Archive for January, 2011

More Stuff This Week

Posted: January 24, 2011 in Announcements / General

Been some crazy times the past week or so, my friends and faithful readers. Work deadlines, blizzards, school holidays/closings, father-in-law moving from Chicago to live with us here in New England while he settles in and searches for his own abode…

…you get the idea.

Fortunately, I’ll be knocking out a lot of work stuff today and tonight and anticipate another chapter of “The Gathering Storm” soon and perhaps one or two short stand-alone items like what I managed to whip out last week.

Stay tuned…

Lesson Plans

Posted: January 16, 2011 in Single-run ("One off") Stories
Tags: ,

“I’m not sure I fully understand,” Gloria began, her eyes darting quickly over to her son, who was reading a book in a far corner of the classroom.

“Oh, I understand all right…” her husband, Joe, began indignantly.

“…Honey, let’s not get worked up,” she said soothingly, a hand on his bicep. “Mrs. DelRey, what do you mean you have to keep a ‘sharp eye’ on Cody because of gym class?”

“Because…” Joe started, voice even angrier than before, then stopped at his wife’s “shush!”

The teacher seemed to palpably center herself, and the two parents leaned forward as she spoke in a low tone.

“Mr. and Mrs. Jamieson, Cody is very skilled in gym classes. Very strong. Very fast. Stronger and faster than most second-graders. As public school officials, it is our duty to watch for possible signs that a child might be transhuman. If so, we need to consider special placement to ensure the safety of other students. We have certain warning signs…”

“You have totally random red flags on a checklist that you blindly look at, and then start slapping labels on the kids!” Joe growled. “Cody’s no transhuman. Certainly no Brute or Speedy like you’re…”

“Speedster, Mr. Jamieson. The term is Speedster.”

“Don’t correct me. I pay your damn salary with my property taxes. You know what I mean. My son isn’t notably stronger or faster than other kids; not like you’re making out for him to be…”

“…we can’t just be cavalier about these things, sir,” Mrs. DelRay said. “Cody is just past the 90th percentile for strength and at the 85th percentile for speed.”

“By what measure? And what the hell is the percentile shit? I’m a carpenter, not a math expert,” Joe snapped.

“Cody is in the top 8 percent of his age group in terms of strength, and in the top 15 percent for speed. And to answer your other question, we have experts who come in during certain times to discreetly take note of exceptional students and make evaluations. If their academic skills are too high, we screen for possible signs they are Brains. If they show certain behavior swings, they might be Primals…”

“…So Cody is still within the normal ranges for his age group though,” Gloria noted. “He isn’t falling outside the normal maximums for…”

“…no, but we bring evaluators in whenever a child surpasses the 90th percentile of any ranking,” the teacher responded.

“This is bullshit,” Joe snarled. “So if a kid is athletic or smart, the parents get dragged in for a special meeting and we start talking ‘special placement’ to get the kid out of the normal school population. What is this? The new attention-deficit disorder, minus the pushing of Ritalin? “

Mrs. DelRey sighed, and fixed Joe with a gaze that was part sympathetic and part imperious.

“Mr. Jamieson, we’re not going to make any big moves right now,” the teacher said. “Once a student in on our radar, we simply watch them more closely and see what happens. See if there is an upward trend and whether they start going off the normal charts. I certainly wish Cody all the best, whether he’s simply a very athletic boy or whether he needs to go to the MLK Transhuman Extension School.”

“That’s on the other side of the city,” Gloria noted with mild alarm. “So far away.”

“It’s all too soon to worry, Mr. and Mrs. Jamieson. But we are required by state law to notify you and keep you in the loop.”

“I don’t like it,” Joe said.

“And that is within your rights. You could take Cody out and put him in private school. But almost all of the ones in Lark County will take blood tests and screen him for possible transhuman genetic biomarkers before they even agree to look at an application, and you’ll have to pay for the testing.”

Joe remained silent, though still fuming, and Gloria visibly fretted. Mrs. DelRey tried to smooth things over for a couple minutes, then shifted gears to talking about Cody’s grades and behaviors in class, with which she saw no problems, turning the meeting into something more resembling a normal parent-teacher conference, even though they had already conducted those two months earlier.

