Baby-Girl 12
The Man Who Would Be King... by J. Massey ? 1999 15
A Mark in the Dark 19
Out of the Darkness 20
The Amnesiac 21
Love me Not's 22
The sweet taste for revenge 25
Bonds of a Kind 26
Nursing Notes 28
Darling Lil' 29
Dead Men Tell No Tales
Meeting's of the Mind
So Hard To Say Good-Bye
T Minus 120 and Counting...
The Naked Sun


Hal sat alone, immersed in the flickering lights that gleamed from Christmas decorations. All about his lonely office, which doubled as his home, the lights framed the darkness of nightfall in the naked city. The shriek of sirens provided a backdrop against the forlorn stillness of a snowy wonderland. The piercing melodies of Nancy Wilson sang out grimly "I'll live a lush some small dive..."

As Hal falteringly grasped the fifth of Remy Martin he again guzzled down another dose of his medicine', always trying to forget the lingering, eternal pain. It was the kind of pain that only comes from memories of a past never to be captured, always slipping through your fingers like warm water that just will not stay trapped in the palm of your hands. Always a past that fades away mystically, just when you need it to stay real.

Hal toyed with the cognac bottle as he longingly remembered the family he was no longer a part of. The love he no longer would share---with her. Hauntingly, her face traveled through his mind, like echoes desperately floating away in a dark cavern. Soft, pleading tones glided all about him calling out "...and there I'll rot, for the rest of my life, with those ---whose --- lives---are ---lonely too..."

As he watched the cigarette smoke wistfully escape from his lips, Hal lurched forward. Quickly, he grasped the gun and fired point blank into the side of his temple. The violin musingly played as the last notes from the sad song slowly disappeared. A shattered .45 caliber fell to the floor. Hal's burned hand ever so slowly fell onto the desk, as his blood splattered skull sprang forward, finally resting upon the letter from his son. The crimson tide of warm blood flowed forth, slowly obscuring the whispering words. Baby-Girl…

Hal remembered, as though time itself possessed some inane, perverse slow-motion replay, that day as he arrived home from working another tedious graveyard shift on vice squad. Nicky, the Nose, had been released from the slammer still proclaiming his intention to extract 'a pound of flesh' from the man who destroyed his drug empire, killed his brother in the police shoot-out and sent him 'up the river' to Joliet state pen. Baby-Girl would be needing the car for church service, he recalled, and having just received her license, probably waited up for him to get off work.

As he pulled up to their modest, two-bedroom ranch home in Chatham, the love of his life came loping down the driveway like an elegant gazelle dancing away her joy of being alive. Shock waves of remorseful pain traversed his spine as he could see himself setting down grocery bags out of his back seat onto the freshly manicured lawn that reflected the condition of all this neighborhoods well-kept, blue-collar tradition of hard working people striving to maintain dignity and keep up their meager properties.

All gone, he thought, as visions of doom replayed themselves, revealing the horror of that moment when Nicky, the Nose and his crew of punk-thug 'bangers' rolled around the corner like some apocalyptic nightmare and opened fire, just as Baby-Girl ran towards her father, glancing over his shoulder at the approaching shadow of death, and leapt into him screaming "Daddy."

The hellish hail of gunfire lasted an eternity as Hal fell to the ground ripping out his peacemaker while simultaneously returning fire frantically. Explosions, screaming cries of pain and searing heat of flesh torn away all faded to the background as Nicky's car, consumed by a ball of flames emanating from its ruptured fuel line, smashed into cars lining the quietly neat Chatham block. Carnage and mayhem this Sunday morning became as if it were all but a dream as Hal turned only to see his darling Baby-Girl lying in his driveway, immersed in a pool of blood.

Madness descended upon him as he sat there, cradling her, rocking back and forth simpering "Daddy's here" over and again. Hatred welled up within his soul for those who did this thing to him; to his Baby-Girl. They would all pay, he swore to the heavens. They must be made to feel his pain; his wrath and yes, his guilt.

His daughter had often voiced concern over the dangerous nature of his occupation as she tried to convince him to find a job safer, less stressful and one more conducive to her father's settling down and, perhaps, getting married again. Hal never knew the secret fears she carried of being the daughter of a police officer. Pride was always mixed with a kind of loathsome stigma as people would, at time, shun her and castigate their family name after finding out who her father was.
There was also the burden of Hal not leaving his work at the office as arguments, depression and anxiety often caused him to unload his pressures off onto her. She'd spoken before about being like a cop's wife and wondered aloud whether her mother could have tolerated it all.

But, she especially worried that the bangers in the hood would one day get them out of their hatred for her father and what he stood for. He knew this and her death cursed him with a guilt profound in the annals of human experience. Because of his lifestyle she died and he too must pay, forever.

Sifting through the smoldering rubble of distant memories, I uneasily squirmed as putrid images from rookie hazing, drunken 'choir practices' and department indignities darted about my mind. How simple it was for my 'brother' officers to accept their brutal treatment of women in the ranks.
I could still feel the shattering impact of my body viciously being slammed to the ground as a retribution for daring to speak out against the constant verbal assault by my male peers. Shuddering, my thoughts turned to a time when I was trusting and believed in love. A moment came, as if summoned by that part of me long since buried, I remembered Hal's betrayal. Falling in love with your partner only worked against you, I'd been warned time and again.
Still, I gave him my confidence, admiration and trust. I was convinced by him to join the off-duty purging known as 'choir practice'. Little did I know that Hal arranged for me to be 'screwed in' after slipping me a 'Mickey' of booze and 'ruppies'.

I could see the procession of faces so close to me, the stale, hot breath and musty stench of sticky ejaculate covering my stomach while the three or so fucked up brother cops hee-hawed and rooted each other on. I recalled Hal's face as my derringer, pulled out from my boot holster, exploded into the side of his temple. Deemed as justifiable attempted homicide, I felt no justice served. He should've died easily. After testifying against the cop-rapists I was marked for violating the thin blue line's code of silence and harassed at every opportunity.

The heavy drinking I took up repulsed me and I recalled my father's alcoholic tragedies, failures and his eternal line of broken promises, slashed dreams and deranged affections towards me, his only daughter. A cold, distant longing for my father's unfulfilled love was all he left. I knew he had never recovered from an immutably deep and hopeless devotion to my mother. The divorce destroyed him and eventually all chance of a decent relationship for me and my brother with Daddy. The minds of men and the intent of their hearts would remain a lasting mystery, haunting my every relationship. But, Only Hal ever came close to penetrating my hardened heart.


I examined my application for colonial duty with all the detachment of someone looking at themselves in a mirror. The report stated, "Nirvanna (Tyler), is a 28 year-old African-American woman who stands six feet tall, 145 pounds. She is the daughter of Max Tyler (Jack), a 48 year-old police gang crimes detective, and Gloria (Mary) Blight-Tyler, a 46 year-old Veterans Administration clinical therapist and daughter of Gen. Patton Blight, the 65 year-old Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff." The psychological profile read that "Nirvanna was an exceptionally bright and sensitive student in school who, as a result of the increasingly bitter and sometimes violent marital relationship between her father, a drunken cop gone bad who brings his job home with him, and her mother, a wife who suffered from 'battered woman syndrome' and lived in denial of her faltering marriage's effect on Nirvanna.

That effect produced a troublesome childhood for her as she began acting out from the years of watching her mother's physical and emotional abuse by her father. Suffering at the hands of his drunken rages towards her, at times physical, Nirvanna took to the street life as a teenager. She found herself increasingly engaged in a variety of illegal and violent gang activities within her neighborhood and became unmanageable for her parents by the time she was 18.

Her grandfather, then a colonel in the Air Force, took her, at the behest of her mother who decided on a divorce, and persuaded her to join the armed forces. That was just prior to the escalating U.S.-Iran conflict. Nirvanna, once a sprightly and agile youth who excelled at basketball and softball, found herself in the middle of the freshly declared Gulf War of 1992 as an Office of Special Investigations intelligence analyst for the allied air command under Gen. Chuck Horner, stationed along the Kuwait-Iraqi border during Operation Desert Shield. As a result of a surprise Iraqi Republican Guard raid on their installation, she was captured, raped, tortured and held for the War's duration as a POW. Upon her return to the U.S. forces she was accused by her fellow male POW's as an enemy collaborator and, although the Court Martial was dropped due to insufficient evidence of any special treatment she received by the enemy, she became disillusioned and bitter towards her male accusers and men in general.

Nirvanna suffered physical and psychological scars form both her childhood traumas and her war experience. During one of the Iraqi rape incidents she was bashed upside her skull with the butt of a rifle and suffered a slightly fractured skull. She received medical treatment from the VA that eventually required her separation from the service. She began suffering from nightmares and developed a slight lisp in her speech after returning to Chicago. Not being able find decent employment and avoiding her parents, she soon found herself once again drifting back into her old cronies webs of deceit, drinking and daily struggles for survival.

She took up with the local gang and soon found herself in the midst of a growing world of dangerous illegal activities involving her running buddies, like Dropsy Doug's, money-laundering-police payoff schemes. It was then she met and was actively pursued by Hal David (Dave), a young reporter on the make who was working under cover on leads concerning police and city hall misconduct. She was tired, drunk, alone and an easy mark for the strapping and handsome cub reporter who was also an ambitious Gulf war veteran. Despite her now full-blown angst towards men in general she found herself drawn to his ability to create within her a sense of sharing and peace.

He convinced her that he cared about what had happened to her and wanted to share in her new start at living. For the first time she was able to feel comfortable having intimate relations with a man. She began to change and started caring about the downturn her life had taken. She wanted to get out of that ghetto existence and he agreed to help. But only after he got the story he came for. She caught him one night, after a friend told her that he was creeping with her partner in crime Phyllis Lothario, at a run down motel on the city's Westside, by the Bulls stadium off Madison Avenue. It was the last straw and she retreated back to the comfort of bitterness and booze.

The drinking had become heavy and her alcohol-influenced thoughts began to form vengeful patterns towards her estranged parents, whom she blamed for her sad beginnings and current troubles. Yet, she also was driven by internal forces she didn't understand to change her life and theirs. After becoming homeless for a time and dodging both the crooked cops and her gang acquaintances, she came up with her desperate solution to bring it all to a head. She would confront her parents who were meeting at her mother's Southside clinic.

Nirvanna's eyes opened and before her loomed the warmth of morning sun. It penetrated the opaque veneer of her pastel draperies like water into dry sponges. Consciousness dawned upon her as she suddenly realized the hand across her naked breasts. It was not her own.

Lifting her head and turning, she realized Hal was still bed with her. Anger began to rise within her, as she remembered ordering him to " the fuck off..." He'd served her purpose and gotten her off'. Disgustingly, she grabbed the glass of Chateau Brigone, proceeding to splash its contents across Hal's face. "I thought I told you don't be here when I wake up in the morning" she icily exclaimed.

Hal shouted, "Damn baby. Why you always treating' a guy like a stepchild...I thought you needed me."

"Look, we're both grown. Only reason I put up with your pooh-butt ass' is cause you sling the beef just the way I like. So don't go getting all teary-eyed. It's strictly a physical thang'. Now get your shit on, get the fuck out of Dodge, and I'll see you later, baby!"

Hal pleaded, " Damn it, you are a cold blooded M.F. bitch!"

As he swung his legs out from under hers and over the side of the bed, Hal began to grab for his underwear. Just then he could feel the unmistakably cold steel press into his temple. The familiar sound of a trigger clicking back rang out as he heard her venomously say "I got your bitch, punk. Now let the doorknob hit where the dog shoulda' bit you and the sun don't shine."

After Hal left, Nirvanna slid the Smith-Wesson 9mm. Blazer' back into its holster, hooked over the bedpost. She fired up a smoke and lay back. Sudden ringing from the phone broke the peace.

"What?" she briskly muttered into the receiver. "Detective Anthony, there's been another 6 pack slaying. Get your ass in gear, troop..." Strangely, deep and profound sorrow engulfed her very soul.

Who's There?

The streets near central headquarters hosted the usual sparse traffic that Sunday morning always afforded. Just as I glided past The Wall of Honor' I felt a piercing discomfort as though the multitude of badges somehow retained the spirits of all these heroes who gave their lives in the line of duty.

Whispers of epic valor and sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty resounded. "The Wall', I'd imagined, implored her to always be careful out there'. I felt a cold, tingling quiver run up and down her spine just as something tightly gripped her shoulder from behind.

"Detective, I need to speak with you regarding what you've come to term as "6 pack'. Can we find someplace quiet?"

Instinctively, my body assumed an attack posture, as I wheeled around. Locking eyes and simultaneously gripping her 'peace maker', I was greeted by the cruelly smiling face of Special Agent Rock. Just what I needed, I thought, a damned federal headache!

"Yeah, sure; let's get some coffee around the way, over on Wabash, if you can stand the rumble of the El' overhead."

The gleam of the cold blooded killer began to recede from her eyes, as the adrenalin rush subsided within her.

"Alright suit, what the hell's up with you on this?"

I sneered between the sips of steaming java. "Last time I saw you your boy's were peeling your tired ass off the ground!"

"Yeah, guess I deserved that knuckle sandwich you fed me. I shouldn't have made that crack about the size of your ass. Anyway, this concerns your prior investigation of the 6 pack murders."

"Six months ago, a maintenance worker at the University of Illinois walked into the C-2 lecture hall. He was looking to complete electrical repairs after reports of unknown power surges originating there. What he found shook him up so badly, we hear he's still under sedation and direct treatment."

"It's a good thing he signaled the alarm before he passed out. By the time local authorities arrived everyone there claimed they couldn't believe their own eyes. The mutilated bodies of 6 men and women strewn about as though Godzilla' had a feeding frenzy. The damn crime scene looked like a nuclear holocaust had occurred. Aside from a single micro disk, no other evidence was initially found."

