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“Unbelievable as it may sound, some bioethicists…explicitly endorse engineering animal DNA into human embryos as one method of producing the ‘post-human’ race.”

“The Transhumanists,” National Review, 9-21-02

Swift watched from above them as agents Blair and Whitestone sat in the HT Mobile Unit van across the road from Mt. Hood Evangelical Seminary listening to Dr. Jones and his fantastic speculations. The highly sensitive equipment inside their van was simultaneously monitoring every sound inside the school.

“Just look at the size of these fingers.…” the agents heard Jones say. He had been talking about Old Testament giants and marveling at a large arm. The beast’s hand was evidently gnarled and angry looking, terrifying in its savage qualities. Its razor-sharp claws rooted deep inside its horrendous digits, while decaying muscles, twisted and tortured, revealed the chimera’s design for magnificent strength.

“If something like this got hold of a man…well, he just wouldn’t have a chance! No wonder the Israelites were paralyzed at the sight of Goliath!”

“You really think this could be a what-you-call-it…a Nephilim?” Joe responded from somewhere near Jones.

It sounded like Jones choked, then, “Ughmmm…ahh…excuse me. Well, certainly…I mean…this arm, combined with your Martian artifact…yeah, it could represent the unfolding of biblical prophecy.”

“Couldn’t it simply be an unknown primate? A sasquatch?”

“That would make it the zoological discovery of a lifetime, but of course. Either way, it might explain the so-called Big Foot sightings we’ve had in the Northwest.”

As Swift watched Blair, the agent whispered to Whitestone, “Have you ever heard such bunk? These guys haven’t got a clue what they’re dealing with.”

Whitestone snickered and rolled his eyes, whistling a descending melody.

Now they heard Jones making a request. “You’ll let me send this to PCD Imaging, won’t you? That’s the lab where the analysis of your image was done.”

“I will, because there’s more where that came from…and I plan to get it…the skeleton, that is,” Joe agreed.

There was a scuffling noise, then Joe added, “For now I need my dad’s image. I’m taking it to see Dave.”

Whitestone raised a finger to his lips, “Shhh…this might be what we’ve been waiting for.”

“No worry,” Jones said. “Here it is, and here’s a copy of Nathan Reel’s report too. I kept a copy for my records.…”

Whitestone glanced at Blair, then griped his handset and shouted into it, “GO, ALL TEAMS! GO, ALL TEAMS!”

Fifty men in camouflage BDUs immediately began cascading around Secure-It’s steel buildings, their clothing swooshing and their boots clomp, clomp, clomping as they moved over the road toward the seminary’s parking lot. Five squad leaders, tense with anticipation, came through the ditch onto the pavement first. They made quick hand gestures toward the other soldiers, sending Alpha team behind automobiles onto the main parking area while Bravo team positioned near the north and rear of the building. Charlie team took the larger south-side area while Echo and Fox assumed primary assault stations with plans to enter the facility through the front and rear doors.

Gracefully, Swift unfolded his broad wings and descended from the school’s roof, lighting at the main entrance. Considering the soldiers, he decided whom he would allow inside, then prompted them.

“On my command,” Whitestone whispered into the radio. “Wait until everyone’s in position.…”

One by one the squad leaders checked in until Whitestone, sounding solemn, ordered, “All right…let’s do this thing.”

Swift’s lightning-quick movements had earned him his unusual name, and today would be no different. He spun from his position, then shot like an invisible tornado through the building, jetting past humans and passing through walls until he arrived at the rear emergency door.

Just as he calculated, he was right on time.


A utilities expert popped the lock bar off the emergency exit and pushed the rear door open from the outside. Swift slammed it in his face and held it there.

The soldier, jerking his fingers away, cursed in surprise.


Each member of Fox team pointed his weapon at the rear door. It wouldn’t matter. Nobody was coming through that room for a while. Swift had filled it with desks and furniture, floor to ceiling, wall to wall.

In an explosion of energy Swift reappeared at the front of the school. Three soldiers were in the foyer now, and two more were entering the doorway. He gazed into their souls. All were the good men he’d prompted, just soldiers doing their job. He stepped beyond them through the wall and stared down the hallway. Jones was sticking his head through the dining room doorway a little ways away. “What’s going on out there?” he yelled. “You drop something, Sheri? You okay?”

The morning sun, shining through the windows, cast the unfamiliar shadows of the soldiers along the lobby. Swift made sure Jones saw them.

“Hello?” Jones said with concern. “Somebody there?”

