The Protector stood again at the apex of the Circle. He looked into the face of each member and spoke solemnly.
We have been through the first of tests. The evil forces of Sauron have been alerted to our existence. Their agent by whom we were attacked has been discovered. Our message is clear to all that understand it. The Circle has risen once again. This time we will prevail. The forces of evil have grown strong in number, but they are weak in spirit. The sheer over-confidence of their number makes them lax and careless. Now is the time to strike!
The Protector took the Hand of God out of its concealed holster and raised it toward the sky. Each member did likewise with their copy of the Hand.
Brothers and sisters, we are about to embark on a mission that will change our world. Your training is complete. Now the time has come for you to use that training to save our world and mankind from its own evil. We will begin by ripping away the mask from the Saviors of Man. They will be exposed for what they really are, servants of Sauron. Any resistance by them will be met with the power of the Hand. May the God within you protect and guide you. Go now and return here when your mission is fulfilled.
With that the Protector replaced the Hand in its hiding place under his clothes and the others did the same. They quickly formed teams of three and moved silently out into the night. The Circle of God now empowered, knew by instinct the right direction and course to take in order to confront the secret enemy; the tools of Sauron. The Saviors of Man.
Slater could not understand why Pythos seemed so upset. He had always followed instructions to the best of his ability. He had been rewarded for his efforts and loyalty many times. His recent debauchery was an example of his success. With that in mind he left his flat and headed towards the Cathedral of Man. Home to Pythos and the important briefing he knew he was about to get. He barely noticed the two men and one woman walking parallel to him across the street. They seemed in a hurry to get where they were going. Slater still paid them no mind when they crossed the intersection towards him as he turned down the street leading to the back the Cathedral.
There hidden out of sight was the secret and private entrance to the private quarters of Pythos. Very few living people new about this entrance. Those who had built it and those who came across it by chance…all suffered deadly accidents or disappeared with no trace. It was only after Slater had the entrance in sight did he begin to think he was being followed. He was too preoccupied though to suspect what was fixing to happen. He only wanted to get to the secret protected door before he could be overtaken. As he reached the threshold of what was the door, even though it looked like a bare wall, he felt something touch his arm. He whirled around expecting to see someone in range of his weapon. No one was there, or where they?
The woman Slide stood next to Slater barely breathing. She had moved too close and the field of the Cloak had touched him. At his startled motion Slide had frozen just far enough away so that she could follow him in perfect step and not set off any of the doors sensors. She cautiously moved her fingers lightly on the Hand she carried. Barring success on entering the door Slide could nevertheless remove Pythos’s closest henchman and assassin. Fortunately Slater was nervous and in hurry. He quickly executed the secret patterns over the face of the hidden door.
Without expecting it Slide saw Slater begin to practically walk through the wall in front of them as if it where air. Slide barely recovered from her astonishment in time to take her place behind Slater. She suddenly found herself in a dimly lit hallway. Instantly the wall behind her seemed to go solid with a featureless gray surface. The other walls and ceiling had the same dull surface. It now became obvious why no one had ever found the secret door and lived to tell the story. It was an armed holographic projection with a myriad of sensors. Slide was the first person to do what she just accomplished. Now she wondered if she would live to tell her experience. Her brothers and sisters of the Circle where outside close at hand, but she knew that they could not help her if something went wrong and it had. The door was a complete surprise to all.
Hammer and Trigger watched in awe as Slater stepped through the wall. They could not tell if Slide had managed to enter without harm. They suspected there were probably hidden sensors around the hidden entrance that would detect them without a Cloak. They dared not approach or make any sound. They had to hope for the best that she had made it inside safely. Hammer sent a mental signal to the others that Slater had entered the building. They could not however send any assurances that their sister had made it in safely with him. So the Circle waited patiently, their minds linked for the signal from Slide that the Hand had delivered the first major blow against the Servants of Sauron.
Pythos watched Slater approach on his monitor with some apprehension. Somehow how he felt extremely uncomfortable with this meeting. He could not put his finger on it but something was bothering his well-honed senses. Something familiar? What was it? Just then the alert signal softly sounded from his monitor telling him someone was at the door to his private quarters. The monitor immediately presented the face of Slater, perplexed and furtive. Pythos let him in by entering the appropriate code on the keyboard of the terminal and turned to meet his chief lackey.
As soon as Slater entered the room, Pythos had the sudden urge to draw his weapon. Something was wrong, his senses were screaming at him, yet he could not detect what was the problem. Slater was not armed. He had been scanned by the Sentinel outside Pythos’s quarters and his weapon removed. Otherwise Slater could not have passed the threshold without being destroyed. Keeping a straight face but still cautious, Pythos invited Slater to sit down. Pythos tried to hide his discomfort and at the same time make Slater feel at ease. The discomfort grew.
“So Slater what have you heard lately?”
Pythos watched every muscle as Slater responded.
“What do you mean?” He replied.
“I mean what is the word on the street, in the alleyways, the sewer, whatever.”
