(Who Watches the Watchmen?)
By Bill Wolfe
Nightwatch created by Jeff Williams
Developed by Jeff Williams and Robert Moriyama
Part I synopsis:
Tom and Simon find themselves face-to-face with a real life mind reader. But he's not alone. He is the representative of an entire subculture of psychics who can trace their history back for millennia and they call themselves the Collective. Needless to say, none of these folks ever answered the phones for the Psychic Friends Network®.
But this psychic has a problem and needs the Nightwatch Lower Echelon's help. Seems the Collective has lost their most powerful psychic to come along in generations. He's young, angry, confused. . .and oh yes. . .he has kidnapped some of the world's best technical experts and is making them build a psychic amplifier which might just allow him to control the minds of thousands.
Prelude. . . . . . .
Stephanie Keel was dreaming about her best friend. This friend had never let her down, never lied, never inflicted pain, humiliation or, worst of the worst. . .pleasure. This friend offered resolve when the odds were against her. This friend supplied strength when she was weary or spent. This friend infused her with the courage to stand firm when all she wanted was to curl up in the corner and. . .surrender. The only downside to her relationship with this friend was the shame. She was ashamed to be seen with her friend. And she was ashamed of what she sometimes did when she let her friend take the lead. Stephanie Keel dreamt of her constant companion, an ever present, palpable force that she tapped into when needed, and pushed away when she did not. She dreamt of Anger.
Sleep was rarely the comfort for Stephanie that is was for most. Rather than provide a few hours of respite, it too often represented another plunge into the chaos of memories that she did not deserve to have. When she was awake, at least, she had some portion of control over what her mind was up to. She could throw herself into her work, her studies, her hobbies and most importantly, her training. Krav Maga had helped her in more ways than she could count. Arguably the most brutal of the marital arts, it boosted her confidence immensely that. . .no matter what. . .she would never be helpless in the clutches of another human being. And the training also helped her to be able to focus her mind to shut-out all manner of external distractions. Part of the basic regimen at her level was sparring against up to three, highly padded opponents with blaring music, strobe lights and a fog machine all going at full blast.
Her instructors now were all Israeli military—all on active duty and assigned to their embassy in
Too often, in her dreams she was back in Gryphius's vault. Not even Simon knew what had really happened in there, though he thought he did. She had never told anyone what William Gryphius was trying to accomplish during the four months she had been held by him. His copious and meticulous computer records, both text and video had been destroyed utterly the moment that the inner sanctum had been breached. Stephanie knew this well, for it was she who set up the fail-safe system of disk purging and degaussing. Even then, barely out of college and more naïve than most, she was a formidable programmer. One of the few things in life that she was sure of, was that what had happened in that chamber of horrors, was preserved nowhere but in her own damaged mind.
That anyone else could have access to her deepest secrets was unthinkable. The carefully wrought kluge that was her psyche, her persona. . .the new-and-improved Stephanie Keel. . .would tumble to an irrevocably jumbled tangle of inchoate junk if anyone truly found out how Gryphius had changed her. For the mad genius had been more than just a garden-variety psychopathic sexual sadist. He was also a scientist, and a good one. Every lash of the whip, every wisp of smoke from seared flesh had a purpose toward Gryphius's final goal.
Gryphius never called his sessions with Stephanie torture, though they were. He called it neither rape nor sodomy, though it was both. And he didn't call it science, but he should have. He referred to it as training, which was as accurate a description as any other name for it. But wasn't Stephanie that he was teaching new tricks, it was her brain. Lost amid the other blood and scabs and scars were tiny holes he had drilled into her skull. They had never been noticed by any of the many medical personnel who tried to mend her battered body when Simon brought her to one of Nightwatch's secure trauma centers.
Since her recovery—if her willful, determined, reassembly of self could be called that—she had learned enough about brain physiology to know what he had been aiming for. By overloading certain areas of the brain, stimulating some and anesthetizing others while simultaneously causing immense pain and humiliation. . .he was trying to create his perfect mate. He was learning how to teach the brain to interpret pain as pleasure. We are nothing but meat machines, really. The signals that go to the brain bear only information. It is that large neural cluster encased in rigid bone which determines what that information actually means. An unexpected ice cube to the back of the neck may feel like a hot poker for a moment. . .until our meat-based signal processor sorts out what the sensation truly is. But if you're expecting an ice cube, that's what your brain will tell you has just been pressed to your skin.
Gryphius was very simply tired of the whimpering, the crying, and the begging for him to for the love of God please STOP! Like any man, really, he simply wanted his lover to ask for more, plead. . .for more. . .to beg and whine and manipulate and seduce him to do it again, only harder. In his twisted mind, there was something wrong with the female population in that they simply didn't enjoy the pleasures of the flesh. He had quickly tired of those who called themselves masochists. They were liars, all of them. They didn't want him to actually do the things that exited him. He had chosen his early efforts from this group but he quickly found that their so-called desires to be dominated and punished were mere artifacts of some earlier trauma or mistreatment. Their minds and bodies were so sullied by their pasts that the data for his experiments, his training sessions, was highly suspect. It was just too inconsistent and contaminated.
So he decided to start with a clean slate. And he found the perfect template in a bright, young, fresh college girl with a sunny disposition, a quick mind and a robust metabolism. Though she exercised only occasionally, her muscle tone and general health were extraordinary. With a little care not to damage anything important, that sweet body of hers would take a considerable amount of damage before it shut down.
