Sunday, July 20, 2008

The End of the World, Epilogue

Jack stared down at the gun in his right hand, studied it, hefted its weight, turned it over.

He'd bought the .40 cal XD at the same time Emily got pregnant. She hated the gun, but he'd insisted she learn how to use it. So they'd spent Saturday afternoons at the shooting range putting holes in to pieces of paper with man-shaped silhouettes printed on them. He'd been so convinced that this was just one way he'd always be able to protect his wife and child. His wife and children.

He turned the gun, looked it straight in the eye.

With his mind's eye he followed the shallow notches of the barrel's rifling as they twisted their way down. He followed them all the way down to the hollow-point bullet as it sat their, waiting.

That bullet had a name on it. "Jack."

He'd written it there himself.

His finger tightened on the trigger. Maybe this time. He closed his eyes tight, ready.


The gun fell limply to his side, loosely gripped in his rebellious right hand.

He looked up, eyes roving his son's nursery. He'd been sitting in the rocking chair where Emily had nursed their son with that lovely, beatific smile of hers since, well, pretty much since that morning when his world fell apart. At least, it felt that way. He barely recalled waking and sleeping, barely registered the daily visits from his or Emily's parents. He could see their pleading faces, hear their sobbing words. "We loved her," they all said, "We loved him. We lost a daughter, a grandson. Please, please come back to us. We can't lose a son, too."

He raised his left arm, studied the big, block letters, looked at the words, now beginning to scar over, that he'd carved there.


Those words surrounded him.

Before he'd made them a part of himself he'd scrawled them all over the walls of his cell, written in marker, pen, paint, carved with a screwdriver. They covered the bright, happy clouds his and Emily's parents had so lovingly painted such a short time before.

The nearly empty baby book lay in tatters in the corner where he'd thrown it after tearing out the empty pages in a rage. A crumpled photo of Emily and Nate stared at him around the blade of the pocket knife he'd driven in to one of the posts on the crib after recovering it from the trash.

As far as he knew, nobody except his parents missed him. His boss hadn't called to ask why he wasn't at work. Not even the bills came any more to remind him that if nothing else his creditors cared about him. The world, he'd heard, had just kind of shut down. His mother had told him that signs of life were returning, but only since the news came that women were starting to get pregnant again.

It didn't matter to Jack. As far as he was concerned his world had ended on a nearly empty stretch of Iowa expressway. He lifted the gun again and studied it. His world had ended the day he learned he couldn't protect them.

The doorbell rang.

He levered himself up out of the rocking chair and shuffled towards the door, wondering why he even bothered, hoping they'd be gone by the time they got there. He opened the door, hoping to see an empty stoop.

A pair of strange, plasticine smiles greeted him.

He realized with a start that he was still holding the gun and shifted it behind him.

The smiling pair didn't seem to notice. They just stared at him, those strange, out of place smiles making them seem more like robots than people. Robots designed to look like a man and a woman. Robots programmed to smile and stare.

"Well?" he finally croaked out, realizing it had been a long time since he'd used his voice.

"Hiya, neighbor!" the she-bot chirped out. "We're just in your neighborhood going around and introducing ourselves."

"Why?" he asked, more from a sense of social obligation than curiosity.

"We'd like to invite you to church," he-bot said. "We just started New Life Resurrection Church right here in town and we want everyone to know the love of god before it's too late."

"Before what's too late?"

She-bot blinked. "Why, the end of the world, of course." The smile never changed.

"We've already received a most wonderful message from god," he-bot added. "When he took all the true believers and children to be with him."

"He took my Jeffy and my little Claire," she-bot added through her hateful double-row of gleaming teeth. "I'm sure they're happy in paradise right now. And we'll get to join them soon."

"But only if we accept god's love," the other added.

It was unbelievable, unacceptable, completely insane. But something stirred inside of him. He realized that this strange, improbable pair had brought him exactly what he needed.

"Nate," he mumbled, "Emily."

