New York seat. Long Sword One, out."

"Umm... what is the bat out of hell?" asked Kyle.

"I think we are about to find out." said Father Casull who popped another sugar cube.

"All green back there?" Richard asked.

"Yes", said the two passengers.

"All right, now we get to see what dropping a Mach feels like, hang on you two," said Vivian Rose.

The engine on-board started to rumble and the nose of the plane pitched down and to the right. The plane started a slow spiral downwards with the deep blue of Lake Ontario slowly showing up as the nose of the aircraft slowly turned.

"There's the commuter shuttle! Going past 60,000 and dropping fast."

"Roger that, Viv. All surfaces are nominal and rerouting coolant to the wings."

Barely able to lift his hand now that the sumo wrestler had returned, Father Casull could see vapor over the wing surfaces as he switched the screen from side to side then forward again. The spiral turned, slowly, into a corkscrew.

"Passing 50,000 and clear space to ground," Richard said.

"Ok, easing out just slightly."

The nose of the plane started to pull up, a little with each turn down.

"Going past 40,000 and jet is nominal," said Richard.

Father Casull could feel the wings start to 'bite air', he believed the term was. The corkscrew turned to a slowly widening spiral.

"Lots of leeway, Viv, but I wouldn't want to be watching this from the shore."

"Yeah, not often you see a glowing white fireball spiralling through the atmosphere. Probably be on one of those UFO programs, just like the test flights in California."

"Yeah, your the most popular UFO around, Viv."

"Damned straight. Wish Mr. Wayne would put the guideds on, but he seems to think that ET liasons shouldn't start with a bang."

"Out of liner space passing 30,000, Viv."

"Ok, now we have some fun,"

The aircraft suddenly jerked straight and at a slight angle over Lake Ontario and a watercraft with a plume of air billowing spray behind it was seen. Suddenly the flaps opened and the aircraft dropped speed quickly and the watercraft was obscured by a roiling cloud of vapor that had been clinging to the aircraft. The flaps went down again and the aircraft pitched forward and they felt a rumble go through it as it passed above the sound barrier again.

Richard had shifted one wing camera down to see that disippating cloud of vapor flow down and then over the hovercraft and there was a shudder in the water around it.

"UFO strike one, pissed Canadians zero," Vivian said, "now time to go back to being nice, just a little."

"By three on the border, Viv, on display,"

A black line showing the Canadian/American border flashed up on screen.

"Coming in at 15,000 and fifteen minutes to touchdown,"

"Gotchya, Dick."

"Long Sword One to Wayne ATC East, do you copy?"

"This is Wayne ATC East, Long Sword One, and good afternoon to you, Viv, over."

"Yeah its looking good, Wayne ATC East, is that you Harry?"

"One in the same, Viv. You know you really bitched up the Canadians, over?"

"Who me? Over."

"No one else is flying the Long Sword, Vivian unless its Richard and he would have done the seaboard, over."

"Uh-huh, I was told ASAP and that doesn't mean a liesure flight over the Atlantic, Harry. Over."

"Nope, international waters are too much fun, I know you, Viv. But the Canucks decided to throw their weight around and you wanted to cut time. Still, Wayne Tango Foxtrot were you thinking, Viv? Over."

"Heh. Everyone is going to piss for going strictly by the regs, huh? The Long Sword is a damned good plane and it needs a workout, over."

"Love at first mach, yeah. I've been on one of your pleasure rides, Viv. You know the regs aren't made for something like the Long Sword, over."

"Yeah. Ok what's the final for Wayne ATC East today? Do I get the Pallisades or the Meadowlark? Over."

"You are on Meadowlark One. Pallisades is full up with the Journeyman so no space for the Long Sword, over."

"Meadowlark in the hills, plotting in. Do we have any locals at ten to fifteen, over?"

"Single heli flight from New York to Albany, coming up at just below that. Freaking Senator or something. On current course you will be three zero miles in front and two thousand above, so just keep it sub-sonic, wouldya Viv? Over."

"Got it, Wayne ATC East, plotted and no pissing off DC today. Touchdown in ten minutes, Harry. Will keep open for final approach, over."

"Ok, Long Sword One. Not much to it, nothing coming in for a few hours, so you are free and clear from the meadow to the hills. Over and out."

"Roger that, Meadowlark One to Hangar Five. Get the coffee brewin. Long Sword One on final, over and out."

The lake disappeared behind them and the rolling hills and low mountains started to appear, the plane shifted a bit to the south and then more so, going over the Hudson River before they went off to the east and slowly shifted over more rolling hills. The plane throttled back, and the flaps went out, then the nose slightly up on the glide path. Airspeed dropped and the viewscreen started to show a thin, black line approaching, then more lines and a few buildings. Soon treetops were visible and airspeed dropped faster as the black line turned into a distant runway that slowly rushed up at the plane. Final touchdown was done softly, with the barest hint of sound from the deployed landing gear and a rush of the engine reversing throttle and the nose gear settling slowly to the runwary. Vivian slowed the aircraft and then guided it to a second runway and towards rolling hills with paths to them. They showed metal doors in the side of the hills save for one that was open, and she guided the craft towards it.

As it came to a stop inside the underground hangar and the engine powered down, the ground crew, consisting of two people, got to work, one putting chocks under the wheels and the other guiding a extendable platform next to the plane. The doors slowly closed and mercury vapor lamps became apparent overhead in the cavernous underground hangar. Vivian and Richard went through final shutdown as the one groundcrewman came up the ladder to start unlatching the canopies, which rose up slowly on their own. Fresher air came into the vehicle and Father Casull was pleased to finally be unhooking himself from the aircraft. The groundcrewman consulted briefly with Vivian then reached over and took a checklist hanging from the side railing of the platform up and started checking off items.

