ALP 246 (Acidic Liquid Plasma) is a top-secret military experiment involving a brand new and unprecedented weapon designed for use on the battlefield. It involves breaking down an extremely rare chemical element (Idiomstone, which has only ever been found in one location on earth) and creating an explosion-like effect without the obvious factors: fire, sound, shrapnel, and percussion. It also contains the benefit of disabling all electronic components within a half-mile radius for over twenty minutes. By breaking down this specific element through nitration, one is able to create a force that literally and physically destroys nearby space like a phantom bomb. Nothing is heard, seen or known. Things within the vicinity of the weapon, simply... vanish.
It was 2:31 A.M. when Andros Varlander drove down Stiffler Street in a stolen Honda Accord. His gloved hands, gripping the wheel at three and seven, controlled the vehicle carefully, cautiously. He could not afford getting pulled over by any nocturnal police. He was already a wanted man, situated in a hot car, with bad intentions on his mind. He had a plan, a goal, an objective. As always. As always. But you could only plan so much. Planning took the fun out of crime; then again, not enough planning put you behind bars. He had to be extra careful about this one. This wasn't going to be the usual burglary or theft; this was going to be grand larceny... not to mention the stolen car.
It didn't matter. Andros was almost there, and had not seen any vehicles on the road so far. Robbing the local bank here, in Billonsburg, shouldn't be too difficult, even if that meant the police station being four blocks away. He'd be long gone before they had any idea. By tomorrow he would be in some other town, sleeping in a hotel bed with hundreds of Benjamin Franklins, Ulysses S. Grants, and Andrew Jacksons sprawled out around him.
Andros parked the Accord in the vacant lot behind Citibank. Once his right hand turned the key and killed the ignition, he ducked down as far as he could. Spotted! Spotted! Spotted! I've been spotted! When things were very dark, noticing a sudden increase in brightness was quite easy. And when you've been a practicing thief all your life and wanted to go unnoticed at all costs, noticing any possible snitch was child's play.
A light burned to life in the upper window of a nearby duplex. Andros caught sight of it in the reflection of the rear-view mirror. Bent over but looking up, he watched as the light dimmed slightly, then watched as a human shadow approached, pulled back a curtain, and peered out the window to see what was going on.
Please don't see me. Please don't see me. Please don't see me!
Even if the person did see him, they probably wouldn't think anything of it. How would they know he was about to rob a bank? They wouldn't, unless they were clairvoyant. But paranoia was the name of the game when it came to burglary. Any witness of any kind was an occupational hazard. Period.
Andros waited for the shadow to move away from the window. Soon enough, it did. The light within went off as well.
Andros gingerly popped open his door. Dressed from head to toe in plain black clothes—which fit so tightly they accentuated his muscles—he stepped from the Accord, breathing steam. It was wintertime in Pennsylvania, one of the coldest on record. Right now, the temperature sign indicated it was a meager four degrees. The persistent wind gusts made it felt more like a hundred below. Cold, dreary, and miserable. All the more reason to get rich, move to a warm island, and relax for the next sixty years.
Before nudging the door closed, the burglar grabbed an empty duffel bag and a strange metal contraption off the passenger-side seat. The contraption was two feet long, unusually symmetrical, and cone-shaped—not much different than a dunce hat—with a small handle attached to its smooth, polished side. Besides the handle, it looked like one thick, solid piece of titanium. Neat and shiny. Whatever it was made of, it didn't look like it belonged here, in these criminal hands.
Andros turned from side to side to side to side. The only movement in sight was a stray newspaper being carried away by the howling wind. The streets were void of all signs of life, just as expected. A ghost town. Nobody would come to arrest him. The money in that vault was his for the taking.
After glancing back up at the window one last time—and finding the light within still extinguished—Andros went to work. He waddled his obtusely-muscular form awkwardly up the sidewalk, the duffel bag clutched in one hand and the metal cone in the other. Of course, he didn't really walk this way. He didn't really have these large, bulging muscles. He walked this way to fool any potential onlookers or cameras. He faked being muscular to trick anyone from recognizing his true form. As a master thief—as any thief—you could never be too careful. Hidden beneath his clothes was a muscle man costume, the same one most novelty stores sold during the Halloween season. It gave him a colossus build any bodybuilder would be jealous of.
The cold chill of the wind brushed past his dry, pale face. The nearby street lamps lit him accordingly: like a villain. Very contrasty. He tried to ignore the frigid air and push forward. He hurried alongside the bank he was determined to rob, grinning smugly. No one is going to stop me now—
Just when he thought that, the low hum of an approaching engine struck his ears. Thanks to the fireworks accident he'd had as a child—the same accident that'd left the nasty burn scar on his right hand—his hearing was extra sensitive. Superhuman, almost. That was good, though. The more alert he was, the better.
Andros stopped and turned. The metal cone bobbled in his hand, briefly reflecting a sharp, triangular prism of street lamp light. His eyes narrowed.
The motor grew louder, a rumbling, clanging upchuck of an engine on its last wheels of life. Two headlight beams came into existence from around the corner of Peterson's Lumber Company back up the road... still some sixty yards away. Andros had plenty of time to find a place to hide if the vehicle turned down this street or not.
Hopefully not. That would make things much easier. Go straight, dammit!
His wish was granted. The pick-up truck went straight by, bypassing Barker Street completely. Silence again ruled Billonsburg. Not even the wind made so much as another sigh.
Andros made his way to the front of the bank and faced it from the sidewalk. The building towered over him, but he looked ready to conquer it. Eight lower-cased letters, which spelled out the word “citibank”, were aglow, appearing to blend into the building itself. The window panels gave view to a dark, impenetrable interior. The door, locked securely from any intruder, wouldn't be able to keep this intruder out, as far as Andros was concerned. He had a key nobody else in the world had. The metal cone in his hand could break down any barrier.
