For those of you who read the preceding story: be warned. This story will be nothing like you imagine. When Gods go to war, anything—literally anything—can happen. Heroes may become villains, and villains may become heroes. And the most innocent may become the guiltiest of them all.

Such stories cannot have happy endings.

A voice in a darkened room: "From the private journal of Dr. Emil Jeroux, scientist, geneticist, father, and, oh, yes, a visionary of considerable acuity, if I do say so myself.

"The subject is proceeding nicely, quite different from preceding subjects, most of whom were a sad disappointment to me. I have noticed enormous changes in this subject's limbic system, linked—and this is important—to similar, subtle changes in the prefrontal cortex. Normally, activity in one signifies lower activity in the other, but this is not happening here. I expect he'll be ready to kill me any day now.

"Those following my work, whether from scientific fascination or legal / moral horror (it matters not to me), are aware of my stated ambition: to produce a god made reality. Because you see, like anything else, gods do not arise in a vacuum.

"There is a notion of the 'superorganic.' That, at certain points in history, when the time is right, some individual comes along and fulfills his, her, or its destiny. The various leaders, messiahs, heroes, and tyrants of the past—who were often one and the same—came along at a certain specific point at which they were needed.

"The various far eastern dynasties, the middle kingdoms and empires…they did not appear by accident. They—and those who erected them—happened for a reason, at a certain time and place in history when they were needed most.

"There is no reason to limit this effect to simply one socio-planetary organism. Or to a social system at all.

"The Shiva Principle: the theory, half-way spiritual in nature, that, the longer something lasts, the more likely something is to come along and destroy it. And, the longer that object, entity or system exists, the mightier and more cataclysmic its destruction will be.

"This is not really subject for debate, though many scientists—so-called scientists—will try, in their denial. But we have already seen this effect in action. A man: living to an extreme age. He now has a great deal of experience in not dying. But is this the way the numbers run? Of course not.

"A machine: the same. You would think that, should something last a long time, it would continue to hold up and run smoother all the time, no? That doesn't happen, does it? Things wear out. Well, entropy, you say. Alright. I'll concede the point.

"Political systems. Democracy always devolves into tyranny. Tyranny always gives way to democracy. And the longer either one lasts, the bloodier and more violent the revolution.

"Does no one really see this pattern?

"We have already detected, far across the cosmos, the hints of the annihilation of whole galaxies. I wonder if anyone listening to this journal, perusing these notes, can really understand what that must be like: to have one's entire galaxy, everything one can see, every star in the sky, to be suddenly sucked down into the event horizon of its galactic black hole, with everything, everyone reduced to randomized energy and destroyed? All in a relative instant?

"And mind you, we haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet.

"Gods do not arise simply because gods arise. Gods arise because the universe—mayhap the structure of reality itself-needs gods to arise.

"This is Dr. Emil Jeroux, scientist, geneticist, and, oh, yes, very proud father, signing off."

Godrise: Destroyer

The waitress approached the new customer. She hadn't seen the girl come and take a seat at the outdoor café where she worked, but she dismissed that with a shrug. Management had once again decided to cut staff, so she'd been super busy, taking orders from other customers, doing the work of two. What mattered was, she was on the job. And that she had a job. "May I take your order, Miss?"

The girl, an attractive brunette with wavy, shoulder-length hair and a fair complexion, looked puzzled. "Uhm…where…where am I?"

The waitress was puzzled and not a little annoyed. After all, she'd had a long day, and was getting off in a few minutes. She didn't have time for space cases, pretend or real. "This is the Corner Bistro, on Third and Elm. Now, can I take your order, please?" Her notepad still poised.

"What's…an 'order'?"

….

"Control, this is Alpha-Tango Charlie. You got your eyes on?"

"Up and scanning, Charlie. What'cha got?"

"Just saw something. Visual only; radar futzed out. Looked like some kinda high-altitude insertion. But if so, she came down fast and she came down hard. I could see the atmo layers exploding as it went through 'em."

"You're thinkin' meteor? How far down did'ja see it go?"

"Couldn't really tell, but it looked like all the way. Holy God help anybody underneath it."

"We'll check, but there've been no reports. Where are you?"

"Right around the eastern edge of Phoenix."

"I, I'm really sorry," stammered the brown-haired girl still seated in the iron grill-worked chair. "I…don't seem to, to remember anything about how I came here, or, or anything."

In spite of herself, the waitress was intrigued. An amnesia case? Or drugs? Probably drugs. But the girl looked entirely too healthy to be a heavy drug user. If this was the result of drugs, it must've been a really bad first experience. "Do you remember anything?

"No. Uhm…can you tell me where I am?"

"I told you: this the Corner Bistro…"

"Yes, I remember you telling me that. But…what city is this?" She turned eyes that looked entirely too sincerely frightened to be feigned upon the waitress. "And…and…what planet?"

….

He awoke, lying in the dust, in a crater that had evidently been carved out by his impact. Okay. What the hell had just happened?

He felt out with his senses. They were still in a state of confusion, and didn't tell him a whole lot. But as he lay there, he gathered his strength, and his senses began to sharpen. Okay. Now to find the others.

The first person he tried to locate, of course, was Tori. He hoped to whatever Powers or Fates there were that she was here and unhurt. But try as he might, He couldn't locate her. But, he told himself frantically, almost desperately, his senses still weren't up to par, so maybe that was the reason why.

He got up, his eyes turning automatically to the nearby city. Thank the Powers I didn't land in there, he told himself. He didn't like to think about the loss of life if he had.

Levitating himself up and over the rim of the crater, he moved towards the city. Whatever city this was, perhaps he could learn something here.

….

"So, Miss…let's go over this once more." The sergeant at the desk, in the precinct house was questioning the strange girl who'd just appeared at the open-air bistro down the street. "You don't know who you are, you don't know where you are, or where you came from. Do you know anything? Anything at all, any memory would help."

"I…I remember…something happening. Something terrible, like an explosion or something. People screaming. I think I was one of them." Her eyes were focused on infinity. "I mean, it was like…like a war zone, but not a war zone. Like I was…was caught between the, the poles of a giant magnet. There was, like, this enormous pressure on me. I mean, it wasn't like that, exactly, but, but something like that. Like being squeezed."

"You speak pretty good English. Little bit of an accent, but I can't place it. But you don't have any ID."

"But I do." And here she fished out a small crystal suspended on a chain around her neck. "Here. Just read this. It should tell you everything. And please! Tell me what it says!" There was a look of desperation in her eyes, the same look the waitress had seen, earlier.

