“This sorcery will not be tolerated. A warlock may dig oneself beneath the Earth to the realm of the Devil, but he shall be treated like no more than the sewage rat he his.”
The other men in the tower murmured and jeered as the iron persuader was delicately placed on the mantle above a low-glowing orange fire. Together, the men in pointed hats and black cloaks looked like a row of bishops on a chessboard.
“I shall ask of you one last time, warlock who calls himself - Bruce Wayne - does thou admit to sharing the black blood of Satan?”
The lead inquisitor stood over the man bound to a simple wooden chair that had been accused of witchcraft. The high inquisitor, John, looked down at the bound man with such disdain in order to mask the clear fear brooding beneath the masquerade. The remaining men and accomplices, many of whom Bruce had also determined were named John, all mimicked their leaders drawl facial expressions.
On the mantle, Bruce could see the shine of his Smith and Wesson ‘Wonder Nine’ dancing with the firelight. After several minutes of Bruce ignoring John and only looking into the fire and at the gun, the inquisitor sneered.
“Very well,” Leader John said, “Before the Devil’s Hour, ye shall burn.”
The others John’s stormed onto Bruce and dragged the fragile wooden chair out from under him, letting the larger bodied Bruce fall onto the uneven dirt laced stone floor of the tower.
“Do you treat all your guests like they are Hitler?” Bruce said; his face fairly bloodied.
Leader John backhanded Bruce for the infraction, “I do not know of this Hitler you speak of warlock, but if he is like you, he shall burn in Hell with the rest of witch kind.”
Bruce spat a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth. Despite the rough treatment he had received since Big John and his fellow Little John’s had captured him, he continued to smirk at the witch hunters.
“You are not only accused of witchcraft, but you stand accused of the murder of Lestat Lioncourt,” Big John paused to build dramatic tension, “A crime of which you have been found guilty.”
“By a jury of one,” Bruce sneered.
“Silence!” John said.
Two Little John’s knocked Bruce in his spine until his body gave out and he collapsed face first onto the ground. Bruce felt the blood beginning to run from a trickle to a heavy flow. The dirt on the tower floor intermixed with the bodily fluid, creating an ashy brown mucus around where he lay.
“You are suspected of using your witchcraft in the murder of three more peoples,” Leader John continued, “Of which reason finds you the most likely culprit and thus guilty on these counts as well. Now, will you admit your crimes and spur the name of the dark Lord before you heed your penance?”
“You zealot twat,” Bruce groaned from the ground.
One of the minion John’s slammed the heel of his boot against Bruce’s skull. The accused warlock felt reality blink out of existence for a moment before his vision returned in a blurry haze. His dazed eyes struggled to keep focus on the Smith & Wesson. If he could grab his gun, these primitives wouldn’t stand a chance.
The lightly armed thugs grabbed Bruce and pulled him back onto his knees where he warbled uncertainly. He had expected to die here, but not this soon. He hadn’t expected Lestat to have Big John hiding under the bed when he arrived to kill him.
“I, John Smith, here by sentence you to death on four counts of murder and equal counts of suspected witchcraft.”
“Lestat needed to die,” Bruce managed to blurt out. At this point, his nose was serving better as a faucet of blood than an air canal.
John Smith said nothing of Bruce’s timely announcement. If Lestat and John were as close as they had been when Bruce found them, Big John was probably quite found of Lestat and less than open to hear why Bruce needed to kill him.
“Lestat was a good man. You speak in tongues to hide your wickedness.”
“Good men die all the time.”
Big John subtly nodded to his minions who executed another round of savage blows against Bruce’s bruising torso. The blood was beginning to be substantial. Bruce wasn’t sure he would last long enough to be burned at the stake.
John stood above the broken Bruce with a curious and vindictive glare. He walked carefully across the blood-soaked dirt of the tower and retrieved the Smith & Wesson from the fireplace mantle. He held it in his hands, barrel pointed at his own chest.
“I’ve never seen a wand quite like it,” he said.
“It’s a gun, you numpty.”
This appeared to amuse Big John, “A gun? This tiny thing? Is it a gun for children?”
Leader John nodded in the direction of the witch hunter most closely guarding the door to the tower dungeon. He was the only one armed. Unlike the sleek and effective Smith & Wesson, he carried a Charlottesville musket over his shoulder.
“Another lie from your demon mouth,” John said, finally twisting the barrel away from his own body and holding the weapon correctly in the direction of John, “Perhaps if it were a firearm, ye would prefer your execution by its steel?”
