Red was not exactly sure what he expected to find when he and Alison crept
stealthily towards the lobby of the DI&R Rechristening Center, but what
he found was not it. It had been an hour or so drive tracking Father Patrick's
van to Rye, New York, just near to an amusement park called "Playland" that
Alison had gone to a few times before. They could see the Ferris wheel over
the leafless treetops surrounding the building. The building itself was unremarkable,
looking much like the DI&R buildings back at the facility Red had been
sainted in, modern looking, lots of glass.
Red supposed he had expected Father Patrick's people to have taken the facility,
or at least part of it, hostage. Considering that two of Patrick's 'Righteous
Angels' had been impersonating Red and Alison at the time, and that where
ever they had gone, they seemed to have taken Alison's parents as well, it
had seemed like a reasonable guess… except for the part about coming
to the Rechristening center in the first place. That bit of information had
come from Alison's newfound gift of second sight.
They had crept up to the building, Red armed with his newly silenced Holy
Handgun, Alison carrying a backpack full of weapons purloined from the Angels
and armed herself with what appeared to be a stun-gun or tazer they had found
within said backpack. They had carefully attempted to keep out of sight and
under cover when approaching. All of these things added to their surprise
upon finding business as usual within.
"Welcome to DI&R Rechristening center 003, your Holiness," said
the man behind the welcome desk. "Can I help you with anything?" He
was wearing a security guard uniform, but the badges all seemed to be more
themes towards Christianity than the judicial system.
"Uh… sure," Red said.
"Sir, if you don't mind," he said, "We ask that all weapons
remain away while in the building."
"Oh, uh… sorry," Red said. He holstered his gun as Alison
slipped the tazer back into the bag. "We just… is there anything
going on? You, know, like dangerous? Criminals or, you know, that sort of
"I'm afraid I don't follow you, your Holiness," the guard. "We
have many of the Godless here, that's our purpose, as you know."
"Alright, fine," said Red, "Then can you tell us where we
can find Frank Argento?"
"Of course, sir." The guard turned to his computer and typed something. "Yes,
it says here that Francis Argento arrived… one hour ago at the south
entrance with a group of Rechristenees and escorted them to holding."
"Like prisoners?" Red looked to Alison, who shrugged. "Can
you tell us how to get there?"
"Anything you wish, your Holiness."
A moment later they were on their way. As they walked down the hallway, Red
glanced into the offices on either side of them. People seemed to be going
about their daily business as if nothing was happening. He began to think
that he had, perhaps, overreacted again. "Prisoners? Argento, yeah… Argento
must have known. He must have known it wasn't us." They got into the
"How?" said Alison. "They looked and sounded exactly like
"I don't know," he said. "Maybe they gave themselves away
somehow. Saying something stupid or something. Or maybe he could just tell.
Just because they sounded like us doesn't mean they acted like us, or moved
"But why would he assume it wasn't us?" she replied. "He'd
just think we were acting strange."
"I don't know what else it could have been. This way," he said,
pointing as they stepped out of the elevator and down the hall, following
the red arrows that read "Holding", as he'd been told. "Argento
has been trained and stuff. He knows about these things. A Hell of a lot more
than me anyway." Up ahead they saw the doors to the holding wing. The
guard there was approaching them, his hand on his gun.
"Mr. Cain?" he asked.
"Yeah, hi," Red said. "We're looking for Frank Argento."
"He's attending to some Rechristenees right now. The front desk called
up and told us you were coming," he said. "Please come with me,
he will be with you shortly." The guard turned slipped a key into the
panel on the side of the door, opening it. He ushered them into the wing and
followed along behind them until they reached an open door. "Please wait
in here," he said.
"Thanks, guy," Red said, entering the room. It was all white, with
linoleum floor and painted concrete block walls. There was a table in the
center with four chairs around it, two on each of the longer sides. There
was also what appeared to be a one-way mirror on the wall. "Will he be
"I don't know, your Holiness," he said.