"I'm sorry," he-bot said, "What did you say? I couldn't hear you."

"I said," Jack cleared his throat, "I said that I got a message from god, too."

"Wonderful!" the she-bot somehow managed to smile even wider. "Would you like to share it with us?"

Jack slowly raised his left arm and pressed it against the screen.

He-bot's eyes flickered towards the arm. The smile faltered as realization dawned, then disappeared.

She-bot's smile shrank, then returned. This time, though, it was different, tighter.

Almost human.

They began backing down off his front step. "Well, uh," he-bot stuttered out, "We meet at ten o'clock on Sunday mornings. Um, we'll see you there. Maybe."

Jack pushed open the screen door and stepped out of the house. "No," he said, raising his right arm, "Stay. I insist."

The pair stopped in their tracks.

"When you see your god," Jack said, "Tell him I have a message for him."

"W-what?" the man asked, terror in his eyes.

"He took my son and it's his fault my wife is dead. Tell him he's an asshole."

Jack's finger tightened on the trigger.

The woman dropped to her knees, tears streaming down her cheeks. "No," she cried, "Please, no."

He tugged the trigger. The man collapsed.

The woman fell on to him. "No," she sobbed, "God, no. Claire, Jeffy, oh, god, why you, too?"

For the first time Jack noticed that both were wearing wedding rings. The gun dropped to his side. He looked down at the sidewalk, hoping to blink the tableau away, hoping that if he looked up he would learn that he hadn't just become a monster. The shell from his shot had somehow managed to land by his right foot. His name was still on the shell, staring up at him.

His gun came up once more. He pressed it to his chin. This time there was no thought, no hesitation, no regret.

The holocaust was finally complete.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The End of the World, Part 6

Oooh, it's a tragedy
So completely, it's almost Greek

Jack opened his eyes slowly, drawn back towards consciousness by the tinny sound coming through a barely working speaker and the general feeling that something was not right.

And if I was to be hard pressed
I'd lie and say I could not care less

Through the shattered windshield the highway stretched out in front of him. Over his head. He was upside down.

Yeeeaaaaah, I hope you have a lonely life
Yeeeeaaaah, I hope you have a lonely life
A lonely life

His mp3 player swung back and forth across his peripheral vision, still attached to the free-hanging cable connecting it to that single working speaker. He ripped it free and stared at it for a moment. Local H, it said, "White Belt Boys," Twelve Angry Months. It didn't know what had happened. It didn't care. All his anger, confusion, and frustration focused on the impertinent device and he threw it at the asphalt.

The seat belt was biting in to his shoulder and waist, reminding him of the precariousness of his situation. He reached for the release and tucked his chin as close in to his chest as possible. As he began to press down, he closed his eyes tight and tried to brace for the impact.

As the seat belt withdrew it caught his left shoulder and he ended up hitting the ceiling hard on his right side.


His left arm flopped out of the car and pain ripped through it as tiny chunks of tempered glass from what was once his side window ground in to his skin.


He pulled his arm back in to the car and rubbed his right elbow. Once he had his bearings, he turned to his wife.

Emily was lying on the ceiling, pressed hard in to the passenger side bulkhead, still clutching Nate's empty pajamas in her bloody hands. She was completely still.

"Emily?" Jack asked, reaching out towards her face. "Hey, babe, wake up."

She didn't respond.

It took him a moment to realize why she didn't stir, why her head seemed to be lying at a funny angle to the rest of her body.

"Emily!" He shouted at her, fighting back the panicked tears that were filling his eyes. "Emily!" He grabbed her wrist and shook it violently. "Wake up, Emily!"

She remained obstinately silent.

"It's okay, Emily," he said, withdrawing his hand. "I'll go get help. You just stay right there. It will all be okay. I'll be right back."

He crawled out of the broken windshield and climbed painfully to his feet in time to see a pair of military Humvees swing out of the eastbound lanes and bounce across the median. He raised his bloody left arm to signal them.