The sergeant took the crystal, turned it over in his hand. This, a form of ID? Was this some kind of joke? But his instincts told him that the girl herself believed what she was saying.

Now…read this exactly how?

…..

Gilly and his cousin, Sally, were exploring the dry river basin mostly because they were bored out of their skulls.

Ever since their parents, Sally's included, had moved here, they'd both been very busy expressing their mutual dislike of the entire area. So vocal were they, that they'd finally been ordered out of house, if they couldn't "quit whining." The fact that they chose to leave indicated their own estimations of their chances of success at the latter.

Gilly's mom had made sure they were dressed appropriately, for the desert air and heat, with sunscreen, a couple of canteens of water, and GPS compasses on both their phones should they get turned around. And she'd cautioned them about rattlesnakes, tarantulas, gila monsters, etc. Gilly and his cousin, at the ripe old age of ten and eight respectively, had watched "Animal Planet" so much that they could recite the specifics of said beasts in their sleep. Neither of them was too worried about crossing paths with such.

Although Gilly was savvy enough to know that watching something on TV wasn't the same as real life. So…maybe a little caution would be called for.

"And there's nothing out here, either." His cousin complained. She was slightly shorter than him, with curly strawberry-red hair that never seemed to want to stay in place, and which she was always blowing out of her face. His suggestions that she just have it cut shorter had resulted in another fight. So he'd shrugged and desisted.

Gilly himself, taller, and dark-haired, missed his friends and his school. He'd just been about to enter the fifth grade, when both his and Sally's father had received the word of their promotion to a small town on the outskirts—the far outskirts—of Albuquerque, New Mexico, a town called Mesa Forks. The two families had decided to move together. Problem: there was nothing here. No parks, no movie theaters, no local clubs…the only thing out here was a tiny school, smaller than some houses back home, and no extracurricular activities. There wasn't even Little League here. Gilly had never heard of a town that didn't have a baseball team.

"Look, kids, your fathers both got a good promotion here, working on the wind farms. That'll mean more money. And more money means we can do more, go more places, take trips more often. C'mon," Gilly's mom had said, "Don't you see that?" But they'd both heard what she didn't say, what a lot of people went to a lot of trouble to not actually talk about: Besides, out here there won't be any monster attacks.

At least, not yet.

"Can we get cable? Or satellite?"

"Uhm…"

"What about internet?"

"Ah, about that…"

But Gilly and Sally just exchanged knowing glances. That reaction told them all they needed to know, right there.

So: outside. They stopped on a rocky cliff. It was almost noontime, and they'd need to go in for dinner soon. Dinner. Somehow, even that didn't seem too exciting. "Well, maybe…maybe it won't be so bad, Sal. I mean…you know. There's bound to be things to do here. And, and I'm sure we'll meet new people." But his defense of their new home sounded weak, even to him.

"No, we won't," Sally had said, defending her depression with an energy deserving of a more positive subject, "We'll be stuck here, in the middle of nowhere, until the dinosaurs inherit the Earth. Again." Sally was a huge "Jurassic Park" fan, and firmly believed that her beloved ancient reptiles would someday return, to defend humanity from the monsters. That the oceanic titans were by far bigger than any prehistoric creature ever discovered failed to impress her one bit. ("I wanna learn how to ride a T-rex!" she'd often said.

"You'll prob'ly be ridin' one from the inside," he'd replied. Another fight. Sometimes he thought she just looked for reasons to beat him up. Which although he didn't know it, was exactly the case.)

They both lay back against a rock. "Well, there's gotta be some people here. And maybe school here will be cool, you know. I mean, field trips, an' all. See the gila monsters." That was about as close to a dinosaur as he could think of right then. And he was getting a little tired of Sally's continued complaining. It was bringing him down, more than he already was.

"Yeah, ridin' in one of those stupid buses. The noise alone will scare off every living thing within five miles."

Suddenly, he sat up. "Did you hear that?" He was looking around, puzzled.

"Hear what?"

"That…that…I dunno what it was. I, I thought I heard something,"

"Like some sound? I didn't hear nuthin.'"

"No…it wasn't a sound. Not exactly."

"You're crazy. It's either a sound or it's not a sound. It can't be 'not exactly' a sound." But Gilly was already up and moving towards the ravine they had been exploring the edges of.

"Gilly! Where'do'ya think yer goin'?" But she followed him up the rock slide.

On the very lip of the small cliff, he looked down into the ravine. Down, way down there, in the dusty floor of the ravine was a human figure.

The figure lay partway on its side, arms out to either side, feet close together. Even from this distance, they could tell it looked like a woman. She was wearing an odd green hooded cloak arrangement that came down almost to her boots, which were also green. "Look! Who's that?" Without bothering to wait for an answer (that, of course, he knew she didn't know, but which popped out automatically), he quickly slid down the embankment, half-walking and half-running towards the still figure. He knew they'd already eyeballed this ravine, and it had been empty then; where had this person come from?

"Gilly! You remember what mom said! Don't just rush up to strangers! You don't know what they're like! Oh, snap." He clearly wasn't going to listen to the Voice of Reason and Maturity, so said Voice felt she had no choice but to follow him into folly.

He reached the figure, and started to reach out and touch her shoulder. Her hood covered most of her face, but she didn't seem to be hurt….no signs of broken bones (no obvious ones, anyway), no blood, and it didn't look like she was too banged up. He glanced up at the rock walls all around. If she'd fallen off one of those, even though they weren't that high, she would definitely be all banged up.

Sally joined him just as he was about to turn the figure over. "Wait, Gilly! Remember, if someone's fallen, it might not be a good idea to mess with 'em, they could have a broken back or something."

He shook his head. "I don't think she does, Sal." The figure before them looked to be that of a young woman, perhaps around twenty, with long straight red hair a shade or two darker than Sally's own. She didn't seem to be bruised up or anything, and he saw no indication as to how she could have gotten there.

He reached out to touch her shoulder, not to turn her over, but just to establish some kind of contact. "Uh, ma'am? Are…are you alright?"

The woman groaned and turned over onto her back, wincing as the sharp rocks below her dug into her spine. Her hood fell completely back, fully exposing her face for the first time.

And both Gilly and Sally jumped back, each having to stifle a scream. Because the face thus revealed had, in addition to the two standard eyes, a third one, located in the middle of the forehead.

….

Phoenix, Arizona: He looked around at the bewildering masses of humanity all around him. This was clearly not his world.