When she ushered the two parents and their son out the door of her room, Mrs. DelRey waved to Cody and smiled as he turned back, halfway down the hall, to yell out, “Bye, Mrs. DelRey! See you tomorrow!”

Such a nice boy, she thought. Full of potential, but not a lick of transhuman potential most likely, so don’t worry, Mr. and Mrs. Jamieson. He won’t be going to special programming. Sadly, it also means I may not make my quota this semester of promising leads for Janus to follow over the coming years, and that will not do well for me. I could use a few thousand extra dollars right now.

She returned to the classroom, sighed, and looked down at the student files on her desk. Now, Emma, she thought, might be promising. Extremely high scores in language, math and art. But more importantly, always guessing what people were about to say.

Of course, I won’t be mentioning that last part to anyone. If she is a Psionic, I want to keep her right where I can see her and make sure—probe her with my own powers just a little here and there. Janus would pay a pretty penny for a lead like that.

Blood and pain.

Blood in his eyes. Sanguine trails across the hardwood floor he had just refurbished three weeks ago and gory splatters against the dining table and on the glass doors of the cabinet that held his good dishes—and which had somehow escaped harm in all this violence. Blood that was his own, and blood that had been liberated from the body of Reprisal and the pair of killers he had brought with him.

And pain.

Oh, the pain.

Everywhere in his body, it seemed—making it hard to think. Making it hard to have hope.

He wasn’t even sure how he was still moving after all this. He’d never been hurt so badly before in his life, before he took up hero work or after. He’d never imagined a body could endure this much agony and still function.

Of course, he’d also never thought he’d have to fight this hard to live—and to kill in the process of doing so. He’d always tried to avoid killing—ironically, so did his arch-nemesis Mister Mimic—but he’d been caught unprepared and ill-equipped to defend himself. He’d needed to use everything at his disposal to stay alive, hoping that he’d either win or that he’d survive long enough for a neighbor to call 911 and for the authorities to arrive and give him a hand.

After all, they probably knew where he lived now too, just like Reprisal did.

He was pretty sure both of Reprisal’s lackeys were down for the count or dead, but Reprisal himself had been a tough nut—even beyond the fact that he’d come here fully armed and armored. The assassin seemed buoyed by a sense of mission—of destiny. That seemed to make him stronger and willing to endure whatever it took to finish his mission.

As if everything had come together for him perfectly to make him the ideal killing machine today.

And hadn’t it, after all? Hadn’t Becca seen to that in her anger? Not to mention the fact that Reprisal had wanted to kill him for almost a year now but hadn’t been able to pin him down for the deathblow.

He was pretty sure the villain would succeed today. Reprisal wasn’t hurt near enough to slow him down sufficiently, while he on the other hand was hanging by a thread.

He pulled himself upright, and gathered his power.

Heard a sound.

Caught a flash of movement.

Then Reprisal pounced.

There was more blood. So much more blood. So much more pain.

And memories of all that had led up to this to make it worse.

* * *

By the time he had realized what had happened, it had already gone viral.

He went onto Twitter, and within minutes, saw the message posted by @RebeccaMecca: Guess what? @Beastman and @greg_robbins are the same person. I should know. I’m his girlfriend. Or WAS at least.

With a little over a hundred keystrokes, Becca had linked his superhero account together with his personal one and, with a single tweet online, had completely outed him. As Greg Robbins, he had less than a hundred followers on Twitter. As Beastman, he had nearly 50,000 followers, and now they were furiously retweeting the revelation of his secret identity.

Greg’s chest constricted; it felt like a giant was squeezing his heart and lungs at once.

Shit. Oh my god oh fuck oh damn, he groaned inwardly. She’s given up my secret identity.

It was his own fault, he knew, for trusting her with it several months ago. But they’d been together for nearly three years at that point and, despite some rough spots, they’d had a strong two years, give or take, and they’d even talked about moving in together. About whether they wanted kids. It seemed like all but a foregone conclusion that he would give her a ring and ask her to marry him.

Three days before, though, he’d called it quits. He didn’t give her a ring. He asked her out to lunch, and then told her after the food was on the table that things weren’t working out. Becca had been both hurt and confused. They hadn’t had an argument in months, they were both employed, they had fun—was it the sex? She’d tried between tears to ferret out what was wrong in the relationship. She’d thought the blame must lie in her somehow, but Greg was evasive. He knew he had been. He didn’t want to talk about the things that were nagging at him.