A sudden realization shot through him. He'd broken the curfew. They'd probably arrest him, maybe send him to Leavenworth. As the lead Humvee pulled to a stop in front of the wrecked car the image of a troop of stern soldiers with draw weapons filled his mind.

He imagined staring down the barrel of a loaded M16, imagined watching a finger tighten on the trigger.

Somewhere deep down inside of him he hoped that was exactly what would happen.

The Humvees' doors opened. A gray-haired, unshaven man climbed wearily down from the driver's seat of the lead vehicle. "Sir," he asked, walking slowly up to Jack, "Sir, are you okay?"

Jack stared at the man and slowly read the word Wilkins on his name badge. As the other six soldiers assembled, he noticed that none of them were aiming weapons at them. None of the soldiers were even armed. They stared at him and his ruined car with sunken eyes that peered out of haggard faces.

"Sir," Wilkins repeated. Jack realized he was probably in charge, but had no idea what his rank insignia meant. "Sir, are you okay?"

Jack finally found his voice. "My," he croaked out, waving his arm vaguely back towards the car, "My wife. son."

Wilkins bit down hard on his lower lip and seemed to fight back tears for a moment. "Jackson," he said after a moment, "Check it out."

Jack turned and watched as one of the soldiers dropped to his knees and carefully crawled through the Maserati's passenger window. He emerged a moment later, ashen faced. He shook his head slowly.

A single tear ran down Wilkins's cheek. He reached in to the breast pocket of his fatigues and produced a picture of an adorable smiling blond girl behind a cake with nine candles. "This is my Carrie," he said. "She's the best thing that's ever happened to me."

Jackson reached in to his pocket and produced his wallet. "This is Johnny," he said, opening up the wallet to reveal a picture of an infant in a red stocking cap. "It's his first Christmas. My girl Jenny and I were so happy."

One of the other soldiers spoke up. "I got a kid sister," he said. It occurred to Jack that he looked young enough to be a kid himself. "After my dad died of cancer I pretty much ended up raising her myself. I don't know what's happened to her today."

Suddenly, unexpectedly, Wilkins broke down and began crying. Jack and the rest of the soldiers stared at him in disbelief for a moment, then joined him in his grief.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The End of the World, Part 5

Twenty minutes later the western horizon began to brighten. "We're coming up on the Quad Cities," Jack said. "Here's hoping we make it through."

He worked the interchange between I-88 and I-80, shocked that there was no sign of law enforcement anywhere to be found. When they finally caught sight of the urban sprawl that made up the dense collection of river towns he figured out why.

The Quad Cities were on fire.

"What the hell?" Emily asked, clutching Nate to her chest. She'd managed to change his diaper, although necessity had forced her to chuck the used one out the window. It was rotting on the shoulder somewhere around Sterling. "It looks like a war zone down there."

"It is," Jack said, catching sight of a convoy of Hummvees and canvas sided trucks making their way down a street. "Looks like they've got the Army out in force."

As they drew closer he made out a line of fire trucks at the nearest edge of the giant fire flanked by what appeared to be more Army vehicles. They seemed no match for the huge conflagration gobbling everything in its path. He could see no activity of any sort nearer to the highway. The Cities' loss appeared to be their gain.

Jack opened the throttle again, worried that his window would soon close. The engine revved, the speedometer swept past 150 to 160. 170.

The Quad Cities were soon in his rear view mirror. He looked in to the bright splotch of the fire, amazed at how it seemed to light the horizon. With mounting horror he realized that it wasn't just the fire brightening the view.

"You know," he said, looking for a way to distract himself from the truth, "This isn't exactly the way I'd visualized my first road trip in this car."

"Me, neither," Emily said absently, bouncing Nate up and down on her shoulder.

"I mean, I kind of figured that I'd be putting on my sunglasses and cranking up the stereo. You know?"

"Yeah. I know."

"I, uh, I think I'll put on some music."

"Okay. Not too loud."