There were no airbuses, no flying vehicles of any kind, that he could see. The level of technology here, while significant, didn't seem to be as advanced as he was accustomed to.

That could pose a complication.

There: over to one side was a storefront with several two dimensional animated screens playing in it. They didn't seem to be in the best of shape, but he figured beggars couldn't be choosers.

However, the "news" reports, as they purported themselves to be, proved marvelously uninformative, partly because he had no context to relate it to. What was an "Afghanistan" anyway? Or a "North Korea"?

He found himself standing in front of the local constabulary's headquarters. Perhaps here, at least, he could find somebody to actually talk to, to ask questions of. And if his friends were anywhere in the vicinity (please let them be!), then this was the place to find that out.

"Yes? Can I help you?" said the young uniformed woman at the desk.

"Yes. I need some basic information. I'm hoping you can supply it."

….

Gilly and his cousin got up faster than they'd ever done, and were about to run like they never had, when they heard a voice: "Kids! Wait! Please! I won't hurt you!" That alone wouldn't have stopped them, but they'd each heard the voice coming from within their own minds.

Slowly, Gilly turned around. Sally was still ready to run, but she'd be darned if she'd run off when he didn't. She was at least as brave as he was. No, make that twice as brave.

Gilly approached the fallen figure, who was sitting up now, and clutching her left ankle, an expression of pain on her face (that three-eyed face). "I won't hurt you, I promise." This time she spoke with her mouth. "I'm afraid I do need your help."

"Basic information," murmured the on-duty sergeant. Last thing he needed was some nutjob giving him a hard time tonight. "Well, let's start off a little with you. Who are you, and where did you come from?"

The big man in front of him frowned. He'd come looking to get information, not give it. But… "My name is Ben. I come from…as best as I can tell…a place very far from here… To be honest, I can't narrow it down any more than that, without knowing where 'here' is." But probably farther away than either you or I would like to contemplate. "I landed here, outside of the city you call Phoenix, Arizona. How I got here, and exactly where 'here' is, I'm not sure. I am looking for some friends of mine, and this seemed like a good place to start."

"Landed. So you have a plane? What's the registry number."

"No. I have no 'plane,' whatever that is. I just landed. Fell, actually." The sergeant raised an eyebrow. "From the sky."

"You just fell. From the sky." Yep. Nutjob. He surreptitiously pressed a button underneath his chair, that would summon some "specialists."

The strange man glanced down at the area of the desk where the hidden button was, even though there was no way he could have seen either the button or the gesture, and frowned all the more. "So that's how it's going to be? Alright. Let's get this out of the way, then." At which point, two specially trained officers rounded a corner.

They were flung back up against the walls, and pinned there by an invisible force. The strange man—the one who'd called himself Ben—turned to the sergeant, spoke in a menacing undertone. "If this is the attitude I can expect wherever I go, then it's clear I've no need of you." The sergeant began to sweat. What th' hell was goin' on?

Ben got up, just as some more officers, SWAT team members this time, came into the room, guns ready. They, too, found themselves plastered up against the wall, their guns not just ripped from their hands, but disassembled by some invisible force. "I came here peacefully, simply seeking information. Instead I get this." He gestured to the troopers against the wall. "I suppose I can consider this a learning experience."

"No, no, now wait. I, I mean, maybe, maybe we can, uh, find something out. Er, what was your question, again?" The desk sergeant was painfully aware that that could be him up against the wall, and might be yet. How do you fight something like this? Maybe he'd been hasty in his judgment….

"Oh, I think it's a little late for that," snapped Ben. "I'll find my friends some other way." And with that, he turned and left the building. After a few minutes, the officers pressed against the walls collapsed down onto the floor, groaning at the release from the stress.

The desk sergeant ran his hands through his hair. Now, how was he going to report this?

Flying over the city, Ben's rage began to settle. Stupid little minds…but then, could he really blame them? He'd seen enough of their minds to know that they'd never even heard of a telekin before, or any sort of paranormal, except in the world of fiction. So, of course, they treated him as though he were insane in some way or another.

But such stupid little minds!

He recognized that one of the only things keeping him from lashing out, at least in some more or less harmless way, was the thought that his friends, particularly Tori, might be here somewhere. Her disapproval of a tirade on his part (of which disapproval he was certain) would hurt.

Back when he first came to the world he'd come to call home, whenever he'd get angry or upset, the earth beneath him would literally begin to quake. He'd learned a lot of control since then, but that didn't mean he didn't occasionally want to lash out, smash something, just to vent a little.

But Tori would disapprove. So, no smashing. He took some deep breaths. It wasn't really necessary, anyway.

And he also realized something else: his anger was related to his fear, the fear that he might not find his friends. At all. Ever.

He flew over the city, reaching out with his senses, wishing Lindsey were here. Her telepathic powers were so much more refined that his, at least at this stage of his personal evolution.

He could sense the lives of the people below and was appalled. Did people really live this way? So much misery, so much want, so much poverty of mind, body and spirit….surely somebody could do something?

He realized, with a shock, the reason: things got this way because nobody really cared anymore.

There were too many people, government was too disorganized and getting more so, all the while trying to clamp down on the disorder in ever-more heavy-handed ways, failing miserably, and trying harder. In doing so, they lost sight of their true objective, which had originally been to help and protect people, enforce the law, to facilitate social and financial groupings. Now they'd basically given up and were simply trying to control people, more often than not by curtailing those same functions in some way. It wasn't anywhere close to being the same thing. People, in the eyes of the authorities, weren't so much people anymore, as they were problems who needed to be controlled. Oh, some groups tried to make a difference, but they were so abysmally small and underfunded, they essentially couldn't make much of a mark. People, most people, it seemed, didn't care about doing their jobs; they only cared about being paid to do their jobs. Tori, wherever you are, please let me find you. I want to go home, leave this dreadful universe, go home to a sane one.

"Yes, I'm afraid I've twisted my ankle," said the three-eyed girl. Gilly and Sally had helped her hop to a nearby rock, which, while not comfortable, was better than lying in the dust. "Thank you two for helping me."

"Do, do you need a, a bandage or something?" Gilly couldn't take his eyes off that third eye in her forehead.

She glanced at him, a small smile on her face. It wasn't like it was all that an unusual reaction, she guessed. "No, I'll be fine in a few minutes. I'm a…quick healer, you might say."

"Are you a witch?" asked Sally, wide-eyed. Gilly glared at her. What kinda question was that?

But the girl just laughed, apparently not offended at all. "No, I'm not a witch. I am a bit…different, though, from most people. As I'm sure you've noticed." She gestured towards her face, and they looked away, embarrassed.