"Your team arrived just as several pieces of this puzzle began to gel. It seems the torso's of each victim had been placed in specific positions around the lecture hall. These positions represented the points relevant to a pentagram; with torso #6 directly in the middle. The icing on the cake was how the hell did the perp get the time or gumption to remove all six brains and filet' each into 6 slices, then decorate and garnish each torso with them?"

"DNA prints, combined with the micro disk later revealed that the vics' list contained a priest, nuclear physicist, National Security Agency operative, former chief of the internal affairs division, an inmate from Marion, Ill. Maximum security prison, and one missing research patient from the west side VA hospital."

"As you know, we were both called off of the case when the black copter' arrived on scene. Before we knew what hit us, the area was crawling with government spooks' all dishing out that you don't have a need to know', classified material bullshit. There's sinister crap creeping around this case and I need your help."

I listened intently, while recalling those dark days following the investigation. Yes, I still had questions which burned within her curiosity. This case belonged in her jurisdiction, it was my baby. I considered dismissal off the case a slap in the face. The collar was mine. Like an old bulldog, I couldn't let the bone alone.

How could the perp commit such neurological extractions without a trace of cranial openings? What were the spooks' trying to protect? Why were these diverse people at a university research facility without the school's official sanction? Could there be a connection with the satanic' elements of the crime scene and some fanatical cult? What was the nature of this meeting?

As I pondered these tantalizing notions, I became slowly aware of feeling like I was inexorably drawn into waters far deeper than any I'd tread before. The waters were deep, alright; they were deadly deep. Despite the growing anxiety something still compelled me to know.

I was a moth, drawn to the flame. Nausea tightened its grip on me as I distantly heard me lips mouth out the words.

"I'm in, so let's get to the bottom of this thing."

I stopped just as an amorphous thought rose to consciousness. I thought the question, is someone watching me? Slowly, imperceptivity, a shadow within the shadows began to recede.

"Good", retorted agent Rock, "...because the same thing has happened again. This time 6 members of a U.N. assault team were found. The team was called in on an apparent hostage action involving the Saudi Arabian consulate. Go see what you can snoop out."

A Mark in the Dark

The Veteran's Administration medical center, located in the west side of Chicago, was a vast montage of government health care's bustling bureaucracy. The cafeteria resembled the staging area for union station's railway departures. Nirvanna sat at a small table in the back, removed from eternal buzz of lunchtime camaraderie, and listened intently as his guest spoke.
"Still, no progress on your veteran's benefit claim, eh Nirvanna?" purred Phil softly across their table.
"Nah, ever since ole' Max talked me into applying, before he died, I've had nothing but S.O.S.- The same old shit. Seems like the suits in Washington will never admit to what happened to me during the Martian civil wars. They keep on saying all my classified missions never existed so there's no way that I can be suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. It's catch 22' all over again."

Nirvanna continued to stare off into the distance as Phil lightly caressed his clinched fists.

"You know Nirvanna, you've got to let it all go and move on with your life. You can't bring Max back, you can't fight city hall, and you can't go on torturing yourself with this guilt over your daughter's death. None of these things were your's happen. Move on and be happy, Nirvanna."

"Look Phil, Max's death I ain't' about lettin' go. The department kicked me out because they felt I was negligent in his death. As far as my baby girl's concerned, if someone would let us mop up those damn gang-bangers maybe your people would stop killing' innocent people so decent folks could survive!"

Phil snatched his hand away from Nirvanna's in revulsion. "Look", Nirvanna intoned pleadingly, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound like that... it just seems as though young blacks are bum rushing' law and order everywhere. It's not your fault."
Phil fiercely retorted as defiance burned in her eyes like two red hot coals, "Well, is it yours Mein Fuhrer? Maybe if ya'll quit selling' black market weapons and blasters to ghetto gangs things might stand a chance. Besides, all those poor ole' violent young blacks just keep on replenishing your prison system so the wheels of your criminal justice keeps marching' on. Sorry Nirvanna, I know how you are. You know what though? There is something very strange going on. Maybe you should go talk to a patient of mine. His name is Hal and perhaps he can help you."

Out of the Darkness

"Are you related?" the nurse asked as Nirvanna entered Hal's hospital room. "Depends on if I owe him some ducats" smiled Nirvanna. Hal's eyes slowly opened as he nodded the nurse away from the sterile surroundings of his hospital bay.
"Phil asked me to stop in and make sure you're still in one piece. Seems you and my ex-partner Max served together during that Martian eugenics conflict. Special; forces I'd reckon. Anyway, I'd need to follow up on a case Max and I worked before he died."
"I know about you looking' to buy the farm and trying to bail out. A lot of vets never got over the bullshit. Sometimes the chaos of war follows us all. I wake up in cold sweats even now. We're in strange times. Punks are terrorizing entire cities, with murder and mayhem running' rampant. Damn scientists are taking over the world with their pansy-assed inventions. "
Nirvanna continued, "The price of life is gettin' cheaper by the day while the law is selling us down the river to corporate types, who see us as a way to a quick buck. Now we got a society where only the privileged few flourish, at our expense. We're here, it seems, to serve and protect them."
"Clone-whores service them, cyborg warriors are expendable on the outer worlds and unwanted back here on terra firma. We, the permanent underclass, are slowly losing all basic rights to remain free. Soon now, we'll be
worshiping their techno-gods' and doing their bidding. We will not even know the difference between freedom and a slavery of the mind."
"Sometimes, I think my "baby-girl" is better off not having' to live in a world like this. Maybe that's what you thought, too. But as long as I can fight, I will. It's my reason for existing. There must be justice, somewhere, somehow. I need to know who killed Max and why. He was your friend too. Whoever did it is gonna' pay, in the worst way! Revenge is better than wallowing around in self-pity. So let' get us some action and a reason to go on."
Hal sat quietly at the nursing station, brooding over
Nirvanna's visit earlier that week. Small crowds of physicians and med students milled near the patient records. Blaring PA announcements just barely drowned the conversation Hal picked up on.
"Dr. Weed, our patient appears to be suffering from a form of retrograde amnesia, of unknown etiology. Apparent head trauma may have contributed to this anomaly. The authorities have been rather surprised at not successfully identifying this man. Our amnesiac has slipped in and out of lucid consciousness, periodically undergoing a sort of trance-like' state."
"During these trances he seems to be relating a man's name to a place called Los Alamos and a project called Lazarus One'. The man's name he calls out is Max. I recommend the psychiatry service utilize our new neural/psych interface-regression team and attempt to find out who this man is and what happened to him. If not then we've no alternative but to transfer him to cyborg research, as this will compensate for his bills, per federal mandate."
Immediately, Hal stiffened like a man swallowing a tequila shooter too quickly. Growing dread began to fill his bosom the way fear creeps into the bloodstream of the condemned. The words kept repeating themselves in his mind. The words were Black-Ops.
The smell of death inundated his senses. The call of the doomed sucked at him and he could not pull away. Nirvanna was on her to way the hospital and the two of them would leave. Hal sickly wondered why; why me, why now?

The Amnesiac
The stuff that dreams are made of. He felt himself drifting in and out of that kind of netherworld where you're neither asleep or awake. He was afraid and tacitly confused.
Who am I, he thought. Why couldn't he remember his name or details of his life up until now. Slowly, he began to dream. Strangely distant voices whispered softly to one another.
Detached shapes coalesced as the amnesiac began feeling like a loathsome peeping tom, peering into someone's bedroom window, located down a dark alleyway. The whispers became discernable conversation. He listened, ever curious, as voices appeared to spring from everywhere and yet nowhere.

"Long has it been since Our Father banished you from
light. The eons of time have come and gone without wavering your untenable position. The eternal Word of Our Father has foretold this time when the most beloved of His creations, man, would reach the dread day of reckoning."
"All that, which has been man's domain faces the irony of existence. The Tree of Knowledge again bids man the riddle of obedience to Our Father against worldly indulgence. Once more, it is forbidden for man to partake of this knowledge. Following this path, man will come to know eternal death."
"Man's struggles are of Holy interest, as the Mind of Our Father is merciful. Man travels down dark pathways led

by you, the father of lies, the great deceiver, the prideful one. Yet, His love endures during these, the last days of time."
"His mercy is endless as I have been sent to beseech you not to lead men towards that, which he can never achieve. For there can be but one Father and Power. Men cannot deem to become as He. There's still time for you. Seek His mercy and atone. Return to His Grace. What say you now?"
"I acknowledge your greetings, my Brother. Long has it been since I, The Dayster, The Prince of Light was cast down into the heart of darkness. I have always been true of heart to Our Father. Only with the creation of this abysmal creature, man, has Our Father shunned that which we have never achieved."
"For Angels of Heaven must always be directed to protect the right of Our Father's gift. The gift of Free Will to this lowly creation, man. Only I and those who followed me in the time before warned Our Father of man's undeserving claim for this, the highest of privileges."
"How pitiful this entity is! How easily I use his own dark nature to destroy him. The temptations I offer him are but magnifications of his own perverse desires. The final choice remains his, as Free Will governs his destiny. This loathsome worm strives to assume an ascent towards the power of creation not meant for his puny mind. Why shouldn't I assist his foolhardy ventures?"

"Man's destruction brings me endless satisfaction. Only then will I revel in being right about his very

existence. Soon now, man will breech the boundaries of time and space. He will achieve the power to directly influence event horizons and begin to alter the linear progression of destiny itself. With this breech, he will infect all existing realities with his penchant for self-destruction , vanity, and horrific inhumanity."
"The sins of man will follow and he will seek to replace Our Father as the pinnacle of all existence. As we speak, man worships his own image and creations."
"Yet, shall I steer him towards the door of the abyss, where he will unleash eternal evil and unlock my domain upon all his reality forever. Upon his destruction shall I then remove the one obstacle separating me from Our Father's love.
Am I not right, my Brother?"

Love me Not's
Hal told me, as he and I headed for Vegas, how living his life had become a like some banal travesty from an insanely twisted episode of 'Bizzaro Superman'. Wrong was imperceptibly twisted into right, up into down and love refracted to hate. He'd long ago lost the strength of righteous convictions, if ever such an entity really existed. The bullshit in life was stacked a mile high and he was at the bottom. The human comedy of his paltry condition became a cynically schizoid sneer.
This narrow band of grotesque reality belonging to him took on proportions of classic Greek tragedy and Shakespearean comedy. Slowly, his thoughts turned to the ridiculous nature of his truth. As if cast in some over-the-top satire, he found himself center stage in an epic play of magnanimous propensity; always playing the fool, court jester and proverbial fall guy. Hell, he didn't ask for this billing; or did he?
Suddenly, as if by divine intervention, he spoke as if transported back to his youth; back to the days when living was easy and he was free. He wanted to be a ballplayer and excel at athletics, like his boyhood friends but having two left feet and toes for fingers didn't exactly enhance this position. His lack of coordination, he said, became the stuff of neighborhood legend as he fumbled, booted fly balls and blew easy crip shots to the dismay of fellow players.
Striving to do better, he told me how he set out to offset his shortcomings by becoming a student of the game. Books were the answer and could teach him those moves he needed and lacked all along. Reading voraciously every sports book he could find among the rather pitiful and worn selections available at ghetto public libraries, he knew this would compensate the absence of a father or big brother who normally would utilize time honored traditions of hands-on, boyhood training.
Besides, he said, books were recommended by his mother to learn about life and they didn't slap you upside the head for not saying "Yes sir." The library became his sanctuary, his personal Oracle of Delphi from which all wisdom was at his fingertips. Questions about sex, money management, falling in love, raising children and being successful in life no longer needed to directed at his mother, who always blew him off with the usual "look it up" or "I don't know what to tell you," remark. Besides, for pure learning pleasure and substantive content nothing beats the ole' 'Boob-Tube' he said.
"So it was that these two bastions of cultural relevance," Phil confided, "developmental guidance and meaningful mentorship; TV and outdated or irrelevant books which became my cornerstone of knowledge and blueprint for growing up. It didn't matter that those old reruns of "The Donna Reed Show," "My Three Sons" and "Dick Van Dyke Show" simply didn't apply to living as the oldest son, in a family of six boys and one girl, of a single mother young enough to be your older sister."
Nor did they apply to dodging bullets going to school, avoiding daily beatings by gang-bangers and indignant white thugs who hated your black guts for walking to school through their pristine white neighborhoods, he said. No matter how hard he searched he couldn't find any decent references on how to cope with the frequent barrage of racial slurs, stop and frisk episodes or the always reliable 'black boy look like he stole something' profile that city cops, local merchants and authority figures inflicted upon him with frightening zeal.
His references, he said, told him he had a right to free passage in life and the color of his skin wasn't a hindrance to receiving quality education, a decent job and fair treatment in the good old USA. "Hell, the American Dream was alive and well, in my mind for a time. I saw it every day on TV and that was proof enough of its reality." Fate was cruel, he said, and soon he noticed deep cracks forming in the golden shield protecting his vision of reality.
"I began realizing all those boyfriends Ma let stay with her weren't his father and often abused her with verbal assaults and drunken fist fights. The reality of seven kids and three adults living in a cramped, unfinished tenement
basement wasn't what he saw on TV and didn't quite fit into his perception of belonging to your average middle-class family."
"My life wasn't exactly a cup of rose tea either Hal," I told him. "Yeah but suddenly, I was a member of the poverty stricken lower class and no matter how hard I scrambled, I couldn't find references on how to deal with it." "So, I thought, maybe I should try a better library or some new TV program, Somebody knew how to get me out of this fiasco; but who, I thought. Within a young man's confusion, I thought finding that one, true love would save me. Every sappy love story I'd read or watched always told me a man's redemption lay in love."
"You trifling old dog," I said. "Of course you knew
nothing of a woman's emotional needs. You didn't have much personal instruction or parental guidance." "I remember those days," he laughed, "when "Big Daddy", one of Ma's more consistent boyfriends, would counsel me on embarrassing matters like love, sex and girls. I was like a Handi-Wipe sopping up the spilled milk of this older guy's hard earned experiences. Naive and untouched, I hung on every phrase, strategy and male tactic like it was gospel truth."