Jack plugged his mp3 player in to the stereo and called up Local H's Twelve Angry Months. Pushed by the music, the encroaching dawn, and his own sense of desperation, he pressed the gas pedal to the firewall and watched the Maserati's tach jump to the red line.

The end came quickly, unexpectedly.

They reached an anonymous leftward curve in the road followed by a shallow downward slope and an overpass. It was the sort of thing a Maserati GranTurismo S could handle easily, even at full speed, assuming the driver was capable and paying attention to the road. Jack was neither. A night of fitful, barely restful sleep followed by over an hour of mind-numbing speed under a cloud of gnawing terror had bent his mind nearly to the breaking point.

It didn't help that at nearly the exact moment the car reached that curve, the first ray of the new day's sunlight pierced the Maserati's rear window, filling the car with radiant light.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw his baby's blue cotton jumper deflate. The world seemed to slow down as he turned toward his wife in disbelief.

Emily's eyes widened. Her mouth dropped open and her lips curled back as a look of pure anguish set in on her face. Her fingers snapped closed, clutching at the impossibly empty pajamas. Her jaw worked slowly, forming the shape of an unspoken word.

The car lurched. Time snapped back to normal.

Jack swung his eyes back to the road in time to see the too-quickly approaching shoulder. Panic took over and he jerked the wheel to the left.

Time slowed once again.

Tires screeched on dry pavement.

Eerie silence.

The horizon lazily rotated counterclockwise.

They were airborne.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

An answered prayer

I knew as soon as it happened that it was God's doing. What was it, something like five percent of the adult population that disappeared, and that just happened to include Mom and virtually her whole church, that had been predicting this for years? No way was that a coincidence.

But just because God had proved he existed didn't mean I was going to fall on my knees and start worshipping him. I couldn't get my head round this idea of a supposedly loving God that would split families up the way the Event did. If I could have talked to Mom about it, maybe she would have been able to explain it, or maybe not. But that was the whole point: she was gone. Everybody that could have made sense of it for me was gone, and I had to try to put it together on my own. When I first went away to college, I thought I was pretty smart, but this was way beyond me.

I tried talking to Dad about it, but he was coping in his own way. When he wasn't wallowing in guilt over all the times he'd come close to cheating on Mom, he was praying and trying to convince me I needed to join him. I told him how nasty and spiteful this God sounded, how I couldn't pray to any God who would do such a thing until I understood why, and the only reason he could give was that if I didn't kiss God's ass nicely, he might do something else even worse.

That might have suited Dad nicely, but it didn't suit me, so I didn't join in with his prayers. I did go to the church to see if the pastor guy could explain it any better, but he was too busy coming out with Bible geek stuff about how the weird preachers in Jerusalem tied in exactly with some prophecy or other. Dad just ate it all up, but it didn't come close to answering any of my questions.

I was praying though, kind of. At least, I was talking to Mom, as if she could still hear me, as if she could somehow answer me. We didn't always see eye-to-eye before, but now that she was gone I realised how many little things she'd done for me and how much I depended on her being there. I suppose I was putting on the rose-tinted glasses a bit, but the way she used to drive me nuts with her Bible quotes for every occasion didn't seem to matter as much as the fact that she was there for me and always had time to listen.

That was where things were at when we went to New York. Dad was meeting Hattie, the flight attendant he'd come closest to cheating on Mom with, and he wanted me along to prove how completely above-board everything was now. He wanted to tell her how God was behind the Event, and how she'd better get praying for the good of her soul, and he didn't get how creepy that was going to come across however I explained it. He was just utterly convinced that he was doing what God wanted him to do.

The scariest thing was, I thought he might be right.

Anyway, Hattie introduced Dad to Buck, this journalist guy who had been on his flight when the Event happened. For some reason I didn't really get, Buck wanted to interview Dad for the piece he was writing about the Event, which would have made Dad's day if he hadn't been so concerned about saving Hattie's soul. Buck and I cleared out to give him time to do that, and we spent a while wandering round the airport talking.

