Last Rites by John Lavernoich

Based upon and inspired by the television episode Night Of The Winged Terror written by Ken Pettus

The Wild Wild West created by Michael Garrison

His plan was perfect, befitting his exceptional intelligence – and one that would have brought him unlimited power and wealth, as well as change the course of history, not just in the United States and Mexico, but throughout the rest of the world of the 19th Century. It was a plan that was carefully thought out over the course of several years – and with a 100% chance of total success. And for a time, it looked like that prediction might actually become a reality.

But only a few days before, the plan started to fall apart – in ways that its originator didn't count on. Even brainwashing a certain lawman who would help permanently wreck those plans would prove to be a serious mistake – mostly because the criminal mastermind underestimated his adversary, much like a venomous snake fatally underestimates a mongoose. In the end, the criminal mastermind's plan was in ruins – much like his underground headquarters and the equipment used in his plan, which were destroyed in an explosion. Unlike his cohorts who would be brought to justice and eventually be sent to prison for their crimes, the criminal mastermind escaped – much to the chagrin of the lawman and his colleague who were, for the most part, victorious.

Though his plan fell apart, the criminal mastermind behind it was still free – where he would strike next was a question nobody could answer. But then, the same could be said of other criminals obsessed with world domination – with the depth of their madness remaining a complete mystery, leaving it up to both historians and psychologists to attempt to uncover and make sense of both the truths and myths it in the coming centuries.

It was a hot and clear spring morning in the southwestern portion of the United States in the year 1875 – an area with more than its share of perils, and not just from the blistering temperatures and lack of water that could kill anyone who ventured into the desert over a certain period of time. There were other dangers existing in the desert – including rattlesnakes and scorpions – who could strike any human being who provoked them at any given moment, a reminder of how the law of survival had largely remained unchanged for centuries.

Within seconds, there was a cawing sound that was at best faint. But soon, the sound became larger, signifying that a bird was flying in the sky above the desert – like a vulture or condor seeking the rotting corpse of a dead person lying on the sand. Except that there was no one – dead or alive – in this area on that morning. The bird that flew in the sky was neither a vulture or condor – but a black raven, who was no less a symbol of terror than other birds of prey. The raven set its sight on a number of rock formations that rested atop a nearby hill several miles away – flapping its feathered wings, the raven flew towards its destination.

Once there, the raven landed on the sand behind one of the rock formations, hidden from those who might discover – and perhaps hunt down the bird. Within a minute, the raven underwent a metamorphosis that might have been seen by only a few in the past, as it grew and morphed itself from a feathered bird – to a tall man in his twenties who wore a tan-colored dress suit that was typical of the period. But he was not like most human beings – he had an abnormally large head that instantly made him an outcast of society. Inside the skull of his head was a brain that was almost the same size – and which accounted for his above-average intelligence. His name was Tycho – and the fact that he was considered a freak of nature by almost the entire world might have been one reason why he formed the crime cartel called Raven, named after the black bird of the same name, and which was dedicated to ruling the world through terror, violence, and subversion. It was the raven that played a key role in Tycho's plan to discredit a number of prominent figures – including politicians and lawmen – from both the United States and Mexico, by brainwashing them into committing criminal acts that would demoralize the two countries, and make it easier for the Raven organization to conquer them; once that happened, Raven would set its sights on the rest of the world. But Tycho's criminal plot soon fell apart – thanks mainly to the efforts of U.S. Secret Service agent James West and his temporary partner Frank Harper, who captured and brought Tycho's colleagues to justice. Tycho, however, escaped justice by changing himself into a raven and flying away – giving both West and Harper cause for concern.

Tycho was still trying to figure out how his criminal plot fell apart, despite the careful planning that went into it – but his confused thoughts paled in comparison to what he was about to face in the next few minutes.

"Tycho," said a mysterious voice coming from nowhere.

"Who is …?", said Tycho, realizing that he wasn't alone right now.

"Who I am isn't as important as why I'm here."

"I don't know what you're …!"

"I'm here on behalf of your creator – who's mad as hell as a result of you failing big-time!"

"Do you know who I am?"

"Yeah – a creation of Dr. L, who planted into your brain the false idea that you were an advanced form of man with a fake origin, unaware that you were created in his scientific lab. And without some of Dr. L's genetic makeup, you wouldn't exist!"

"Y-Y-You don't know what you're talking about!"

"And let's not forget that Dr. L took the proper steps necessary to keep you from learning the real truth about yourself – as well as the fact that he secretly financed your criminal organization. Not even your pals in Raven knew about Dr. L's secret involvement in your little organization!"

"A-A-Are you trying to confuse me? If you are …!"

"Your pals from Raven can't help you now – they're already behind bars. Besides, it's time for me to follow Dr. L's directive, namely by gunning you down in cold blood!"

"Don't shoot me – I'm not to …!"

"I ain't convinced – and neither is Dr. L, who'd handle this himself if it weren't for the fact that he's a very sick man, and especially after a certain Secret Service agent foiled his last caper!" Suddenly, Tycho heard a gun cock – an ominous sign that he had outlived his usefulness.

"Please don't kill me – I can be of service to …!", said Tycho

"Yeah – only to have West track down and arrest Dr. L, who isn't about to let that happen, now or ever!", said the mysterious figure - in reality, a spy working for Dr. L - who then pointed his gun directly at Tycho, who realized that he was doomed unless he saved himself and quickly. But before Tycho considered changing himself into a raven to avoid getting shot, his assassin fired his gun several times, as several bullets from the weapon's barrel hit the criminal mastermind directly in the chest. Within seconds, Tycho keeled over and fell down on the desert sand, as he died from his gunshot wounds.

Soon, Tycho's killer – a tall, muscular man clad completely in black and wearing a black hood that covered his entire head – approached the now-dead victim, then picked him up and carried him on his right should, as he walked away from the rock formations, leaving behind several blood stains on the desert sand that, over time, would completely disappear. By day's end, Tycho's corpse disappeared from the face of the earth forever – whatever happened to it would remain a mystery. It was just as well, given the fact that Tycho nearly brought two countries to their knees, and a reminder of what happens when intelligence without decency and wisdom can become destructive – and ultimately, pointless.

As for Tycho's killer, having accomplished his mission – he returned to the mysterious Dr. L, who was still dreaming up schemes against a world that deemed him a madman. And yet, he would never realize them – his past defeats were already taking a toll on his physical health. Within several years, Dr. L was dead, the final victim of his own delusions of grandeur that warped a brilliant mind that would have helped mankind – and ultimately destroyed him. Dr. L, like Tycho, was hardly mourned by a world which hoped that someday, tyranny would become permanently extinct.

Dedicated to the memory of Joe Simon

The characters mentioned in this story are the respective trademarks and properties of CBS Studios ©2012