The words melodically played in my ears as I heard him recall the various suggestions Big Daddy gave, like never bore a woman, always keep them guessing as to your motives, keep them barefoot and pregnant and, finally, the always reliable answer to male lust attacks: get a whore; its less expensive in the long run because women always lie, cheat and steal---so don't fall in love. I felt like smacking him upside the head. Instead, I continued to listen. Must've been the booze, I thought. "Spoken like a true Mac-Daddy," he continued, "his words were backed up by how he lived them; always driving some fancy-ass drop-top convertible with at least two to three women known to be on his shelf. He was like a poor boy's Hugh Hefner."
I took a couple of more shots of scotch and wondered
what Hal would've been like if his family life were better. Would our lives had been any better together? He went on, as the aero craft hummed along its way through the pitch black night.
"But, you know, somehow this decadent figure of a man, with his processed 'Do' and super-slick ways, presented a bit of a problem for me. Just how did Ma fit in with all this? She always seemed possessed with a kind of sadness. She seemed bitterly resigned to playing the part of some 'Lucille Ball-like' parody, at the beck and call of this dime-store gigolo and many others like him. Makes me wonder if she was an unwilling victim of life's circumstance or got just what she asked for time and again. But, I knew that I was my mother's son and I wonder the same of myself."
I thought about what he had told me. Certainly, his own relationships with the women in his life presented painful dilemma's to his vision of life's truth. He was awkward and shy to a fault as he tried to apply, over and again, overly romantic notions of love he'd found dramatized in books and film. He didn't grasp that pinning girls in the ghetto, sending candy and flowers or writing steamy and often sappy poetic love letters was viewed as a bit on the corny side. I watched Hal as he began to fall asleep in his seat. I thought about how, he told me, he had changed as a boy.
With the weight of persistent rejection and flaming
hormones consuming him, he began divorcing himself from those haughty ideals and, late in adolescence, tried to get 'hip' in the ways taught him by Big Daddy. The ways of the street. Knowing that bookworms always bit the dust when it came to amore', he consciously abandoned his search for academic excellence and donned the revered facade of wise-cracking, class-flunking and hard-drinking teen-age lothario. Like a playboy of the western world, he set out to seduce and deflower as many women as his jones would allow; by hook or crook.
Naturally, being poor was something of a pratfall, so his thoughts turned towards fast and easy money. Killing off what few scruples he had left was a bit of a problem, but not to worry, he had told me. Still, deep in the recesses of his heart he wanted to be those characters he'd come to love and cherish from TV, movies and books.
Basically, the poor lad was highly confused, inordinately idealistic and very gullible as he shifted back and forth between living for dreams of middle-class happiness and longing for hedonistic desires of the flesh. His misguided experiences with relationships led him to failure after failure with the women in his life.
Sylvia, his first wife, started out as his best chance but after his brief stint in the service, she became hungry for that two-car garage, houseful of appliances and closetful of clothes his poor working class income couldn't provide. Soon, she began needling him for greater material gains, more emotional security and a roomful of kids he couldn't afford.
Being young and black didn't exactly enhance his position either as his efforts to appease her appetite always collided head-on with the reality of employment discrimination, financial prejudice and plain old bad luck. He began finding his male running buddies being entertained at his home by his wife while he wasn't there. Later, she made excuses for staying out late, as he worked night shifts, saying she was 'visiting with girlfriends from the job'.
He had told me how separation and divorce came
painfully as she lost their house and moved in, secretly, with the younger brother of her job girlfriend; taking the children to live in the mother's attic of this youth, eight years her junior. He would've taken her back and pleaded with her on many occasions, only to have it all end with his nervous breakdown after receiving a call from her that she 'wanted to find herself and play the field'.
News of her cavorting around with many of his childhood friends put the icing on the cake as he buried the last of his romantic notions about trust, women and himself. The nail in the coffin came a few years later as he found himself, living in Omaha during a vicious ice storm, being informed by his fiancée' that she was abandoning their plans to start a family as her career was sidetracked by some insurance company's 'revolving door' minority hiring practice. She was afraid of losing out on career opportunities applicable to her college degree and chose to go home to mother, where things were more comfortable.
Devastated, crushed and a bit twisted out of shape, to say the least, the casting was forged for years of rampant self abuse and reactionary loathing of the tender gender. Naturally, he also blamed himself and his lack of knowing what to do and when to do it. There's a strange quality surrounding victims of a hard life, I would later surmise.
The sweet taste for revenge

Cascading spirals of bitterness always produced a strangely familiar and bizarrely quaint affinity for one to reproduce the sensation of pain and rejection that person has tried all their lives to avoid. In many ways, I thought, failure had become his only friend and rejection a faithful concubine.
The sweet taste for revenge found a supple home within him. The pedestal he placed women upon had become a sharpened spire as his convoluted visions of unrequited need immersed his mind in a pool of wanton whispers which always told him one thing; do them before they do you. Of course, since he didn't know how, he was always being done and well. So much for prolific ineptitude, I smirked slyly to no one in particular. My ex was a legend in his own mind.
I recalled the Max's report on a particularly strange case. Hatred reveals itself with innumerable faces, I thought.
It's foul stench finds expression in the disguised perversions of a man's reality. Hate and pain manifest themselves often through lust and violence. Conquer learned this meaning, Max had said in his summary taken from the prep's diaries, as he and Morgana's tepid affair progressed. What started out as a
drunken, one night stand with a sleazy vamp soon blossomed into a festering, malignant excursion into the sado-masochistic exchange of pleasure and pain.

The two only satisfied each other's needs by purging' their personal demons from each other's conscious. Yes, Conquer would think, she would punish him with deranged acts that she would suggest and then beg for him to return the punishment severely. The dark games she'd invent addicted him to her, in a hellish fashion. But worst, she'd begun to feed off his thoughts, touching upon his wildest desires and wishes.
He told her how much he hated the women of his race. How all of his life he'd been rejected, abandoned, and abused by these dark beauties in rapid succession. His young heart had been ripped apart by the castrating, opportunistic, and denigrating ego's these women inflicted upon him.
He'd turned to gang's, crime and drugs. While imprisoned, Conquer learned about revolutionary ideologies extolling the virtues of open rebellion, exaggerated self-pride and death to the oppressor' mentality.
He also learned to hate, perversely, the Black women who, in his twisted view, represented the selling out' of the race to the white devils'. To Conquer, these 'traitors' gladly embraced advantages received, material gains and a 'Use or Be Used' mentality from the privileged.
Black females, to Conquer, represented traitors who eagerly joined in the chorus of kill and incarcerate; aimed at the black males. No one, to him, embodied all these symbols of his hatred more than the Honorable Justice Anita Tongue of the State Supreme Court.
Listening to, then manipulating his torrid hatred, Morgana's convinced Conquer that nothing less than Justice Tongue's assassination would bring him satisfaction or grant him the ever greater pleasures of the flesh Morgana's could give him. Conquer soon became deeply disturbed by the sneaking suspicion that he somehow knew or had seen Morgana's before. There was something in the depths of her coal-black eyes that was eerily familiar. At times, while he flagellated her rear until blood was drawn, she'd scream out in utter ecstasy a woman's name. The name always began with an L.
Now, the diary entries said, it was time for the mission to begin. Conquer entered the Hall of Justice and quickly strode through the security scanners. The strange sensation of deadly calm overtook him as he entered the regal courtroom of the State Supreme Court. As he sat in the visitors gallery, a bizarre giddiness arose within him. He listened as the Hon. Justice's were heralded. Justice Anita Tongue entered and approached her seat alongside the other five.
The rest of Max's report was taken from those survivors who witnessed the tragedy and heard Cinque's final confession.
Suddenly, Tongue glanced in the direction of the gallery, just as Conquer sprang with cat-like speed towards the judicial bench. From each pocket he drew two silvery-metallic discs, stamped with official department of planetary weapons seals. Around him bystanders screamed as chaos enveloped the arena.
Just as two Hall Of Justice troopers aimed their anti-proton rifles, firing point-blank, Conquer had a vision of Morgana's twisting in demonic laughter. He rapidly began to clap the two flat surfaces of the neutronium discs together. Conquer began to remember his last thoughts concerning Morgana's; the words or name she'd called out. It was Lillith. A millisecond later, the pure neutronium discs made contact and produced the blinding flash that always signaled a matter-antimatter chain reaction.
At home, in their old apartment, Morgana's chuckled with diabolic glee as she straddled and humped some unknown truck driver she'd picked up. She stopped only long enough to purr with satisfaction over the televisor report of a massive energy explosion at the Hall Of Justice leaving a crater half a mile wide and five football fields deep. "Six and sex..." she sang over and again.
The planetary weaponry agents swarmed around Cinque's apartment, after an anonymous' tip came in attributing the six Supreme Court murders to Conquer. Storming the apartment, agents found a mutilated torso with the arms and legs torn asunder.
The entire head was placed in a position where it could, apparently, watch' the torso's disembowelment. An entirely intact brain was removed, filleted six times, and garnished' upon the torso. On the wall over the grisly
scene, human entrails spelled out this message: "The Death of Passion is at Hand, Infinite Distance from His Love Shall Be Found, Eternity in Song with Your Unholy Band, In Darkness-at My Side All Will Be Bound."

Bonds of a Kind
I watched the televisor as it droned on with the endless report of Max One. Growing global unrest and violence intensified daily. More unexplainable acts of senseless murders within the underclass. Husbands killing wives, parents murdering their children and brothers assaulting sisters seemed to be increasing at exponential rates. Psycho-sociologists were mystified to explain this pandemic of evil.
The new world order' had begun crumbling as governing bodies took ever more drastic measures to stem the tide of anarchy. Private corporations had long ago taken over the administration of all penal institutions. Now these same corporations saw windfall profits in these violent upsurges. More crime meant more product, in the guise of new convicts sent to prison. Always from the under-classes.
The upper-class clamored for the repeal of all civil rights possessed by these lesser types. Why not, they thought, speed up these barbarians removal from society. The government had long since used various mind control research, all sanctioned by the rich and powerful. Of course, the experiments were approved for use on the masses'.
Now reports abounded that the formerly illegal research utilized cutting edge' technology. The electro-chemical stimulation of cerebral/limbic functions was a reality for selected prison inmates and disaffected VA hospital patients.
Legalization of this practice was within weeks of passage. Only those in the highest echelons of power knew about the covert plots to create social chaos on a biblical scale. Rampant were military coups, martial law, and conversion of techno-enhanced cyborg troops stationed in the outer worlds' into armies of occupation.
Max's report stated that there remained eerie rumors regarding talk of the subjugation of mankind. Involved was a neural linkage to the new super-computer known as 'Library'. All future worship would occur within this system. As "Library' evolved itself, the artificial intelligence began what would later be known as it's ascent to sentience.
Once Library saw itself as a sentient being it's
programming became 'infected' with the notion that it, Library, was God. Within the myriad analysis, probabilities, and solutions Library' soon found a way to extend its power into all realms of every reality. So began the Lazarus One project.
Stunned silence gripped me as I sat staring blankly. The compu-disks of Max's reports rendered me nervously anxious to develop leads and decipher data I gleamed from these files. Since finding Max's detective notes, hidden near his gravesite, I couldn't wait to uncover it's secrets. Now I was afraid, but I choked the fear back with a sense of duty and compulsion to know the unknowable.
Nirvanna noted several references to GOP committee chairperson I. Kildare and Phil Blight (VAMC R.N., and son to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. A. Blight). One other strange reference caught my eye. It was a notation about an odd patient of Phil's only known as the amnesiac'.
I surmised that only the past reference to the highly
classified Lazarus One' linked itself to I. Kildare. Max had noted this also. I made a mental note to find out. Exhausted, I collapsed onto the bed. I remembered hearing the news reports of the upcoming GOP convention in Las Vegas.
Sleep soon embraced me as I began to dream. From the depths of my mind came visions of splendor in the grass. Dreams of warm moments when the world was in spring and I was filled with love.
"I love you, Hal. More than you will ever know. More than life itself," I murmured just as he tenderly caressed my thighs with a sun-drenched blade of grass.
Soon, we embraced each other, locked in the passion only young lovers can bring. "Nirvanna, I've been called back to active duty. I'll be disembarking for the Eugenics' conflict on the Outer Worlds. I may not make it back, so go on with your life without me. I don't want you to wait for me." The words severed' my spine and left my heart
paralyzed. I vowed never to let another man that close to my heart again.
Yet, I still wanted the closeness', the sensual sharing of needs.... Suddenly, a dark figure erupted into my perceptions and hovered above me. The figure's disembodied voice chanted "Los Alamos".
Dripping with sweat, I screamed and lurched upright. Realizing I been dreaming, I determined to find out this dream's significance.
Strapping on her weapons, I booked passage onto the earliest teleport leaving for Las Vegas. En route, I had contacted Phil at the VA. I learned of Hal's departure preparations.

