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“With this new knowledge comes new power, the ability to shape our fundamental form—and, one day, to better it. Within our lifetime, scientists say, we will see the advent of genetically enhanced human beings….”

“Supertots and Frankenkids,” Village Voice, 04-25-03


Around the corner and down the hall from the service elevator, Joe and Katherine marched ahead of the Special Operations Forces soldier with their hands clasped on top of their heads. The warrior towered behind them like an oversized villain of an Arnold Schwarzenegger film. His exaggerated pectorals formed near-perfect rectangles against his black cotton shirt, while neatly pressed BDUs squeezed firmly around the remainder of his explicitly honed physique. The man could have been a poster boy for the Special Operation Forces, and from the way he maintained his finger on the M-249’s trigger, Joe had the feeling he was proud of his steroid-enhanced anatomy and was itching for a chance to use it.

Nevertheless something else was bothering Joe more than the hulk in BDUs. A peculiar aura, like liquid death, was rolling toward them. He smelled it in the ozone, felt it on his skin; even the light in the hallway seemed muted with toxicity.

Moments before, he’d tried to shake it off, to tell himself it was just his imagination, that the very nature of these surroundings nurtured paranoia. Then he saw fear in Katherine’s eyes, and heard something approaching…a faint, familiar tune, one he’d listened to a long time ago in a child’s video. Something was wrong with the melody. Instead of eliciting the innocent joy the songwriter had intended, the vocals were diffusing a terrifying essence that infected the timbre and contaminated the idyllic verse.

Now as he considered it, something like a man came around the corner at the end of the corridor and started his way. The dark figure was hissing a song from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, swinging a container like a child carrying an Easter egg basket.

At first Joe wasn’t sure if it was a man at all. The character seemed to have large, insectoid eyes, and for a brief moment he thought he saw a forked tongue dart from its scabby lips.

Then the body slowed and stared at him through ebony-tinted sunglasses.

A man, not a bug-eyed creature, stood before him, although his skin was indeed unusual, diseased and mottled like the desiccated hide of a discarded snakeskin.

Joe found himself transfixed by the figure as it resumed movement. An unexplainable sense of corruption, of doom, was all around.

“Yesss, I whistle while I work…”

The closer it came, the more troubling the song, less like a man than an animal dirge. Prickles of gooseflesh blossomed on Joe’s neck as suddenly he recognized the voice. That voice! It was unmistakably the one he’d heard on the answering machine a few days ago…Apol Leon offering “a substantial finder’s fee” for his fathers image. He’d remembered the name not only because Phobos and Dr. Corsivino referred to it, but also because it sounded like Apollyon—the King of the Bottomless Pit.

He glared at the man, his eyes moving slowly over him, sensing a dark melancholy.

Ceasing to sing, Apol stared at Joe and said dryly, “Well, well…who do we have here?”

Joe felt the same otherworldly tinge he had experienced when hearing the voice on his home recorder. The repugnance of the vibrato, the unearthly intonation of the vocal chords, it was as if a wraith in an abandoned graveyard was struggling to express itself. Joe half expected creepy crawlers to come tumbling out of his mouth.

“M-Mr. Leon!” the hulk stuttered, suddenly sounding much less confident than moments before. “S-Sir…we had a security breach! But I’ve apprehended the perpetrator!”

“Oh?” Apol sneered. “How fassscinating! I suppose you’d like an applause, yes?”


“An internal memo to your superior requesting an invessstigation into the intruder’s method of entry, and the prefatory and subsequent efficiency of your post during the break-in is more likely.”

Hulkster dropped the defense and looked at the floor while, almost slithering, Apol moved forward and placed his forehead so close to Joe’s that for a split second it appeared he was going to bite him.

A peculiar mark above Apol’s brow caught Joe’s attention. It looked vaguely like numbers. Bestial rage lurked somewhere beyond it, malevolence so complete as to be as lethal as cyanide. The acrimony melted the gallant expression from Joe’s face as he tried not to think about what this jackal might be planning for his adopted sister.

“You’re afraid of me, aren’t you, boy,” Apol chafed. “That’s good.”