Naturally, that made her assume it was another woman. Ever since he’d started a Twitter account as Beastman, he’d been getting more public attention and a lot more ego-stroking and flirting from women online. But it wasn’t another woman, he’d assured her. He just wasn’t satisfied; he just wasn’t sure they were a good fit anymore.

That had hurt her more. Greg suspected that if he had been cheating, she would have felt better somehow. It would have meant she had an opponent. Someone to force out of the picture or a clear reason why he was dumping her if she couldn’t—or if she didn’t want to bother fighting over him.

Instead, he gave her ambiguities, and that had undermined her self-esteem even more.

The lunch didn’t end well. In fact, it didn’t really have a proper meal-oriented conclusion. Just her rushing out with eyes red from crying and face flushed with a combination of anger and humiliation.

Greg didn’t run after her to try to console her; to try to explain.

He’d wanted it to end, after all, and now it was over.

Then he’d tried to soften the blow later that same day, thinking she deserved something more by way of explanation. So he’d e-mailed her a long letter apologizing and trying to be more clear about what was wrong.

That had infuriated her more—not just because he wouldn’t say it to her face but because he’d mentioned obliquely too many times in the e-mail about her occupation and her desires for the future. She wasn’t stupid, and she’d put the pieces together. He didn’t think she had enough ambition and thought she would hold him back.

They’d had no contact with each other after that.

Not until she posted the tweet, at least, and that told Greg all he needed to know. In the silence and the days that had intervened between them after the breakup, she’d been building in her anger, instead of working it out. And finally, that fury had erupted.

A volcano of anguish, shame, betrayal and rejection that was certain to cover his life in a burning flood of magma and a toxic atmosphere of ash.

* * *

Becca’s outing of him had taken place late Saturday night. Greg had a call on his voicemail from his boss on Sunday afternoon, telling him to meet with her as soon as he came in Monday.

“But, you can’t just fire me,” Greg had said in his boss’ office at 9:17 Monday, after she’d laid it all out for him. “I have no warnings. I do my job better than most of the folks around here. I work well within my teams. Firing someone because they’re transhuman, and that’s what this is about, is illegal.”

“No, it isn’t,” his boss had said firmly but quietly. She clearly didn’t relish doing this to him, but there was also something in her eyes that looked like she felt she had been unjustly deceived by him—by this secret of his other life now intruding on her own. “It is illegal according to federal law to fire someone for being transhuman, but those laws have a very important clause, Greg. A transhuman who poses a clear danger to the workplace can be fired summarily, and without any kind of notice or severance pay, though I am going to give you the latter—two weeks worth. You operated as a hero, and you have enemies. It has been reported that Reprisal is after you, and that means at least one of your enemies wants you dead. That puts everyone here at risk.”

“But…” Greg began, thinking about his bills—realizing that he had no way now to fund his dual life. No way, in fact, to meet basic expenses. He had maybe two months of money to live on in his savings. “I…”

“No, Greg,” she interrupted him. “You’re gone. Today. In fact, you have 20 minutes to clear out your desk, and then security will escort you out of the building through the service entrance. We’ll send you the severance check and your pay for the past week. We’ll next-day mail it within the next few hours. Just get out now. Please. Go.”

* * *

Eight hours after being fired, Greg called Rebecca.

“Becca! How could you? That tweet of yours got me fired!”

“Good,” she said softly but savagely. “Now you know a little what it feels to be dumped and have your life turned upside down.”

“This is serious, Becca! How am I going to pay my bills? How am I going to…”

“…go heroing and fight bad guys? I don’t care. Maybe you should have thought about my feelings before dumping me like steaming garbage in a public place and then rubbing salt in the wounds with an e-mail.”

“Yeah, about the hero thing, Becca. Everyone knows who I am now. Or will soon. Have you forgotten that at least one of those enemies of mine has hired Reprisal? I have a contract out on me. I have to figure out how to move—immediately. And go underground. And somehow make a living without getting killed.”