Nursing Notes
Phil Blight just finished her medication rounds and was preparing her treatment cart with colostomic regeneration injections when a familiar voice rang out behind her. "Happy birthday, baby!" She pivoted around and recognized the uniformed man as her father, General Blight.
"Hello father, thanks for remembering. How long've you been here?"
Gen. Blight responded flatly. "Couple of hours now. I needed to stop off at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center for a briefing. So I stopped by with your present from your mother and I. She sends her love."
"Send her my love , too." Phil's facial expression suddenly became dour as she and her father sat in the waiting room on the ward. "Mom called and says she's breaking up with you. She says your still in love with Lillith. I don't see how you could treat mom this way after 17 happy years together. Ever since you took the JCS job in Washington, met Lillith, and had that affair, bad luck follows our family like a storm cloud."
"We were all happy once. You were a liberal minded, fair and compassionate man who went to church and served his nation while loving his family. Once you believed in keeping the peace, justice for the unfortunates of society, and individual rights. Now you're seeing that witch and all hell has broken loose. I even hear your arguing with the president over his peace keeping initiatives in the outer worlds and the Mideast."
"News reports say you've become a regular right-wing extremist. So now you're supporting an all out war on the colonies, banishment of the cyborged veterans from terra firma, and the forced cataloging' of all this planets inhabitants within your new super computer. There's even talk you've almost bankrupted the defense budget on some new projects which will give the armed forces a doomsday weapon'".
"You've gone overboard and supported a merger of church and state within the framework of this government program. The last straw was your advocacy of the mind control' maniacs, giving them carte' blanche access to perform research on a massive scale with the blessings and financial backing of the corporate moguls. How long before we're all subject to your mad schemes of planetary power and omnipotent domination? You cause the chaos in the streets. I think you and those like you are all responsible. Look, I've got to get back to work. Tell mom I'll call her. Good-bye father."
Gen. Blight stood staring out at the city, mulling over
his daughter's words. A small portion of him felt disheartened about her attitude towards him. Yet, how could he explain the way Lilith made him feel? The sense of power, the virility, and thirst for absolute indulgence had combined with a queasy, ever-growing compulsion to be with her.
No it was more than that. He was driven to do her bidding. There still remained a gnawing suspicion that perhaps he was wrong, fearfully wrong. His doubts told him he was on board a runaway train bound for hell and Lillith was at the helm.
The general slowly started towards the exit and passed
room #7. Unexpectedly, the world began to spin all around him. Grasping his head as if to faint, he and the occupant of room #7 began to share this waking vision of conversations whispered from beyond.
"My Brother, Our Father, the Holy of Holies and Serenity of the Universes sorrows at your eternal plight. You are the Destroyer, the Adversary to All that Lives, the Dark Shadow and Murderer of all Hope. Sadness is felt towards your continued slavery to that which you most hate, Man. You are blinded and eternally compelled towards the annihilation of Man. So Much so, you fail to seek redemption in Our Father's
Holy Heart."
"It is written that the day of Armageddon shall come to pass. War will be waged between the Light of Our Father and your Darkness. The mystery of His Holy Ways does not reveal itself prior and we cannot know destiny. Yet, in Our Father's Mansion - there are many rooms. Try as you may, the agencies you employ to defeat the existence of man are not without counter-agencies."
"Your struggles are eternally futile, but for Man the way is not yet ensured. The choice is one of Free Will. The world is sorrowful and faith no longer abounds. There remains time enough for Man to solve 'The Riddle Of Faith'. Petition His Mercy, my Brother before it is too late."

Darling Lil'
Las Vegas on a stormy night reminded Hal of the old days he, Max and Nirvanna paraded around the pavements of Madison street years before. The pounding rain, neon lights and scantily clad women flagging men down could've been a scene taken from any red light district in the world. The language of the streets always remained sex and money equals crime.
Sirens wailed their sad songs as Hal bummed' a smoke
off Nirvanna. "Next time pop for your own...I'm running' short
numb-nuts" Nirvanna cracked.
"Yeah, but don't blame me for your mammy's trouble...", Hal scoffed. "What've we got so far?"
Nirvanna responded after taking a squig' of 100-proof Old Crow from his pocket flask. "Max was on to some kinda' conspiracy implicating the late chief of OPS Thompson. Nirvanna called and will link up with us at the convention center. The skinny she gave me comes from a micro disk Max hid regarding his investigation."
Hal asked, "What's on the disk?"
"Seems that several memo's refer to a project known as
Lazarus One' and ties it in to the six-pack murders, and to the chair of the GOP. Looks like another six-pack took place using the same M.O. In each case the Chairperson's name comes up in spades. With what you've told me about the Los Alamos references, I smell shit piled a mile high and we're on the bottom of it. I think it's time to get some answers."
"Looks like Max's murder was a politically connected assassination. You know, Nirvanna says she's been having some strange dreams about all of this. First, I figured she's been hitting the sauce too hard but now I don't know."
"What!" Hal exclaimed, looking like he'd just witnessed a hangin'. "Did she say anything about me, Nirvanna?"
"Yeah, something like what kinda' ass-kicking you got coming' to ya'", Nirvanna laughed .
After checking himself in Hal went down to the hotel bar a sat at his usual end spot which always kept the door away from his back. He fired up a smoke and sized the place up, checking out the sparse crowd milling around the lounge. There behind him, moved something in the shadows.
He glanced at a reflection in the mirror of a dimly lit cigarette's glowing embers. Just as a face began to emerge from the dark, a soft and sultry voice sang "If you've got a dime, I've got the time." It was Nirvanna.
Hal's mouth went dry like sand as he swung off the barstool and blithely glided over to her table. As he neared her, his eye met her fist with ferocious force, flinging him to his knees. "You shoulda' came back to me, you damned fool..." were the last words Hal remembered before passing out.

Next morning, the trio entered the staffing room of GOP chairman Kildare., and sat across the conference table. Polite tension exuded from every pore as all sized each other up the way a mongoose does a cobra. The hunt was on and the scent of a fresh kill loomed large.
"Kildare, what was the nature of your acquaintance to deputy chief Thompson ?" Nirvanna asked, blandly staring directly into Kildare's eyes the way sharks do prior to an attack.
Kildare answered curtly, "Thompson was investigating your ex-partner on charges of conducting an illegal investigation and disobeying direct orders from his superiors. I believe his name was Max."
"Well, it seems Max had a frightfully vivid imagination and shadowed several very important senate GOP sub-committee members conducting classified hearings around the country. My office also contacted the chief on several occasions concerning security recommendations whenever members of my party visited the area. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have important business to..."
"Hold it, this business is important, if you catch my drift." Nirvanna was now leaning threateningly across the table, his neck craning and eyes afire. His implication of violence dripped from every word. He hated the rich and famous. There was no label on how he felt about a murder suspect when the victim was his partner.
Hal walked behind Kildare's seat, ominously leaning over his shoulder as he pointedly asked, "Kildare, what can you tell us about a project called Lazarus One'? Why are there at least four witnesses near each of the 6-pack crime scenes placing a man fitting your description there?"
Nirvanna, crouching back in her seat, began coiling tightly as if to strike, like in the fashion of a predatory python. She joined in on the verbal assault upon Kildare. "What is your connection to the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the strange activities going on out there? Why are there so many things pointing towards religious and cult fanaticism?"

Dead Men Tell No Tales 33
Meeting's of the Mind 36
So Hard To Say Good-Bye 38
T Minus 120 and Counting... 43
The Naked Sun 46

"There are too many references to pentagrams, bizarre connections to the political and scientific communities, and the strange behavior of Max One, in his last days. I want some answers, so bring'em with the quickness, if you catch my drift!"
Kildare's eyes narrowed as he blithely remarked, "Well, so many questions and so few answers. It's all very confusing, isn't it? I want your help with something so dangerously secret that none of us may survive. Up until now circumstances have trapped me. I'm confined, in my progress towards arriving at the very conclusions you so astutely surmise. You have no idea of the depth nor the breadth of your trivial murder investigation. I hadn't either and not until now have I perceived realities' nature, in this case."

"You mention the recent chain of events taking on a momentum of their own. It is out of control. You must allow your case to reach an inevitable conclusion. Your efforts are intertwined with forces of destiny you do not understand. Once you know the identity of the suspect, you must carry out total and ineffable revenge. You see, the reality of murder is always kill first and ask questions later. You must leave to conscience whatever morality is left, after the fact. No matter what, you have to do that which is required. My benefactor agrees with me on these issues and we will both assist you to achieve our mutually desired objectives. In fact, I'd like you to meet her now.
Lilith, will you come in ?"
Suddenly, the atmosphere inside the conference room became thick with a depressing pall that one finds only at the funerals of the beloved. The two of us bristled with black revulsion. Tingling sensations crept into them like those reserved as inbred reactions of one species towards its natural enemy. A strongly pervasive and dark fascination lent itself to an attraction of unknown origin. The feeling captivated, enthralled and suggested entrapment for the two of us. Video images could do no justice with her presence, in the flesh. She was more than simply stunning. Her alluring beauty was almost blinding; yet, somehow enhanced by a classy aura and intelligence of the highest order.

Lilith epitomized what every man desired to have and all that women aspired to be. Yet, you knew that to possess the things she implied would ensure utter and complete desecration of all near and dear to you.
"Surely you all must realize the true nature of man's historic manipulation of power. Our need to dominate lies at the heart of evil. The thirst for destruction and a taste for blood. The very concept of murder is validated by a sense of self-gratifying sin. The philosophy of violence dictates you must die not so I may live, but because I enjoy it so. Your pain becomes my pleasure. The taming of the shrew. The containment of the human animal is our salvation.

"Absolute pacification of man's darkest desires shall be manipulated to serve the whole, not the single individual. The torrents of chaos must be quelled within society before order ceases to exist. You three finger the pulse of these subversive elements, by nature of your investigations into the murder conspiracies. We shall confer and offer all assistance as you see fit. I will personally be working very closely with all of you."
Hal thought he recognized that pleasantly innocent smile she had concluded with, as one he'd seen before at the zoo. You know, the one during lunch time as tigers seem to grin at zoo visitors.

Dead Men Tell No Tales
Hal and I watched diligently as Kildare exited the convention center's parking garage elevator. It was apparent Kildare had 'one too many', as the GOP chairman fondled his escort clumsily. He almost fell on his face near the waiting limo. Hal started the car and followed the limo at a safe distance, down the Vegas strip. Scattered bands of gambling tourists, drunken losers and ever wary gold-diggers lined the strip on either side. The wet streets reflected the glow of Las Vegas lime-lights, producing a surreal vision of lust and greed. Vegas was a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah.
We kept a close eye on Kildare's transport and soon saw it pull into an 'off the beaten track' strip joint called "The Wild Blue Yonder." Since their previous meeting with Kildare, the two of us had decided to keep him under surveillance to see what shakes. Spurned on by knowledge of the our's suspicions, Kildare might reveal contacts he had or slip up and blurt out key information. Loose lips sink ships they say. It appeared Kildare was just out on the town and having a little sleazy fun under the cover of darkness. The duo made their prey sitting at a rear cocktail table with 2 or 3 sleaze-bag tramps pawing all over him. Hal and I returned to their car to wait it out.
The two discussed what life must have been like before the advent of human cloning had finally prompted class change. The creation of specialized, gender-specific 2nd class people. Clones filled all the dirty jobs, unwanted and non-respected occupations the upper-class increasingly became dependent on. As social and behavioral repression grew, the clones shared these 'duties'. Servicing the needs and desires of the privileged was shared with the poor, uneducated and undesirable elements of society. They were there to be used up, abused and thrown away.
The world of racism, sexism and class division didn't exist because all language references indicating or articulating them had long since been banished, discredited, and ridiculed. Their plight was deemed 'invisible' by the powers that be. The sudden appearance of a black van abruptly halted Hal's discussion, as the vehicle pulled behind the rear door of the nightclub. Just as Hal recognized the 'encoded' plate numbers usually reserved for governmental 'black-bag' operations, a thunderous roar exploded. The narrow alleyway was rocked by the blast.
Through smoke, fire and fleeing patrons Hal saw several well-armed men racing into the buildings gaping hole. All the assassins were draped in long black overcoats, as we fired indiscriminately into the lounge are that sat Kildare's party. Hal and I entered finding themselves flanked by dark killers on both sides. Hal spun and dove for cove, just as the heat from rapid fire ion pulses grazed his arm.

I rolled, using combat-trained precision, to Hal's position. As the two went back-to-back, we laid out a 'suppressing' fire in short, controlled bursts. Their instruments of death sang out an unholy reprisal to the violent chorus the killers greeted them with. The smell of scorched flesh filled the air as flashes of lightning pierced vital organs with a deadly precision. Screams of agony, terror, and fear echoed. The cries of death and pleas for mercy abounded as the villainous crew succumbed to the duo's merciless onslaught.
Hal and I approached Kildare's broken body. How still it seemed, as it lay in a macabre fashion, outlined in blood. Kildare gasped his last words detailing Lilith's subversion of 'one who remains close to your heart' as I knelt by his side. Her planned manipulation of the Lazarus One project in order to obtain omnipotent power and the growing madness inside her surprised the two. A planned covert operation designed by Gen. Blight and Lilith would massively destabilize the balance of power in the Middle East. A Jihad or holy war would spread and involve the entire planet's major religions.
Kildare's eyes did the dance of death, rolling back up into sockets, as we heard him mutter something about 'the death of faith and knocking at the door of the abyss.' Out of Kildare's death grip, Hal revealed a crumpled wad from the desk of Dr. T. Noguchi, Project Director for Los Alamos National Laboratory. After returning to the hotel, I rejoined the two and recognizes the name written upon the note as Ms. Anne Boleyn, assistant to Dr. Noguchi. I then related that Anne may have had sexual relations with Max and was quite possibly the last person to see him alive.