The way he said “boy” caused Joe to bite his tongue. He was afraid, and of more than the man. He didn’t know what. Something suppressed, like a two-edged sword cutting against the leathery canvass of his subconscious, trying to surface the answer. For reasons he couldn’t understand, he wanted to thrust his rigid knuckles through Apol’s throat and jerk something out of him. He knew better than to try under the circumstances.


Apol sensed that the young man was an enemy of some sort, a threat to his plans, and hated him for it. He’d given himself to the goddess as a child and had worked too hard to have things messed up by a long-haired leatherneck. As nauseating as it had been, he’d played the part of American patriot for more than twenty years, keeping the government’s secrets and pretending to follow their decisions. Now the Army of Darkness was at the gate. The archdemon Quetzalcoatl and the lesser “deities” of mythology had reestablished dominion over Mars. The rulers of wickedness had joined the demoness Hecate in Kosmos. The Nephilim army was entranced, awaiting his command, and the Master’s body was ready to be implanted. Nobody would interrupt the Endgame now.

He glared menacingly at the young man and attempted to read his thoughts, an ability he’d acquired only recently, a result of his metamorphosis. The youth’s mind was blocked. Obviously a Christian. Sheri’s brother, Joe, no doubt, trying to rescue her. That would explain why Katherine was with him. Evidently he’d gone after Sheri and found Katherine instead. How chivalrous. How brave. How vain.

He felt the thing inside him stir, and his eyes fell on Katherine’s exquisite body. She was, of course, a fantasy of his. He’d often dreamed of clamping his strong hands around her soft, slender throat, and releasing her of the burden of living. He’d imagined the lovely bulge that would inflate her bloodshot eyes as she fought to survive, his fingers closing around her neck with convulsive delight. Several virgins before her had offered up such ecstasy, dying appropriately only after entertaining him with their pathetic and therefore delectable rage. Watching a woman’s lithe limbs struggle until her anger gave way to tears, and finally to terror at the shock of imminent death, was second only to the pleasures of consuming her succulent eyes.

It was unfortunate he couldn’t kill Katherine in this way. She was, after all, an unusually gifted dreamer. Undoudtedly she would have provided him with an abundance of revelations. Nevertheless, a promise was a promise. She was Rahu’s indulgence to look forward to.

Drawing his leathery fingers through her silky, long blonde hair, he mocked her with the bestial singing voice. “Fairwell and ado to you fair Spanish lady, fairwell and ado to you lady of Ssspain…”

Katherine grabbed his hand and wailed, “I’m not Spanish and don’t touch me!”

In a flash the hulk swung the butt end of the machine gun against the right side of her head and knocked her to the floor.

Joe spun to retaliate but the Hulkster kicked him in the chest with such force that he flailed backward onto the concrete aisle beside her. The quick-moving soldier jumped forward and aimed the M-249 at his forehead, feigning to pull the trigger.

Apol cheered, “My, my, this is all just ssso exciting!”

Stepping over and gazing down at the two of them, he added malignantly, “I simply love these kind of games! Don’t you? I just wish I had time to enjoy them right now. Too bad I don’t, and you want to know why?”

He patted the top of the embryo container and said matter-of-factly, “I’ve got a date with a sassssy redhead named Sheri…that’s why.”

Joe’s face flushed red with anger, his hands curled into fists.

“Shoot the girl if he tries anything,” Apol ordered the soldier.

Tightening his grip on the M-249, Hulkster pointed at Katherine.

Her hands rose instinctively.

Joe started to move in front of her, then froze.

Apol grinned. “Good boy. Now take them to the Dungeon and place them in Rahu’s cage,” he commanded Hulk.

The SOF warrior hesitated, then motioned with his weapon for the two of them to stand.

Apol caught the uncertainty. Perhaps the big soldier was questioning the appropriateness of the order. After all, Security had rooms for potential detainees. The hulkster might be feeling there were procedures to follow, protocols to adhere to.

“Don’t worry, my inept friend,” he said. “I’ll take full resssponsibility for the prisoners. You don’t need to worry about Rahu, either. He isn’t home right now. He’s on buisness for me. So hurry along and I’ll join you in the Dungeon momentarily. First, I have to deliver this genetic bouquet to my new love.”