"Richard, can you handle the post-flight stuff?" Vivian asked as she slid up and out of the cockpit.

"Sure thing, Viv, you get our guests out to the main building and make sure things are taken care of there. I'll do the after flight check," Richard was also getting out of the cockpit and was consulting with the groundcrewman who was in a dark blue one piece uniform, with a belt and various pieces of equipment hanging from it. The groundcrewman handed the clipboard to Richard and then shifted over to help Kyle from the aircraft, which was a bit of a leg up and down to do.

"Thanks," said Kyle.

"My pleasure, sir," the groundcrewman said as he then went to Father Casull as Richard stepped down the walkway from the ramp to the hangar floor. Vivian also helped Father Casull to get out.

"Bless you both.." he looked at the man's name tag, "..Lionel and Vivian, that wasn't a long flight but it was rather cramped."

"You're very welcome, Father," said the groundrewman and then walked forward to the forward compartment, picked up a checklist from inside the cockpit and looked it over before signing it.

"Glad to, Father Casull. Sorry the in-flight service wasn't so hot, but we aren't set up for tourist work."

"Perfectly understandable, Vivian, and I don't think I could have actually kept any sort of real food down during the flight."

"Yup, know how you feel. So lets get you over to the main building and see who is here to know what happens next. I hate to put you on the connector shuttle to figure it out for yourselves, and if worse comes to worse I'll give Lucius a call and get it from him," Vivian said going down the stairs, making sure that the two men had retrieved their belongings from the plane and then got on a small cart to take them to the main building. The small golfcart-like vehicle sped them off with Vivian driving out a side delivery loading dock door and out onto a paved road that looped around a large pond with trees and picnic benches around it, that had a few people at them enjoying a lunch in the warm late spring air. The road curved around to the main control tower building which had a two story office site beneath it. As the road branched off in many directions, Vivian steered towards the one going to the building which had a parking lot to it and a main drop off loop to the main doors. Just beyond it was what appeared to be a rail spur that had some sort of small station at it with a rounded one car vehicle on it. That was very streamlined and glinted light off of polished aluminum or possibly chrome. Across the side of it was WIST in bold, slanting letters in black taking up a good portion of the side of the vehicle. Vivian steered the vehicle up to the loop going to the main doors and parked the small vehicle just a bit beyond the ramp going to the entrance. As they all got out the WIST vehicle started to hum and move along its tracks going slowly behind the building and building speed.

"Come on in, you two, and I'll drop you off at the VIP lounge while I scare up someone to find out what's going on," she said walking towards the sliding doors that opened into the low brick building. Kyle and Father Casull lifted their luggage and followed her into the building. A receptionist desk was empty and Vivian walked past it and the front stairs that looped up to the floor above, and went to her right and down a hallway. She opened a door that had 'VIP Lounge' in gold letters on its wooden door, the only wooden door that could be seen in the hallway. The room beyond had two tables with high back tapestry chairs to them, a number of lounger chairs with small tables next to them, a sofa by the fireplace and another across from a television inset into a bookcase as a form of entertainment unit. There was a mahogany bar with large mirror behind it, with tall chairs around the bar, plus what appeared to be a kitchen further in and behind the bar. The television set was on and set to a news channel.

"You two make yourselves comfortable here. The bar is open to VIPs, even if there isn't a bartender around, which we seem to be lacking on a constant basis. The alcohol is under lock and key, so that limits things to whatever is in the fridge, the dispensers and the kitchen. Still a glass of soda or ice water might help, as the flight does tend to dry you out," she said heading out the door.

"Thank you, Vivian," said Father Casull.

Kyle nodded and said "Thanks," as he went over to the bar and picked up a glass, found a freezer with ice cubes and dropped them into the glass and then looked at the dispenser arrangement then at a small chart behind the bar. Father Casull took a glass to the kitchen and put it half-full with tap water and came back. Giving up on trying to interpret the sign, he tried several single swallows of different colored beverages before settling on one that was slightly yellowish, bubbling and clear. Father Casull sat down on the plush sofa by the television and Kyle sat on the other side.

"Father Casull, just who are these people? What is all this?" he gestured around with his free hand.

Father Casull sipped his water and smiled.

"It is a bit out of my usual experiences, too, Kyle, but I'll see if I can get you the best of what I know. Which isn't much. All of this is part of Wayne Corporation which is not only a company on its own, but has a number of subsidiaries, off-shoots and other associated firms with it. It was founded by Thomas Wayne after his pre-war investments turned out rather better than he expected. He was a doctor before the war and medic during it, and didn't believe that he should stop his practice, which had a good portion of its work in the poorer areas of Gotham City. His investments left him with sole ownership of some failing companies and he amalgamated those into Wayne Manufacturing and Medical Supplies. He formed a governing board that would see to further investments as Wayne Corporation. Tragically, while his only child was still young, he and his wife were gunned down after a movie in downtown Gotham, leaving the 4 year old Bruce Wayne in the custodial care of the Wayne Estate. Thomas and Martha Wayne had left instructions for such an eventuality, and Bruce Wayne followed those while the Estate, took care of daily Wayne Corp. business. Apparently that was run by a trusted friend and family retainer that did what he could for Bruce. Things do become a bit jumbled after that, as Bruce apparently decided to 'see the world' at a young age. Wayne Corp grew far beyond initial holdings, taking over a number of smaller firms and starting up others. At some point, I think it was 8 or so years ago, Bruce Wayne re-appeared as a young 'jet setter' and took over the majority of shares from the Estate and started to kick out corrupt executives in it. Bruce Wayne is reclusive when not in the spotlight, and seems to adore the spotlight and the fast life. Still, he has a good commitment to ensuring that his father's original ideals are served both for the medical and defense communities. I've seen the amounts he has personally donated to charity, beyond his corporation and its many subsidiaries, and it is a staggering amount. It is not as large as, say, GM or Boeing or General Electric, but has its own niche of capability and commitment that is larger, in proportion than those other companies."

