Warren Murphy: Killer Watts

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KILLING MACHINE What do you get when you cross a maniac with a microwave? An army experiment gone wrong - and a walking power plant with a compulsion to kill. Complete with optical sensors, capacitors and rechargeable batteries, Elizu Roote has been transformed to a bionic monster whose death zaps are nothing sort of...electrifying. Not even a body trained to the perfection that is Sinanju can withstand a jolt from this human lightning bug.  Remo's in  coma and now it's up to Chiun and Dr. Smith to find a way to short out this live wire's lethal charge. ASAP. With death pouring like hellfire from his metal-plated fingertips, Roote just keeps on killing and killing and...

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Destroyer 118: Killer Watts

By Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

Chapter 1

He couldn't stand up without hitting his head. He couldn't lie down-at least not to stretch out. The way a real human being stretches out to sleep.

Awake, he would sit. Asleep, he would curl in the fetal position on the rubberized floor of the box.

He had been this way for several weeks, isolated in his madness since the experiments had ended in failure.

They kept him like an animal.

An animal. That was what they'd called him when they found out what he'd done. Animal. He had heard that countless times. It was a control mechanism, he knew. And that was not all they had said.

"You're going to die, boy," the MPs who arrested him had promised Private Elizu Roote. Hardly a dispassionate statement from a couple of trained professionals. But Private Roote couldn't blame them. They'd seen the body.

She was a girl from town he had picked up in a bar. Barflies were always the best. They never asked many questions and they were hardly ever missed.

This one had allowed him to lead her out behind a U-shaped cinder-block garbage area in the empty parking lot of an abandoned restaurant. It was just on the civilian side of the chain-link fence near the officers' quarters. That had been his first mistake: doing it too close to the base.

The MPs had spotted him as they toured the perimeter of Fort Joy Army Base, near the border of New Mexico and Texas. They caught his frightened-rabbit eyes in the small yellow searchlight mounted on the side of their drab military jeep. Captured in the blaze of lurid, uncompromising light, Elizu did the only thing he could. He bolted. Mistake number two.

As he fled, the MPs spotted his bloody clothes, then traced his path back to the body.

At the gruesome discovery, alarms had went off immediately.

They caught him, of course. After a helicopter search of nearby Alamogordo.

He'd had too much time to work on this one, which was a mark against him. If he hadn't had so much time, maybe he could have claimed that she was one of those women who liked to be choked when aroused. That it was just some rough sex that had gotten a little out of hand.

But try as he might, Roote knew he could never make this a sex-related case. No one, but no one, liked to have their head cut off while doing it.

It wasn't long after his capture before the authorities began linking him to the other bodies. One in Maine. Three in Oregon. They even suspected him of a few others around his home state of West Virginia, but they could never be sure of those. He didn't decapitate his victims back then.

But even without those confirmed murders, there was enough evidence to convict him of at least one capital offense. Private Elizu Roote was headed for a military discharge, a civilian trial and a likely death sentence. At least that's where he thought he was heading.

But at the point when execution seemed inevitable, Private Elizu Roote had found a savior. And it wasn't any of that jailhouse-religion crap. His personal savior appeared before him in an olivegreen army uniform with colored bars over his breast pocket and a couple of shining stars on his shoulders.

He was a general, about sixty years old. He carried a gleaming mahogany riding crop with a leather strap at one end. The stick was pressed so far up in his armpit he looked like the victim of an Indian attack in an old western. He weighed three hundred pounds if he weighed an ounce and stood just over six-feet, six-inches tall. His head was as crimson as a sunburn as he stood framed in the cell doorway.

With tiny black eyes that looked to have been chiseled from coal, the general regarded Private Roote. Roote, sprawled on the bare metal bed of the military prison, never moved. The general's eyes darted back to the two men who had trailed after him into the room.

"Dismissed!" he boomed in a gravelly voice. The soldiers who had been standing guard at the door knew enough not to hesitate. Though it was against their better judgment, they left the general alone with the prisoner.

Once the guards were gone, the general closed the steel cell door gently behind him. He turned back to Roote, a smile cracking his bright red face.

"You're in a bit of trouble, eh, son?" the general asked. He toyed with the leather strap on his riding crop.

From his bunk, Roote shrugged. "Guess so." Eyes narrowed below the general's close-cut white hair, heavy red lids squeezing a pair of shiny black olives.

"What was that, soldier?"

Roote was at a loss. After the night he had just been through, the last thing on his mind was military protocol. He shrugged his round shoulders again in helpless confusion.

The general seemed to accept Roote's befuddlement for a moment. He stepped farther into the cell, massive chin jutting forward pensively. When he was close enough to Roote he drew his riding crop from beneath his arm with the speed of a striking serpent. It was up, around and down in a shiny blur, striking the private in the meaty part of his thighs. The blow brought the younger man to his feet.

The general grabbed Roote by the front of his pale green T-shirt. "As long as you are in this man's army, you will address a superior officer as 'sir,' is that clear, soldier?"

Roote nodded, the light of understanding suddenly sparking in his sleep-deprived brown eyes. "Yes, sir!" he shouted. His legs smarted where they'd been struck. At attention now, he dared not rub them.

"See this hand, soldier?" the general queried. He held the side of his hand-fingers extended crisply-against his huge bobbing Adam's apple. "Yes, sir!"

"This hand is shit and you're this deep in it." Roote didn't know what else to say.

"Yes, sir!" The general lowered his hand to his chest.

"What would you do to be only this deep, soldier?" he asked slyly. The hand strayed down to his broad paunch. "Or this deep?"

Roote blinked. He wasn't certain what to say, but he dared not remain silent. "Sir?" he asked, confused.

The general sighed impatiently. "I'm offering you a choice, son," he said. "A choice you probably don't deserve, from what I've heard about your extracurricular activities. How'd you like me to reach over and yank you right out of that neckdeep pile of shit, soldier?"

Roote hesitated only a second. The general could be pulling his leg, but what did he have to lose?

"Yes, sir!" The words echoed up the dank cinder-block hallway of the dingy military prison. General Delbert Xavier Chesterfield smiled broadly.

"I had an inkling you might say that," he said proudly.

I HAD AN INKLING you might say that.

General Chesterfield's voice echoed in the dark recesses of Roote's mind, mingling with the other voices.

He'd been so damned smug. He knew Private Roote had no other choice. It was either join or hang.

There were times during the ensuing months when Roote wished he had allowed the authorities to prosecute him. The pain was sometimes more intense than he could bear. And then, when the surgeries were all over and the scientists had created their miracle, Roote had stepped over the line once more.

She was just a nurse. No big deal. They were a dime a dozen. And it wasn't like his keepers couldn't cover up his crime as they'd done with the others. But Roote had been stupid. He realized too late that he was merely the prototype, and the scientists could repeat the procedure with others. A rational man might have known that he had become expendable. For Roote, however, that revelation came as a surprise.

After the nurse's charred body had been found, his food was drugged. When he awoke, Roote was trapped in the box.

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