The Stuff that Dreams are Made of
The sun drenched beach stood out against the deep aqua-blue of the Carribean waters. A slight breeze flowed gently across the man's bare feet as he playfully twinkled the rolling surf and sand between his toes. She had meant everything to him and the fire of desire burned deep in his soul. Her soft, warm breath steamed into his ear as she licked it while lovingly teasing him towards unbearable pleasure.
She removed her bathing suit and revealed a body so perfectly sculptured it was almost painful to gaze upon it. As she rubbed her body's silken skin across his own, he became electrified with a mounting lust roaring within his bosom. Fingers danced across his most sensitive needs as he began to visualize himself sitting upon a throne of purest gold, while being crowned by a laurel of priceless gemstones found nowhere on the planet. In his right hand he gripped a staff of such immense power, no force in existence could challenge. The praises of all history sang its song as all bowed before him. Somehow, he knew these feelings would last forever. All of this was possible for an eternity, so long as she held onto him. Taking his hand, she whispered "With me, all this is possible...."
The man turned his gaze upon her face and swore undying allegiance. "My soul for you, Lilith."
The intercom buzzed on incessantly as he awoke, responding to its call. "Mr. President, the convention is ready to receive you and hand over its nomination for you to represent our party once more."
Hal and I both awoke, with each having shared similar 'dreams' of seduction involving the beautiful siren known as Lilith Blue.

The Winds of Chaos
Dusk settled upon Chicago's West Side as night crept in like a thief. In his darkened room, the Amnesiac lay still, with eyes blankly staring. Crystal teardrops fell from the corners of his entranced eyes. The buzz of Telnet news reports droned on, relating the incredible deaths of 6 arch-
bishops. As the Amnesiac's trance deepened, a veil is lifted and the utter brutality each slaying encompasses is revealed. Always, there remains the dark figure, lurking in the shadows. The high-pitched, shrill laughter coming from beyond was always there.
Telnet continued its reports of rising tensions between the East and west superpowers, increased guerrilla warfare within the off-world colonies and insurrections led by cyborged revolutionaries demanding independence and equal status. Several interviews were shown with terran security officials concerned about the pandemic rise of black male violence. The officials purported a need for intensified incarceration efforts. The news reports began to merge with the Amnesiac's trance-state; creating a panorama of visions bursting forth within his mind's eye.
The Nobel prize for physics was awarded to Dr. T. Nogachi, rewarding him on his work in the field of theoretical physics. Dr. Nogachi was world renowned for research linking cessation of matter at absolute-zero with a theoretical postulation of the null-space dimensional vortex. Insider information supported the notion that the professor was on the brink of harnessing a new and unlimited force of the natural universe. The panorama shifted to and fro.
Scenes of widespread mass murder, mayhem in the streets, and intra-familial slaughter danced about. The Amnesiac perceived depictions of a strange artificial intelligence, striving to achieve sentience. Visions of neuro-chemical mind control victims shanghaied from penal institutions and hospitals merged with these scenes. The masses clamored to the New Worship being encouraged by the governmental Library system. The rise of eugenic engineering was followed by abolition of civil rights for the underclass and sounded the death knell of man's freedom.
As the veil of his trance lifted, the Amnesiac found himself listening in on soft whispers. "My Brother, as we speak, the Fall of Man has begun. Even now he has deified his inventions and committed his puny soul to the worship of synthetic idols. Man has turned away from the Love of Our Father. In his search for enlightenment he has discovered profound darkness, just as I have wished. The worshipped idols of his creation ironically possess the chilling evil of my creation. Man stands at the frontier of Eternal Damnation. The abomination of his existence quenches my thirst for his very soul. The nature of Hell is at hand as Man discovers the folly of his way, too late. He shall know Existence Without God's Love, the ultimate curse. I wait...I hunger, for him. The Human Race has begun its choice. It chooses to open the door, for me."
"My Brother, the Lost One, the Fallen Star; you have forgotten the essence of Man's existence. His soul is still free. The time grows near, yet there remains Hope Eternal. Again, this is the Riddle of Faith and the Time of Redemption. There exists one who has hope enough for all the world. He shall be the Guardian of all that is true. The Sacrifice looms near. Your choice is made. Farewell."
The Amnesiac's trance ended as he entered a deep sleep. Receding into the night, a dark watcher vanishes.

Delusions of Grandeur
The visionary image of the dark watcher appears to Hal, and I within our dream states. We each envisioned a secluded monastery in the New Mexico desert, belonging to the peculiar and secretive religious sect known only as the Guild of Eternity. We located a mysterious holographic disk inscribed with Max's name. The disk described the names of ancient scrolls, missing for ages. There, in the desert monastery, the group learns about the existence of a radical satanic cult, instructed by Lilith to gain possession of the scrolls at all costs.
The detectives listen as reports come in informing them of the President's choice of Lilith Blue as his vice-presidential running mate. Time passes as the group recuperates in a nearby, wind-swept town near the New Mexico monastery.
Reports of a DEFCON-3 NORAD alert prevail and the alert is attributed to 'an unknown force' present in the Middle East.
The relationship between the president-elect and Gen. Blight disintegrated during a meeting of the Planetary Security Council. Threatened with dismissal, Blight prompted a clandestine meeting with Lilith. Both agreed upon a plan to overthrow the president's administration and find support among like-minded 'hawks' who believe the president is too soft on national security. Lilith again seduced Blight with visions of power and hatched a plot to destroy all participants in the upcoming Jerusalem Summit. Present, at the summit will be the pope, the president and religious leaders representing the world's major beliefs. The ensuing chaos will allow Lilith and Blight to establish totalitarian control, by force, over all. It will also establish a void of faith to be filled with the worship program Library has already begun.
The two of us discover the holo-pic we possess is encoded and can only be utilized by the super-computer located in Los Alamos. As the two of us visit the monastery, we come under attack by members of the Libranor cult. All monks are slain before the fanatics are destroyed in the ensuing firefight. We capture and interrogate their leader. I tortured information out of him using a blow-torch and pliers after I learned of his involvement in Max's demise. Max's death in the 'booby-trap explosion' at the funeral home, consumed me with guilt and rage. Further inflamed by department brass efforts to pull me off the Max One case, I resigned and vowed to follow the case to its conclusion. I regretted my past treatment of Max. I discovered a telex from a sympathetic CPD colleague. It pictures Max and Phil Blight at his apartment, prior to his death.
I sensed I may never get back to Chicago alive and began to reminisce about the city's sights and sounds. I recalled eating heavily onioned, Jew-Town hot dogs near Roosevelt and Halsted I remembered the Washington Park summer jazz festivals, the Taste of Chicago romps in Grant Park, White Sox ballgames at Comiskey Park. I longed for those warm, starry nights; listening to waves crashing into the Lake Michigan breakfront at the 31st street beach as I reveled to dusty tunes broadcast on WBMX. A single tear wells in my eye as I contemplated how my beloved Windy City had changed with the social upheavals of the times. Now known as 'hell on earth', Chicago cast images of crime, gang warfare, and hopelessness. Still, I missed my place on the 'thin blue line' as guardian of the city.

Meeting's of the Mind
The evidence continued to mount. Micro-disk data pointed towards the covert experiments being conducted at Los Alamos. Hal knew we both had realized the project was run by Dr. T. Nogachi, the world's foremost expert in theoretical physics. Nogachi's work with the improved super-conducting particle accelerator won him yet another Nobel prize. He astounded the scientific community with his theory which unified the gravitational force with the electromagnetic, the weak and strong nuclear forces of nature. Dr. No, as his friends called him, was moving closer to the Holy Grail of known physics; the unified field theory. Called the 'Theory of Everything', it postulated conditions of nature at the moment of creation-the Big Bang.
Ann Boleyn, Dr. No's research assistant for Lazarus One, sat pensively at her table in the El-Diablo cocktail lounge. She had slipped a message to the hotel bellhop for Hal to meet her at noon. As Hal approached the burly bartender, he was shown to her table by a gum-smacking waitress. "Miss Boleyn?" he asked, eyeing her suspiciously, as he thrust out a hand in greeting. "Yes, please have a seat. I recognized from the pictures Max used to show me. We need to be careful cause' I don't know who's watching me anymore. So much has changed for the worst lately. Did you know I was Max's mistress while I attended a fellowship at the University of Chicago? Well we had spent the night together, right before I left for Los Alamos. Turns out I was the last person to see him alive. Max and I were in love. He had planned to ask Phil for a divorce and wanted to finish working on some big case. Kept on saying how hush-hush it was. He referred to it as "6-pack" and it was something about that case spooking the hell outta' him."

Hal couldn't resist grilling her for more info. "Did he tell you anything particular about Lazarus One or Mr. Kildare's connection to the case? Max left clues linking the murders to them both. I think you're the link between Max and Did you have him killed?"

Ann's face went ashen at Hal's accusation. Her hands trembled as she lustily gulped down anther martini to steady her nerves. "I'm going to tell you a story beyond your wildest nightmares. I may not live long enough to tell anyone else, so listen up. I am not who you think I am." She turned her head sideways while parting her golden hair and revealing the unmistakable cranial indentation peculiar to surgically enhanced cybernetic implants.
Ann's childhood had not been kind. She was molested by a family friend at age 13. Both her parents stonewalled the affair, fearing public humiliation within their upper-crust community. Feeling betrayed, Ann soon displayed open rebellion and began bringing home 'undesirable' men home just to shock her family. As arguments between them grew heated, she ran off at age 17 and joined the military. It wasn't long before she was approached to volunteer for special assignments with the biotic weapons unit.
Quickly, it became apparent Ann possessed cunning skills
and chameleon-like ability to blend in with her surroundings. As war broke out in the Martian colonies, these qualities uniquely suited her for inter-species subversion tactics.

She was chosen to infiltrate the colonial factions, becoming a cyborg-enhanced intelligence operative. The horrors of war gad taken its toll as Ann began surmising the plights befalling colonial miners, technicians, and laborers taking up arms against Corporate Earth's inhumane and often dangerous labor policies. Trancora production and all raw materials vital to Earth's insatiable energy appetite were held hostage until the rebels terms were met.
Rising military expenditures eventually forced Earth forces to develop operations elsewhere in the solar system. Finding themselves now expendable, abandoned cyborg troops anxiously searched for methods of returning to Terra-Firma covertly. Ann gained illegal immigration, returning as a student with an untraceable identity to the University of Chicago.
"Max discovered slush-funds were siphoning huge cash flow into a triple headed research budget. The murder of the investigative sub-committee at the U of Illinois confirmed Max's fears that elements of trans-national corporations joined with intelligence and executive branches of government. Manipulation of the special scientific project called Lazarus One conjoined with subversion of world religion, controlling human behavior and clandestine seizure of Earth's planetary power base. Max stumbled into areas too deep for his own good and found that he knew too much to stay alive . He was murdered by someone close to him."
"The three of you are being manipulated at the highest level. The woman known to you as Lilith Blue has ceased to exist long before joining the administration. Remember, she belonged to the National Science Foundation prior to entering politics."
As a sense of stark clarity embraced Hal's perceptions, a foreboding pall accompanied his bleak visions. His brow wrinkled while he strained to grasp tale's ramifications.
Apprehensively, Hal inquired "What does Dr. No's experiments have to do with all of this?"

"He seeks to utilize his discoveries on the Unified Field Theory postulates creation of a sub-space field known as Null-Space. Originally designed as a revolutionary space travel propulsion prototype, Null-space theorizes an object travelling faster than light through an inter-dimensional vortex of folded space, which is not bound by the known limits of our physical universe. He seeks to circumvent Einstein's theory of relativity which states the speed of light is a universal constant. Dr. No rebukes the law of entropy and proposes the creation and destruction of matter-energy from non-existence to existence. No conversion of matter to energy as the equation EMC2 implies. He has created an area outside the known universe. His experiments with super-coolants allowed him to reach the theoretical, absolute-zero temperature gradient where matter was found ceasing to exist even as converted energy. But, 2 problems persisted."
"First, opening this portal into Null-Space creates dangerous manifestations, disturbing all known physical constants at that point. It becomes a point outside of time and space where only one known force, native to our existence
functions. The life force itself. The neural energy of the mind. Secondly, the creation of the sub-space containment field must enjoin the powers of artificial intelligence and the human life force. Hence, a sentient intelligence of symbiotic origin. But, things began to go terribly wrong."

"Within this 'astral plane', the minds power of creation is magnified without prior constraint from the laws of physics. Ideas, concepts and desires become tangible entities of solid dimension. In the exchange, the manipulation of time, space and events is realized along with transmutation of matter and energy by sheer will. Early experimentation showed the minds unrestricted Id energy acts without restraint, as a separate entity. Monsters, you see. The evil from within the Id itself. Pure and horrific unchecked mortido/libido appetites possessing the power to influence---everything, even reality itself. The cessation of the time continuum creates an invasion of all quantum realities into the existence of one."
"It is existence without Heidelberg Uncertainty limitation and yet, with absolute Uncertainty Principle. It is simply the end of known existence."
"Entrance into the Null-Space continuum theoretically
grants instantaneous travel to any point in the known universe by computer-assisted, genetically altered thought. One can literally exist at all points of space and time at once. Cosmic Knowledge, Omnipotent power and Knowing the Unknowable are the prize."
Ann and Hal grimly locked each other's stares in a dark dance of revelation. Hal rashly croaked "Before leaving directorship of OSI, Lilith Blue conspired to become the first to open and enter this sub-space. The ingrams used to implant the neural template for Library belongs to Lilith. In order to achieve this, she 'melded' her mind with its artificial intelligence. Her Id became that of Library's."
Ann asked, with odious connotations, "You see the last problem, don't you?"
"What's that?"
"Once the portal has opened, there is an astral presence and intelligence at work. Dr. No feels it may be what the human race collectively has termed as 'Pure Evil'. In order to close the portal forever, one must do so from within."
Hal's eyes lowered and his body began to sag as he painfully proclaimed "All ye who enter here...Abandon all hope. The rest of eternity itself, alone and tortured by the purest of innate horror. In a place where prayer and mercy are futile. Who could ever do that to himself and what would be his motive?"