Kyle nodded.

"So a young guy, then?"

"Oh, not even into his thirties, very energetic from what I've read of his activities," said Father Casull.

"That he is," intoned a voice from the doorway. The two men looked to see a dapper older gentleman in the doorway with Vivian behind him.

"Do excuse me, I'm Alfred, the family butler," he said walking in with Vivian behind him. She stepped around him and up to Kyle who was getting up as was the Priest.

"Kyle this is Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne's butler," Kyle extended his hand and shook the callused hand of the older gentleman, who had a very firm grip.

"It is good to meet you, Kyle,"

Vivian then stood next to Father Casull.

"Father Casull, Alfred Pennyworth," Father Casull shook Alfred's hand as he stood next to Kyle.

"It is good to meet you, Father Casull, I hope the trip was survivable?"

Father Casull chuckled.

"We walked away from it, Mr. Pennyworth."

"Alfred, please. And that is Vivian's description of a good landing, I take it? Any lakes, trees, or other unfortunate happenings this time around?" Alfred asked.

"Ah, well, perhaps a bit of an incident over a lake, yes," said Father Casull.

"It's nothing, Alfred, all by the regulations."

Alfred let go of the Priest's hand and looke at Vivian.

"Buzzing the unsuspecting populace, again? Shall we all be filling out reports to the FAA long past your first 'bad landing'?"

"Nah, bad landings are their own problem, and solve themselves."

"Rather permanently, I expect. Still I'm glad you brought our guests here intact, Vivian."

"My pleasure! Now I'm out to check out the Journeyman, so if you would all excuse me, I'll leave it all to Alfred from here on out," she said smiling and waving as she left the room.

"Good-bye, Miss Rose," said the Priest.

"Bye, Vivian," said Kyle.

As she left she stopped at the door and put two brown bags on the bar, and then waved a final time.

"Now, you two gentlemen must be hungry, or at least need to calm your stomachs. If you would like some sandwiches or soup, I can arrange that, and even a some pizza from the main kitchen. You two really should rest for a bit as Mr. Wayne informed me you will have a meeting with him, Sarah Connor and Lucius Fox, plus a few others."

Alfred stepped behind the bar, took out his keys and started opening cabinets.

"The bar is open, gentlemen. What would you like?"

* * *

There was a knock on the door and Sarah woke up. She looked around and realized that she was off the main firing range in an anteroom in Loren's office. The lights were on and she looked at the holster with one of the larger pistols she had fired in it, and she shifted off the sofa and slung the pistol around and snapped the web belt harness for it shut before putting a light jacket in the dark blue of Wayne Tech on.

"Come in, I'm awake," she said.

Loren stepped in and smiled.

"Mr. Wayne here to see you with a friend of his," she opened the door slowly to Bruce Wayne in a three piece business suit and an older black man in a dark coat with a black shirt with white tab on it behind him.

"Hello, Sarah, knew would need a catnap," Bruce said, "glad you could rest. I brought Father Jordan with me, and I hope you can join us to listen to some of the people we have in-house about what we know so far?"

Sarah blinked, smiled and slowly stood up, still aching a bit after time with Martin and a slight residue of burnt powder from the range. She stepped up and extended her hand to Father Jordan.

"Thank you, Mr. Wayne and its good to meet you, Father Jordan."

"My pleasure, Sarah. Bruce doesn't get me unless its over his head and this sounds to be one of them. I'm glad to help."

"Do you need anything before you go?" Loren asked Sarah.

"No, I don't think so. I'll take a water bottle with me," Sarah said as Loren nodded.

"Good, you still need that even after the snack here."


"Yes, Mr. Wayne?"

"Would you contact Lucius, I think he needs some help on a project."

"Will do, Mr. Wayne."

"Good! Now Father, Sarah, if you would follow me, we have some people to meet. Sarah, I've asked some in-house experts to help on this matter..." he said leaving Loren behind who was on the phone, and the door slowly shut to her office,"... and I want to hear them individually before we get them all together with Father Casull and Kyle."

Sarah nodded.

"More than glad to, Mr. Wayne. But isn't this a lot of trouble to go through for a new employee?"

They arrived at an elevator, and waited, with Bruce turning to Sarah.

"Sarah, your safety here is my prime responsibility as an employer. At any time you feel you don't need or want my help, you can say so and I will stop helping you, officially, at least. I respect your judgement as an adult. And I hope you respect my responsibilities to you by being my employee."

This was something unusual in Sarah's experience. She had been through many low paying jobs, waitress, bank clerk, stock girl at a supermarket, daytime bartender and a hotel... nothing had prepared her for this. No employer, no business owner, had ever said anything like that to her and usually it was just the opposite. She was stunned.

"You would do this for a janitor here, wouldn't you?" she asked softly.

He smiled, softly with just a bit of shadow over his eyes.

"He has, Sarah," said Father Jordan,"believe me when I say that Bruce Wayne means that."

The elevator door opened and Bruce Wayne stepped in followed by Father Jordan and Sarah Connor. Bruce pressed a button, the doors closed and the elevator went up into Wayne Tower.

"What we have are some specialists to go over what we have so far and talk about it. Hopefully that will get us a bit better grounded and understand just what it is that is going on. This isn't something that I can easily explain, and when that happens I go to people I trust, Sarah. We will be having Richard Bennington who has military systems contacts and knowledge, Donald Carstairs and Anne Dickerson of our simulations and advanced weapons group..."