"Who…who are you?"

"My name's Lindsey. I…seem to come from a very long way away; I don't know exactly how. I need to—I must—find my friends, if they're here."

"Where are you from?"

But she just shook her head. Gilly glanced down and saw the ankle visibly shrinking. How's she doing that? Maybe she's like Wolverine? "I don't exactly know. But I think, from what I'm sensing, that I must have come from another universe, what you would call another dimension."

"Another dimension?"

"As it's popularly called. 'Dimension,' after all, actually indicates a 'direction,' one at ninety degrees to all others, if one wishes to be exacting about it. Though I suppose," she said with a sigh, "that might be true, in this case, as well. There's no telling." She sounds like a schoolteacher, thought Gilly. "But it seems to be used interchangeably, both here and on my world."

"Your world…" breathed Sally, as it sank in, "you mean you're from another planet?" This wasn't anything like the comics.

"A bit farther away than that, I'm afraid. But for now, it doesn't really matter. I have to find my friends…if they're here."

"That shouldn't be hard," said a staring Sally, before she realized what she was saying. A look from Gilly shushed her. "I, I mean…"

The strange woman laughed again, a genuine laugh. "Don't worry. If it's any consolation," (Gilly wondered what that word meant, even though he had a good idea, from the way it was used), "I'm a…little unusual even where I come from." She paused. "But my friends…well, aren't. Not in appearance, anyway. They could be anywhere. And I have to find them."

Ben flew over northern California, his every sense alert for any sign of Tori or any of his other friends. Part of him wished that he were alone here, that his friends were back home, safe, wondering what had happened to him…but something told him that wasn't the case.

He didn't really remember what had actually happened. Only that there had been an enormous feeling of, of pressure somehow, although pressure didn't really describe it. He didn't know what did.

What could have happened? He'd already halfway come to the conclusion that he was in some other universe, one very similar to his, but different in certain ways. But how had it happened?

Back home, there had been the "many worlds" hypothesis: that universes lie side-by-side in hyperspace, like the pages of a book, each page an entirely separate universe. And, in theory, at least, no universe could ever have any contact with any other of the universes.

Except…there was the disturbing theory that this was exactly the way universes came to be: by the intersection of universes, causing quantum fluctuation in the true-vacuum nothingness that would become another universe. So…

He was distracted by the sound of a female in distress. His ears pricked up; could this be Tori? If so, Powers help whoever was trying to hurt her. They'd need it.

There was a large metallic conveyance down on one of the roads there. His senses penetrated the roof, to see a large man struggling with a much smaller woman.

He zipped down through the atmospheric layers, and telekinetically ripped the roof off the conveyance. The man looked up, startled, then he, too, was pulled up into the sky. "I'll give you a choice," growled Ben, bunching the trucker's shirt in his fist, drawing the other one back, "Drop from a great height, or broken jaw?" The man grunted and groaned, trying to break free, but Ben, the product of a high-gravity world, was much stronger. The man continued trying to get free. "Fine," said Ben, "I'll choose." His right fist impacted the trucker's jaw with the force of a cannon. The man's head snapped back, and he flew backwards, into the desert sands, blood oozing from his shattered face.

Ben levitated down a bit, examining the woman. "Are you alright, miss?"

The woman nodded and gulped. "Th-thank you." She seemed to be having a hard time with this man floating on thin air in front of her. With his telepathy, Ben could tell she was questioning her own sanity. He floated down a bit closer, and she shrank back, not, he realized, from himself, but from the notion of her own possible lack of rationality. Was she really seeing a flying man?

She saw a tall, heavyset man, in his early twenties, wearing what looked like some sort of blue one-piece outfit, with black sleeves, and a black "V" shape down the front. He had blackest hair she'd ever seen, and dark eyes.

And he was levitating twenty-five feet over the ground.

Now he floated a bit closer. "Ma'am? Are you alright?" Pause. "I can assure you, you aren't seeing things." Too late, he realized that responding to her unspoken thoughts wasn't likely to reassure her.

…..

Gilly and Sally were escorting the woman in green—who called herself Lindsey—along back to their house, under her modest protestations. Truth was, she couldn't really bring herself to turn down their offer of help.

Back where she came from, the only offer of help the triclopses—the three-eyed super telepaths-had ever experienced was an "offer" to "help" them all stop living. So…this was…generosity on a scale she wasn't accustomed to.

That is, until she'd found Ben, and made friends with his two friends, Tori and Ashley. As she walked with the two children, she scanned with her telepathic senses, ever widening the circle of her perceptions, until, such was her concentration, that she almost stumbled over a rock, and nearly fell headlong. "Lady? Are you alright?" Gilly was genuinely concerned. It was odd, she thought, how quickly these two young humans had accepted her. Back in her home universe, aside from her hive mind, there simply was no acceptance for any triclops, whose mental powers had made them the most feared bogeyman in known creation.

"Yes, Gilly. I…just got distracted." He'd actually moved to catch her, even though he had to know he didn't have the strength to hold her up. Just the fact that he was willing to try, though….was a kind of thoughtfulness she wasn't used to, from baseline humans. All she and her kind had ever known was suspicion.

Suspicion, and genocide.

"I guess you know I have…certain gifts. Mental powers, I suppose you'd call them. I was trying to use them to find my friends…and I guess I got…a little lost in thought. Quite literally."

"Who are your friends?" This from Sally, who, like Gilly, seemed to have accepted this strange three-eyed person as simply another human being. Even the notion of her having powers didn't seem to bother them a great deal. That was really remarkable.

"One's name is Ben, and there are two others: Tori and Ashley. And there was another, a Dr. McLemore. I don't suppose you've heard of anyone answering to those names?"

"No, ma'am. But we've just moved here. Maybe mom or dad will know."

"Ah, I don't know if that's such a good idea, Gilly. I mean…" She gestured towards her face, "sometimes, in the past, people have been…afraid of me, and those like me."

"It'll be alright, Miss Lindsey. We'll just explain it to 'em. Won't we, Sally?"

"Sure. They'll understand. And my dad's in marketing. He'll know if anybody like your friends are around here."

"Er….are, are you sure?" Lindsey wasn't sure at all.

"Sure! C'mon, we're just over there."

Sally and Gilly practically fought to be the first in the doorway, landing in a laughing heap on the living room floor. "My goodness!" said Gilly's mother, a smile on her face. "I know it's almost dinnertime, but I didn't realize you two were that hungry!"