Well, Buck did most of the talking. I got the feeling he never really talked to anyone in depth: he seemed so grateful for the way I listened and let him pour it all out. And somehow we got drawn into flirting with each other, even though ... I mean, we didn't have a lot in common, apart from both being lonely. I guess the Event had thrown us both off a bit, and it was easier to hold onto someone else than to stand up on our own. Part of me felt like a bit of flirting was nothing to be ashamed of, but another part of me felt terrible at the way I was leading him on. Not to mention, how could I be thinking of things like that so soon after Mom...?

I didn't want to sit around listening to Buck interviewing Dad, so I sneaked away to the ladies' room. Hattie had the same idea, and we ended up standing awkwardly in front of the mirrors. Just looking at her, I could tell that however bad I'd thought Dad's salvation pitch was going to be, he'd somehow managed to make it worse. If this was what being on God's team could do, I wanted no part of it, ever.

But I didn't want to believe this was what God was really all about. I already knew how much power he had, and if he was that much of an asshole - I didn't want to think about it. But Mom had been on God's team for much longer, and she had never done anything like that. Maybe Dad was just making mistakes because he was new to the whole thing. You don't know how much I wanted to believe that.

So as soon as I had a minute to myself, I said another of my "prayers" to Mom. Asked her if she could sort of have a word with God, get him to send me some kind of sign. Just to let me know that Dad was wrong, that this wasn't the whole of God's will. And you know how sometimes when you pray, you get a calm, hopeful feeling inside as if someone really was listening? When I'd finished praying, that's how I felt.

There was still the problem of Buck. I still hadn't worked out whether I had anything to be ashamed of, but I felt like I did need to apologise for leading him on and make it clear that I didn't want things to go any further. The last thing I needed in my life was relationship drama. So I hung around after the meal to try to explain, but I couldn't find the right words. He seemed to think my talking to him meant I was interested, and I ended up giving him a vague brush-off about how he would have to look me up if he was ever in Chicago, which wasn't one of my better moments. He said something intense about how that would be sooner than I thought, which kind of gave me the creeps.

And when I got on the plane home the next day, who was sitting right next to me? I don't suppose it's a particularly impressive answer to a prayer, coming from someone who has the power to vanish millions of people in an instant, but maybe he couldn't be bothered to do more. After all, I was only the daughter of one of his believers. Besides, it got the message across effectively enough.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Slippery Minds

"Did you honestly think your pathetic half prayer would save you from my grasp Cameron?" Buck heard in his mind very clearly in the voice of Nicholia Carpathia, who was broadcasting his thoughts as he discussed petty politics with the men at the table. "I'll let you watch for right now, please, do not get up."

Every second next to Carpathia was toxic to Buck, like microphone feeding back directly into his brain. He wanted to plug his ears, or bite his lip, or jump out a window, or something to take his mind off the dull ring in his subconscious. He wanted to, but all he could do was watch. Anytime he made a motion to do anything other than sit and watch his mind filled with images of the security detail surrounding Jonathan Stonagal ventilating him at the slightest twitch.

"Now to the true business," Carpathia announced in a regal fashion, "Your promotion Mr. Stonagal, will see you far too busy to handle your usual business affairs. I will take charge of them from now on, please relinquish all your assets and files to me."

"What?" roared Stonagal, blood rushing to his face, fixing his eyes into a glare that would have killed its target had it not been directed at the  iron constitution of Nicholia Carpathia. "Have you forgotten whose plan this is? I've been pulling the strings for decades, you're nothing but a stepping stone, an errand boy. I will not stand down now that my work is almost complete."

"Please Mr. Stonagal," calmly replied Nicholia, smirking in the face of stare that withered the house plants behind him. "I would not want to have to abuse the great power that has been recently invested in me to deal with you."