"Any relation to Martin Carstairs?" Sarah asked.

Bruce smiled and nodded, "Younger brother. He signed up with us coming out of college and convinced his brother to join us after leaving GCPD to help us on our forensics and crime analysis work. They are both very good at what they do."

Sarah nodded and turned to the door as it opened.

"After that we will have Ken Chapman, who is the head of our Applied Sciences organization. Lucius phoned to say that he was probably the best on the automated controls systems group as they don't have a department chief yet," Bruce said explaining as he walked out of the elevator and down the hallway. He checked room numbers and stopped before one of them and knocked.

"Come in," came the voice from behind it. Bruce opened the door to see Lucius Fox and a younger man, with dark brown hair, short and a bit stout, wearing dark trousers and a light brown suit coat and white shirt with the top two buttons undone, with metal rimmed glasses on, both of them standing up as Bruce was followed by Sarah and then Father Jordan.

"Sorry to keep you two waiting," Bruce said.

"That's all right Bruce. We were discussing some of the program budget schedules for next year and areas we might expand into."

Nodding, Bruce held out his hand to Richard Bennington.

"Richard it is good to see you again, sorry we are ruining your day," he said shaking Bruce's hand then letting it go.

"That's what you pay me for, Mr. Wayne, and it is good to see you again, too."

"Richard this is Sarah Connor, Sarah, Richard Bennington..." he extended his hand across the table.

"It's good to meet you, Sarah, and I'm sorry about the loss of your friend, Ginger."

Sarah shook his hand, "Thank you, Richard. It is totally unexpected."

"And Richard you know Father Jordan, I believe, from our social this spring?"

Richard let go of Sarah's hand and shook Father Jordan's.

"I do, Mr. Wayne and it is good to see you, Father."

"Thank you, Richard, and its good to see you, too," Father Jordan then turned to Lucius," and of course it is always good to see you, Lucius."

"Thank you, Leroy, are you keeping the kids straight?"

Father Jordan laughed as he took a seat next to Sarah, tucking the pillow in behind his back.

"Getting harder all the time, but they know not to pull anything on me... know it every which way, Lucius."

Bruce sat down and looked at Richard.

"I don't want to get into detail, just get your impression and first thoughts, Richard. You are the military systems expert and have a good finger on the pulse of DARPA. What do you make of it?"

Richard Bennington picked up the folder and shook his head.

"Mr. Wayne, there is nothing like what is described on any working plan, anywhere. The only 'Skynet' is a British communication's system, and it is in no way something that could be related to robotics or advanced military systems, beyond comms."

Bruce shook his head and took up one of the pictures of the killer from the Las Vegas incident.

"No miniature nuclear cell? No cybernetic self-programming systems? No advanced actuated skeletons with some sort of flesh like exterior?"

"Nothing like that at all, Mr. Wayne, it sounds like science fiction. And while there are always a couple of theoretical reviews on things that are, ah, 'out there' like time travel, we are nowhere even close to having a theory on if it can even be done. That all comes in at a big zero, even at 30 years out, Mr. Wayne, as we would need the theoretical structure *now* to create that even in that sort of time-frame. So I can't see an overarching skynet controlling robots on any scale in less time than that, and even at 30 years it would mostly be in the test stages if we could even make any of it."

Bruce smiled.

"I kind of thought that was the case. Lucius, any more thoughts beyond what we talked about earlier?"

Lucius grunted and shook his head.

"We have a bit more on the murders, but this trail goes dry after Las Vegas. Like he's evaporated into the highland desert."

Bruce furrowed his brow.

"Kyle described it as an 'infiltration unit'. That would fit that profile, wouldn't it? Infiltrating and using its apparant normalcy as a disguise?"

"Well, if that is what its doing, it is good at it. No more killings, no shop break-ins, nothing."

"That is pretty empty highway, I would think they would have at least spotted the car it stole."

Richard spoke up.

"It is also rugged terrain, Mr. Wayne, there are thousands of places to put a car down a gully, into a stand of trees or even into a deserted barn or old gas station."

Bruce sat back and was obviously in thought.

"Richard, lets say that something like this was possible and it did have a capability to learn enough to pass itself off as human. Just on pure speculation, what would you program into something like that?"

Pressing his lips together and raising an eyebrow, Richard Bennington was caught a bit off-guard.

"If something like that really could be designed? I mean if it had limited capabilities, at best, in understanding culture, it would recognize that the car it had was 'hot' and do its best to switch vehicles. And switch clothing away from what is known. It couldn't really disguise its size, but it could divert attention from what it looked like. It doesn't take much to do that, really: change clothes, adopt a few mannerisms and just don't stand out. Most of not being found is making sure you don't look like you are someone anyone wants to find. If it is on the road then some very slight car theft after ditching the car it had would do it, along with taking some clothes from a store would do it, I think. That isn't really military work... but I see what you are getting at, Mr. Wayne."

Bruce nodded and looked at Sarah then Father Jordan.

"Sarah? Anything you would like to ask?"

She had been concentrating hard on what the two men were saying and blinked a few times.

"I... if it really is something like that, from the future, what do you think would destroy it?"

Richard nodded and sat back, picking up the picture where it looked directly at the camera, raising the gun.

"That is a tough one, Sarah. Any metal skeleton means that it has a melting point for that metal, probably a high one. All metals have a tensile strength, which is above what humans can deal with save by application of more force than we can normally do with muscles. Certain acids or base solutions at high concentration might get through it, but I couldn't tell you what without knowing its metallic composition. A strong electromagnetic pulse might disrupt it, but probably only temporarily. Hard radiation might damage some of its circuits, but that would take time. Then there is the ever popular 'blowing it to bits' idea, so long as the bits are small enough to actually be unconnected. If this isn't some weird con job or put on, then a flesh covered metallic structure would lull you into thinking you had 'killed it' when, in fact, you haven't done any damage to it at all."