Then with visions of impending tyranny beyond what the others could imagine, Apol turned and walked off down the hall, embryo container in hand, his destination the secret corridor where Genetics was.

“Do do do da da da da, la la la la….”




During the moments that passed since the hallway encounter with Apol Leon, Joe had become sorely troubled by the idea that they were going to be locked in Rahu’s cage. That creature could return, and we can’t be there if it does.

If the being’s physical characteristics compared to the skeletal remains he’d found in the ravine, the Nephilim or Bigfoot or whatever it was would be impossible to defeat without sophisticated firepower, and he didn’t have his vest or weapons anymore, thanks to Hulkster, who was carrying them.

Now as they approached the elevator to the Dungeon, he looked beyond Katherine and noticed the “Up” light above the entry doors glowing. Hulkster didn’t seem to care about it, punching the button repeatedly, no doubt agitated by the humiliation he’d received from Apol Leon. He spat on the floor, keeping the M-249 fixed on them, and moved back a few feet.

Joe glanced at the formidable opponent and considered making his move. He vacated the plan a second later, deciding it would be smarter to wait until they were inside the cab where the closed-in quarters might inhibit the big man’s movements.

I’ll need every advantage I can get over this superior foe. Plus there’s Katherine’s safety to think about now, too.

Once inside, I’ll surprise him, beat him to the floor and recover my vest and weapons.

Then I’ll move out and find Apol Leon. I’ll kill that insidious fiend if he doesn’t surrender Sheri immediately!

Or perhaps I could hold him as prisoner and demand a hostage exchange? Is that possible? Probably not.

At least my hands are unbound. That makes surprise feasible.

Just then the elevator pinged, and something inside it moved.

A graphic image of mutants swarming through the cab’s doors and tearing them apart flashed through Joe’s mind. He recalled the dreadfully enlarged skull, the baseball-size eyes rotting in the ravine.

The gates hummed and swished opened.

There was a blue flash and a muffled pop.

He ducked instinctively.

Katherine screamed.

Groaning behind them, Hulkster fell backward in the middle of the aisle, blood trickling from a small hole in the center of his forehead.

Diluted gray smoke was still coming from the barrel of the silencer-equipped Walther P-38 as Phobos stepped out of the cab. He was drenched with perspiration and fixed Joe with a slightly wild look. “I figured something went wrong—we’re running out of time.We need to get out of here—quick!”


Sheri watched as Apol Leon walked into the Genetics room and handed a container to the biggest of the Grays. He spoke to the chalky creature in quick, excited sentences that sounded more like clicks and squeaks to her than language. Bird-speak, she considered nervously.

The Gray took the container and placed it on the table in front of them, then floated sideways and pulled a hose from a ceiling attachment. The creature’s back was to her, shielding what it was doing. She preferred this angle to the frontal view anyway. Every time the thing looked at her, its opaque insectoid eyes glazed over and she’d see herself through it.

Please, God, don’t let it look at me, not again.

Now Apol was watching each move the entity made. When finally he appeared satisfied, he turned to Sheri’s bedside and studied her.

She was as naked as the day she was born. Humiliated and embarrassed, she started to look away, then suddenly found herself glaring defiantly instead at the man in black. She didn’t know where the strength came from, only that somehow the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Clarence Ryback—a decorated war hero—would not go passively into the night. The thick leather bands that strapped her to the gurney could keep her from desperate heroics, but she would honor her father’s memory before dying if by no other means than spiritual and emotional resistance.


Placing his hand on the polished bed rail, Apol drank in Sheri’s apprehension. While death and sex were the primary consequences of power, he was not interested in having her physically. Unlike other acquisitions he’d collected in the past, she was not here for that. Her pale blue eyes, not measurably distinct in color or shape than others he’d consumed, seemed to look straight through him, to glow in a way that was as distant and as unfamiliar to him as the well of the cosmos. If he were merely a cannibal, he would have found them quite succulent, a tempting cuisine.