“I…I’m sorry about that, Greg. I was angry. I’d been drinking. I didn’t think…”

Although he heard regret in her voice, and a tremor of fear for him, he decided to exploit the crack in her armor instead of making any kind of overture. “You didn’t think! That’s exactly the problem. That’s a big reason I broke up with you! And now I’m a marked man as Greg Robbins. What were you thinking?”

There was a pause, and Greg could almost hear the sound of anger brewing on the other end of the phone. He regretted his words almost immediately, knowing they were about to deliver him a serious payback. But there was no way to take it back, and Becca didn’t wait for him to make the attempt.

“Thinking? Well, that’s the problem isn’t it? Just like you just said. You broke up with me because you don’t like my decisions. You don’t like my job. You don’t think I shoot high enough. You don’t like the idea that I want to have kids in the next few years and I want to be home for the first few years of their lives, do you? You want a goddamn sugar mama to help bolster your income so you can work less in an office and wear tights more to fight bad guys. Oh, I get it, Greg! Fuck you! Run away. Thanks for reminding me why my tweet might not have been a bad idea after all. Run like the goddamn tiny-man, limp-dick shithead you turned out to be!”

* * *

Later, on Twitter, Greg had a comment in his personal timeline from one of his hero persona’s enemies: Mister Mimic, or at least someone who claimed to be him, and had the moniker MrMimic2010.

Hiya, Beastman! It’s your nemesis Mister Mimic. So nice to know that I can talk to you as a real person now.

Then another, one minute later: I’ve never been on Twitter before. So fun! Maybe I’ll keep my account going after today. Will you?

And another: I’ve followed reports of yr Twitter taunting & posturing in the online media before today, but now we can have our fights Greg-to-Mimic eh?

It made Greg feel exposed, and he knew that was the idea. Maybe this was really Mister Mimic and maybe it wasn’t, but he had to take it seriously regardless.

The one consolation was that even though Mister Mimic probably ranked as the villain he most often foiled and who most hated him, the villain was known for not having ever killed anyone. It was a distinction that made Greg feel a little better.

Very little, though.

Time to move.

* * *

Even though his phone number and address weren’t listed, Greg suspected it was all too easy to figure such things out in this Internet-connected age. He started packing boxes and started loading his Trailblazer’s cargo space immediately. He’d have to live out of the SUV for a while; there was no helping that. Goodbye, suburban Lark County.

Greg figured he had a couple days before he was in any serious danger, so he’d plan on giving himself less than a day to be sure. He’d be gone before nightfall. He’d slip by tomorrow to get his final check out of the mailbox under cover of darkness, and then deposit it. Then empty his accounts as soon as everything cleared.


The volcano metaphor from before came to mind again, and he tried to imagine when the cloud of incendiary ash might drift away. Then he realized he’d picked the wrong metaphor. This was fallout from a nuclear blast. Whether it was his fault or Becca’s—and damn it, what was that stupid bitch thinking?!­—his life had been nuked. It might never resemble anything normal again.

He tried to consider his options. Maybe the Guardian Corps could give him a small stipend; he might be a good trainer and mentor. Perhaps he could hire himself out as muscle for business people or celebrities. When he was out of costume, he’d have to live in the shadows, but maybe he could…

Greg’s smart phone chimed, and he looked to see that he had new e-mail. He opened it, not recognizing the address from which it was sent:

Greetings, Greg. Sorry for those twitterings earlier. Or tweets or twits or whatever they’re called. This is Mister Mimic, and yes, I wanted to rattle your cage. But only because I wanted to prepare you for the real news. Want to know who hired Reprisal? It was me. I don’t have blood on my hands and hope never to have blood on my hands. But I have nothing against enemies dying, and I don’t mind paying to help the process along.

—Cordially, Mister Mimic

Greg stepped up the pace of his packing, planning to be out of the house within the next 10 minutes now. Chances were that Mister Mimic and Reprisal didn’t have his location yet.

Then another e-mail, with a link to GoogleMapQuester. A link that pinpointed his address, complete with a recent surveyor shot of the property.

Greg dropped the box he was packing, and grabbed his keys.

And then the front door and front window both shattered, and three men entered, firing weapons. Two people he didn’t recognize, and one he did.