"Well, thanks anyway." Once Alison was within, the guard shut the
door behind them. Then he locked the door.
"Hey!" shouted Alison. She tried the knob, and, confirming their
predicament, began pounding on the door. "Hey! Let us out of here!"
"Relax, Alison," said Red, "I'm sure it's just a security
precaution. Think about it: they know they can't keep me in here, I could
just whip out my sword and cut through the door at any time. Knowing these
guy's the tiny bit I do, strict protocol sounds a lot like them." He
sat down in one of the chairs and slipped off his shoes. They were a half
size or so too small and had been hurting him for some time.
"I don't like being locked up," Alison said, sitting opposite him.
She dropped the backpack into the chair next to her. "It makes me nervous."
"Alright, so let's talk about something else. What's Playland like?"
She chuckled. "It's fun. There's a pretty cool roller coaster, the Dragoncoaster.
I must have been on it fifty times."
"Ugh," Red said, "Those things scare the crap out of me!"
"Oh, great, Goggles," she said, "Some hero you're going to
be, scared of a roller coaster…"
"Are saying God made a mistake?"
"I thought you said God was AWOL?"
"Technically it's DI&R that's AWOL," said Red, "God's
more MIA. FYI."
Alison laughed. Red smiled.
"So what is it you like about this Dragoncoaster?" he asked her.
"I don't know," she said. "It's not like the biggest or fastest
coaster in the world or anything, but it was my first. I know every curve.
And there's this one part where you go into the dragon's mouth. That was always
my favorite part."
"I'm sure the part where you come back out his ass is thrilling as well." Red
rose and stood in front of the one way mirror, cupping his hands over his
eyes in an attempt to see through it. He could not make anything out.
"Actually, that's what always scared me: the house of mirrors."
"Why's that?" Red asked, sitting himself on the edge of the table.
"It's always scared me, since I was little," she said, a little
quiver in her voice, "My father and I went in, and he let go of my hand,
and I couldn't figure out which way to go. I've only been in it once or twice
since then, but both times I hated it."
"A pretty girl like you?" Red said. He lay back on the tabletop,
his head right in front of her. "Personally, I could stare at your face
She blushed and smiled. "Red…" she said, looking away. When
she looked back, he was still looking up at her. She coughed. "So, why
wouldn't you let me use a gun on the way in here."
Red frowned for a moment. "Alison," he said, "I don't… I
don't like the fact that I've put you in danger at all. Bringing you here
was risky enough. Guns… real guns anyway, they're dangerous. You could
kill someone. I didn't want to put you in that sort of position."
"Huh, you don't think I could handle it?"
"It's not that… I just… Alison, you mean a lot to me. You're
pretty much all I have. And I don't just mean that in the 'my-entire-life-has-been-erased'
way. Even before that, you were one of the only things that mattered to me.
The only person whose opinion of me mattered."
"You're all I have too, Red," Alison said. "You and Chaser.
Everything else I ever knew is gone… Just don't go vanishing from existence
on me again."
"Just as long as you promise not to forget about me and kill yourself."
"Deal," Alison said. "Let's stick together from now on."
Red smiled. "There's no one I'd rather have with me on the road to Martyrdom."
Their eyes stayed locked for a moment, and then, slowly, Alison leaned down
and they kissed.
It was approximately two seconds into that kiss that they heard the door
begin to open. "Sorry I took so long, getting in here was a son of a
bitch." It was Simon. He was still sporting his Uzi, but he also had
the guard's keys in hand, as well as the guard's gun sticking out of his pocket. "Let's
get the Hell out of here before they notice us!"
Red rolled off the table and to his feet. "Simon!" Red said.
"Why don't you guys take those masks off?" Simon said. "You
can do your kinky role-playing crap when we get home with the Father. Do you
have any idea where they're keeping him?"
"None," Red said.
"We'd better go find him. Who knows what he's been through. We need
to pick him up and some of our people will rendezvous with us at the 'release
gate' wherever that is."