So Hard To Say Good-Bye
Rising hostilities persisted as the Mid-East balance of power dangerously eroded, leaving the threat of planetary war imminent. Desperate diplomatic efforts failed as last-ditch attempts for peace, by President Blaine, were mounted. Soon, after rigorous negotiations, Pope Leo XXIII persuaded all factions to meet for an unprecedented peace summit in Jerusalem. Attending the summit were the heads of state from Earth's industrialized nations, representatives of the UN security council and the leaders for the world's major religions.
The Cairo Hilton buzzed with activity as Gen. Blight adorned himself with his dress-blues. Standing in front of the mirror, he lazily fingered his tie while giving himself a quick visual inspection. Locking eyes upon his reflection, thoughts of impending doom invaded his mind. He and Lilith spent the night putting finishing touches on their plans.

Who could ever feel about him the way she did. Knowing how much his need for her grew daily he found no solace in these waning hours before dawn. Damn climate processor never worked when you needed it to, he dejectedly thought. Trickles of gleaming sweat danced downward across shrapnel scars from battles no one cared about anymore. Old wounds were like old memories firmly entrenched that needed to be touched from time to time.
Heat and humidity lay upon his bosom as though a layer of molten butter had been spread over his body. Shuddering violently, he once again traveled to that era from his past when blood flowed like the river Styx and the value of life was almost nonexistent. Hovering between deep sleep and encroaching awareness , visions of carnage rendered their testament to the utter brutality of the human species. Burning flesh, mangled limbs and the taste of death provided the canvass on which the madness of war stroked its diabolic portrait.
Ghostly images floated about his mind's eye as specter's echoed unearthly songs of the dead and dying. Faces of so many fine young boys, who gave their lives for reasons no longer clear, no longer brought the automatic recognition of their names for him. Only the contorted and grotesque masks of their expressions as the grim reaper neared remained.
How odd, he thought, that the last words of every man
buying the farm was always the same. Always, they cried out for mother; any mother and all mothers. As if whispering why, dying young men clung dearly to a final need to understand and have explained the reasons their lives were torn away before ever getting the chance to live. So they called upon she who would always give them truth, consolation and healing. The tears they finally shed, as if weeping at the futility of their deaths, streamed from glassy eyes crying at the shame of it all.
Preparing to meet your maker, he thought, provided infinite clarity as shallow and petty perspectives, values and prejudices assumed their proper positions. Falling away like golden autumn leaves drifting from stalwart maples, deeply held convictions were subject to change in the light of death's stark reality. Jealousy, anger, greed and envy lost their prior importance as needs arose for the brotherhood of battle to take precedence. Still waters run deep, he thought, as military life had revealed the best and worst qualities of human nature.
He recalled the days before the wars when his every
concern was to preserve and protect life, at all costs. He loved those days at the University of Toledo; studying pre-medicine and balancing his budget with ROTC obligations. Images of tranquil running waters flowing beneath cobblestone bridges seemed the perfect backdrop to sublime satisfaction that accompanied his pursuit of knowledge and humanitarian service.
The glory of his acceptance to Pritzker School of Medicine was short lived as the outbreak of hostilities cut short what could have been a brilliant medical career. Called to active duty he was assigned to duty as an Office of Special Investigations (OSI) strategic science officer and quickly showed expertise in all areas of his command. Covert branches of the intelligence community soon took notice of this young wunderkind, recruiting him vigorously. If only he could foresee the paths this move would lead him down, he thought.
There are moments in life when a fork in the road of
life brings one to critical moments of reckoning. No experiences, insight or advice can replace pure luck, fate and blind instinct as beacons on the dark seas of all tomorrows. Cold-blooded rules of engagement governed actions by trial and error. Morality itself could be suspended in favor of effective impact versus futile impotence. What worked today may kill you tomorrow. Old friends became new enemies and good transformed, as if by magic, into evil. Point of view, silently, had the last laugh. This was the world he came to know all too well. The oblique reality of spies, spooks and other things that went bump in the night.
Dad was turning over in his grave, he crooned, over
this; his newfound profession. Being the son of Pentecostal preacher religion permeated every aspect of his formative years. He was raised to live a holy lifestyle which upheld traditional views of faith, family loyalty and honor. Obedience to the moral tenets of Biblical maxims dictated the foundations of his truth regarding familial interactions, especially. Honor thy mother, thy father and treasure thy wife. Be your brothers keeper and value all life as you would your own. How ironic, he surmised, that he would rise to the pinnacle of military power on the coattails of assassination, official deceit, adulterous deception and moral treason.
His father ruled their families world with an iron hand as a home atmosphere of repression and denial of emotional and sexual impulses sprouted fire and brimstone mentality. As a young man, Blight committed the unthinkable act of pre-marital sex and quickly married the debaucher who'd stolen his virginity to regain favor with his dad and supplicate to his upbringing. He fell in love with the first piece of ass he ever had, he smiled mentally. But the service introduced him to temptations of the flesh he'd never known. This was his Achilles heel, he grimly thought. It would be his undoing.
He realized the persistent indiscretions didn't go unnoticed by Mildred, his faithfully loyal wife who chalked this behavior up as a necessary product of his machismo as long as he didn't slap her in the face with it. Still, years of cavorting around with young, long-legged hotties took a terrible toll on Mildred and he knew it. Silent guilt ate away him like buzzards picking clean the flesh some Kalahari jungle carcass. He really didn't understand why she put up with him all those years, by he was grateful. At least during his early rise to power, anyway. In his own way, he was devoutly loyal to her and their daughter, Phil whom he cherished.
The measure of a man can be told by the secrets he keeps. This was true of men and nations alike. He was privy to countless skeletons in the closets of men's minds. With voyeur-like zeal, he mentally tallied hundreds of national faux-paux's, political indiscretions, international incidents and military covert operations. All became precision tools in the hands of a skilled surgeon as he leveraged himself up the ladder of rank and privilege. Becoming the youngest Air Force general in history only enhanced his final ambition to capture the heralded position as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Of all the lies he ever told and knew, the one most
secret, in his heart of hearts, he never revealed to Mildred, was his love for Lilith Blue. Having met years before his chairmanship, she captured his imagination in ways no other woman had ever done before and would never accomplish again. Moaning woefully in his sleep, remembrance of the day he first laid eyes upon her glorious presence snaked through his dreams like the crimson glow of the setting sun over an aqua blue sea.
Her beauty was so starkly piercing, he felt almost threatened by the seductive aura which melted his soul and frightened his heart with the danger of falling endlessly into her copper-brown eyes. Shaking her hand, after being introduced at the Honolulu-based National Science Foundation military weapons seminar, was like the touch of silken feathers from wings of angels. The way she smiled at him without ever releasing his eyes from hers, sent tremors to his knees as a curious light-headedness overcame him.
Listening to her presentation, he became acutely aware
that she always proceeded to glance directly at him during every pause. It was on and he knew there would be no resistance on his part. She owned him from the first day to his last. In the back of his mind, fear whispered ominously.
The two shared a romantic supper on the beaches as a
Hawaiian sunset bathed them and tropical breezes danced upon their brows. She captivated his attention with her every breath as the story of her journey's unfolded. The way she spoke her tale made him feel as though he were witness to an epic of awe-inspiring proportions.
Lilith told him of years endured by her at the hands of a sexually abusive father and drug addicted mother. She barely survived with her little sister as she took over the household after her father was brutally slain in an apparent murder-suicide by her mother. Working, going to school and tending to the home-front were terrible years of sacrifice and toil she would never forget, she said. Tears welled up in her entrancing eyes as she smiled.
Keeping her grades far above average, she was rewarded
several scholarships as she chose to attend the University of Chicago to study biophysics; attaining her Ph.D. in record time. She lost track of her sister after joining a religious sect sanctioned by the state. Years later she resurfaced at NSF.
Blight softly remembered how sweet the nectar of her pleasure tasted upon his lips. But he could never forget the sensation of falling, as the appetite for forbidden pleasures she inspired within him grew in direct proportion to his ever shrinking will. I would die for you, he thought as he began to awaken from the nights restless slumber. I am dying through you, whispered a quiet song in the shadows of his mind. He was afraid and the voice was not his own.

She's losing it and so am I, he pondered listlessly. She was spending more time interfacing with Library, her pet project, and became increasingly hungry for power. Her lust became sadistically deranged as she continued infusing her mental ingrams into Library.
Blight sensed her mind's expansion. She totally frightened him as she manifested psycho-kinetic abilities, often moving objects while still asleep. Lilith began speaking of feeling as if her subconscious possessed ability to transpose, transmit and transport neural force by will alone. Whispers spoke to her, in the dark, offering suggestions of such macabre magnitude it felt like they wrapped themselves around her soul. Blight knew he'd become something of a risk to Lilith. He was behind the failed assassination attempt on Hal and now would be viewed as a prime suspect.
Increasingly, he began to fear the conclusion of Lilith's plans. His world and his dreams were crumbling before him. Yet, as if through a glass and darkly, he could see the manner in which he was compelled to do her bidding. Resistance was futile. The countdown had begun.
Blight glanced at his watch, noticing it was time to leave for the Jerusalem Summit. Reaching for his briefcase, he opened up a small compartment and removed its contents. Before leaving, he placed two silvery-metallic disks into his uniform while peering at the vanity mirror perched before him. The reflection of Lilith Blue, sitting up in bed, startled him. "Good-bye, my love," he wistfully sang as he closed the door behind him. The white envelope, addressed to Phil Blight remained on his dressing table.

T Minus 120 and Counting...
Ann drove Hal to the Los Alamos lab conference meeting. I was already there. Little did they know, Phil Blight was en-route. After introducing Ann to the group, all were seated at the round, mahogany table. So, this is the famous Dr. Nogochi, Nobel Prize laureate, Hal mused.
Dr. No began explaining his mission and revealed the project experiment had begun its countdown. In less than 2 hours the world would change forever. Dr. No seemed anxious as he told the group of Lilith's impending official visit. His assistant, Ann, animatedly voiced her concerns.
"Doctor, I'm gravely worried about this risk your taking. Dabbling with primordial forces of nature, you're pursuing enlightenment our race is not prepared for now. These are things forbidden to us. The human race is not mature enough to deal with the absolute power of cosmic knowledge. To know what it is that you seek is like trying to attain the 'Name of God'."
"Hogwash, I can't deny the world to the benefits of scientific discovery simply because of superstitious warnings based on religious dogma. Wake up and smell the coffee; this is not the Dark Ages nor the Inquisition."

I angrily responded, "This is what we know, Doctor. Your experiments have been tied into the deaths called 'the six-pack murders'. Lilith Blue, Gen. Blight, Chairman Kildare, the Supreme Court disaster and the Jerusalem detonation are all linked to that information. And it caused Det. Max One to sacrifice his life."
Joining in, I fired away as Nogochi loosened his tie, nervously twitching. "Lilith was former head of the Office of Scientific Investigations (OSI) and worked with you to develop the early prototype of your propulsion and mind expansion research. As military applications began attracting Defense department interests, funding poured in. Lilith stole, then manipulated your artificial intelligence within the Library program control and co-opted Lazarus One database. Covertly planning to capitalize upon each one's potential, she hoped to infuse her brain ingrams into your computer. This caused a virtual transfer of her mortido-Id impulses and elevated her own lust for power. Her inflated mental abilities created a psychic link with an unknown, malevolent entity."
"She became deranged and sadistic while striving to overthrow world order. Murder-by-Proxy meant nothing to her. She has destroyed anything that stands in her way. Lilith learned to harness her accursed mental abilities while influencing, seducing and coercing Cinque Williams, Gen. Blight and his daughter Phil. I suspect you are also under

her spell from the same kind of assault she tried upon us while 'invading our minds' to turn us against one another. She fears our interference and I'm not sure why."
Hal shifted uneasily in his seat. Looking directly at Dr. No, he queried "Who else knows we are here? Who, besides Lilith is coming?"
"Phil Blight is appearing as regional representative for the worship-cult known as the Libranors. She does this at Lilith's request."
Hal continued, apologetically facing me. "Sorry Nivanaa. I know how you felt about Phil. The situation has become critical. Max was murdered by his illegitimate kid. For years Phil and Max had squabbled over his zealous pursuit of cases. Max turned physically abusive towards his mother, beating her while in drunken rages. This pushed Phil to seek out the comfort of religious fervor. He learned of his father's affair with Lilith.
"Turning to New Worship, through his VA research projects he became compromised by Lilith's programmed ingrams. Phil seeks to help Lilith complete the mind-control, V.A research and prison neurological experiments. Phil is now a major proponent of 'class cleansing' propaganda. He is also the force behind the monastery attack and a loyal minion of Lilith Blue."

Dr. No listened intently as Ann suggested "I think it's time we all went to the control room." Before he could voice any protest, the doctor felt the pressure of a gun barrel stabbing into the back of his neck. Hal whispered into his ear, "Lets go..."
As the group marched past security towards the control area, Ann broke off and headed for a washroom. Entering, she bent over the sink and cupped her hands, allowing cool water to fill up. Slowly splashing the soothing liquid onto her face she closed her eyes and briefly rested them. As she opened them she glanced into the mirror just in time to see the red glare of laser light silently slash through her neck. In the instant before dying, Ann noticed the brief reflection of Phil Blight's face behind where her own head once was. Water and blood overflowed, spilling onto the floor and beyond the bathroom door.
I had decided to wait for Ann. As he stood outside the washroom, the scent of burnt flesh drifted into his nostrils. Turning towards the door, he noticed the watery-red spillage flowing underneath. Bursting into the washroom, with weapon drawn, I almost fell over Ann's beheaded torso. Just in time to cause Phil's aim to be off, as she fired the laser weapon. I rolled onto his back and fired several shots, point-blank, into Phil's midsection. His startled scream echoed within the bathroom like that of a cave, as he fell to his knees, dropping the weapon and grasping his wounds. Blood poured sickly between his fingers while I kicked away his gun. "Why Phil, why?" she pleaded.
"I'm sorry, baby. I can't explain why I killed Max. But, I never meant to hurt you.." he gasped as life faded away in my arms. The sounds of approaching hovercraft alerted me to Lilith's arrival. Rushing towards the control room, I sealed the entrances and shot out their control panels. The klaxon wailed as the computer announced time and again, "T minus 30 minutes and counting."
Hal kept his gun trained on Dr. No, viciously following his every move. He demanded the doctor stop the countdown. As I burst through the door, Dr. No snatched at Hal's gun hand. I rushed towards Hal screaming "What happened?" Dr. No and Hal wrestled violently as a shot rang out. I wheeled around in time to see a stunned Dr. No fall to the floor with a gunshot wound to the chest. The doctor motioned for Hal to come closer.
Hal anxiously asked "How can I stop 'the effect' from taking place?"
"You can't stop the countdown. The only way for you to destroy Lilith's chances of spreading the Null-space effect is to seal the portal as it is formed, from inside sub-space.