Stonagal was shocked, anyone could tell that Carpathia was referring to much more than the powers of the UN, but Stonagal seemed to know exactly what he meant. Flustered Stonagal went into a momentary blinking fit, his eyes desperately darted around the room finally coming to rest for a brief moment on Buck. Quickly Stonagal's facial expression changed to a complete poker face, staring Carpathia straight in the eye. The only thing that could be gathered from Stonagals body language was that he was bracing himself for something.

"Guards, kill the pretender anti-christ," Stonagal thundered, making a violent gesture towards Carpathia.

Nicholia put up his hand, and the body guards made no move.

A single chuckle escaped Carpathia's curled lips, "Poor choice of words," said Carpathia then clenched his fist.

Stonagal's guards turned on their heels, and opened fire, going for clean body shots, minimal blood splatter.

Just before Stonagal slumped over for the final time, the feedback in Bucks head crackled and ceased. He could think again somehow, but he thought it was not a good time to make a move.

Todd Cothran did not share the same reservation for action. Stonagals men turned towards him, and moving to cut the head off the snake, Cothran quickly un-holstered his Colt .45, drawing a bead on Nicholia. Far too late, impossibly it seemed as if Nicholia somehow had a gun in his hand the whole time, and shot Cothran through the heart before the Colts safety was off. Cothran fell inelegantly forward, and his corpse smashed into the table, letting the gun slide out of his hand on impact.

Brushing the debris from the fired bullet off of his suit and getting straight back to business, Carpathia addressed Stonagal's now former head of security, "Bring me his files, I want to make the transition as soon as... Wait."

Nicholia quickly jerked his head to his left and saw Buck Williams trembling, pointing Cothran's gun across the room at him.

"Don't move," Buck stammered as he slowly backed toward the door, directed more at Stonagal's men than Carpathia.

Carpathia didn't flinch, he knew Buck couldn't hit him if he was two feet away, let alone twenty. He raised his arm to order the Guards to fire, but Buck let out a shot before he could say the words. The bullet hit nothing but ceiling tiles, but it provided enough of a distraction for Buck to dash out the door. There was no point going after him, the hall outside was a maze of hallways that all lead to an exit.

"Remind me to repeal the fire codes as soon as I get back to my offices Plank," sighed Carpathia as he sat down.

"Sir, I thought that was a marvelous display of power otherwise," replied Plank obediently.

"Too bad it is all wasted, we can not let my inner council see this as weakness," said Carpathia as he buried his heads in his hands, the rest of the men in attendance sat in a silent stupor. "Apparently Mr. Stonagal freed Mr. Williams of the mind control just to spite me, it was all his limited powers could accomplish, how childish of him. I shall take this memory from them, in the meantime find someone who looks similar enough to Stonagal to stage this again. I think we can do without a Cameron Williams next time around, arrange for an accident to befall him."

"Yes sir," Steve Plank responded quickly as Stonagal's former security guards removed the bodies from the room and prepared for take two.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

L.B.: Chekhov's GIRAT

To me the thing that's menacing about this scene is the leader who not only inspires fanatical loyalty to his eeeevil cause, but who is such a ruthless badass that he will kill his own guys at the drop of a hat just to make the point that he will kill YOU at the drop of a hat too, so don't ever every do anything that might make him even momentarily angry.

The only problem is that having intimidated all his followers he then gets them to forget it, and tries to claim public sympathy as "OMG, this guys friend just shot his other friend." That's more pity inspiring than sympathetic loyalty inspiring, though... not exactly what he needs here.

The other point is that in the movie Kirk realizes that the bible says the anti-christ will proclaim himself God... Nicky Rocklumps doesn't really do that at all here.

I would have played it something like this: Un-st. Nicky talks about the new heaven on Earth they're going to build.
"You are of course with me on this. It's important that you all believe in me. The work we are going to achieve here will take faith, devotion, and obedience."

Then when Stonagal and Cothran raise some minor type of objection, Rocksy ostentatiously ignores them and speaks directly to the body guard.

