Chris Frederick

Power's Price

Cyrus Markell slowly regained consciousness in his new body after the operation. He had no memory of opening his eyes; the bright glare of the laboratory suddenly seemed to flare up out of nowhere to irritate his vision. Within minutes, though, the glaring light dimmed itself to a tolerable glow and he was able to make out some details of the room. Computers, monitors, and annoying lights cluttered every inch of the lab's outer walls. A large, cylindrical chamber extending from floor to ceiling was located at the center of the room. The chamber was made from a transparent material. Looking closely, Cyrus recognized his old body suspended in fluid within the chamber. His human body. It had served him well, but it was nothing compared to the new body he had acquired.

The scientists must have noticed that Cyrus was awake because they suddenly took great interest in him, forming a tight semicircle around him. They made excited gestures to each other, jabbering ecstatically about the success of the operation. Cyrus quickly grew annoyed with their chatter. “So,” he said, in a deep, mechanical voice, “did the operation go as planned?”

The scientists jumped back a step and stopped talking; they stared up at Cyrus in awe. Soon, though, one of the scientists had the common sense to answer his question.

“Yes, yes, the operation went exactly as planned! Oh, it was magnificent, Cyrus! You should have seen…”

“That's all I needed to know,” Cyrus responded, struggling against the restraints that held him in place. “Now, let me loose.”

“Not so fast, Cyrus. You haven't gotten accustomed to your new body yet. Let me first explain…”

“Release me!” Cyrus thundered angrily.

The top scientist glanced at his comrades for advice, but they were as frightened as he. Wringing his hands nervously, he looked back at Cyrus.

Cyrus was infuriated. How dare these little men constrain him like this! With a mighty heave of his arms, his restraints snapped and tore open. Growling, he took a tentative step forward and nearly toppled over. The scientists saw their opportunity and made a dash for the door.

As if by instinct, Cyrus raised his arms and leveled them at the retreating scientists. Even as he mentally commanded his arms to open fire, he realized that a gun was attached to each of his forearms. The scientists fell in a shower of bullets.

Cyrus marveled at the strength of his new robot body. With power like this, he could challenge authority with impunity and laugh at their miserable attempts to stop him. No longer would Cyrus Markell knuckle under the fist of the law. Now, the law would fall by his hand!

Cyrus stumbled slowly through the metropolis that was his home. He had not yet mastered how to walk on his unfamiliar robotic legs, but he was learning. With each city block he passed, he felt as if his steps had grown smoother and easier. As he walked, he searched through the database that had been incorporated into his brain in order to learn exactly what he was capable of. It was a long and tedious process, but eventually he learned much about himself. His consciousness had been transferred into the robot's electronic brain by scientific processes he still could not comprehend. Thus, he not only was in control of every aspect of the robot's body, but he also had full access to the information stored in its memory banks. His body was approximately six feet tall, with a gun mounted on each forearm, jump jets in his legs, and a massive power generator in his torso. His eyes were equipped with night vision capability, adaptable to environmental conditions. His armor could withstand nearly all conventional and civilian weaponry. Cyrus could hardly wait to try it out.

Night fell upon the city, and Cyrus spent those dark hours testing his body, learning how it worked, and becoming more familiar with its abilities. When the sun rose in the morning and cast its first brilliant rays of light on the world, he hid in an old, abandoned warehouse in the slums of the city. There, he could allow his body to cool down after hours of vigorous activity. When night came again, he left his hiding place and once more roamed the streets.

After a week of testing, he was ready.

Police Headquarters was a hexagonal structure built low to the earth, with prison cells both above and below ground. Cameras, electric eyes, strobe lights, and an armada of defensive guns protected it from infiltration. Guards patrolled unceasingly within the formidable outer perimeter walls. No one had ever successfully attacked the building; the police believed their base to be invincible.

Cyrus was eager to challenge this belief.

He chose to assault the establishment during the night, when his night-vision would give him an advantage over the police. And so, at around midnight, he strolled nonchalantly up to the front gate of Police HQ.

His glowing green eyes must have given him away. The police manning the gate immediately unshouldered their rifles and aimed directly at him.


Cyrus remained unperturbed. He continued walking toward the gate.

“Stop or we'll shoot!” The police were obviously getting nervous; they could no longer hold their rifles steady.

Cyrus stopped and eyed the two officers in amusement. “Go ahead then, shoot.”

This wasn't the reply the officers were expecting. They stared up at Cyrus in bewilderment.

“Fine. Be that way.” Cyrus gunned them both down, then ignited the jets in his legs to propel him over the outer perimeter wall. “Hmph,” he muttered, “I do hope these guys present some kind of a challenge.”

He was not disappointed. As soon as he cleared the outer wall, a swarm of bullets flew through the air to bounce harmlessly off his armor. The defensive guns began firing first, but soon every officer in the area joined in.

This is more like it, Cyrus thought with approval. He unleashed a furious counterattack, shattering the automated guns and puncturing officers' soft flesh. He made his way slowly toward the Headquarter's main building, leaving a trail of bloodied bodies in his wake. Just as he was about to smash in the building's front door, he heard a voice calling out from behind him.

“Hey! Hey, you! Yeah, you, the one in the ugly tin suit! Turn around!”

If Cyrus's new body had permitted it, he would have burst out laughing. Turning around, he saw a slight young man wearing an officer's uniform. He was not carrying a rifle, and was apparently unarmed.

“Yeah, that's it,” the young man shouted, “Now walk over here, nice and slow. Come on, come on.”

“*You* dare challenge me?!!” Cyrus exclaimed incredulously. “You miserable little insect!” He approached the young man threateningly. “You are nothing but a fly beneath my feet! I will crush you with one swipe of my hand!”

Though he was shaking, the young man managed to shout, “No, you won't!” With that, he pulled out a signal flare from behind his back and ignited it.

The brilliant light stabbed through Cyrus's ultra-sensitive eyes. He gave a high-pitched shriek of mechanical agony as the flare destroyed his sight. Unable to blink his robotic eyes, he held up his hands to protect them. He stumbled blindly in pain, trying to escape from the infernal light. The pain was so intense that he hardly noticed when the cables in his neck were severed from behind, cutting off all power to his brain.

And then the pain was gone, replaced by a soft, velvety, eternal darkness.