"Mom! We met someone! We found her out there in the desert, an'-*"

"*-and she needs help findin' her friends. We think she came from another dimension!" Sally finished, triumphantly.

Mrs. Carmichael raised an eyebrow. "Ohhh. I see. You found this friend from another dimension out there in the desert, aaaannnd….you brought her—it's a girl?—back here?" Imaginary friend, she was thinking.

"Oh, yes, ma'am! Her name's Lindsey, and, uh, well," Gilly shuffled his feet, all of a sudden not sure how to proceed, "she's, uh, a little different."

Right. Like, as in "I can't see her" different, thought Mrs. Carmichael. "Well, I can't wait to meet her. Where is she?"

"Right out here!" And Gilly once again had to fight Sally to be the first to the door. He barely made it; Sally was one tough little girl cousin.

But he flung open the door to reveal the green clad Lindsey standing just outside. All of a sudden, Mrs. Carmichael felt a little cold. Had her kids—she thought of Sally as her own, almost—been talking to strangers? They knew better, or at least, she'd thought they had.

Gilly led Lindsey in. She'd pulled up the hood on her cloak, so that it obscured the upper half of her face. "H-hello, Mrs. Carmichael. I…suffered a bit of an accident out there, and your children were kind enough to help me."

Mrs. Carmichael finished up putting dinner on, and washed her hands, all the while never taking her eyes off the strange girl. There was something a little….off…about her, something she couldn't place. "So…you're…Lindsey? How did you come to be out there, all alone?"

Lindsey looked at the two children. "As your children have said, I believe I actually came from another dimension, another universe. Exactly how I got here—meaning this world—I, honestly, am not sure. But I was with others. I've been trying to find them, but I haven't been able to."

"Yeah, mom! Maybe Sally's dad has heard of people, y'know, just appearing, like Miss Lindsey here?" But Mrs. Carmichael wasn't fully listening.

She'd rounded on the young woman called "Lindsey." "You know, this is a pretty wild tale you just told." Unspoken: If this is some kind of joke, hoax, or scam, I don't appreciate you lying to my kids like that.

"I assure you, ma'am, it's altogether true." Now the girl in green looked up, though without removing her hood. "It's not a joke, a hoax, or a scam. In some ways, I almost wish it were."

Mrs. Carmichael's eyes widened. She hadn't actually spoken those words.

"Please don't be frightened, Mrs. Carmichael. But…here is the proof of what I say." And Lindsey removed her hood, letting it fall back across her neck.

Later on, Mrs. Jan Carmichael, formerly of Los Angeles, California, would be unable to remember being caught by an invisible force, as consciousness left her.

…..

After seeing the girl safely to a local transportation center (a "truck stop," she'd called it; odd name, that), Ben resumed his search pattern, turning his senses towards the large concentration of people he sensed towards what he supposed was the east. He'd already tried west, and that had led him to those stupid little minded authorities.

That thought brought him pause. Surely, somewhere on this world, there would be people he could trust. Those officers back there simply hadn't been equipped, psychologically, to deal with someone like him, the unknown. Maybe somewhere on this world, there was.

Then his features firmed up. But if he had to go it alone…well, he'd done that before.

He was still nearly five hundred miles away from the town called "Albuquerque," when he picked up a signal from a familiar mind…

…..

Mrs. Carmichael came to with something wet and cold on her forehead. "Mom?" It was Gilly's voice, and he sounded frightened. That brought her to full consciousness even faster than the cold compress. "Wh-what….?" She sat up, the compress falling from her face, and saw Gilly and Sally's frightened faces looking at her.

"Mom? Are-are you okay?" And she realized that Gilly was frightened for her. Of course. He'd never seen his mother pass out before.

Just like she'd never seen a woman with-* "Wait!" Her eyes found the woman in green, who'd put her hood back up over her upper face. "Did…did you…do you…did I just see…" She really didn't know how to continue.

"Mom, it's alright." Gilly sounded a thousand percent relieved, knowing she was okay. "Miss Lindsey's a little unusual, but she's cool an' all."

Jan Carmichael turned to the woman sitting quietly on the low stool. "Did you just—or was that some kinda—what did you just show me?" And Lindsey could see that, in the back of her mind, she was thinking: the monsters. They've found us and now they look like us.

Sort of.

Take it easy, Lindsey. She could almost hear Ben's comforting voice. "Mrs. Carmichael…that was the obvious difference between myself and baseline humanity. As I said, I believe I come from another universe. There, my people are called triclopses." And feared, worse than any devil you can imagine. "I showed that to you, not to frighten you, but to show you that what your children—and I—were telling you was true."

Mrs. Carmichael put a hand to her head, not because of any pain—curiously, there wasn't any—but simply a gesture to indicate a reality she wasn't too sure she was ready to accept. "Well," she said, "I, I'd like to think I haven't gone crazy. And I suppose, all matters considered, I have to give you the benefit of the doubt. Unless that was some crazy optical illusion or something."

"No, ma'am, it was quite real. Would it help to see it again?" She moved her hands up to her hood.

"Ah, no, no, that, uh, won't be necessary." Then she put her head in her hands again and muttered, "but I don't know how I'm gonna explain this to Richard."

Lindsey reached out a hand, not to touch her, but a gesture of support. "Perhaps there will be no need. If I could but locate my friends, then I would be gone. I truly need to find them, to try to find out what happened to us all, why we are here. That is, if they are here." She paused, and Jan could see her frowning in concentration. "But I believe them to be. I can almost sense-* And suddenly, a look came over the part of her face Jan could see, a look of almost rapturous joy. "Yes! He is here! Ben!" Telepathically: {{Ben! It's me, Lindsey! I'm here! Where are you?}}

{{Lindsey? Where—okay, I've got a lock on you. I'm almost there.}}

"He's here!" And Lindsey sprang up from the stool she was sitting on and raced to the front door. "Ben! Down here!" she shouted up at the sky.

"Lindsey!" A voice from the sky caught their attention, and a large man in blue and black swooped down feet first and landed in front of them. He grabbed the girl in green in a bear hug. "Oh, Lindsey! I was so worried! But you're alright!" He held her back, looking her in the face. Her hood had fallen off, and all three eyes were fully revealed. He didn't seem to care. "Have you sensed any trace of the others? Where's Tori? And Ashley? Dr. McLemore?"

Her expression of delight sobered somewhat, and she looked down. "I'm sorry, Ben. I haven't sensed anyone else. I only just now sensed you." She saw his disappointed expression. "But I have only recently awakened from whatever happened, and my senses may not be at their best, just yet."