Truth was, he was more than a cannibal, he was an eater of souls, a devourer of divinations. Because of his incredible success both in the military and the spiritual world, because he had been selected as the predacious father of the Beast, because he was patient with the need to assimilate her revelations, the quality of her eyes offered more than the opportunity to taste her terror or to corrupt her unpolluted innocence. She was key to infiltrating the enemy’s intelligence in order to later manipulate and control them through psychological warfare. Once absorbed, he’d know what she knew about her conservative religion. That was certainly more vital than sex or a couple of fine hors d’oeuvres.

Of course her first role would be to serve as incubator, a richly amusing two-month period in which her insides would be invaded and ruined. While the actual purpose of this was the gestation of the special zygote, some retribution could also be made against young women in general—the ones that got away, the devious, conceited, competitive creatures that taunted him during his youth.

More than once while in military training, female cadets had brushed against him during drill, mocking him with their contemptuous eyes, intentionally spreading their pheromones in order to disturb his concentration. He’d wanted desperately to injure them, to torture and make them pay. He’d dreamed of flamboyantly destroying their bodies then collecting their eyes for display in a sacred museum where he and other deities could enjoy private devotions. He’d even gone so far as to design what the dedicatory plaques would look like upon which the history of each contributor would be engraved—the identity, hair color, height, and circumstances by which each offender was acquired. Were he lucky enough to collect tears from their lacrimal sacs, these would be embedded in tiny glass containers memorializing their final miseries. Although no portions of the body other than eyes were necessary for divination, it would be interesting and entirely appropriate to include mortal remains where instruments of vision were collected as trophies—hides, eyelids, lips, and shellacked cheeks propped about and prominently exhibited in artsy, inventive ways.

Regrettably, the strict regimen at the academy had never allowed time for the development of the concept. Though, over the years when he could, he had treated himself to small, collectable parts anyway, momentos he could store in safe places, to look at when uninspired. Now, as his triumph was about to be sealed, he’d revisit the idea of the ocular museum. He doubted he’d actually have time for it, but it never hurt to dream.

He leaned over, cupped Sheri’s face in his hands, drew his warty tongue slowly above her left eye, then whispered through his decaying breath, “I’ve got a little errand to tend too, hon, but I’ll be right back, I promissse. Be brave for me while our big Gray friend over there implants a little gift in you while I’m gone. Okay?”



A memory flashed through the back of Joe’s mind. “This one means the most to me,” he recalled his dad saying that happy spring morning so long ago.

It was his twelfth birthday, and he had been opening presents for several minutes, eagerly anticipating the Daisy BB gun from the Western Auto variety store on Main Street, when his dad walked into the room holding a small box. “I saved this for your twelfth birthday,” he had said, smiling. “Next year you’ll be a teenager, and I want you to keep your priorities straight.”

Joe remembered how eagerly he had ripped into the package. He couldn’t imagine a gift his usually stoic father would be excited about. Maybe it’s a case of ammo for my new gun, he had thought. Yet inside the box he’d found something quite different—his father’s Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.

At first, the gift was puzzling. Then his dad explained that while every honor he had received during his thirty years of service was important—the Silver Star and Purple Heart awarded following the battles of Taejon and Inchon in Korea, and others—the humbler Good Conduct Medal was his favorite.

“See, Son,” he had said. “Every battle I participated in and each medal and ribbon I received are very, very important to me. Though the truth is, I was ordered to each of those campaigns. I didn’t have a choice of whether or not to go. The Good Conduct Medal is different. It’s awarded on a selective basis to enlisted members of the Marine Corps for good behavior and faithful service even when one is not following orders.”

Still perplexed, Joe heard the old man simplify it for him. “It means I did the right thing when nobody was making me.”

Then he understood. His dad wanted him to have a symbol of the things he cherished most in life—virtue, honor, morality, integrity. And even though the glorious air rifle was eventually given to him that day, he’d grown over the years to appreciate the more important gift—the heirloom that reminded him that doing the right thing is always important.

That was his intention now.

“Not without Sheri,” he said, looking at Phobos. “I’m not leaving without her.”

Phobos pointed at Katherine. “I thought she was Sheri.”

Looking mesmerized by the dead SOF soldier sprawled in a pool of blood in the middle of the floor, Katherine was holding her hand over her mouth.

