The Jester: Laughter in the Dark, Chapter 3: Beware the Ides of March

by CSyphrett

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The Ray of the SS Ubermenschen hovered over where the armored cars had been blown. A ruse of some kind had been used; he was sure of that. Flying along the road, he spotted a tractor trailer waiting to pass through at the head of a long line of cars. He landed beside the truck, a vague idea forming in his head.

“Open up the back of this truck,” he ordered the driver.

The lorry driver was about to protest loudly until he realized with whom he was talking. “Sure thing,” he said. The driver walked to the back of his rig and, undoing the catches on the door, he pulled the twin doors open. The trailer’s interior was empty.

“Close it,” the Ray said, then turned away, looking for the closest radio man. A quick scan revealed one watching the road. “Have every trailer truck stopped and inspected,” the Ray ordered the communications trooper.

“Yes, sir,” said the radio man, who quickly relayed the order all over the countryside. Stops were soon put in place all along the highway and secondary roads capable of supporting a Mack.

“Start letting the civilians go about their business,” the Ray said. “No need to halt everyone as we look for our thief.”

The empty tractor trailer was let through first. In the dark, no one saw the driver touch his face. There was a faint click, and a yellow globe appeared with a smile for just a brief moment and was gone.

***

Willie Schultz met with Quiller outside the Tower of London the next evening. The agent was grimmer than normal.

“You were right,” said Quiller.

“About the Jester?” asked the hijacker.

“Yes,” Quiller said, watching the people around their meeting spot. “We think he broke into a supply depot and then took one of the Nazis’ new super weapons. What would he do with it?”

“What kind of weapon?” asked Willie.

“A bomb of some kind.”

“He’d use it,” Willie said. “He’d use it here in London.”

“Are you sure?” asked Quiller.

Willie just looked at him.

“Find him and stop him,” said Quiller. “No one knows what the thing can do, not even the designers. We can’t let him fire it, especially not here in the city.”

“I’ll do what I can,” said Willie, walking away. “He’ll have it rigged to be unstoppable if we don’t find him in time.”

“Right,” said Quiller. He walked off into the darkness in the opposite direction. The Underground was on alert. Hopefully someone would pick up something somewhere. Otherwise London might vanish in a ball of fire.

Willie Schultz wandered the city proper with his head down. It was true he knew the enigmatic Jester the best, but how could you guess what a madman would do?

When the Nazis had retaken England, the Occupation had established its headquarters in Parliament. As he walked, he now found himself near its craggy walls, seeing it as if for the first time.

An idea seized Willie, and suddenly he veered for the door. He passed through the metal detector and checkpoint with false identification from the resistance. His new face had come to replace his old one better than he had thought.

Willie rode the elevator to the top floor and began to wander the halls, looking for that one room that would be exactly right for the Jester, using his false identification several times as he searched the building. Parliament was at the center of the Jester’s area of operations. It was almost like he lived somewhere close by the government building.

After an hour of searching, he admitted that his idea had been a bust. There was no sign of the device or anything that could be readily construed as a destructive invention. Where could it be? he asked himself.

Willie thought he heard a bell tolling the midnight hour and paused in mid-step. How could he be hearing that ringing? Big Ben had been moved from Parliament years ago. Willie had a bad feeling where the device was actually hidden. He began to run.

Huffing and puffing as he raced up the inside of the Parliament clock tower, he wondered how much time he had left. At the top of the bell tower, the bell known as Big Ben used to sit and mark the passage of time. It had long since been removed and melted down for ammunition during the last war.

Now Willie found a barricade to make him pause in his run. He tried a couple of kicks to knock the door out of his way. It held solid against his attempt. He needed to get into the bell tower, and he looked around for an idea. A window cleaning rig caught his eye.

Willie set up the cleaning rig and used it to traverse the bell tower to get inside the bell room. As expected, Big Ben was gone. Instead, a large cylinder rested inside the room. Willie could see a timer on it that was counting down. He disengaged from the harness for the gear and swung into the room.

Pulling a multi-tool that he had taken from one of his former comrades, he found a faceplate to which he could unscrew the bolts and check the inside of the bomb. Willie tried to work fast but carefully, hoping the plate hadn’t been booby-trapped. He was pleasantly surprised to find the heavy cover came away from the main body easily.

Willie saw a timer inside the bomb that told him he had three minutes and counting to disarm the thing. He looked inside the casing, checking the wiring and connections while wishing he had paid more attention in the basic disposal classes.

At the two-minute mark, the thing started talking to him and, he suspected, to the citizens of London in general. “Good evening,” said the melodic voice. “I suspect you’re wondering why I called you here tonight, in the wee hours of March the fifteenth.

“I’m testing a new device that the Germans have created. This field test will probably be the only time this type of weapon is used, so allow me to elucidate the details. This weapon will create a dramatic wave of pressure and sound departing the point of impact in a circle. When this happens, everything caught in the wave will be buffeted as if by a wall of water from the Thames, much like a tidal wave. The proposed diameter of the circle is approximately ten kilometers.

“The point of impact will be the center of a column of flame a kilometer or more high. The diameter of this column should be a kilometer across, if not more. Everything within that column will be vaporized by the excitement of air into nuclear plasma.”

“Shut up!” said Willie, trying to see where he could cut and do the most good inside the bomb.

“I suppose the obvious question is — why have I done this?” asked the Jester’s recorded voice. “The answer is as simple as — I can. I will not tolerate a murderous band of thugs putting their foot on the neck of a free people. So I have decided to make an example of the German Occupation Army in London.

“First, I will destroy the headquarters of the command. Then, every man serving the Germans will begin to die as soon as they touch my shores. This is the last reasonable offer of life that I will extend. After this day, there will be war unlike any ever fought in this land. Parliament now has thirty seconds to stand. Beware the Ides of March.”

Willie cut four of the colored wires with the multi-tool, but he quickly saw that he had merely sped up the countdown. He groaned as he began snipping wires as fast as he could. He was about to die in a blaze of glory, so caution was thrown to the winds.

A buzzer sounded inside the bomb casing. Willie was surprised to still be alive.

“I am afraid I lied about Parliament,” said the recording. “I blew up something else.”

Willie heard a click from the device. Instinct said to run, so he headed for the window. He strapped himself into the window-cleaning gear and lowered himself as fast as he could down the side of the clock tower.

He wasn’t surprised to see the top of the tower explode in fury. He was still lowering himself as the face of the building gave way and began to crash to the ground. Willie dropped the last twenty feet and rolled away from the building, then got to his feet and ran. Masonry continued to fall as he vanished into the night.

***

Colonel Joseph Krause grimaced as reports still came in. Rioting had broken out in the East End. The clock tower was gone, so even if it hadn’t been the primary target, Parliament had felt the madman’s touch.

The real device had been detonated on the grounds of the Dover Radar Line Headquarters. For almost four hours, from shortly after midnight to four o’clock AM on March 15, 1986, the security service was blind. A fleet could have sailed into that area and set up operations, and no one would have known better.

The rest of the devices were going to be kept in Germany under lock and key. Losing something like that was bad enough, but to have to actually use it was something Krause did not want to contemplate.

The End

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