"It's the same with me," he said, "I can't seem to sense much beyond what I can see, though that's improving. Say, who are your friends?"

"Oh! Yes! Where are my manners! Ben, this is Gilly and his cousin Sally. They helped me when I, well, I suppose when I landed, or came to, not far from here. And this is their mother, Mrs. Jan Carmichael."

The one she called "Ben" turned to Jan. "Thank you. Thank you all. You've no idea how worried I was, that, that something might've happened to my friends. But now I know at least one of them found some good people. I only hope the others did, too. That's if they're even here."

"I think they are, Ben. I…" Lindsey hesitated, "I hate to say it, but I think…I think our old universe…may be no more."

"What? What do you mean?"

For their part, Jan, Gilly, and Sally were dumbstruck. It was one thing to find a girl with three eyes; it was another to find a man who could fly. Who was he? What was he? He didn't have three eyes….

"Well!" said Mrs. Carmichael, rubbing her hands. Somehow the strangeness of the whole situation was made a little better by the man, even though he could fly, not seeming to be…

a monster…

…Like his friend. She didn't notice the ever so slight expression of hurt that crossed Lindsey's face as she thought that. "I'm forgetting MY manners. Please, won't you both come in?"

Soon they were seated around the dining room table, sipping on coffee. It was surprisingly like the coffee they were accustomed to back home. Lindsey smiled, remembering that Tori, ever the experimenter, occasionally put butter and hot sauce in hers. Then her smile faded a bit. Where was Tori, anyway? Not to mention Ashley and Dr. McLemore?

"Well, this has been…an experience," said Mrs. Carmichael. Privately, she remembered her youth, when she was always "wasting her time" (as her mother always put it) with reading science fiction novels. Now it seemed like life was imitating art.

"Yes, ma'am," said Ben. "I assure you we didn't come here to cause any trouble. We just found ourselves here. And we really appreciate your hospitality." His expression darkened, and Lindsey put a hand on his arm. "There are people on your world who could learn a lot about how to treat others, from you."

"Oh?"

"Yes. When I first came to here, I immediately went to the local police department, to see if they had any useful information." His frown deepened. "That didn't go over so well."

"Yeah!" said Gilly, "ya don't go to the cops with this kinda stuff….they'll put'cha into the crazy house or somethin'."

"Gilly!"

"Well, it's true, mom!"

"Well," said Ben, in an assuring manner, "maybe not all the police would be like that. But the ones I encountered certainly were." He sighed, looking into his coffee cup. He was, after all, a guest on this planet, not to mention this household. It wouldn't be good manners to pit one generation against another. "And perhaps I could have approached the matter a bit…differently."

"Hey!" Sally's voice cut in from the living room. "Look! All of you! It's a monster attack!"

"Where?" Gilly asked. He hoped it wasn't back in Los Angeles. All his friends were back there.

"Looks like L. A.!"

"Oh, no!" gasped Mrs. Carmichael. "Not again!"

"'Again'?" Ben's voice was aghast. "This has happened before?"

They all saw the shaky camera footage of the five hundred foot leviathan rising up out of the bay, making its way towards the camera. The thing gazed at the shoreline with a kind a mindless malevolence that nonetheless seemed deliberate, and roared.

Ben turned to Lindsey. "I've got to do something. Those people don't have a chance."

She placed a hand on his arm. "I'm coming with you."

"You…" He started to say, maybe you'd better stay here, but he well knew how Lindsey would react to such a condescending (as she would see it) statement as that. Lindsey was a calm, stable, and highly intelligent young woman—much like Ashley, now that he thought about it—and she just wasn't the sort to stand back and hide when her friends were in danger. She'd already proved that, multiple times over, back home. "Okay. Just…just be careful, okay?" He placed his hands on her slim shoulders. "I've only just found you. I don't…don't want to lose you again."

Lindsey was touched. Back in their old universe, she'd been his first love. It seemed there was still something there. She knew there was in her. "I will be. Now, let's go."

"What're you gonna do?" asked Gilly.

"Whatever we have to do. C'mon, Lindsey," he said, and the two of them stepped out into the harsh desert sun, and levitated off, heading west, cracking the sound barrier almost immediately. Gilly, Sally, and Mrs. Carmichael watched them go in amazement. "Whoa," said Gilly. "So coooool…"

I know some real, live, honest-to-god superheroes!

In the air, Ben directed his thoughts towards Lindsey: {{Er, Lindsey? I, uh, don't suppose you'd happen to know just exactly where this 'Los Angeles' is, do you?}}

Lindsey quirked a smile. Typical Ben. Or, rather, typical Ben ever since he got with Tori. Tori redefined the term "creature of impulse," and some of that had carried over onto her lover. {{Yes, Ben. I'm sensing the minds of the inhabitants…and we'd best hurry. There's another monster coming up right behind the first one.}}

The Los Angeles military contingent had already rolled into position in front of the oncoming behemoths. The air force had been called out, and ETA was twelve minutes…but the captain was sorely aware of how many lives could be lost in twelve minutes. Looking through his range-finding binoculars, he couldn't help but feel, as usual, that he was woefully ill-prepared for these brutes.

The monsters thundered towards the beach. The people had long since fled, at the first sight of the creatures, and the soldiers had plenty of room to pull up and aim their ground-based missile launchers. Hurriedly, and with a speed and expertise born of hard experience, they pulled into position, targeted the lead monster and fired.

The missiles were the latest in armor-piercing high-explosive warheads, but the things were just so freaking huge. And they were tougher than they looked; their hide was like armor plate upon armor plate. Nor were they too clumsy or stupid to not dodge some of the attacks.

The first missile was a direct hit, however, gouging a chunk out of the monster's hide. The thing roared and changed direction ever so slightly, now headed straight for the missile emplacements. What is it with these things?-thought the captain. Any other creature on God's green earth wouldn't have just charged straight at what it had to realize was the source of its pain. Maybe they didn't feel pain? But how could that be? "Fall back!" The first team had already exhausted its supply of missiles—only two of which had actually found their mark—and it was time for the "B" team to roll into place. He glanced at his watch; still five minutes before air support arrived.