“She’s a comrade,” Joe said as he picked up the vest Hulkster had taken from him. He pulled the load-bearing apparel around his chest and buckled it tight, grabbed the M-249 with one hand and the PAL with the other, adding, “Katherine, meet Phobos. Phobos, meet Katherine. Now you two get out of here. I’ll find Sheri and join you if I can.”

Phobos shook his head. “No time. In a little while the escape route won’t even exist and you’d never make it out the front door alive.”

“What do you mean, the escape route won’t exist?”

“Take my word for it, it’s now or never.”

Phobos looked at Joe as if he knew he would be stubborn. He glanced at his watch, appeared to be making a quick mental calculation, then said, “Do you know where Sheri is?”

“Genetics,” Joe said, looking at Katherine for confirmation.

Phobos glared down the hall. “She’s in genetics!?”

“According to Katherine.”

“That maniac devil is really trying to do it, isn’t he…”


Stepping over the soldier’s body, careful not to slip in the expanding sea of blood, Phobos gazed down the corridor. A sharp edge came over his eyes, as if he were staring down a dismal breezeway to Hell. After a moment he whispered, “Never mind, just follow me.”

Joe glanced over his shoulder to make sure Katherine heard him, then pursued Phobos along the corridor, around three corners to the threshold of an unimpressive, unmarked metal door.

Phobos slid an identification card through a slot in the wall and watched as an alloy drawer opened beside it. He placed his hand on the apparatus and whispered to Joe, “Safety off?”

“I’m ready,” Joe answered, then thumbed the safety on the machine gun to be sure.

A moment later Phobos pulled his hand from the biometric device. Following a metallic click, he pushed the door open and peeked inside. The hallway was empty.

“It’s not far,” he whispered, quick-stepping through the opening. He placed his back against the wall and held the precision made 9mm automatic in front of him with both hands. Katherine followed, then Joe, who assumed a similar defensive position against the opposite wall. Joe was familiar with the posture—standard military procedure when clearing a corridor—stay quiet and sweep the openings, returning your back to the wall so that only three sides need protection and nobody gets behind you.

Moving gingerly along the fifty-yard route, they soon arrived at a set of doors marked “GENETICS.” Phobos held his finger to his lips to emphasize stealth, then began checking the clip on his weapon.

Suddenly there was wailing coming from inside the room, like shrieks from possessed pterodactyls vibrating through the walls,. The birds!

In a flash, Phobos kicked the door so hard that it flew open. Inside, Joe saw six gray things descending on a young woman strapped to a gurney. Was it Sheri!?

“The blood of Jesus be against you!” Phobos shouted, and the lights to the building went out.


Glowing with brilliancy so white as to be imperceptible to human eyes, the beautiful, silver-skinned herald flew across the eastern horizon toward the awaiting angel assembly.

Justice looked thoughtfully at the approaching messenger. Even he could appreciate the glorious contrail of hyperdimensional particles flowing out from behind the being, down into the camp.

Swift watched too, as did the myriad of other warriors, as the luminous presence drifted from the fourth dimension into the third, alighting atop the cloud. The herald’s wings ceased rushing and folded gently to his sides. Then he walked forward and held out a golden scroll. Justice, the host’s commander, took the parchment and unrolled it. He paused for a second, then shouted, “IT’S TIME!”

At Mt. Hood Evangelical Seminary, the prayer group sensed the mystical event. While the ominous clouds outside had grown larger and blacker by the hour, a sudden presence of light and peace flooded the modest chapel, compelling the Bible students to depths of intercession and praise unlike anything they’d known before.

None of them could explain what each of them had felt. It was as if the small crowd was abruptly visited, strengthened, and joined to an unseen yet tangible upheaval. They were inexplicably endowed with what to say, how to say it, and when.

Simultaneously across Portland, startled Christians leapt from furniture, from behind desks at work, from cars they had quickly pulled to the roadside, as visions of glorious beings passing over the earth flashed before their minds.

Then without warning, people everywhere began to plead for the blood of Jesus to cover them.

Off the Columbia River, at the north end of a small alcove, a single candle flickered inside the tiny bedroom of a nearly forgotten cabin. Too tired to continue reading, the old man placed his Bible over his racing heart and clutched the tattered anointing cloth his wife Ruby had sewn. At his feet, Tater sniffed the air, hackles raised, snarling.


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