Sorry for the quietude ’round these parts. Busy time of month, as usual, except that every other month, I not only have my normal deadlines but also an online newsletter to plan, write, edit and lay out for a client. I’m just getting to the end of the various critical needs, and hope to be able to put the many ideas in my head into story form for all of you soon.

[ – To view a list of all current chapters, click here – ]

“Welcome to the show, Secretary Dahl, and congratulations on your recent confirmation earlier this spring as head of the Department of Transhuman Affairs,” Ben Glick said with his unique mix of solicitude and disdain. “Why don’t you tell myself and my audience how you’re going to deal with the transhuman problem in this country and how you’ll be working with the Defense Department and State Department to deal with transhuman threats abroad.”

“Well,” the guest said, clearly taken aback, “thank you so much, Mr. Glick, for telling me what my agenda is supposed to be, particularly the foreign affairs role you seem to think I have. If you don’t mind, though, I’ll wait on President Obama to tell me what he sees my priorities being on what you call a ‘problem’ and what I simply see as a fact of life. We have transhumans…”

“…so, you don’t have any original thoughts,  Secretary Dahl?” the host goaded him. “The man who brought us socialist Obamacare and who’s trampling on the Constitution and refusing to produce a physical birth certificate from the U.S. has to march you through every step? Well, why does he need a secretary to head the department, then? He can just keep doing nothing and run Transhuman Affairs himself.”

“I think you’re well aware of the fact I meant I’ll be getting my broad goals and parameters from the President, as do all Cabinet members, Mr. Glick. And the U.S. government has hardly been ‘doing nothing’ as you say with regard to transhumans.”

“Really? What has been done with regard to the transhuman problem?”

“These are fellow humans, sir, not a ‘problem’ to be solved.”

“Oh, I’ll grant you there are a small number—those who watch me regularly, I’m sure—who side with humanity, but they aren’t human, sir. That’s why we call them ‘transhuman’ and they most certainly are a problem, as evidenced by the crimes so many of them commit and the damage the so-called ‘heroes’ do as well.”

Dahl rolled his eyes visibly. “You’re talking about a very small percentage of the population of transhumans, out of the already small percentage who have significant powers.”

“Interesting word choice: significant. Yes, Mr. Secretary, I worry about the ones I don’t see talked about on the news, or who have powers that aren’t showy, who might be using them to get over on humans, or push them out of jobs, or influence them, as the Socialist-in-Chief looks the other way.”

“I’m well aware of your conspiracy theories, but making charts of presumed connections between the Oval Office, transhuman agitators or anyone else with your dry erase markers on a whiteboard when you’re on the air hardly makes your theories fact.”

“Oh, certainly, sir, belittle my audience.”

“It’s not your audience that I’m addressing, and I’m still not sure what it is you think the President should be doing that isn’t already being done, particularly my part, given that my department is concerned with issues of health, discrimination and social issues—not law enforcement.”

“Well, aside from no longer cozying up to transhumans behind closed doors and handing the keys to the kingdom to them,” Ben Glick said loftily, “how about he give us some enforcement of the laws against them?”

“I’m a bit more concerned in my department about enforcing laws that should be protecting them to ensure they have the same rights as any other American, but the fact is that transhumans who break the law are arrested by local authorities or the FBI depending on the nature of their crime.”

“Oh, yes, some of them—for show. Those who aren’t of any use, since ‘President’ Obama has a history of throwing inconvenient people under the bus, as it were,” the talk show host responded. “How about…oh…Doctor Holiday?”

“Why would you pick him?” Secretary Dahl asked. “The government clearly has him in its sights. He’s on FBI’s most-wanted list.”

“And yet still at large—for Obama’s entire administration.”

“All of Bush’s, too, I should add,” Secretary Dahl said.

“Yes, but not with an official ‘hands off’ rule from the Oval Office back then.”

The Transhuman Affairs Secretary got an “ah-ha” look on his face. “I see. The so-called order to let Doctor Holiday do whatever he pleases. It doesn’t exist. It never did. It never will. More conspiracy theories, as is the idea that the government created him.”