Slater was sure something was wrong with Pythos. He was being too cautious. Even his shallow mind could detect the caution in Pythos’s voice and bearing. He made sure his reply was just as cautious.
“I have heard some rumors and they are only rumors mind you, that the Circle is formed and the Hand of God has struck.”
Pythos tried to show no emotion or heightened interest before answering.
“So I have heard also. Do you know anyone involved?”
Suddenly Slater saw the death look come over Pythos’s face. Every time he had seen it before someone had perished under its terrible gaze. That look was now directed at him. He panicked!
“What are you saying? That I have some involvement with the Circle? Is that it?”
Pythos suddenly realized that Slater was telling the truth, but he still felt uncomfortable.
“I have news from headquarters.” He said flatly. “That one of our lesser fumbling agents has had the misfortune to come into close contact with the Circle and has paid the consequence.”
Slater looked at his boss with some relief yet he still did not understand where this conversation was going.
“If you want me too, I can make some discreet inquiries.” Slater looked hopeful.
“That wont be necessary. You will only stir up public suspicion and gossip. We will deal with this problem quickly and quietly to quash the possibility of hysteria and panic.” Pythos took a breath, watched Slater’s reaction and began again.
“I’m sure you know what that means and headquarters has given strict orders to that end.”
Pythos’s eyes bored into Slater like two mind probes. Slater could not resist. He too, felt uneasy and felt something awesome was fixing to happen.
Slide listened intently her photographic memory recording all that she saw and heard in the room along with the backup device she had hidden under the Cloak. She waited patiently as Pythos relayed the instructions to Slater from Sauron’s headquarters and handed him a data device. She then activated her signaling tracker module. Outside the Cathedral the Circle rose as one and approached.
Pythos was suddenly seized with panic. Alarms were going off in his head and on the console to the side of him. He reached for his weapon and aimed at a stunned Slater. A brilliant flash suddenly stabbed from behind Slater and a small hole appeared in the center of Pythos’s forehead. His body slammed against the far wall of the room. Slater wheeled around to see what appeared to be the most beautiful angelic woman he had ever seen standing behind the chair. A slight smile was on her face, holding the Hand of God. The Hand flashed once again and that was the last thing Slater ever saw. He suffered the fate of his boss, slammed to the floor, blood streaming from a small hole between his eyes.
Slide quickly moved to Pythos’s terminal activated the code that opened the door and deactivated the security Sentinel. Several members of the Circle entered and began quickly going over the room. Slide then set about accessing Pythos’s database and began extracting all his records. The last members of the Circle leisurely entered the room knowing already through the mind link what had transpired. Once they had entered the Cathedral interior they had been able to link-up with Slide. Her eyes and ears were their eyes and ears.
Hammer and Trigger entered last. They carefully recorded the scene and nodded approvingly to Slide. She had just finished downloading the last of Pythos’s files when the Protector finally appeared in the doorway. He surveyed the scene with pride and satisfaction at the Circles first major victory. He was also a little sad that such violence was necessary to accomplish their mission, although he knew there was no other way. They were ready to face to their mortal enemy and the enemy of mankind, the Devil incarnate, the beast, Sauron of the Night.
The following day the hypers and pundits made much to do over the murders of Pythos and Slater. Evidence was found that tied the Saviors of Man to some shady dealings and some dubious criminals. The deaths while although being officially investigated, were privately being dismissed as the result of their corruption and evil associations. It was no surprise when it was revealed that most of the church leadership had gone into hiding. The remaining members quickly denounced the church as charlatans. They claimed that the spiritual void in their lives left them open to being mislead and beguiled by the church leaders now in hiding. They proclaimed their innocence petulantly to the media hypers. The first maneuver against Sauron by the Circle of God was a smashing success.
Upon receipt of this news the Protector called another secret meeting of the Circle. The first to arrive was Frame, Mag, and Sight, they greeted the Protector and assumed marked seats at the circular table. Next came Sear, Barrel, and Spring, they also greeted the Protector, the others at the table and assumed their seats. After a few moments Pin, Bolt, and Selector entered the room and quickly they were seated too. They were followed lastly by Slide, Hammer. and Trigger. Side was still wearing the Cloak as a badge of honor for her direct role in the destruction of Pythos, Slater, and the Saviors of Man. These last three filled the last of the thirteen seats around the table. All in attendance were glowing with the exhilaration of their first success, especially the new members. They were arranged clockwise around the table in the order of the assembly of the Hand of God, starting and ending with the Protector. Barrel, Slide, Frame, Sear, Trigger, Selector, Hammer, Pin, Bolt, Spring, Sight and Mag.
They all wore the symbol of their position openly around their necks, which they normally concealed from Sauron’s spies. If they happened to expose their symbols to anyone, very few people would know what they meant or who the people wearing them really were. Weapons of any kind had been declared illegal long ago and confiscated by Sauron’s puppet government bureaucrats. Such parts would be rare and unrecognizable to the general public.
The Protector now addressed the group and praised them individually for their contributions to the successful mission in the Cathedral against the Saviors of Man. He then began laying the plans for the next and hopefully, final assault on Sauron and his minions.