{{Okay, Lindsey. I see 'em. Not sure I believe 'em, but I see 'em.}}

{{There was certainly nothing like them back home. One's already on the outskirts of that city.}}

{{I'll deal with it. Meanwhile, use your powers to let the humans know they need to pull back.}}

{{Alrght.}} He could sense her grudging acknowledgement. {{But I won't sit on the sidelines. You just might need my help. So don't go getting cocky, Mr. Unlimited Telekinetic Power. These things could present a problem even for you, you know.}}

{{I understand. By the way, you sense any intelligence in these things?}}

{{No, but there is something…like a reflection in a mirror…of an intelligence. But I can't pinpoint it.}}

{{That's all I needed to know. No holding back, then.}}

He flew in lower, building up a huge TK shield in front of him. Without that, at his speed, he'd pass right through the thing like a bullet. The monster had just reached the outskirts of Los Angeles when he hit it directly in the middle, the TK shield spreading his impact out over almost the whole creature. The force of his forward momentum, reinforced by his TK field, lifted the multi-ton monster completely off the ground, slamming it into the one behind it, and back towards the ocean they had just emerged from. The concussion shattered windows for blocks around.

But even as he sent the two behemoths crashing back into the water, he saw two more rising from it.

The Pentagon: "What in th' hell is going on there?" roared the voice over the intercom. The assembled generals, many of whom had just now waked up, were doing their best to find out the answer to that very question at that very moment.

"Don't know, sir. Whatever's happening, it's none of our doing. Air support is still three minutes away. We're trying to get visuals now…" They had accessed the various cams around the city, ninety percent of which were no longer online. But those that were showed something that was, to them, beyond belief.

The highest resolution showed two tiny, man-sized figures flying at the monsters. One was actually taking the fight to the creatures themselves, with the other one holding off to one side, to where one of the monsters had made landfall. The giant creature was busy stomping its way towards the city, where emergency evac was still underway. The flying figure in green interposed itself between the oncoming leviathan and the outbound bus, and raised its hands…

{{Lindsey, be careful. Whatever these things are, they're stronger than they look. Uhf! And they look pretty strong!}} An unexpectedly powerful blow from one of the inbound monsters had sent him flying into a nearby building. His shields had held, but it had caused him to lose ground. Now angered, he flew back into the fray, once again building his TK field back around him, its golden glow visibly shining against the sun.

{{Don't worry about me, Ben. I may not have your raw power, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve.}} She extended her arms, pointing at the three hundred food creature….

With a thought, she generated a razor-thin field of spacial displacement, curving it into a spiral around the monster, starting at its snout and moving down to its tail, all in a fraction of a second. The result was the creature falling to earth, in slices of steaming flesh many feet thick. Almost immediately, the slices began to spew the monster's circulatory fluid, a sort of viscous blue fluid, around the surrounding area. {{Like I said, a few tricks.}}

{{Good going. I may borrow that one myself.}} More and more of the monsters still made their way ponderously towards the shore. Either they were short on intelligence, thought Ben, or something else was directing them. Or maybe they were just stupid.

{{Lindsey! Spin me a containment shield between these things and the city!}} Between them, they'd managed to push the invading monstrosities back out to sea, but the monsters continued their inexorable approach towards the city. {{I'm gonna take 'em down to the molecular level!}}

{{On it, Ben.}} And she concentrated, raising up a shield of pure telekinetic force around the slice of beach front property the monsters seemed so intent on setting foot on.

Ben lowered himself down to the ground in front of the giant beasts. What he was about to do was going to take a lot of power, even for him. He concentrated, drawing upon that seemingly inexhaustible source of something that was more sublime than either matter or energy, then pictured the oncoming monsters in his mind….

With a flash that momentarily darkened the daylight, his disruption field sprang outward from one monster to another, disintegrating their matter down to the most basic level. They became free-floating molecules, molecules now flying apart due to mutual repulsion, their material essence expanding outward in a concussive blast powerful enough to have devastated the city, had it not been for Lindsey's containment field. As it was, she had to strain to maintain the shield; it was like containing several warehouses of high explosives going off all at once. She gritted her teeth as the pain from the feedback hit her, but would not let go until she was certain there was no more danger. He spiraled the disassociated gases up into the outer atmosphere.

She flew down to Ben, who was sitting on a large rock overlooking the beach. It had taken some damage, mostly in the form of huge footprints, but fortunately, there hadn't been anyone underneath them. Of the monsters themselves, there was no sign. "Are you alright?" They were close enough to use voice communication.

"Yeah, Lindsey, I'm okay. Just a bit tired." They both knew what he meant. Had he not exercised superb and precise control, a good portion of the Earth could have gone the way of the monsters themselves. Dr. McLemore had taught him that, and it was a lesson he'd taken very much to heart. He got up, that infinite source rushing into him, renewing him. "Speaking of, do you sense any signs of any more of those things?"

Lindsey turned and gazed at the still-troubled water, frowning in concentration. After a moment, "No. My senses still don't seem to be at full strength, but I can't sense any more indication of such creatures." Neither of them asked the obvious: what were those things, and where had they come from?

"Well," he said, "let's go see if the people up there need any help. Maybe if they have injured, we can help transport them to the local medical facility, or something."

The crowd, typical of the nature of humans, had completely forgotten about the monster attack, and was focusing its attention on the two humanoids. "What was that?" asked one. "A nuke?"

"What're you, high or somethin'? If it had been a nuke, we wouldn't be standin' here askin' if it was a nuke." He pointed at the two figures on the beach. "I think they did it."

"Yer crazy." But the other couldn't deny the evidence of his senses.

On the beach: the captain of the military contingent really didn't know how to proceed. The two flying (flying? flying!) humanoids had lifted off, and were approaching his position. What to do? Nothing in his training or experience had ever prepared him for this. He was just about to order his men to target the oncoming unknowns when they came to a landing just a few yards away from him.

"Excuse me, er, Captain Gonzales, is it?" Ben glanced at the officer's nameplate. "I'm Ben. Do you have any wounded among you? My comrade and I don't have any healing ability, but we can assist you in getting them to medical help." Ben and Lindsey landed just a few meters away, not so close as to crowd the soldiers, but close enough, he hoped, to let them see they weren't a threat. No point in giving people who were already on a hair trigger any reason to pull those triggers. It's alright, stand down; we're on the same side here.

That had actually been Lindsey's idea. Once again, as he had so many times before, he felt fortunate to have her on his side. What would he do without her?

For a moment, the captain just stood there, dumbfounded and not a little frightened. He didn't lack for courage, but these people—these beings—had just eradicated an invasion by humanity's worst nightmares.

And in the space of a few minutes.

This was definitely not something you see every day.

There was a shout from behind the lines. "Hey! If you two really wanna help, we do have wounded!" The unit's medic stepped forward. "But I'm not sure where to take 'em." He glanced at the smoldering remains of the city, where the giant creatures had tread. "The closest hospitals…looks like they're gone."

