Ilya Yevenko ran as fast as his old bones could carry him. It was difficult in the deep snow of Eastern Ukraine. Behind him, the thing swirled and swooped, never following the wind as a cloud should. Ilya fell hard and couldn’t get up. The hell-born red mist dove upon him.
Microscopic robots drilled a hole in his skin and entered his body. At home in the air and the human body, they entered his tissues and began destroying. Nanotech disassemblers first consumed his pancreas. They ate away the intermediate phalange of his right pinky, followed by the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee. Ilya howled in agony as random bits of his anatomy were consumed by tiny killers. He writhed in the snow, screaming. After 45 minutes of agony, Ilya bled to death in his own skin. He never left a drop of blood on the pristine, white snow.
24 hours later, 16,000 residents of Krasnohorivka, Ukraine perished in a similar grisly manner.
The afternoon sun of Gary, Indiana blazed through the window of Pendragon’s Used Books. The light revealed the well-kept shape of 47-year old Nadia Prajapati through her colorful Hindi dress. Long black hair spilled across her slender arms as she tossed a file onto the table between them. “Dobrashin Petyakov,” she said. “In the past decade alone, he is responsible for over 90,000 deaths.”
Elgin Bainbridge sat on a stack of books across from her and looked at the file photo. Petyakov looked to be about 28 with an anachronistic handlebar mustache. As an operative for the ultra-black ops organization, Piceous Winter, Elgin had battled horrific international killers before. Petyakov outclassed them all. “So many,” he muttered.
“If you include influencing Stalin to kill 1.2 Million during The Great Purge, the number is higher.”
Elgin sat very still, blinking. How could that be? “Did you say Stalin? How old is this guy?”
Nadia described the impossible in an almost bored voice. “American intelligence first knew of him in 1906. If the old Russian records are correct…” She tapped the photo. “This man is 147 years old.”
Elgin wiped his palms on his jeans. He’s just been told a fairy tale by the most level-headed person he’d ever known. “How is this man still alive?”
“His intellect is exceeds the human scale. He’s invented incredible things that led to nuclear power and stealth technology to name a few. He was useful. Up until now, there was no need to kill him.”
Elgin was wondering why he hadn’t died of old age. Nadia obviously thought in different terms. “Something changed?”
Nadia’s sloe eyes gazed out the window at normality. “He’s developed a nanotechnology weapon. It’s still crude and unreliable. It destroys too randomly. One month ago, its disassemblers began eating into the Earth’s crust. When they reached 20 kilometers deep, a Russian tactical nuke didn’t halt them. A last-minute software hack finally did. His weapon could potentially crack the crust of the Earth, killing all humanity. The intransigent madman refuses to stop testing it. He’s no longer under control of the Russian Federation. He was last seen in the Ukraine. Find him…kill him.”
Seven months later, rivulets of blood poured across the dacha’s back deck. Elgin fired another three-round burst from the .50cal Barrett Sniper rifle. Petyakov’s organs and muscle tissue disintegrated into sprays of red. He collapsed…again. Elgin watched through the scope as the mass-murderer’s muscle and bone reformed. A single .50cal round could tear a man’s head off, but after being hit 16 times, Petyakov stood up once more. Elgin touched his ear piece, “Got a problem, Olympic. He won’t…die.”
“Copy that, Percival,” said Nadia with her typical aplomb. “It’s expected. A tactical team is five mikes out. We’ll capture instead.”
Thirty years after Elgin’s last mission, his hair had gone gray. The arthritis destroying his hip meant he walked with a cane. He stared through the viewing window of the former plant’s enclosure. He couldn’t see the magnetic field that contained the red cloud, but knew it worked. It was all that Petyakov’s nanites couldn’t disassemble their way out of. Even Chernobyl’s residual radiation couldn’t destroy them all. “What is he?”
“A random mutation,” said Nadia. “He’s literally immortal.”
Elgin watched as Petyakov’s body regrew its limbs. Shortly after, the red cloud of nanites consumed the freshly formed flesh. The cycle continued endlessly, mercilessly. “Hasn’t he died enough times already?”
“In another three years he’ll have died roughly 1.4 million times.” Nadia smirked. “Maybe then we’ll call it even.”
Prometheus was cursed by Zeus to be chained to a rock. Once each day, a giant eagle ripped his liver out, and each day the immortal healed once more. It happened every day over and over again: http://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/The_Myths/Creation_of_Man_by_Prometheus/creation_of_man_by_prometheus.html
Krasnohorivka really exists in the Donetsk Oblast of Eastern Ukraine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krasnohorivka
The Great Purge: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Purge#Number_of_people_executed
“Piceous” means glossy black: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/piceous
In my last story, readers thought I let the bad guys off too easily. I decided to correct that. How about now?
Each week it’s time to meet the Grammar Ghoul Press writing challenge. This week, the word prompt is: Intransigent. The media prompt is the photo at the top of this post. Look here for more stories based upon the prompts: http://www.grammarghoulpress.com/gg-writing-challenge-10-open