Bruce Waynes face was blank, and some of the gauntness of his face cast shadows from the overhead light over his eyes and cheeks.

"It wouldn't be easy to get rid of, would it Richard?"

Richard Benningtion shook his head 'no'.

"I really hope this is some psychotic, complex put-on, Mr. Wayne. If it isn't then about the only thing I might want to go after one of these in would be an Abrams Tank with Silver Bullets and high explosives, then run the pieces over on concrete. And we don't appear to have one of those in the inventory around here."

Lucius Fox leaned forward, looking at Bruce, who nodded slightly.

"Thank you, Richard. Sarah, Father Jordan? Any more questions for Richard?"

They both indicated 'no', and Bruce Wayne stood up.

"Thank you, Richard. See you at the meeting when Alfred gets here with Kyle and Father Jordan."

"Yes, Mr. Wayne, glad to be there."

"Lucius, two rooms down?"

"You'll find Donald and Anne there. I decided they worked better as a team, so left them that way."

"Good, thank you both," Bruce turned and Sarah reached over to shake Richard's hand.

"Thank you, really, I hope its a hoax, too."

"I really do, too, Sarah. See you at the meeting," Richard said shaking her hand as he stood up.

Bruce Wayne led Sarah and Father Jordan from the room and down the hall.

"Sorry there's so little time between them, but I want these done before Alfred gets back," Bruce said stopping by the second door they came to and knocking on it.

"Come in," the voice sounding of a woman, perhaps an alto in pitch and tenor. Bruce opened the door to see an man in his mid 30's, dressed in a dark two piece suit with white shirt and blue tie, with dark hair, an oval face and dark moustache, and a woman in her late 30's, blonde and would be called 'heavy set' if not for her short sleeved shirt and jeans showing a toned musculature. Both were standing beside a round table that had the standard secure folder with the pictures and transcript for Sarah Connor's case, but there were only a couple of sheets of paper out of that and many other sheets with much written on them in the way of arrows, formulas and geometric shapes.

Bruce walked in followed by Sarah and Father Jordan, who closed the door behind him.

"Hello Anne, Don," Bruce said shaking their hands, "this is Sarah Connor and Father Jordan who I brought on to help with assessing personalities."

There were handshakes all around, and greetings.

Bruce Wayne looked at the table top and was trying to puzzle out just what it was the two were doing.

"You have both been busy, could you tell me what you've come up with so far?" Bruce asked.

Anne looked at Don, who looked at her and then Bruce.

"Well, Mr. Wayne, if this had been a joke, I think you would have let on by now. Anne and I talked about it for awhile and decided to concentrate on the time-travel part of it, after doing an initial look at what the described technology implies."

Everyone started to pull up seats as Don talked.

"What does the technology imply?" Bruce asked.

"It is at least 30 to 40 years off. Self-programming machines are a fine theory, but no one has a good idea of how to actually program one, Mr. Wayne. Quite truthfully self-programming mechanisms aren't on the table, no matter what you see on television or the movies."

Bruce turned to Anne.

"Do you agree?"

Anne nodded.

"I do, Mr. Wayne. I may disagree with Don on how fast a ramp-up there will be once the right techniques are found, but getting to that is still decades away at this rate. It isn't impossible to think that a break-through of some sort is just around the corner, but artificial intelligence has been at that point for so long, its almost a joke. The actual mechanical structure isn't really our specialty, with regards to a cybernetic being described by 'Kyle', but it seems reasonable that the exterior covering would serve as a thermal cooling system for an internal power source. The skeleton, alone, would do that, but once you insulate it you get heat build-up, so a flesh covering of any sort must have some means to move heat outwards. That is just physics, nothing fancy."

Father Jordan had been peering at the table top and pulled his chair up to look a bit closer.

"This is the 'fancy stuff', I take it?" he asked.

Don smiled.

"Yes, it is the time travel part that got us going. Even though we don't have anything like it, even in theory, we have been hashing over the main theories about it, if it were possible."

"There is more than one theory?" asked Sarah.

Anne nodded and smiled.

"Get three theoretical physicists or cosmologists into any one room and you can predictably get at least seven theories of time travel out of them. No matter how much the science fiction writers put up ideas, the scientific community has been a few steps ahead... or behind, depending on how you look at it."

"Really?" asked Father Jordan, "I thought that Einstein had settled a lot of that with space-time."

Don looked to Father Jordan and pursed his lips and hesitated a moment before speaking.

"That's the problem, he didn't. He doesn't describe what time actually is or how it functions, just that it is a vector operative in the space-time manifold. Even such a basic question of 'is time a fundamental force or dimension?' hasn't really been answered. Even for Einstein there were the problems of indetermenancy via Quantum Theory, and just after his death came Feynmann diagrams that describe anti-matter as simple matter with a reversed time vector. That is what we have been going over on the table."

Father Jordan sat back, and looked at Don and then Anne.

"What have you come up with?"

Don looked to Anne who inhaled slightly.

"Father Jordan there are some basic things we know about the universe that are, apparently, at odds with the conventional idea of time travel in the way of 'time being a stream'. That, actually, doesn't work out well at all."

"It doesn't?" Father Jordan asked.

"No, in fact there are two main stumbling blocks for it, one from current ideas of how particles form and the other from basic Quantum Theory. The most basic is the particle physics side: there are some particles that will not flip their polarity if you reverse time, and so 'rewinding the film' is impossible. We haven't found these particles, but they are not only perfectly acceptable within the current cosmological and atomic theories, but are almost required by a few of them. Those are magnetic monopoles, which would be a separate north and south magnet without any pairing. A charged particle approaching one that has, say, a right deflection going forward in time would have a right deflection, not left, going back in time."