"You would be Mr. Otterness, no?"
"Yes sir."
"And your job here is to protect Mr. Stonagal is it not."
"Yes sir."
"You must be concerned that Mr. Cothran here is undermining the work of your employer Mr. Stonagal."
Exuding a blank professional stillness the guard said nothing.
"This is a cause we all need Scott. I can call you Scott, can't I."
"Sir." The guard shifted his feet.
"Scott, Mr. Cothran is a grave danger to the works of your employer. He is becoming an unreliable agent for the needs of us all. Only you can help now Scott. You know what you need to do."
The guard rocked on his heels slowly, and blinked twice. Then reached to his belt and removed a small blunt pistol.
"No, Otterness. Put it down." Stonagal chimed in. The gun raised. "I'm ordering you to stop Otterness! This is not the way."
"You know your duty." Carpathia demurred. There was a bang and Todd-Cothrane crumpled off his seat.
Stonagal turned white. After a moment he unfroze and turning back to the table, sat heavily. "You've made your point."
"Have I?" Carpathia pressed his palms together. "And what point would that be exactly?"
"We're all in this together." Stonagal hardened into a poker face. Buck was impressed at the composure he was able to pull together.
"Moving on," Stonagal put his hands behind his head in a show of ease, though Buck was sure he saw them tremble. "What else is on the agenda today?"
"So now you're pacing our meetings for us are you Jonathan?" Carpathia moved and stood behind the man. "That's most kind of you to lend us the benefit of your authority. Is there anything else we can do for you? Can I perhaps help move along your vision of peace on Earth?"
Stonagal scanned the eyes of the other representatives, but seemed unable to return any of their gazes.
"Because we can't bring Eden back if we're all working at cross-purposes Jonathan. We have to be singing out of the same song book Jonathan. All playing our own parts. If someone plays the wrong part, then the whole venture fails." Carpathia lifted his finger tips from the back of Stonagal's chair, and took a step towards the guard. "And we can't have that can we Scott?"
Scott Otterness hadn't moved since he had released his trigger. He was still gazing just past the end of his extended firearm, through the smoke still curling from its muzzle.
"You wouldn't want to stand between the 6 billion people of this planet and paradise would you Scott? Personally, yourself? That would be a lot to have on your conscience now Scott, wouldn't it. I don't know how a man could live with such guilt. How can your professional duty stand in the way of your obligation to do right by the entire rest of the population of our lonely little planet?"
The room was so quiet that everyone heard the scrunch of Otterness' feet pivoting on the marble floor.
The first bullet missed. It burst through the back of the chair beside Stonagal's head, leaving a dark puncture in his black leather halo. Stonagal's only motion was to close his eyes. The second bullet hit its mark. Stonagal's cheek, marbled with its fine labyrinth of capillaries, exploded outwards, and he lurched forward, his head landing with a crack on the round mahogany table. And then he was still, as a red crown expanded slowly outwards, covering the smoky swirls in the wood.

Eventually Carpathia broke the silence. "We've all just witnessed a tragedy gentlemen. We are none of us safe in doing God's work. I believe I was talking earlier about genuine humility and faith in the cause. It's the only protection any of us have. Madness and enemies lurk in every false security that we seek." He turned easily to Buck. "Mr. Cameron, I'm sure you will see to it that the world hears of our plight here. It is important they know about these forces of discord and chaos that have struck such a blow to our noblest of institutions this afternoon. To all the rest, we have work to be done. I suggest you go prepare yourselves."

As Carpathia strode to the door, the rest of the room suddenly came alive. Security personnel dived to cover their clients, and Scott Otterness flew backwards in a hail of gun fire.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Two New Features

Sorry, a quick bit of housekeeping. I went ahead and updated the RSS feed links in the sidebar to the latest version and at the same time added a blog roll for those authors that I know have blogs (that one's down at the bottom of the sidebar). If you are an author on Right Behind and your blog isn't listed, just use the email link in the "About Exharpazo" section to let me know and I'll add it.