Lex Talionis (The Law of Retaliation)
The Butcher of Proxima Prime
by Robert G. Moons
Evil – we have categorized it, documented it; given it names like psychopath, pedophile, sadist, et cetera. We have gathered, labeled, alphabetized, organized, and placed the information neatly into folders to be logically placed in vast filing systems. We have even made excuses for it, and on rare occasions, forgiven it. This all eases are civilized sensibilities. We no longer need to look at it squarely in the eye, nor take up arms against it. After all, there is no such thing as pure evil we convince ourselves.
But not everyone is so civilized, not everyone follows the rules and laws of society.... Sometimes, to destroy evil it takes something equally dark – a selective malevolence that will do what others will not, or cannot do. Not necessarily from a sense of justice or retribution, but a need for its very existence; perhaps even its soul.
It was a large, run-down bar, in a rusting spaceport, on a tiny moon, orbiting an insignificant planet. The patrons were all manner of scum – drug dealers, pimps, pirates, murderers, and thieves. Various alien races were represented here, from the small and furry to the huge and nightmarish. To the human eye, one could pick out features of insect, reptile, even mineral.
It was one of the most obscure locations on the outer rim of our galaxy, and few of the alien unkempt patrons had ever seen a human; those that had, had only experience with the one sitting alone in the corner of the bar.
The dark figure sat at a small, round, choaka-wood table, hunched over his drink. Dressed all in black, he looked like a seated shadow in the darkest corner of the large, square room. His back was to the wall, and from his vantage point, could see all that came and went without the possibility of anyone approaching him from either side or behind – a practice that had long become instinctive to him. He wore a leather, duster-like coat that came down to his ankles. On his head he wore a wide-brimmed, leather hat with its outer edges slightly curved down to further obscure his lowered face. His clothes made him appear out of place both in terms of location and time, whether on Earth or in this little back-mining system that appeared on few star maps.
All the regulars gave the gloomy stranger a wide girth. Some because they had heard the stories; others just had a feeling of apprehension upon viewing him, and still others, who’s unique racial instincts triggered a sense of unnatural danger that emanated from him. Still, there were those who were unaware; this he counted on, and prayed for to whatever demon gods he worshiped (or so the whispers rumoured).
The dweller of shadows had been in this sordid bar every night for a week. He waited and observed every disgusting reveler with righteous fervour, and then, tonight, his target walked into the small corner of this world.
The Butcher of Proxima Prime – Rog’Hu’Qua came through the bar’s main entrance. He was a General of the Gulrathian Empire during the invasion of Proxima Prime. Over a billion Proximans were butchered, and countless others taken away in chains to later beg for death. The stranger had seen his like countless times before. History festered with their tales of genocide, torture, slavery, rape; atrocities far too long to list.
The older Gulrathian didn’t look any less formidable in his later years. Ape-like in appearance, he stood over eight feet tall; weighed almost five hundred pounds, with thick, muscular, too long arms that almost touched the ground as he swaggered into the bar. From the waist down, he still wore the traditional black, plastisteel plate armour of a Gulrathie warrior, but instead of a shirt, he wore grey, plastisteel chain mail. A holstered auto-beam pistol was strapped to his chest, and a power-blade sheathed at his side. His small, black eyes under a sloping brow scouted the grimy barroom, but stopped to focus on the human.
“YOU!” he roared. “They say you are looking for me.” The giant eyed the outsider trying to size him up. “Do I know you, hu-man?”
“No, but I know you,” a low, raspy voice countered as the man in the dark stood up. He was tall for a human, his layers of black clothes concealed the lean, muscled frame beneath. He raised his head to reveal a sallow, angular face, with cold, grey eyes that met the Gulrathian’s stare. The confident old general became concerned by those eyes – they showed absolutely no fear, but it was more than that... He had seen eyes like those before. They were the glare of a predator before the kill.
“You have me at a disadvantage, stranger,” the old warrior stalled as he released the snap on his holster with one hand, and slowly reached for the pistol’s grip with the other.
“Defend yourself!”shouted the grim man as he rushed towards the giant. He closed the short distance between them with the smooth agility of a great cat.
The Gulrathian fumbled for his pistol; no sooner had he cleared the holster than the stranger produced a khopesh from beneath his coat. The long, curved, blade expertly hacked off the brute’s hand with gun, sending both spinning to the wooden floor, leaving behind a path of warm, red gore.
The monster of Proxima Prime screamed in terrible pain, and with thought of savage vengeance, his other (now only) hand reached for the power-blade at his hide.
In an odd sense of chivalry, the somber stranger did not press the attack but backed off giving the titan enough time to produce his deadly, small sword and lunge forward with blood lust in his eyes. The Gulrathian impaled only air as the lithe human easily dodged his desperate thrust.
The ancient, sickle-sword struck again, but this time it was a mortal wound as the razor-sharp, blade sliced through the chain mail and deep into the giant’s belly. A blade, no matter how keen, should not have been able to accomplish this. But it wasn’t the weapon that had done the impossible. The Gulrathian stood in shock as his intestines flowed onto the floor with a sickening sound, and then collapsed onto his knees as if pulled down by his own guts.
He looked in disbelief at his entrails and then at the dark stranger. “W-who are you?” the old, sadistic bastard stammered, half in shock.
“WHO am I! That is the question for your life’s last breath?” taunted the stranger now about eye level with a dying Rog’Hu’Qua. “I will tell you WHAT I am: I am Lex Talionis; I am the hand of retribution; I am all the faces you butchered, tortured, or defiled.”
The dark figure thrust his open, black gloved hand toward the mutilated evil that kneeled before him as if to grasp something unseen in the now slaughter reeking air between the two of them. The Butcher of Proxima Prime convulsed wide eyed as if the stranger exerted some unnatural power over him. Black, smoky tendrils came from his now expressionless, glassy eyes, snaking towards the stranger’s hand to disappear into the palm. The gloved hand closed tightly as if to keep whatever it was, imprisoned in the leather fist. The giant quivered a final time, then toppled face down into his own guts with a gross splat. He was dead even before the splatter of gore hit the nearby wall.
The stranger cleaned and sheathed his khopesh, to be once again hidden from view underneath the long, black coat. The few patron scum that had remained to witness the battle, gave the dark outsider plenty of room as he turned and walked towards the exit with unhurried, long strides. Some of the braver witnesses could see a change in the man – his face wasn’t near as gaunt, and his colour far less pale.
The hand of retribution walked out of the bar, moving with iron purpose into the cool night. Outside, he paused to look up at the star-filled, night sky; identified Earth’s star, and solemnly got down on one knee. With both hands on either side, and with palms down, he lightly touched the dusty ground in a pagan protocol of invocation. “The evil known as Rog’Hu’Qua in this year of their Lord 3012 AD, will no longer breath life into another reborn. It lingers and perishes within me. I have waited over a millennium for this foul soul’s return – April 30, 1945.”
“And so be it!”
(Fade to black)
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© 2011 Robert G. Moons
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