"Time to claim my prize," Andros muttered.
He walked over to the corner of the building and set the metal contraption on the ground, flat side down, pointy side up. Andros knew where the vault was inside, and it was close to the right side of the building. He also knew that there had been a deposit made today. Whether or not the metal cone would obliterate enough of the vault to gain access to the dough, was left up to question.
Andros felt high. Not high on drugs but on adrenaline. Thrill. Excitement. This would be his largest payday ever. All those years of breaking and entering and stealing jewelry for chump change would be surpassed by this burglary. He was finally in the big leagues.
Andros shut his eyes. Euphoria swam through his veins. His heart slammed against his chest. His mind became blank, yet stimulated. The moment had come, and it belonged to Andros.
He reached down, grabbed the tip of the metal cone, and turned the small, hard-to-see switch. Immediately, the cone made a faint ticking sound, as if an internal mechanism had been set into motion. Andros was set into motion himself. He turned and ran away from the ticking device as if it were a bomb. He ran down the length of Barker Street, skidded to a stop beside Harry's Pharmacy, turned back around, and watched. He watched his metal baby with tears in his eyes. He waited. He hoped.
The cone ticked louder, louder still.
"Come on. Come on, do it!"
A bloodhound barked loudly in the distance, startling him, making him think he'd been caught. Never, at any point, did his sight stray from the approaching cataclysm, the silent destruction.
Jesus, please don't be a dud.
The cone stopped ticking. Then it suddenly vanished, along with a chunk of pavement, sidewalk, Citibank, a bench, two lampposts, and a garbage can. Everything within a thirty foot radius of the metal cone disintegrated. There was no loud noise, no shrapnel, no smoke, and no flash. The only change, besides the sudden elimination of things, was a failure in any and all nearby electrical equipment. Street lights went out, cell phones stopped working, TVs shut off. For two city blocks, everyone lost power—including Citibank's video cameras and alarm system.
The downtown district had been reduced to a pitch-black Limbo wasteland. The only source of illumination here: moonlight.
He could no longer take his time anymore. He had to get in, get out, and vanish, too.
Andros yanked a large glow stick from his pocket, broke it open, and brought some light to Barker Street. As Andros darted back toward the scene of devastation, Teacher Frank Dorson, who had been up late grading papers when the electricity in his apartment went out, glanced out his window from Mallen Hill.
Blackness had engulfed town, and, boy, did it make things look eerie. What made it eerier was the long, green glowing stick swaying across Barker Street at high speed. It took him a while to realize it was a glow stick, and that the person carrying it was headed straight toward the bank. Red flags sprang in his mind. He went to call the police, but found his cell phone unable to power on.
So he put on his coat—after fumbling in the dark—and left to walk to the police station, just a block away.
Andros reached ground zero. A chest-deep, thirty-foot-wide crater indented the Barker Street sidewalk and some of the road. One fat, ribbed sewer pipe stretched from one edge of the crater to the other, where it continued to transport its waste. The right-hand side of Citibank's partition window, along with a chunk of the building, was half in tact and half gone, the large breach between them shaped like a cone. Rebar jutted from many of the breaks in the structure.
Andros jumped down into the crater, unknowingly squashing a worm with his heel, and made his way through the breach. Just like that, he made it inside. Access: granted.
He lifted the green glow stick overhead and instantly looked like an angel being bombarded by holy light. Silence ruled the large, empty room. Security cameras from many different positions watched him but captured nothing. Bank forms poked from pad racks. Red velvet rope looked purple under the green omnipresent glow of the light. Lastly, but certainly not least, was Andros' reason for being here: the vault. The door to it remained closed, but the actions of the cone had bypassed that. The whole left side of that huge, steel, money-bearing beast was gone, obliterated, open to him, for him.
Andros lowered his glow stick and instantly looked like a demon lit from the fiery depths of Hell. Quickly, mind racing, he marched over to the vault, through the trench embedded into the floor, and toward his newly-found riches. Money. There was stacks of money resting on the small metal shelf, just waiting to be stolen, waiting to be spent. Andros wasted no time. He wedged his way in through the breach in the vault, opened his duffel bag, and stuffed it with wad of cash after wad of cash after wad of cash. He filled it until the bag was heavy. He filled it until the small shelf contained nothing at all. Every time he tossed money into the sack, he felt a little more relieved. Some of the relief left, though, when he heard the police sirens. Two of them. Coming toward Citibank.
Andros had to hurry.
He turned around, his only source of illumination now dying fast. He darted back the way he came, through the vault, through the trench in the floor, and out the first breach in the building. His head swung left. He saw nothing. His head swung right. He saw police car beacons in the distance, probably two blocks away, maybe more. What he failed to see was Frank. The man was standing in the shadows on Larken Street, watching the bank heist unfold. He couldn't believe the destruction this muscle man had caused. How had he done it? What had he done it with? Where did he get it?
Frank was no mindless hero; he didn't know if the burglar had gun. He was not about to chance his life taking down a criminal of this stature. Juvenile delinquents, maybe. Not this. Instead, he let him get away.
That's exactly what Andros did. Frank watched him do it. The muscle man in the dark, casual clothes darted down an alley, lifted a sewer grate cover, and climbed down the opening. After setting the cover back into place, he removed a bungee cord from his pocket, hooked one end of it to the sewer grate, pulled, and connected the other end onto one of the lower rungs. This way, if the cops did pursue—given they magically knew where he went—they could not follow.
And like that, Andros Varlander escaped the law, now a wealthy man.
Want to buy the book? Go right here: Silent Destruction