“On Christmas 2009, just last year, he tossed a man into his own burning house after accusing him of horrific crimes for which there was no evidence—killing him without letting him have the benefit of a trial—and putting a whole neighborhood in danger. On Veteran’s Day three years ago, he dug up several caskets in Arlington Cemetery and flung them away. Several months ago, on New Year’s, he murdered…”

“Look, let me stop you there,” Secretary Dahl said. “I’ll grant you the Christmas example, as it was murder, though I should note the family has since confirmed many of the accusations. But all three caskets at Arlington turned out to be problematic—two of them were in the wrong graves, having been switched, and one corpse was of a soldier who it later turned out was guilty of several heinous crimes while deployed in Iraq. As for the New Year’s incident, we have the word of one man that Doctor Holiday did it. I’ll remind you of how many people accuse Doctor Holiday of everything under the sun, even when it isn’t a holiday, like the woman who drowned her three children a few years back and said ‘Doctor Holiday did it’ or the man who robbed the bank he worked at a few days before Easter and said Doctor Holiday did it. Even BP was trying to blame their oil spill in the Gulf on Doctor Holiday for the first few weeks. Need I go on?”

“Still, he walks free, and on that Christmas incident, why didn’t the authorities notify the FBI unless they were ordered to ignore…”

“As I understand it, Mr. Glick, the local authorities were a bit frightened and confused and were slow in letting the FBI know, and there was a mix-up in the message going through proper channels once the FBI was called…”

“So, every time Doctor Holiday shows up, the FBI or military are conveniently nowhere to be found.”

“You know as well as I do that Doctor Holiday seems to have a very large number of powers, and…”

“…and apparently friends in high places,” Ben Glick snapped. “There should be teams ready nationwide so that the moment someone spots Doctor Holiday, an Apache helicopter is sent out to fire a Sidewinder missile right at that menace to society.”

“Aside from the danger of using a Sidewinder on a single man in what would be a populated area most likely, weren’t you just complaining how Doctor Holiday denied a man the right to a trial by summarily executing him?” Secretary Dahl noted. “And now you want him executed on the spot?”

“The Constitution was written by humans and for humans, Mr. Secretary,” Glick said. “Someone like Doctor Holiday deserves no more consideration for due process than a rabid wolf in a Macy’s.”

* * *

Zoe consulted her e-mail and her Twitter account on her smart phone, then set it down to take a drink of her mocha with a double-shot of espresso. As she did, she heard the scrape of a chair behind her as someone sat at the table there, then a quiet voice saying, “Ms. Dawson—you should go to the library and look for some books by Donald Miller. An associate of Query’s would like to make your acquaintance in that section.”

Then the man moved his chair closer to his table, and she heard him sip at some beverage loudly.

Her heart seemed to stop in her chest for a moment, and she wondered if it was a trap set by Janus or Underworld to test her or trip her up, then realized the ridiculousness of that. They’d have to know she called him first, and that seemed unlikely. She hadn’t used her own phone or her normal e-mail account to do that. Then once she dispensed with that fear she felt a fresh wave of anxiety as she wondered how deep she was getting if she actually had gotten Query’s attention.

Part of me wonders if the wiser move would simply have been to play along with Underworld and take her offer at face value, Zoe considered. Except I don’t like being forced into a corner and I’m not sure I can just turn off my conscience that easily.

She stood up, gathered her things, and headed back to the campus to visit the library, hoping that her mysterious contact hadn’t meant the city library. She thought about asking him, and then wondered how many eyes Underworld or Janus might have on her, and kept walking instead.

* * *

The man behind the desk sighed, removed his feet from the top of it, and then leaned forward, hands steepled together in front of him. “Bob, I’m not entirely sure I’m comfortable with the direction of this project. I’m particularly uncomfortable now that I’m only just finding out about its existence 17 months into my presidency.”

“I only found out about it a couple days ago myself, sir,” responded the Secretary of Defense. “This has been an active but largely black-budget project for many years, and apparently they’re under a standing executive order to only bring themselves to my attention or yours at certain milestone points. Like this one, for which they need approval to proceed.”

“This just isn’t right,” President Obama said. “It smells bad, Bob.”

“But it isn’t some ultra-secret autonomous project or some rogue thing, sir, as evidenced by the safeguards and approval processes we’re seeing now.”

“I promised a more transparent government, not a more opaque one.”

“This isn’t the kind of thing we can tell people about, but I think it’s a project we need, no matter how distasteful it might seem. Look, we know that China is pushing transhuman development plans, both training the ones they have—most of them in the military—and working on ways to activate dormant transhuman genes in otherwise normal citizens.”