"That is if you don't use Feynmann diagrams, but even those show problems with particle behavior with monopoles," said Don, "That, on its own, is a stopper, in theory, to time travel as a stream or continuous vector."

"What you're saying," Bruce started, "is that particles going one way forward in time would not retrace their path going backwards?"

"Exactly, Mr. Wayne," said Anne, "even though we haven't found monopoles, there are serious problems to that view of the universe. A continuous universe has a lot of problems being rolled backwards."

"That doesn't end ideas on time travel, though, does it?" asked Father Jordan.

"Have you taken any physics, Father?"

"Oh, some introductory courses at the Seminary and audited a few more, yes. It is interesting to keep up with those seeing God as the Great Engineer."

Anne smiled, "The Grand Architect, too, I can see that. To answer the question, even discounting the continuous stream idea there is the discontinuous quantum view, and that is even stranger, really. From that you do get time not as a film, but a series of following frames each with discrete actions and all having allowances connecting them up. That is really 'out there', however, the more traditional objection brought up is the Observer Effect."

"Ah, yes, Schroedinger's Cat."

"Indetermenency depending upon what the observer knows and what the probabilities are for an expected outcome, yes," said Anne.

"How does that enter into it with time travel?" asked Father Jordan.

Bruce Wayne was sitting back, smiling, obviously enjoying the back and forth going on.

"Think of it this way," started Don,"at the particle level you can't know just where a particle is and its speed and direction at any given time. If you observe speed you can't get exact position, observe position and you can't get its speed. Now if you are a time traveler going to the past, you know the summation of all of that from before you traveled in time, so no matter where you wind up, the observer effect then precludes that place you are going to from having the preconditions to send that person that is exactly *you* into the past. Things can be really close, of course, and general trends in history continue, but then you wind up with the problem of having that technology arise on that series of events and that 'you' who is different than the original going back in time in this time sequence. That adds up until there is finally a jump where you end up in a different set of preconditions so different that the basics to get the technology or have a version of 'you' in them shows up. That does not violate causality because time does not repeat that way."

"What is causality?" asked Sarah.

"Basic cause and effect," said Anne,"where cause precedes effect. In the timeas a stream concept causality rules, so going into the past and killing your own grandfather or grandmother causes a paradox where the conditions to get you into the past can't be met because you don't exist to carry them out. The quantum view postulates that the time frame you left will not exist the moment you leave it, although to other observers there it will carry on, but their sending you into the past will have no effect on their time sequence of events. You have vanished at the moment of sending."

"You die?" asked Father Jordan.

Anne and Don looked at each other.

"Not die, no, but you have destroyed any chance to get to that time sequence you left from where you are at," said Don.

Anne nodded.

"The new time sequence can violate the causality that brought you to it, because there is no pre-determined end-state. All of your actions, even just existing, change everything around you. That is chaos theory and the butterfly's wings taking effect."

"That is where you can't predict how molecules will move, exactly, from the flapping of a butterfly's wings which then cascades slowly away from each flap," said Don, "here the initial effect is far larger and so the consequences will be profoundly disturbing as the time traveler just exists in the new time sequence. Because each effect is guided by indeterminancy, the observer effect and chaotic results, the one thing you won't get is an exact replay of time if you travel back into time."

Bruce Wayne sat forward.

"Do you think that Kyle would know that?" he asked.

"More than likely, Mr. Wayne," said Don, "yet they may have advanced theory that somehow goes around our current understanding of physics. Yet so much of what the universe is, is bound up in that, I don't see how you can get around it."

"That is why its such an interesting subject," Anne said, "for all that it is speculation you really do have to challenge your assumptions of what you know. In the case of Kyle you would have to ask if the general history leading up to that future time is iron-clad due to past events or if it is wholly contingent and amenable to change. Sending people back to something they can't change doesn't make sense, so they must believe that they can change history. But I don't know if they imagine that just sending someone back, or anything back, in time will, itself, even if it doesn't do much, will change history all on its own: it is a reconfiguration of a part of reality and all the rest of physics must come into play."

"Exactly," said Don,"that would lead to variance recursion, in which each cycle back is slightly different and when it comes time to send someone back they are ignorant that not only has their time sequence changed from an original one, but that they will change how the universe responds once they go back. If you add in enough time between origination in the future to the past, so that there is no record of previous time travel events and how they came about, then you get a situation that drifts from time travel possible time sequences. You couldn't drift towards a more possible one as they would tend to cancel out later time travel time sequences. So you either get that, with time travel getting discovered earlier and earlier until there is some limit in technology basis for its enactment, or you lead to a time sequence in which time travel is negated by other events and not discovered. Each loop back changes the next loop forward and away from the baseline you started with. Either way you go you will finally end up with a time sequence where time travel remains theoretical, but not enacted."

"You're saying, then," said Father Jordan,"that the very act of traveling through time begins a sequence where time travel isn't created?"

"That is what Don and I have been talking about for a half-hour or so, Father. I think its possible for time sequences to get a glitch or cycle, but agree with Don that there will come a non-repetative cycle to one that is non-time travel ending."

"And that would be a time that is widely different than what the traveler would expect, right?" asked Bruce.

Don looked at Anne who looked back at him, then both turned to Mr. Wayne and said 'Yes'.

"Just so long as we don't take up the things that started down the path to the one that enabled time travel?" asked Father Jordan.

"That's it, Father. We do get to make our own future, but we have to live with a high degree of chaos and randomness on the road to it," said Don.

"So Kyle coming back to change the past," said Sarah,"finally stops his future from coming about?"