"I have a better idea," Red said. "Why don't we wait here,
and when they send someone around to talk to us, you jump them and make them
tell us where he is."
"Hey, Scott," Simon said, "That's some good thinking. I guess
I'll… I'll stand here, against the wall behind the door." He closed
the door and got into place.
Red locked eyes with Alison, then glanced down at the backpack of weapons. "So,
uh, is his Holiness still secure with Joshua?"
"I don't know," Simon answered. "I didn't have time to stop
in to tell him. Once all those troops ambushed you two, it was all I could
do to follow you. I figured it was my best chance to get to you before it
was too late. Have you been ok? Did they hurt you guys much?"
"We're ok," Red said. "You know us…"
"Yeah, put two of you in a room and you'll never get bored."
Alison looked back at Red. She had the tazer thing in her hand under the
table. Red nodded at her. She turned towards Simon and got ready. Keys began
to jingle outside the door.
"Here we go," Simon said. Alison turned wide-eyed to Red. He shook
his head and shrugged.
As the door swung open, a few things happened. Simon jumped around the side
of the door, his Uzi pointed at the two people standing in the archway. Red
drew his gun and pointed it at Simon. Alison jumped up from the table, tazer
in hand, and stood behind Red. It was obvious from their expressions that
none of them was expecting to see them man who entered the room first- though
two of them saw him quite differently from the other. Red, for his part, saw
a blur faced young man in one of his red suits, being escorted, handcuffed,
by Argento. To Simon and Alison, he knew, the boy looked exactly like him.
"What the-" Simon yelled, but as he glanced back to see Red's pistol
trained on him, he cut off. "Get in here!" he shouted, backing up,
his own gun alternating between the real Red and Argento.
"Red?" Argento asked, coming into the room, the door swinging shut
behind them. "Is that… you?"
"Who else, Frank?" Red said, keeping Simon covered.
"Good question," Argento replied.
"Drop the gun, your Holiness," Simon said. "You might be able
to put me down, but not faster than I can shoot off a few rounds."
"Frank?" Red asked.
"He's right, Red. Put the gun away." Argento's back was against
the wall, his hands up. Red began to slide the gun back into its shoulder
"No," said Simon, "Throw it on the floor. And you, unlock
Argento unfastened the handcuffs around Scott's wrists as Red threw his gun
to the ground. "Where've you been, Simon," Scott said, in the same
spooky non-specific voice Red had heard from him earlier. He grabbed Red's
gun from the floor.
Alison huddled close behind Red. Simon had still not noticed the tazer, and
she was doing her best to keep it behind Red still.
"Take that thing off," Simon said. Scott reached up and pulled
at his head. As the blur came free, revealing his face, it turned back into
the featureless plastic mask it had been originally.
"Masking," said Argento, "Of course…"
"Alright, Scott," said Simon, "You cover them while I get
the door unlocked." Red tapped Alison behind him. He looked over at Argento,
but he wasn't looking. He tapped his foot a few times, but Frank didn't notice,
more intent on watching Simon's progress. As they heard the tumblers fall,
Red whispered, "Now."
He and Alison leapt forward. Scott fired Red's gun, the bullet passing harmlessly
through both Red and Alison. Red grabbed for his gun as Alison lunged forward
with the tazer thing. "No!" Red shouted, as she connected the tip
of the device to the bare skin on Scott's neck. He jerked back, hard, on the
gun, expecting to be zapped with a jolt of electricity. Instead, Scott seemed
to stop moving completely. Red felt the air grow a bit colder and noticed
Scott's skin quickly go from normal to incredibly pale, and finally, even
a bit frosty. Red had pulled the gun free of Scott's hand, but had left the
boy off balance. He wobbled a bit, and then fell over backwards. On impact
with the floor, Scott shattered. His clothing remained normal, but thousands
of shards of hardened human bits spilled out of them.