Three doors down, Sheri bolted from the office into the corridor. “Did you hear that!? Sounded like the building was falling down!”

Jones stared past her. A rifle barrel was retracting behind the curvature of the wall.

“Sheri, come here, girl,” he said calmly.

She took a step forward, heard something at the end of the hallway, and started to turn around.

“Keep coming,” Jones said firmly.

Now Joe was at the dining room door with the giant arm on his sholder. It was wrapped in the blanket again. Before he could speak, Jones placed a hand over his mouth and motioned with his finger for the two of them to follow him. He turned and walked away from the intruders, down and around the corner toward the rear of the building where the emergency exit was.

A second later the front lobby filled with scuffling. Someone was shouting. There was dashing, doors slamming, sounds of hurrying.

Swift prompted Jones to pick up the pace and momentarily they arrived at the exit room. Jones pulled the door open and looked inside. He was stunned at the amount of furniture stuffed into it from nearby classrooms, wall to wall, floor to ceiling.

“What in the…” he blurted.

“What’s the deal?” Sheri interrupted.

“I’ve absolutely no idea,” Jones replied under his breath.




At Montero, Apol Leon plowed through his office and grabbed the command center’s microphone. “Whitestone! Let’sss have it! Do I have my item or don’t I!?” Apol knew Whitestone was terrified of him, especially when he spoke with that gruff reptilian modulation.

He heard Whitestone say, “N-not yet, sir…but…but…we’re very close…we’re closing in on it now, sir.”

“What do you mean you’re closing in on it? Do you know where it is or don’t you?”

“No, sir…I mean, yes, sir, I do… I mean…we’ll have the item any second now, sir.”

“You will if you know whatsss good for you,” Apol seethed. “And I want those idiot kids, especially the girl! I have ssspecial plans for her. And dispose of that useless doctor of theology! You understand, Whitestone!?”

There was silence, then, sounding confused, Whitestone said, “S-say again, sir? You w-want me to leave the boy and the professor alone?”

Apol stiffened. His eyes drew down to a razor’s edge. “Are you senile, Whitessstone!? I sssaid terminate the doctor and bring me those kids! Kill him, and bring Joe and Sheri to me! Understand!?”

On the other end of the line what Whitestone heard was, “Are you senile, Whitessstone!? I sssaid leave the boy and the doctor alone! Bring me the girl and the item! Understand!?”

Justice was sitting next to Whitestone in the van, changing the words as they came through the speaker.

“Y-yes, sir! I understand! I wouldn’t dare question your authority, sir, never…and…I apologize if I sounded disrespectful, sir, ” the agent stammered.

“Shut up, imbecile!” Apol snapped. “I don’t need your apology! Repentance is for women and cowards! Do as I sssay and you will be blesssed. Fail me, and even the goddesss will be unable to help you!”

“Yes, sir, I understand perfectly, sir. I will not fail you,” Whitestone cried in response.


As the angels watched, they saw Jones contemplating his options when he remembered the school’s library. The room had once been used as a girl’s dorm, and a collapsible fire-escape ladder existed just outside the west window.

Simultaneously, in the HT Mobile Unit, Whitestone was surprised again, this time by his own voice sputtering over the radio. “Sergeant Jacobs,” a voice that sounded just like his said. “Move your team to the front of the building!”

The real Whitestone shouted, “What!?” and keyed his handset. “Jacobs! Delay that order!”

Yet his radio seemed to have a mind of its own.

Near the west side of the building, Jacobs responded, “ Yes, sir. We’re moving out.” The sergeant motioned with his hand, and Fox team fell into position, rapidly moving east. As the soldiers headed away from the library and disappeared around the side of the building, Jones entered the room and ran to the windows above where Fox team had just been. Jones peeked through the mini-blinds and found the parking area clear. He slid the window open near the escape and motioned for Joe and Sheri to climb outside. “Be very quiet,” he whispered as they stepped onto the aging scaffolding. He followed, gently closing the glass behind them.

He put his finger to his lips to emphasize stealth, then gently tested the ladder’s spring-loaded mechanism. The old escape had never been used, but the seminary’s staff was trained to operate it in an emergency. The contraption’s springs creaked like an amplified box springs mattress.

Jones froze and looked at Joe. “No way this is going to be quiet. I’ll let it down as gently as I can, but if somebody comes, you kids jump on it and run for your lives. Go that way,” he said, pointing to the end of the parking lot. “There’s a steep hill back there and it’s a long way to the bottom, so be careful. Once you’re at the base you’ve got a clear shot to Damascus. Just keep running that way, got it?”