“China isn’t an enemy, I should point out,” the President said.

“Nor a friend, really, when we get down to it,” added Secretary of State Clinton, who had been silent until that point. “They already flex the muscle they have owning so much of our debt and being such an economic force potentially. Their people are already genetically predisposed more to transhuman powers than our largely white population here in the U.S., and they have a fifth of the world’s people in their borders.”

“Hillary’s right, sir. They will push the envelope, and if they decide to be aggressive, we will be at a serious disadvantage,” Secretary Gates added.

“General Alexander knew about this?”

“Yes sir,” Secretary Gates admitted. “He was NSA director under President Bush, too, and oversees it. He, like the facility in question, was under a standing order…”

“…he authorized them to take the next step and gave them a deadline to produce induced transhumans,” the President pointed out, an edge to his voice. “That is totally unacceptable.”

“Unfortunately, sir, it was part of his job, and written into his national security duties, as well as his military obligations, to only notify you when he needed authorization. He gave them a deadline, but only you can push the button on this,” Secretary Gates noted. “Given that China is mostly on our minds here, but also Iran and other nations who are more predisposed to their people becoming transhumans, you, me and Secretary Clinton need to know about this. But we either need to be on board with it, or stop and bury the project and make sure no one ever finds out about it. Those are really our only two options.”

For several minutes, the president of the United States said nothing. “Shit I need a cigarette,” he muttered. “OK. Hillary, Bob, we need to keep a tight lid on this. Obviously. I don’t like it one bit, but it doesn’t seem like there’s much I can do about what’s already been done, so let’s finish the project’s currently active phase. But I swear to God, if General Alexander or anyone else authorizes any new warm bodies to be added in in this exercise, I will make sure some heads start rolling, no matter what ‘standing executive orders’ are in place. And speaking of that, I want the general in here tomorrow to give me a full accounting of these standing orders he has as director of the National Security Agency and what orders the Genesis One facility has, or I’ll have him manning an Arctic research station by week’s end. Are we clear?”

“Crystal-clear, sir,” Robert Gates noted, and Hillary Clinton herself just nodded.

“I need a lot more convincing that this is important enough to keep going,” the President added. “As of right now, I’m feeling like this batch of poor guinea pigs in this program needs to be the last.”

* * *

In a quiet warehouse far from the New Judah city limits, a man in a suit walked nervously to the center of the structure, and stopped. After a while, he said, “I hope you’re here. You’re not an easy woman to find, my employer was very clear that I needed to reach you, and I am supposed to report back soon.”

“Is that your way of suggesting that I can’t kill you or people will know right away you’re missing?” came the gleeful reply from above. Moments later, Tooth Fairy dropped from above, and grunted as she hit the ground a little harder than she planned on.

“Just trying to emphasize that I don’t want to rush you, but I have to,” the man said.

“Oh, really? So I have to make a decision now. Is that it?” she asked, opening her mouth and letting her normal teeth turn into long needle-like curving fangs.

The man put his hands before his chest, waving them back and forth quickly. “Not at all, ma’am. I just need to be able to report that you got my message and that I gave you the means to contact my employer.”

“Are you a cop?” she asked suddenly.


“For your sake, I hope not. Because if a bunch of boys in blue rush in here, you’ll be dead before they take me and certain unmentionable parts of your anatomy will be in my mouth—and not in a loving or affectionate manner.”

“That won’t be necessary…”

“Damn!” she said, smiling and with a playful look in her eyes, which contrasted hideously with her toothy visage. She let the teeth revert to normal. “That’s a pity. Well, you’ve given me your message. I’m really not the joining type, though. Maybe killing you would be a good message to send to that effect.”

“It’s just an offer, ma’am. An expression of respect for your abilities and a chance for you to say yes or no as you please.”

“Call me ma’am one more time, and I’m going to have a snicky-snack,” Tooth Fairy said. “Go on, now, and run back to Janus. Leave your card or whatever on the ground and fly away home little ladybug.”

“Yes, ma…” the man said, then bit down on his tongue, set a business card on the ground, and hurried away as fast as he could without completely abandoning his dignity or decorum.

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