Alison screamed, dropping the device. Simon called out "Scott!" Red
pulled his sword and launched it at Simon's face. The blade flew threw him
and the hilt hit him smack in the face, knocking him backwards to the ground.
As the blade fell back out of Simon's face and embedded itself in the ground,
Simon squeezed his trigger, firing a few blind rounds. Red threw Alison to
the floor and fired his own gun at Simon's hand, causing the Uzi to fly apart. "Shit!" Simon
yelled, scurrying to his feet, pulling the guard's gun from his pants. He
ran out the door, his footsteps echoing down the hall.
Red was about to take off after him when he noticed Argento had been shot.
He was bleeding from two bullet wounds, one just below his collarbone, the
other in his arm. "Frank!" Red shouted and rushed to his side.
"I'll be fine, I don't…" he coughed a few times, "I
don't think he hit anything vital. Go after him."
"Hold on," Red said. He grabbed his shoes, the ones Scott had been
wearing, from where they lay on the floor. He shook out a few more frozen
Scott bits and slipped them on. He then scooped up and sheathed his sword. "Come
on, Alison," Red called.
They ran out towards the doors that lead back into the rest of the facility.
The guard that had shown them to that room lay on the floor, unconscious.
His walkie-talkie, however, was yammering off the hook. "Alison," Red
said, "Grab the walkie-talkie, get some help for Argento. Go stay with
him. I'll be back as soon as I get this bastard."
"Red…" she said, looking at him, "Just be careful."
"I will." He ran off down the hall to the right. There was no sign
of Simon, but on the wall signs, red could see blue arrows that read "Release
Gate". He followed them. After a moment, an alarm sounded. Red kept moving.
Eventually, he arrived at a blue door above which a blue sign read "Release
Gate." On the door itself, a smaller sign had been posted. It read "Release
gate closed until May 4th, 2002. Please make sure that before that date all
outbound Rechristenees are christened for release at our alternate release
facilities. Thank you, and God bless."
Red attempted to open the door, but it was locked. He looked around. There
was another guard desk, which would presumably be manned when the door was
being used. Two hallways stretched off away from the door. One of them, the
one he had come down, stretched off quite a ways into the building. The other
only went a short distance before turning a corner. Since the alarm had started
going off, the facility workers had made themselves even scarcer than before.
He saw no one and, other than the monotonous wailing of the alarm, he heard
He thought about cutting the door open with his sword and hiding on the other
side, but decided against it. If he cut the door open, Simon would be able
to tell, and most likely would not come through.
A few moments later, a group of five or six security men appeared in sight
at the end of the long hallway. They were heading Red's way. Red waved to
"Get on the floor!" one of them shouted.
"No," said Red, "It's the real me. Hurry guys, they'll be
here any second. Simon said they'd be leaving through here!"
"On the floor! Now!"
"No, guys, look! I'm the real deal!" He reached up and started
to draw his sword. A shot rang out, hitting the door behind him. "Hey,
ok, ok!" He let the sword slide back into its sheath and out of sight.
He put his hands up on the back of his head. "But it's really me, guys.
The other me is dead, he… shattered."
"Don't move!" a voice yelled out from off to Red's right. It was
Father Patrick, with Kimmy and Simon in tow, just rounding the corner on the
shorter hallway. They were all armed with guns, most likely stolen from guards,
while Kimmy also had one of those freezing devices. Simon grabbed Red around
the waist and put the gun he had stolen from the guard up to his temple. The
others all got behind them. One of them, Red could hear, was unlocking the
"Keep away from us," Simon yelled at the guards, "Or his Holiness
here loses a big pink vital organ!"
The guards formed a line about fifteen feet away from them, all guns drawn
and pointed directly at them. Red found himself uncertain as to whether they
cared about his safety. Red heard the release gate door creak open behind
him. "Hold your fire," said one of the guards with a walkie-talkie
he seemed to be checking.