“Yeah,” Joe said, sounding impatient. “Let’s get going.”

Jones tightened his ironlike grip on the collapsible ladder and pushed down hard. It sounded like a ship’s hull being ripped by an iceberg. It was certain to give their location away, Jones thought. Of course, he couldn’t see Perfect Love’s enormous wings wrapped like draperies around the trio, absorbing the clattery sound.



Across the road Justice flew up and out of the HT Mobile unit with an explosive surge of energy, etching the midmorning sky with luminous ribbons of light. The ground beneath him passed with the haste of an electron as he materialized beside Swift in the middle of the complex. “It’s time,” he said, and the two of them shot upward and banked right toward the front of the seminary.



As the fire ladder touched the ground, Sheri stepped around and out onto it. She didn’t waste any time moving briskly rung by rung down the rusty device to the bottom. Joe, equally agile, adjusted the large arm on his shoulder and followed her. Jones came next, and soon the three of them were running across the asphalt toward the hillside.

Leaping over the shrubbery at the edge of the driveway, Joe and Jones were safely at the bottom of the embankment within seconds—one hundred twelve feet away.

Sheri wasn’t with them. She had turned to see if they were being followed and caught sight of something resembling the Martian artifact on the ground near the escape ladder.


Joe saw Sheri at the top of the hill. Before he could ask what she was doing, she cupped her hands and hollered over the bank, “Joe! Do you still have the image!?”

Checking his coat pocket, he discovered it was gone. It must have hit a rung and fell out during the climb down. The rotten thing had brought him nothing but trouble anyway. Maybe losing it was fate. “No! But leave it, Sheri. Let’s go!”

Her hardheaded response didn’t surprise him.

“Wait…I can get it…hang on…” she said as she turned and disappeared from view.

“No, Sheri! Come here now, or so help me you’ll get what you deserve,” Joe yelled. Immediately he regretted the statement. It was a bad habit, telling her she’d get what she deserved. He always said that when she dated men without his approval. He knew he shouldn’t have said it here, under these circumstances.

Now, out of his line of sight, he heard scuffling, maybe Sheri, objecting and resisting. A moment later, tires from several vehicles screeched across the pavement. Doors opened, boots rushed on the pavement, a door slammed, engines revved, and tires squealed again.

He had already thrown the monster arm aside and was clambering on the gravel to get back up the mound, his heart pounding so hard it felt like it would explode, when frenzied determination filled his thoughts. If anything happens to Sheri, I’ll kill everyone involved!

He pushed with all his might, disregarding the sharp stones and hidden debris cutting against his ankles from the sand. Going up the steep hill would be much harder than coming down had been. His fingers ripped into the grit while every step forced gravel into his shoes. He didn’t care. He’d willingly sacrifice his feet or ankles or anything or anybody to save his kid sister.

He fought like a wildcat against the crumbling edge, clawing the dust and finally making it to the halfway point. Soon he found the ground getting firmer. He’d be at the top any second now. He glanced back at Jones. The good doctor was dragging the arm, sweating profusely, but following close behind.

Above him, through the sagebrush and azaleas lining the parking lot’s edge, he could see the tip of the seminary’s roof materializing. No cover existed between here and the bushes. If somebody approached them now, they’d be sitting ducks.

A second later a sound returned, an automobile moving past the building toward the rear of the parking lot.

He froze. They were sitting ducks.

The vehicle slowed to a crawl, then eased to a stop. A door opened and somebody got out. He could hear steps crossing the pavement their direction. Then a rope unfurled over the bank’s edge and landed beside him with a flop!

“Grab hold of the rope, Joe,” a familiar voice called out. “The soldiers are gone, but they’ll probably come back.”

Dave Pitzer and a man in a gray overcoat stepped through the bushes and peered over the edge. They looked nervous, surveying the surroundings as they held the nylon line.

“Do you see Sheri!?” Joe yelled to them.

Dave’s eyes were wide and anxious. “She’s gone, Joe; they took her.” He shuddered.

Without hesitation, Joe began desperately pulling toward them. Soon he reached the top, and, after going a few feet beyond Dave, froze in his tracks. Sheri was nowhere. He couldn’t believe what had happened. Dazed and in shock, he muttered, “How did you know where we were?”

Dave simply swallowed and jiggled a well-worn set of field binoculars.

The Martian image was gone.

And so was Sheri.


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