"I think so," said Anne,"it is all highly theoretical and a lot of hand waving going on, but for those things we know to be true, that we can demonstrate physcially and measure, thats correct. And you don't even get the past you think you are getting."

"He's lost," said Sarah.

"No, Sarah, if that future he came from is that awful, with killer machines going after humanity, he is far from lost. He has found a solution," said Father Jordan, "just not the one he wanted to get."

Standing up Bruce looked at Anne and Don.

"That has been... illuminating, thank you, both. Alfred should be here in a bit and we have one more pre-meeting to go to. Feel free to talk with Lucius or Richard about what you think and thank you both for being here to put in extra hours."

"Mr. Wayne I wouldn't miss this for the world," said Don.

Sarah and Father Jordan were standing up, and said quick good-byes to the two researchers, and then Bruce led them down the hall until they got to a meeting room and walked in. There was an older man, perhaps in his late 50's, dark brown hair, balding, with black frame glasses, wearing a two piece brown suit, dark red shirt and yellow tie. Like the others he had the content of the folder out for examination. He stood up as the door opened.

"Sorry to barge in, Ken, but I'm running a bit late and still have two more people to see about this."

The shorter man nodded and smiled.

"Perfectly understandable, Mr. Wayne," he said shaking hands, then looked to Sarah, "and you must be Sarah, my condolences to you about your friend, Ginger," he said shaking her hand.

Sarah smiled, wanly, "Thank you, it is still... a shock..."

"We will do what we can for you, Sarah, and that is a lot. And Father Jordan, its good to see you again, sorry I missed you at the last get-together, but I was out of country at the time," he said shaking the Priest's hand.

"Not to worry, Ken, I do understand."

Sitting down, Bruce said, "The five minute overhead, if you can, Ken. What do you make of it?"

Ken Chapman sat down and picked up one of the pages.

"The police report is most descriptive, Mr. Wayne. And what background there is, well, its fantastic, of course, but the physical side of it is pretty straightforward. We couldn't build anything like this 'infiltration unit' for a few decades, but the actual skeleton and actuator technology, with a bit of re-inforcement and miniaturization, is something we could do in a decade."

"What about the energy source?" Bruce asked.

"A bit more difficult, Mr. Wayne. Accounting for the extra mass, having to do things through actuators and motors, even high efficiency linear drives, you wind up with something that would weigh about 500 lbs and need something like 1.2 kWh to function, not taking processor and computational needs into account. A high level athlete, say a long distance competition bicyclist, would burn about half that, so I'm being generous and putting in leeway for all of the differences between a highly distributed energy use system, like your body, and one that is more mechanical. To power that with a nuclear source might see something like a miniature closed cycle turbine system. If we could get the liquid presures high enough and ensure good bearings, and have well machined parts, plus make sure that the radioactivity doesn't degrade the entire system, then we might be able to make something like that which would be, oh, the general size of your forearm. No one has ever solved all those problems, however."

Bruce Wayne nodded.

"How would that effect the external flesh component?"

Ken sat back and picked up one of the pictures of it talking with the salesman.

"Well it would be warmer than a normal human, unless it had some sort of very high efficiency radiation system, probably a cycled fluid going around the power generator and out to to the internal skeleton, then through its exterior parts and then the skin. You would have extreme problems getting that down to human standard temperatures, however, due to the amount of energy necessary to run the entire mechanism. To bring that all down to human normal for temperatures requires large leaps in machining and actuator technology, friction reduction, and a longer life set of bearings. That is a long way from the present day, as each of those is an incremental increase in technology: we know what its theoretical limits are, and engineering is aimed at getting things closer to those limits. Especially problematical are the hands, which appear to be fully functional. Getting fine enough actuators, or drive systems for those, plus control systems... Mr. Wayne we can do that with much bulkier equipment now, but in human form, even bulky like this? Thirty years, barring some leap in materials science, which is possible as it would be something we haven't thought of yet."

"So if it existed as an outgrowth of curent technology, it would require a number of engineering advances, but no real theoretical ones?" Bruce asked.

"Only the computational system. We have nothing that would be that capable and adaptable on any drawing boards or even in theory. That will take brand new technical skill that isn't anywhere near the modern day."

Bruce nodded and looked at Sarah and Father Jordan.

"Anything either of you would like to ask?"

"No, I don't think so," said Sarah.

"Sorry, Bruce, nothing from me, either," said Father Jordan.

Bruce Wayne got up,"Thank you, Ken. See you at the meeting in a bit, we still have a couple of briefings to go."

"My pleasure, Mr. Wayne. This is interesting, even if its a wild goose chase."

"Yes it is, see you," he said walking to the door and opening it, waiting for Sarah and the Priest. He led them to an elevator and waited for it and a minute or so later they got in and he pushed for the next floor up. The door opened on a hallway very similar to the one they had left and he led the two of them to the right and to a door on the right, and knocked.

"Come in." came the male voice.

Bruce opened the door and they saw Martin Carstairs with the folder documents spread out in front of him.

"Mr. Wayne, Sarah and Father Jordan!" he said walking over to them, "Come on in, and Father I will be at service this weekend, really! Or next weekend at the latest."

Father Jordan smiled, "Don't worry, Martin, I do miss you and your family, and I do understand family matters. We do hold more than one weekend service, you know?"

"I know, Father. Just the family, kids, even when they are teens there is a lot to do. At least I can usually round every one up for a morning service."

"Perfectly all right, Martin."

Bruce seated himself with the others and they looked at Martin from around the small round table.

"So what do you have here, Martin? Can you make anything of it?"

Martin raised his eyebrows.

"Yeah, and Sarah, you needed that orientation training, believe me."

Sarah smiled, "Thanks, Martin, it did help."