And it had. What Simon saw when he burst through the door and splattered Gryphius's brains over half the Plexiglas panel behind him, didn't look like a living thing, at all. Stephanie, strapped to that musky bed in the room that smelled of blood and bleach, semen and sanitizer. . .looked more like a cadaver from a badly botched autopsy than a living person.
But what Simon didn't know, what nobody knew. . .was that Gryphius had largely succeeded with his training. The broken, bloody mess that he rescued that night had not been crying out in agony only moments before. Her screams and writhing had been from the most intense, exquisite pleasure that any human being could possibly tolerate. And she hated it. She despised the fact that her traitorous brain had, in fact, learned to process neural input in this manner. In many ways, she longed for the time when these sessions had left her whimpering in abject agony. Back then she could hate only the beast who had inflicted this horror upon her person. But by the time she was rescued, there was another presence with her and Gryphius in that bed. A third party had joined in the tableau, who grew stronger with every sting of the strap, every sizzle of hot metal on sensitive skin, and every invasion of every orifice by whatever object was handy. The last in this sadistic ménage a trois was Stephanie's overwhelming Anger. She was mad that he had succeeded, mad that it felt so incredibly good. . .and mad that she was starting to like it. She was angry at her own anticipation when she heard his footsteps outside the chamber and she was angry that Gryphius didn't seem to notice it. And then, of course, she was angry again at herself for even considering all the things she was feeling.
She was even mad that someone—Simon—had burst in and put an end to it all with only the briefest of warnings. She looked at him from her supine position, strapped to that horrible bed, and she hoped that he would turn the still-smoking gun on her, next. And when he didn't, when his eyes flashed first in horror and then in relentless compassion. . .well, she was angry about that, too.
So, over a decade later, Stephanie Keel slept, but did not rest. Her dreams were of Anger. During her sparring today against two opponents, a precisely-timed head butt had snuck through her wearying defenses and nailed her on the chin, knocking her to the floor. Her helmet chinstrap had absorbed much of the shock but she had bitten her tongue, badly. The pain had been unexpected, intense. . .and had triggered a sexual climax that left her gasping on the floor, unable to move or defend herself, or to attack the ankle that one of her opponents had carelessly placed within reach of her knee. She should have been able to take at least one of her attackers down, but her own miswired brain had betrayed her, again.
Of course, the instructors merely thought that the shot to the chin had rattled her, perhaps even knocked her semiconscious for a moment. It would explain the twitching and gasping, which they'd never seen from this student. They didn't know what had really happened, or what it meant. Nobody knew. Nobody could ever know.
Stephanie slept alone in her bed with her Anger. She slept out of abject weariness and physical exhaustion from a day spent focused on work, focused on the tasks at hand and making sure that tomorrow, there would be more tasks lined up for her. She slept to rest a body pushed to its limits and a mind that sought out the most demanding, infuriating and complex problems to solve that could be found or invented. Anything that kept her mind and body active, focused, and most of all. . .busy, was fair game for Stephanie Keel. She slept when her body demanded sleep. It was her only down time. She slept because she had to. And she slept secure that her dreams and memories were her own, kept safe and sound inside her head where she, and her friend Anger, could control them and keep them from prying eyes. She had proven time and time again that she could bear almost anything.
It had almost happened, once, with an ethereal creature that called himself Massoud. And though he was gone now—perhaps dead, perhaps not—sometimes in her dreams she remembered what he had said.
“If you think you’re going to lay a hand on me--,” she sneered.
“Lay a hand on you? I would not touch you after what Gryphius did to you!”
Stephanie flinched but held her ground. Massoud continued, “And yet you begged for his attentions, long before your stay in his chamber. He taught you the ways of a jezebel. How you crowed with false power! How you preened with perverted womanhood!”
“Go to hell,” whispered Stephanie. Tears began to flow from the corner of her eyes. Her trembling hand grasped the table next to her, her knuckles white.
“And at first, you thought it a game. You enjoyed it! But even when the pleasure turned to torment, even then, a small part of you discovered ecstasy.”
“That’s not true!” she screamed, her fingers pulling her hair, her eyes shut, as she sat crouched on the floor.
“You deny what your body felt?” he mocked.
The Sin Watcher had undoubtedly known her true secret. However, when he used his abilities as a weapon, he had twisted the facts to make his assault more brutal, more damaging. But in this case he miscalculated. Stephanie's true fear was always that people would find out what she had become, not what had happened to her. She feared that her friends would find out about what thoughts passed through her mind now, when she felt desire. It tortured her to think of the looks on their faces if they were ever to find out what she longed for from a lover, whomever he may be. If the Sin Watcher had used just a slightly different tact, he may have succeeded that awful night in the English wilds.
Her psyche survived that close call, but only because of her Anger at the moment, and also because there was nobody in the room who really mattered to her. It also helped that of the two human witnesses to this very close version of her shame, one was dead before that night was over and the other had gone quite mad. After his experience, he began ranting about demons and angels, nephilim and jinn; until there was no choice but to institutionalize him.
But in her wildest nightmares, she never dared to imagine that the people she cared about would ever, ever find out what kind of monster she had become.
Even her Anger was no match for that!