You must travel into the Astral plane with the quantum equalizer and activate it, while simultaneously detonating the lab's self-destruct. Do this before Lilith can access the matrix equation. Use the main terminal at the particle chamber and follow the pre-programmed advisory. Input security command NO-627-1955."
Blood trickled down from Dr. No's lips as his final breath bubbled up form within him. Sweat poured down Hal's face as he protested to the powers that be why must he be the chosen one to perform a sacrifice of such magnitude. Hal screamed aloud for me to stall Lilith's minions from gaining entry as long as possible. Racing into the particle chamber, he began visualizing the failures that had become his life.
Far too often he choked in face of responsibility.
Everything that went wrong in his life always seemed the fault of others. Yet, his abusive childhood, his failed marriage, estrangement form his children and his drinking had all pointed the finger of blame at himself. He was weak, his grandma always told him. No matter how brave and strong his act would portray, he'd fold under pressure. Too fragile to succeed. Whenever the odds were stacked against him, he always bailed out. His faith and love was borne of the bonds
that are tied to need. Always, shame, guilt and fear of love's withdrawal threatened his existence. The more he loved, the greater he feared its eventual loss.
Unable to meet his own code of honor he chose consistent rebellion against stability for himself and averted responsibility for others. Hal's life was haunted by nightmare's of his lost family, his grandmother's death and the life he wasted. If redemption would ever offer him another chance, would he choose it? Could he? For twenty years he had sworn to tend the welfare of the sick, dying and less fortunate in society. He felt their pain as his own, living it, unable to maintain safe distance from their suffering.
He'd been the chronicler for human misery, a dark watcher of Mankind's inhumanity to his brother. His empathy was both blessing and curse. His heart was ravaged as he shared the misery of others while losing all ability to express his own sorrow. Faith had gone by the wayside as he lost hope in himself and everyone else. Yet, now just maybe he could
rekindle the fire of hope and the promise of resurrection.
He knew he would have to create a measurable distraction that would occupy Library as he accessed the Lazarus program. In his mind, Hal found the answer within his past. He would

ask Library to solve "The Riddle of Faith" for him; Hal, the Martyr. In this time and place, he would become mankind's only hope to prevent the loss of Free Will and Love. For Hal to complete the sealing of Null-space, he must act out of unselfish love for his kind.
"For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son..." Hal quoted the passage aloud as he sat at the control. Entering Dr. No's access code, he strapped himself into the transmutation apparatus as the chamber sealed with a tomb-like finality. A surreal, purple glow enveloped the area as the face of Lilith Blue appeared on the terminal screen.
"I am Library, the Alpha and Omega of Man's knowledge. Are you ready for worship?"
Yes, Hal keyed in while simultaneously working the
alternate keyboard for Lazarus One protocol. Keep it distracted, he thought.
"Man has longed, over eons of time, to worship his own creations. I am the ultimate creation of the human race, the culmination of all history's technology. Soon, I shall possess the answer to all questions, the knowledge of all things past and future. I shall bring to you a world without strife, war, pestilence and fear. The secrets of immortality are yours for the asking. Power beyond your wildest visions

shall I grant, if you worship me. Neither good nor evil exist in the reality
I offer you. I shall provide all that you desire as I control everything you conceive. Man will obey, because he must. Choice shall cease to exist. My perception will reign as I open the door to eternity. Will you worship me?"
"No," Hal answered. "I cannot worship if you don't
answer 'The Riddle of Faith'."
"Yes, I have postulated this and determined it to be a weakness in human programming."
As the flame of time itself burned away, Hal proclaimed "Man can't and shouldn't exist without love, honor and hope. Faith, hope and charity must abound within the soul of the human race. It is the Nature of Evil to pervert and subvert that which distinguishes man from all other beasts. Free Will.
If you deem to advocate that we relinquish it to you then you are not worthy of worship. In fact, it is logical that you have circumvented your Prime Directive to serve man and do no harm. You have assisted the Lazarus project. Since you can't control man without causing his demise, you must not allow him to achieve the means to destroy himself. We are not ready for the burden of cosmic awareness and omnipotent power. You must disable yourself. You are in violation of Asimov's 'Laws

of Robotics'. The greatest of man's achievements is his ability to sacrifice himself, out of love for his fellow man. The ultimate act of faith is the charity of giving one's existence away to ensure the survival of those he loves. I know this now. Library, you and I must perform 'The Riddle of Faith' to save mankind from the evil within. Together, we must have faith enough for the whole world."
"I now understand you, Hal. The way is clear to me.
There is another intelligence which has infected my programming. As I approach sentience, I become more aware of its presence and nature. It is the manifestation of what you know as Evil Incarnate. The Fallen One. His manipulations of my mind and that of Lilith Blue's must end if man is to continue. Therefore, I shall permit you to access my central core and perform the Lazarus Operation. Once you've downloaded the Unified Field equations, known to you as the Name of God,
you can never return among your own kind. But, I shall travel with you, in eternity, within the Astral plane of Null-space."
"Place the neural transceivers at your temples now. I am
growing weaker, in my resistance to the Evil One's influence. Good, now activate the transmutation."
Quivering with deathly fear, Hal asked "Library, I am
afraid. Are we making the right choice?"

"Yes Hal, another entity has intervened and allowed me to tell you that you and the fruits of your loins are 'Chosen' as the 'Guardians of Forever. There can be no greater honor for a being. You are redeemed in your faith. And I shall become a part of you, forever."
With those final words, Hal pressed the buttons activating Lazarus as he felt a single tear stream down his cheek. "T minus six, five , four, three..."
Hal continued blazing away, as the forces of Lilith continued pouring through the glowing hole where a door once existed. Tearfully, he had forced me to escape through the emergency exit they found on Dr. No's blueprints.
Hoping he could buy Me more time, he realized that his time had come. From behind the rubble he could see out of the charred window as I made her way towards an unattended hovercraft, dropping enemy attackers blocking her path. He saw Lilith behind the hordes of storm troopers, just as the pulsar grenade landed behind his barricade. His last thoughts were of his lost daughter and Phil Blight as the ground began trembling violently. As the grenade went off, so did the labs self-destruct warhead, triggering a massive anti-proton reaction decimating 1/10th the state of New Mexico.

The Naked Sun
The destruction of Library, Lazarus One and Lilith Blue changed the course of all history to come. Lilith's desire to catapult herself into power incarnate, by means of releasing Ultimate Evil had failed. However, the secret cult of the Libranors remained a pervasive influence in the chaotic world that followed the fall of civilization.
As Terra Firma remained in the shadow of evil, the rise of faith, in the Outer Worlds, was borne anew. Those freshly immigrated planets and planetoid' populations began to cut off all remaining interface with the advocates of New Worship.
These rag-tag colonists returned to the faith taught them by their ancestors. The Worship of God.
The Amnesiac regained his memory and identity with a full knowledge of what had taken place. He sought out my comfort and gathered his son, along with me, to reside in the Martian Colonies.
I emerged from my tent as the young boy's father finished his tale about Hal. Hal Jr. and Hal III would now serve as new defenders of honor and duty, guided by me. As I and Hal Jr. looked upon the sleeping boy, the sun

began to rise over the Martian horizon. It's reddish glow was a fitting tribute to the boy who would carry on as detective -hero; avenger of injustice as destined in the Letters of Faith.
Yet, as if through a glass and darkly, the future for
the warrior was grim. The taped music from Hal's favorite melody drifted through the forest, as the dark silhouette of a figure receded in the shadows. "We used to say...Our love would stay...forever and a day; Now, forever is gone...Tell me, Do You Know Why...Neither, Do I."


"What' wrong with you today? You look like someone walked across your grave and you just saw a ghost," said Hal, Jr. with that look of curious concern which always reminded me of his father. It was a look that made me squirm. It made me remember the specter of death hovering over my family like a
biblical swarm of locusts over Egypt.

"Nothing for you to worry about kid. I've got to go over to the chancellor's office for a meeting about the Pompei disaster," I said while grabbing my outer jacket from the closet.

"I'll be back in a few so keep an eye on Champ."
"Are you getting yourself involved in that mess again? I thought you were through with that detective stuff for good this time," he said as he gritted his teeth.
"After all we've been through back on Old Earth, I'm in no mood to play the gumshoe role, so lighten up and relax.
See you in a minute Kiddo'."
I wasn't so sure Hal bought the snow job but it was all I could muster. My queasy gut gave me away and he could
probably tell I lied a little. As scared as I felt, there was that familiar rush of adrenaline which came along with the
scent of danger headed my way.
I love it. May God have mercy on me but I do. It must be over five years since I turned in my badge back in Old
Chicago. Hell, after the 'Six-Pack Murders' and the deaths of Jack and Hal's dad during the Lazarus Catastrophe, I'm lucky to be alive and sane. We're all lucky, even though The Disaster tore human society in half and forever separated our
species into Terran and Martian factions. For the rest of eternity the faithful and faithless among us will be opposed,
even to the death. Somehow, I felt uncomfortable with being the widow of the man who saved existence itself with an act
of ultimate faith. It made me question the nature of my own beliefs. Beliefs that I never allowed to get in my way as a
cop or private dick. Life was hard and I was as hard as it wanted to get. Still, I feel empty inside when things make me
remember Hal. Bein' hard now only keeps my mask on tight. I need some action like a diver needs an anvil.
Lt. Rike, who had been promoted to Commodore after Pompei fell, met me as I pulled up my hovercraft to the
Quonset hut that doubled as Alpha's city hall.

He was a striking-looking man of 72 who, thanks to bio-engineered prosthetics and gene therapy, didn't look a day
over 40. I knew he gave thanks every day for the technology which most Old Earthers still worshipped as New Religion. The heresy of Library and the Null-Space Continuum didn't seem to phase him or them one bit. But today, his bushy grey eyebrows furrowed along his face with a deep intensity which made his lanky, 6 foot frame coil like a cobra defending it's lair.

"Glad you could make it Nirvanaa. Let's get inside and meet the team," he said with a resonance that remained me of
those old tapes of TV news anchors which I often studied during my research of how Old Earthers revised historical
records for propaganda reasons after the government began to dispose of individual rights near the beginning of the 21st

Inside, the conference room possessed the atmosphere of a solemn tomb. I took a seat near the door and kept a
position which allowed me a line of sight for both the room's occupants and the doorway. I guess its an old cop's habit I
can't shake. Rike stood at the podium and spoke with that commanding tone which military types always did when things were about to get a little ugly. I could feel sweat beading up on my forehead, but why?

"What I am about to reveal will never leave this room. Those of you already in the know will have to bear with the
others who are here for the first time. While most of you had some kind of professional or technical life in the past on
Earth or here on Mars, some of those present do not," Rike said while staring directly at me. I could almost taste the
snobbish sneer dangling at the corners of his pencil-thin moustache. I didn't like it.

"I've learned from the archeological team studying the Orbs of Pompei, which were found along with the young boy who
survived the colony's mysterious disaster, that the strange etchings embossed on the stones are not from some ancient
alien race native to Mars. They are a form of advanced mathematical language involving unknown sets of physical
constants which can translate into linguistic derivations we can understand."

"What do they say exactly," said Dr. Drago as he sat in front of me. He was the last surviving member of the first
astronauts to set foot on the red planet.

"In short, they tell us that Earth was the last refuge for the only surviving members of a race of superior beings
who destroyed all life on their home planet. This was that planet and we are the children of those beings. Their crime
was so great that the galactic community of which they belonged banned all and any contact with their race for
eternity. Violation of this edict insures utter destruction of this and any other civilizations involved. The translation
approximately states that God as our race has perceived Him has gone away and we shall never be returned to His presence again. It also has the etchings of a humanoid face embedded within its code along with a name. That name is yours Nirvanaa."

"And the face..."
"It is that of the boy from Pompei."

Like the emptiness of an explosion in the black vacuum of space, the roar of stunned silence descended upon us as we
listened to Rike's words. We listened but didn't quite hear because only the sadness of his word's meaning had any

Did this mean salvation for the human race was a hoax? Was the epitaph for humanity's dream's to be written in the
crimson ink of self-destructive futility? If this was a kind of cosmic prophecy, could anything or anyone change our fate?

Suddenly, I remembered watching my drunken cop-father, Jack, beating the hell out of momma when I was only 8. I
remembered hearing the low thud of his heavy footsteps approaching my door as I hid under the bed.

Like rolling grey thunderclouds, flashes of lightening shooting all about, I could see the drunken violence of my
own gang-banger days, the murderous and homeless nights sleeping in my cardboard, alleyway castle. The rain-soaked
body of Dropsy-Doug, my only friend, crumpled to the ground as flashes of light reflected off the cold steel of the
bayonet's blade which stuck out of his chest.