"We'll find one that isn't. Where are your wounded?"

Soon, Ben and Lindsey were literally airlifting the injured towards the eastside hospitals. The medic had called ahead, to let that ER know that they were about to get a transport of wounded in a most unusual way. Nonetheless, many open mouths greeted Ben and Lindsey as they lowered their cargo of injured into the area just outside the hospital's ER.

But the staff's training took over, and soon the wounded were being tended to. Ben noted, with a sinking sensation, that the emergency room was packed already. "Maybe," he said, to Lindsey, "maybe we could teleport some of them to other cities, other hospitals."

"Not a bad idea," mused Lindsey. The pair were conscious of many stares—especially directed at Lindsey. She hadn't had time to cast the concealing illusion that masked her third eye, and it was a little late now. Quite a few people were looking at her with revulsion.

But not all. Some few, her telepathy informed her, found her extra eye…exotic. Well, she thought, this is a welcome change of pace. "I'll check with these medics—and the ones back there—and see if they can recommend anyone in particular."

The actual battle had taken only minutes; seeing to the wounded took hours upon hours. Fortunately for the two of them, they were assisted in placing the wounded by the doctors and medics there in Los Angeles.

….

The President had called an emergency meeting of his cabinet and his top military officials. Even if this had been a "normal" monster invasion, this was standard procedure (just as, even as he spoke with them, his PR staff was working on a speech to go out, reassuring the people that the matter was in hand, and that everything was under control. The monsters had been dealt with.

But it was the way in which this particular invasion had been dealt with that posed some problems for the PR people), and it was a "standard procedure" that was becoming very old for him. "Any intel on where those damned things are coming from?" One of the biggest problems the entire world had been having was, that the things just seemed to appear out of nowhere, rising up out of the sea, with only the merest of warning from the underwater sonar and hydrophones to let anyone know. And the hydrophones were of limited use. The things made hardly any sound underwater as they rushed into shore. "The monster damned things, I mean. The people damned things I'll ask about next." He ran a weary hand over his brow, and ordered the thermostat turned down again. Must be hot in here.

"Negative, sir," said one black-suited man, his coiled comm line going from his ear and disappearing under his jacket. "As usual." He sighed.

"Alright." In truth, he hadn't expected anything more. "Keep looking. Anything that size, has to leave some kind of trail. Now. What about those other…beings, things. Whatever they were?" There was no possibility of a news blackout, not in the day of the cell phone and internet.

"Not much," said another one, this one wearing a general's uniform, immaculately pressed. The President wondered how he'd managed that; it was two o'clock in the morning, dammit. How dare anyone look so fresh? Oh, well, never mind. "On the man, nothing. He doesn't correspond with anyone on file. Now," and here he paused, dramatically. "The woman is a different matter. Here, I'll show you." He touched a few controls, and the room darkened slightly. A viewscreen behind the President came to life, showing the fuzzy images of the two fighting the leviathans. Then the image of the woman in green paused, enlarged and sharpened as the computer enhancement took over. "Watch." The camera zoomed in on Lindsey's face, the software turning a simulation of it around, facing the camera. The image sharpened further and enlarged even further. "Ugh," shuddered the President, "that three eye thing…gives me the creeps."

"Watch what happens when I delete it, and adjust the face to compensate." He fiddled with the controls, and suddenly, the image solidified. Jaws dropped in the meeting room.

"That…that can't…I mean…" The President was clearly having difficulty, not with the strangeness of the image, but with its familiarity. "That can't be who I think it is, can it?"

"I don't know if it can or can't, sir, but that image, that person, is, or appears to be, identical to the actress Lindsay Lohan. Or at least, as she was a few years ago. And, furthermore," another pregnant pause, "we have it on good record that several people distinctly heard the man calling his companion 'Lindsey.'" They were all thunderstruck. How was this possible?

"Paul," said the President, "could this whole thing—all or part of it, I mean—have been some kind of gigantic publicity stunt? I mean, her career is—well, let's be charitable—it could use improvement-could all this be a hoax?"

"Sir, the monster attacks…there's no way anyone could simulate those. And even if they did, well, any simulation that produces that much damage isn't a simulation anyway. But the, well, the 'superheroics'? We've no explanation for how those could possibly have been faked, either.

"And mind you, we're not saying this is Ms. Lohan. Just that it's somebody who resembles her. To a…rather large degree."

"So…what do you recommend doing?"

"I think we need to bring Ms. Lohan in and ask her a few questions."

One of the black-suited men, listening to a phone, suddenly looked up. "Uh, sir? There's…somebody at the door. Says he needs to speak with you."

The President rubbed his eyes. This was getting annoying. "I don't have time to speak with any reporters right now. Tell him we're preparing a statement-*"

"Uh, sir, you don't understand. He's not at the White House front door. He's right outside." And he motioned, with his head, to the door leading into the office.

"What?! How'd he get past the-*"

The door shattered inward in a cloud of dust and splintered, reinforced wood. In strode a tall man with white hair, wearing a white lab coat and black pants. He was apparently in his late sixties, perhaps early seventies, but he walked with the litheness and confidence of a much younger man. What disturbed the watchers the most, however, was his expression: simultaneously bemused and condescending; he entered the room as if he were the one in charge. He had his hands in the pockets of his coat. The drawn guns didn't seem to worry him in the slightest. "Hello, Mr. President. I apologize for my…abrupt means of seeking an audience with you, but there really wasn't any time."

"Shoot!" ordered the general, and the sound of gunfire shattered through the room.

None of the bullets, neither armor-piercing or expanding, reached the figure in white, who'd drawn a hand from the pocket of his lab coat and was pretending to examine his fingernails. After a few minutes of futile but loud activity, the gunfire ceased. "Got that out of your system, did you? Good. Now, maybe, we can make some progress."

"Who the devil are you?" snapped the President, even as several Secret Service men moved to cover him.

"'The devil.' Huh. If only you knew. That's who I've been trying to be for the last ten of your years. Unfortunately, somebody may have outdone me." He looked up in complete seriousness. "Introductions. My name is Jeroux, Dr. Emil Jeroux." He nodded towards the screen, where Lindsey's picture was still displayed. "I see you've already made the acquaintance of my children." He turned to the President. "But all that is of small importance right now. It so happens, I need your cooperation—and you need mine even more. If I'm right, we may not have long."

"What do you mean? Not have long for what?"

"To exist."

To be continued…