Martin Carstairs got up and walked to a more open part of the room.

"Ok Mr. Wayne, let me do the quick step-through of events. This guy, Matt, is in bed, wakes up and sees someone holding a knife about to slash his throat, and he is caught up for a moment, probably held by the neck, and the thing attacking him tries to kill him quietly with it. Matt is a pretty husky guy, body builder, some wrestling, maybe some judo, say, and, you know, thinks he can handle himself. He does a good job at the start, is able to deflect the knife away and his attacker hits the headboard with it. The police photo shows that and the tip is buried over a half inch into what looks like an oak headboard. Still the wielder tries to get it out while Matt rolls out of the way, he sees the large bedside lamp, with its metal and marble base and grabs it two handed and hits the assailant in the back with it. That would be very painful and take the stuffing out of a lot of guys, but not this attacker. Matt probably grabbed him to struggle with him and got some footing off the bed, while the attacker is on it. Matt starts to realize that something is really wrong and when his attacker tries to push off the bed to unbalance him they spin and Matt lets the attacker's momentum hit the dresser, which is also oak. The attacker smashes through the top and two drawers under it. Demolished the center of the dresser when he hit it. That is not someone hyped up on drugs, Mr. Wayne. And he doesn't weigh what a guy his size should weigh."

"You're sure of that?" Bruce asked. Sarah was leaning forward.

"Mr. Wayne, I have seen Angel Dust, PCP, heroin, you name it, I've had a run in with it, including amphetamine cocktails that would kill most people. None of those gets very far with a broken back, believe me, and that is what the damage to the lamp indicates for what Matt did with it. Also, you have to drop someone of normal weight about 20 feet to get those results on the dresser, its got oak construction, too. For the size of the assailant and distance traveled, that puts it weight at least at 500 to 600 pounds, and more like 700 pounds. No matter what you are hopped up on, even hysterical strength won't do that for a normal guy. And if it did, you would have some major parts working, like your legs, lower back, hips... and internal organs being ruptured. That ain't human, Mr. Wayne."

"I see." said Bruce.

"Sarah, this is really important: Matt used his skill to redirect its mass and speed. That was a damned smart thing to do. He did something really stupid, next, and continued to hold it and fight it. That saw him lifted over the bed and the struggle continued on the other side of the room where Matt got himself put through a closet door. That is just flimsy construction, a bit of laminated wood, an airspace and a another sheet of laminated wood. Still Matt was pushed bodily through that and then dragged out and lifted up. The crime scene photos show the huge bruise on his abodmen, his attacker punched to get his hand under Matt's rib cage to lift him. Matt was then thrown through another flimsy door, had his neck snapped on the wall in the hallway across from it and that was it for him. That ain't normal, Mr. Wayne. A really, highly trained fighter going after a someone untrained, with no conditioning and flabby physique would have problems doing that. Matt wasn't none of those, and his attacker made it look easy, normal, simple."

"How can you say that, Martin?" asked Father Jordan.

"His attacker hadn't punched Matt before. Didn't test his fighting reflexes for anything, and the hit, itself, is simple, and aimed to do just what it did and expect to get past any resistance to do it. You don't try something like that on anyone with trained reflexes or who is in very good shape. Matt was just that: in great shape and some fighting skills. He was picked up like a rag doll and tossed like one, easily, simply, quickly."

Sarah shivered as she heard the exacting description by Martin Carstairs.

"After that it heard Ginger, turned and fired once, then walked towards her firing as she tried to get down the hallway away from it. Simple, precise, placed shots while walking. You can train for that, and circumstances like it, but doing it with intent to kill? Only a psycho could do that, or someone battlehardened to it. Even then its tough, but can be done, as training takes over. This attacker went seamlessly from killing Matt to killing Ginger, no hesitation, missed shots, extra punches. Clean and efficient."

Father Jordan nodded.

"I've seen that, Martin, but you're right. There is a lot to pay in the cost on someone to do that."

"That's it, exactly, Father. After it was done, it got what it needed, picked up anything it felt it needed and walked out. No hurry, no real disturbance, nothing like that. If it knew it was heard and would be chased it wouldn't care, and took the exact, same sort of pace leaving as it did coming in."

"You do know that sounds very much like what this man Kyle implicates, right?" asked Mr. Wayne.

"Uh-huh. I'd say he was dead accurate, no matter what it sounds like. No human could do this. The other killings in the area, yeah. This one? Uh-uh, not human and whoever it was would have died of system shock once the drugs wore off, if the internal bleeding and broken back, hips and femurs didn't stop them first, which it would. Not a dope killing. Cold, methodical, steady, countering any problem and still doing what it wanted with the minimum of its power put to use. You need some years of martial arts training for that sort of stuff, and even then you don't get out of the hand to hand to distance mode without some moment to change streams of thought."

"If you had to classify this thing as dangerous, how dangerous would it be?"

"Ah, Mr. Wayne, if it was coming after me and anyone got in the way, I would say pretty much lethal. To be stopped with extreme prejudice with whatever you got at hand. Anything built like that in mass and density ought to take a LAW or recoilless round or two and notice it. Unless you got a vulnerable point for something less dangerous, that would be the minimum Mr. Wayne. That knife depth, broken dresser and broken Matt ain't normal."

Bruce got up and shook Martin's hand.

"That is what we needed to know, Martin. Sarah, Father Jordan?"

"But what you taught me did work, right?" asked Sarah.

"Uh-huh. Matt might have gotten away or at least got shot in the back leaving if he was smart. After the lamp and then the dresser, breaking its hold should have been top on his list. Can't say that he was macho or anything, he just never had a chance once it got that far."

Sarah nodded, shivering once.

"Thank you, Martin."

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