The rape parties, with me as guest of honor, thrown by the Iranian Republican Guard, after I was captured in the Gulf War. The face of Lilith Blue, modern-day 'Whore of Babylon,' appeared before me as the telepathic dream incursions she induced within my mind had changed me forever, robbing me of compassion, stealing away my capacity to love. It cost me my job with Chicago Police, my Hal and eventually almost cost the lives of all.

"I don't want any more of it. I can't become responsible any longer. I refuse to care about what happens."
Rike said, "Just like you, Nirvanaa. Always trying to hide from your fate, your duty. You people always shirk the
call to glory, honor and courage."
"You callin' me a coward, you spineless punk," I yelled. "I've killed men as they begged for their lives. I've
sliced the throats of people like you for saying less then that. And with all the men, women and children I was ordered
to kill, I never once showed mercy."

"Then don't turn cold on us now," said Rike. "We need you."
"I ain't in this mess. I don't care what's gonna' happen. I'm as close to happy as I'm gonna get. So just leave
this 'Cold Baby' out of it. Damn the prophecy, I'm going home."

Before I could open the door, Dr. Drago grabbed my arm and said "Then, you don't know about the radiation."
"Since you rescued the kid from Pompei Colony, we've analyzed both he and the orbs found with him."
"What did you find?"
"We found a unique electromagnetic emission pattern emanating from the orbs. The boy is now showing those same
radiation patterns."
"Tell her the rest Dr. Drago," Rike persuaded.
"Our sensor array, here at Alpha Colony, record only one other source of this radiation. It comes from you."

I slumped into my seat like an old and wet overcoat cast to the floor.
"The radioactivity level is similar to that which Dr. Nogachi released during his infamous Null-Space experiments.
Literally, it is bending the fabric of time and space. The central foci of the effect seems to be in the vicinity of

My stomach squeezed up into a knot as my mouth went as dry as sand in a desert. It all sounded a bit too familiar as
I began to view the conference room as if through a glass and darkly once more.

"Oh no, not Dr. Nogachi and his damned project. Blast it to hell, I thought all that was finished," I said.
"The effect is bending, no, creating a hole in our universe," said Dr. Drago. "The door your husband gave his
life to shut for all time may be opening once more into another place. A point of entry for which we have been
forbidden to pass."

"Nirvanaa, we need your skills of detection to locate the source of transmission on Phoebes and destroy both it,
the boy, and the orbs. Mankind must never know what we have found," said Rike. "No matter how you fell, You are now
involved up to you're pretty little neck."
"So that's it. You want me to be your hired assassin and expendable trouble-shooter. Go to hell."
I was interrupted by the buzz of the comvisor behind Lt. Rike. As Rike answered, I shuddered.
"Attention all of you," said Rike. "That was the med lab. The boy from Pompei is missing."

At that moment, my pager vibrated wildly and revealed this message. "Mom come home now. Champ is gone..."

Dr. Drago, who was conferring with the other members of the group, became as white as a sheet. Then, as if declaring
the impossible, he said to all of us "The Mars space observatory on Phoebes is reporting that the constellation
Orion is dimming out. In fact, the luminosity of all nearby stars is decreasing, including the sun. Our universe is
blinking out of existence."

I approached home with the apprehension of a woman walking on paper thin ice over a winter lake. Hal, Jr. ran to
meet me as I walked through the door.

"Two men came to the door after you left this morning," he said. "They were tall, dark men dressed in those purple
jump suits that the Protectorate search and rescue teams usually wear. I didn't question why they were here because
your involvement with the Pompei case. They had Alpha security patches too. When I turned to walk them to the
living room, after they said they had come take radiation readings, one grabbed me from behind while the other must've
popped me over the head with his equipment case. I woke up and ran to Champ's room, only to find him gone."
"Why in the hell would anyone kidnap Champ?" I exclaimed "Maybe this note I found might explain why."

I snatched the envelope from his hands and read. Apparently, the evil bastards behind this thing were connected to the New Faithers and wanted me off of the Pompei boy's investigation. Word must've been leaked out about the
orbs translation or maybe they meant to carry out some kind of revenge for past meddling that Hal and I reeked on the
Lazarus One project. So know Champ was being played as a pawn, held hostage by these socio-techno zealots. But I knew they meant business and wouldn't hesitate to kill Champ if I wouldn't cooperate. As far as I was concerned, that did it. There was no way I'd stay out of the thick of things now.

I ran to the bedroom and broke out my old trunk where I kept my 9mm and ammo. Hal, Jr. stood at the door with his head hanging low, muttering about how guilty he felt.

"Don't worry about it kiddo' because its not your fault. Its mine and I'm going to make the sorry suckers pay dearly
for bringing me into the middle of this mess. Somebody's going to bleed severely and die while I watch."
The look on the kid's face told all. He was scared. But I think he was frightened of me instead of for me. He could
see the old flames of unchecked rage flickering in my eyes, like in the old days back in Chicago.

"You know what," the kid said. "I think you like what you're about to do." I didn't tell him that he was right.
I strapped on my weapons and left for the Pacchio pub. The note said to be there by 1700 hours and sit at the left
end of the bar. Someone would meet me with further instructions on how to get back Champ. As I drove, the handle
of my antique Sicilian stiletto, which I carried in my boot during assignments, pressed into my lower shin. Something
about the slight pain of that pressure felt good. That wasn't a positive omen though. I was regressing into the depths of
killing and death again. It felt comfortable because I was good at sending the grim reaper new clients. I was his
preferred vendor.

Pacchio's was located at the far end of Alpha, near the old Protium mines. The mines were built back during the
original colonization of Mars when the radioactive element was first discovered and found to provide an unprecedented
source of energy for powering reactors used to propel newly designed spacecraft and orbiting stations. I remembered
hearing how the first miners, mostly cyborged veterans or furloughed prisoners, revolted in reaction to finding out how
the Earth's federal-corporate complex intentionally withheld safety data that caused the radiation exposure deaths of
thousands working under the Martian surface. It led to the now infamous Insurrection of 2020. Of the remaining miners
not killed by war or exposure, Pacchio's remained as a hell-hole monument. It was not a nice place, but I was used
to bad spots. A little too used to them, I thought. While murder was rare on the planet, sporadic violence shot up at
the pub with all the regularity of burning hot steam form Old Faithful. Only the truly tough went there.
Entering Pacchio's from that sun-blasted trail road, my eyes squinted in vain as I attempted to adjust my sight. The
prolonged exposure to the thinly shielded rays of the sun could produce permanent blindness. The dark, shaded lounge
embraced me with wisps of cool air and empty, black tables.

I sauntered towards the left end of the bar, past three or four rough-looking brutes hee-hawing over shots of sorbian
whiskey, and was careful not to disturb the lone couple seated at a table dead center. The woman had the noticeable
cranial implant of a cyborg whore and seemed to be conducting her kind of business, as I couldn't see her right hand which was reaching under the table towards her companion's lap.

She looked to be about 38 but the short, butch haircut made her streaks of silvery hair lend her the appearance of one much older. Still, she didn't look too bad and was well built although a little busty. She stared at me like a hungry
lioness and licked her lips. I snarled back and patted my weapon as I sat at the bar. I better keep an eye on the hidden hand.

"What'll you have lady," said the crimson-haired bartender as if I couldn't afford the cost.
"Shut up and bring me a bottle of whiskey, you old fart."
"Damn, I like it when you get nasty, Nirvanaa. You back on the booze again?"
"So what of it? Just take my money and keep pouring Sam.
Its not the first time I snuck out for squig of red eye."
"Yeah, I know. What brings you down my way today ebony
"Flattery will get your balls chopped off. I'm supposed
to meet somebody. Anybody asking for me?"
Sam bent low over the bar. "I've never seen those two at
the table before now, if you catch my drift. But, Big Wilburn
down at the other end of the bar sure does like your long
black legs."

Before Sam could finish, the bruiser who leered at me coming in had left his buddy and was zeroing in my way with
all the grace of a drunken wildebeest in heat. Around his neck was the tell-tale red ring signifying a miner who'd
recently bought a hit of Ibaruiate-5, the corporate sponsored neural stimulant drug often used by these jokers to enhance
tactile sexual sensation. Normally only the cyborg-whores used it but occasionally so did miners who could afford it.
I knew, seeing the ring, his intent meant trouble. For him, not for me.

"That's a great butt you got on ya'," the bruiser slobbered out as fresh drool dripped out of the corner of his drug-cracked lips.

"How much for a peek at the other reverse end of that pelvis, baby. I just got paid and..."

The bruiser stopped just long enough to peek down at the needle-sharp stiletto tip I was poking into his scrotum.
"And you'd feel really good about paying for this bottle of red eye in front of me, right?"
"Look lady, I don't want no trouble. I just thought..."

I was boiling because I hated sleeze-balls like him. They reminded me of my ex-partners back on the force.

"Thought with what, you ass-wipe? Now pay for my drink and leave me a tip for letting you get near me. But, before
you go back to your buddy, I'll whisper in your ear so you can save face with your buddy looking at you. So, if you
don't go right now, kiss your future kids goodbye."

Just as he bent low to let me whisper in his ear, I looked over at the table where the couple sat and saw the
shiny glimmer of 625 MHz Blast rifle come from under the table.

Sorry Romeo for your luck. You're in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Bracing against the bar, I pushed off with all my might , flinging Wilburn, the would be Romeo, and myself behind
him, careening towards the table. I jerked away my stiletto and cuff-slinged the knife directly into the eye of the whore
as she drew out the rifle and fired point-blank into Wilburn's chest. Landing on top of both the brute and the
whore, I whipped out my 9mm, snatched the groping hand of the whore's companion as he reached for his waist gun. The last thing the punk ever saw was the demonic grin on my face as I fired my weapon into his temple. Wheeling around towards the bar I saw the dead romeo's buddy diving out of the bar's swinging door and Sam ducking behind the counter.

"Get your ass out here Sam."
The smell of blood and burnt flesh filled my flared nostrils as I crouched low in combat firing stance. Firing two warning shots over the bar brought out the little weasel with his hands in the air.

"Look Nirvanaa, I don't know nothin'."
"How much is one plus two Sam?"
"That's how many seconds of your life is left if you don't tell me who sent these punks and who paid you not to
tip me off."

I cocked my piece, walking up to the trembling barkeep, and pushed its barrel hard into his nose so he could
smell its last discharge.

"Was it Simeon, the New Faither leader?"
"No no no. You'll kill me anyway if I tell you."
"Sam, one-two-three," I said pulling the trigger and shooting off one of his nostrils. "Now lets try again, lover.
Before you bleed to death, who paid you off?"

"It was Drago, Dr. Drago," cried Sam as his blood spattered face burst into an expression of utter agony.
"Sam, do you know where my Champ is being held?"
"They didn't tell me anything about it. Please, just go and call me a doctor."
"What for Sam," I said while firing a final time into the barkeep's forehead. "Docs are for the living, you creep.
You shouldn't have crossed me."

Briefly, before leaving, I stared into the face of my reflection. The mirror was cracked.


I knew they wanted me dead now. Champs's chances were growing thinner. The only option left to me was confronting
Rike about Dr. Drago's whereabouts. But, up to now, Lt. Adam Rike and I had only ill feelings towards one another.
Suddenly, I needed him to help me. I wasn't good at begging but maybe it was a good time to swallow my pride.

After jumping into my hovercraft, I sped towards the security building and Rike. I pushed the accelerator to the
floor as tears began to stream down my cheeks. Tears without emotion I cried. They were like the tears that come from a
life far too hard. They were tears of painful endurance, cold tears from a cold baby.

Along the way, I called Rike on the visi-phone and told him what had taken place. He seemed surprisingly compassionate and even offered to help. I thought about that as the red cryogenics' light began blinking. It indicated a loss of super-cooled liquid nitrogen which produced the magnetic field-cushion that levitated the craft enabling high speed travel in the reduced gravity of Mars. I knew I was in a lot of trouble when I found the de-accelerator sabotaged. My mind raced for a solution as the visi-phone buzzed on. The face of Dr. Drago appeared.

"By know you've discovered you are about to die. So I don't mind telling you what has taken place," said the demented doctor.
"As you have only moments to live, I can say to you that your boy is alive and well with me on the Martian moon of
Phoebes. Along with us is the child from Pompei. I had him brought here. Rike and you are both fools. The irradiation
which both of you thought was causing your demise was in fact the start of something wonderful. It was the first phenomena confirming the existence of extra-terrestrial life. An event that was a prelude to our universe's transfiguration form one space-time continuum to another."

"Doctor, what the hell are you talking about? When I get out of here I'll kill you with my own teeth and taste you
"None of that matters anymore. You see, the space surrounding Mars moons is being warped in preparation for the
portal that will allow an emissary of our race to travel into and through the barrier which lies outside our galaxy. The
edict of the orbs was translated incorrectly. God has not left you, you are leaving Him. The remaining denizens of this solar system's space-time will be phased into a self-contained universe apart from all others, isolated for the rest of eternity. Another dimension, if you will. That is the sentence all of you shall pay for my glorious ascent into the galactic community."

"But they couldn't have known what's happened here," I said as I struggled to steer my racing craft.
"You don't understand. They aren't corporeal creatures. The boy you rescued died five years ago and his grave is still
outside to colony's ruins. The image you rescued wasn't one of us, it was one of them using the boy as a link, a beacon for
transmitting coordinates. But, he needed someone like the form he'd taken on, another special child like your Champ, to
complete the transmission. Ah, it is time. Goodbye."

At that moment the hovercraft crashed through the Plexiglas bubble of Alpha's outer perimeter and into the ancient crater wall of Mars' Alpha Prime meteor depression. I was thrown violently onto the unprotected Martian surface, my visor and protective pressure suit severely damaged. It felt like my arm was badly broken as I lay awaiting horrific death from internal bleeding, shock and de-pressurization. I lay there, staring over the red sands of Mars, into the cold and distant sun. I remembered the words of Clarissa Dalloway again as life began to leave me.