“I thought guns couldn’t kill warlocks,” Bruce countered.
John smirked quaintly, tucking the ‘wand’ inside his long coat and adjusting his silly pointed hat. He strutted across the dusty floor until he reached the furthest side of the tower. He stood, facing away from Bruce, looking at the empty stone wall for a very long time in silence. Bruce theorized he was thinking of his lover and how he had watched Bruce gun him down before his very eyes. Lestat bled out in under a minute.
The long reflection must have stirred something within John. The high inquisitor turned about face in an explosive movement, pointing the Smith & Wesson at Bruce and – perhaps realizing the wand was indeed a firearm – squeezed the trigger, exploding two consecutive bullets straight into Bruce’s torso.
The Little John’s leapt in scattering directions from the shots. They kicked up dirt as they clawed away from the scene. Bruce seized once and then once more before falling over backwards onto the tower floor.
John walked steadily over to where the ‘warlock’ was now bleeding profusely.
“He did not deserve to die. Therefore, Bruce Wayne, I sentence you to death.”
A final squeeze and BANG.
Big John felt the tower blink away from him into a black void. A howling noise like a gale wind screamed into his ears for several minutes before the blackness faded and the world began to pencil itself back in around him.
When the commotion died, Bruce’s dead body was still bloodied and broken before him, yet he was now in an entirely different room. Lights of all colors blinked and flickered. Whirring noises and low-grade hums rumbled every wall.
The walls were no longer stone. They were made from a material John did not even recognize.
Suddenly, two men charged straight through one of the walls and into the room with him. They quickly descended upon John and removed the weapon from his trembling, terrified hands.
“I have been brough into Hell itself,” John exclaimed.
One of the men roughly shoved John away from Bruce’s body, “Code Black.”
The other grabbed the terrified man and slammed his body down into a steel chair. Instantly, two red beacons of light emitted from the chair and bound John’s wrists.
“Is he dead?”
“Well, shit,” the first man cursed.
The second man lugged Bruce’s body out of the room, once again through the strange wall and out of John’s sight.
“I will accept my fate and penance,” John said, “I killed a witch in God’s name and if it is the Lord’s will I burn in-“
“Shut it, you red coat goober. You didn’t kill a witch. You killed an Annihilator.”
John said nothing. His wrists burned from the extreme heat emitting from the red-light binds of the steel chair.
“Annihilator?” John questioned.
“Yeah, one of us,” the man turned his face so that John could see his neck. A strange marking of a human skull with a fire-wreath around it was imprinted on his flesh.
“The mark of the beast!”
“The mark of the new order,” the man gripped John with a strong, almost metal like density in his hands, “God isn’t here for you. You religious lunatics are part of the reason Annihilators exist!”
“You are a coven.”
The tattooed man cracked his over muscular neck and moved away from John. He briefly disappeared through the strange wall before returning with a long needle and vile containing off-green liquid.
“I am going to explain this to you very quickly, because our studies show that if we just inject this shit into you and send you back then your brain gets all scrambled and you eat children and shit.
I am an Annihilator. The man you killed was an Annihilator. We are not witches. We are time travelers.
We have studied all of human history and have identified certain genetic bloodlines that happened to produce a lot of problematic people throughout history and into Earth’s current present. We figure out the point in the time stream where it is most appropriate and we take their ancestors out so that they never exist.
Annihilated. Get it?”
“Witches’ with a scholar’s tongue but a snake’s venom!” Big John preached.
“Lestat Lioncourt needed to die. Several individuals in his genetic timeline were determined to be undesirable to the human cause and needed to be removed. Most recently, one of his future-kin was directly responsible for the Stokebalt Suspension Bridge Disaster and the Oaktane Incident that followed.
You do not understand this. But this information is making its way through the tiny synapses in your brain and on a molecular level, is helping you cope with what is happening to you so you don’t go bonkers when I send you back to your time.
Do you have any questions or may I be of any assistance in anyway before you go?”
The man steadied the needle.
“Lestat was a good man,” John said, watching as the off-green liquid was punctured through his bicep and into his veins.
“It isn’t for you to decide that. We do.”
John felt the room go black and he entered the void once more.
When he awoke, he was told by the other inquisitors that he had been bed ridden for several days after he had killed a witch. John could not remember any of it.
He could only remember one particularly word from the whole ordeal.