"That's right! Hold your fire!" said Simon. "We're just going
to slip out with our little Holy friend here and we'll contact you later on
how you can get him back, how's that sound?" He started backing Red out
towards the door. "If we see this door open behind us in the next five
minutes, you're going to be picking up little frozen chunks of this bastard
all along the boardwalk."
"Keep back, men," the head guard said.
"Simon," said Father Patrick, "Let's go."
"Just keep your distance," Simon called out, clearing the door.
Kimmy slammed it shut behind them. Simon jerked Red around to face front and
pushed him forward. "You go first."
"Easy, easy," Red said, "I know your excited to get the Father
back so I won't embarrass you by mentioning the second gun I felt in the small
of my back. Emphasis on small." A short hallway ended with another door.
Red turned the knob and opened it, the other three pushing him through. At
first it seemed like they were just in darkness, but another moment revealed
that it was actually a mirrored maze with the lights out. Red realized they
must be in Playland… which, of course, would not open until summer.
"Oh, screw this," said Kimmy. She held up her gun and started blasting
away, shattering mirrors all over the place.
"Christ, Kimmy!" Simon yelled.
"We must go," said Father Patrick. "They're not going to wait
"Go!" Simon shouted, giving Red a shove. Red thought he could see
the exit straight ahead. He stepped through the broken mirror in front of
them and lead them straight to it.
"It's not so hard without the mirrors," he said.
"Shut up," Father Patrick said, giving Red a Kidney punch. "I've
heard more than enough of your stupidity to last me."
Out onto the Playland boardwalk they exited, finding the frog-launching van
waiting for them, along with the two henchmen who'd been operating it back
in Grand Rapids. "Look what we found," said one of them.
"Alright, your Holiness," said Simon, shoving Red's face up against
the van, "This may feel a little strange. Kimmy."
Red felt something touch the side of his neck then, all of a sudden, he grew
very cold. He found it very difficult to move, he found it difficult to breathe,
and then, he found it difficult to think. Then he did not find anything at
Red thought he could smell Alison. He though perhaps he was still in her
bed and that everything since then had been a dream. He wondered if Chaser
would really be sleeping on Alison's chest when he opened his eyes. The only
thing was, he couldn't open his eyes.
He kept trying to lift his eyelids, but it seemed that even a Herculean effort
could not free them from their resting places. He heard people moving around
him. Finally, slowly, his eyes opened to find Kimmy standing before him holding
the freezing device and smiling mischievously. "Merry Christmas, Red," she
whispered. Behind her, Father Patrick, Simon, and Joshua looked on.
Red tried to reach for his gun, but he could still barely move.
"Relax," said Father Patrick. "Thawing out takes a moment.
You be good as new in a few minutes."
"W-what… do y-you…" Red rasped.
"What do we want?" Father Patrick completed. "That's simple.
We want to usher in a new era of Paradise- you know that much. But now we
want your help."
Red tried to laugh at them, but could only manage a wheeze. He hoped that
it got across his point. "Why w-would… I hel-"
"Why wouldn't you help us?" asked Father Patrick. "We are
the future. We can take you with us to paradise where anything, and I do mean
anything, your Holiness, can be yours. Besides: what choice have you? I'm
afraid we're the only friends you have, now."
"W-what… are you…"
"What are we talking about, well, I'm talking about trust, and where
you can place it. I'm talking about the fact that if I promise you paradise,
I'll do everything in my power to deliver. I'm talking about the fact that
your precious DI&R couldn't care less about you as a person. I'm talking
about facts that you've been too naïve to recognize. I'm talking about
what happened back at the hotel."
"You thought Argento had caught on to Scott and Kimmy, didn't you?"
"It was you," Father Patrick said, walking right up to Red's face. "They
had a troop of guards waiting in that room to take away you and your little
"You're just lucky we took you away with us," Father Patrick said, "They've
already reprogrammed her as the depressive thing she was before. She doesn't
remember a single thing about the incident, or you."