Everyone leapt to their feet in shock as the gray smoke spewed forth from
the canister. Charles had a bit of egg dangling from his chin. Joshua clenched
the butter knife he had used to butter the stack of toast. The sound of breaking
glass from elsewhere in the warehouse and a pounding on the front door rocked
them into motion. "To the van!" Father Patrick shouted. "Quickly!"
Red grabbed Alison, still disguised as Kimmy, by the hand and ran off in
the direction of the van, cupping his sleeve over his mouth and trying to
keep his head low to the ground. As they entered the "living room" area
of the warehouse the doorway from the living quarters burst open and DI&R
troops burst into the room wearing SWAT armor and gas masks.
"Stay where you are!" the lead man said, his weapon trained on
Simon. His six subordinates covered the others. "Get down on the ground!"
"Shoot!" Alison/Kimmy excalimed unpleasantly, kneeling down. Red
looked at her oddly. He looked around at the others. Charles, William, and
Simon reluctantly got down on their knees and lay down face to the floor.
Red and Alison joined them.
"You too, Father," said the leader, approaching Father Patrick.
"No!" Joshua yelled, leaping in front of Father Patrick. He held
up the butter knife.
The trooper laughed. "You think you can take me with that, little guy?"
Joshua spun the knife between his fingers, gang-style, and eventually stopped
it with the tip of the blade pointed into his own neck. Father Patrick grabbed
it and held it in his fist, the tip jabbed gently into the soft skin of his
Angel's neck. "Keep back!" Patrick spat, coughing on the ever-thickening
smoke. Patrick and Joshua backed away towards the garage area.
"Red!" said Patrick, just before he exited. "If you can get
out of this… my son and I will be waiting for you."
"Shoot!" Alison said again. Red looked at her again. She glared
back. As soon as the door swung shut behind Patrick both the troops and Red
made their move.
DI&R's flunkies raced forward to reopen the door and keep tabs on Patrick
and Joseph. Red, still lying on the floor, flipped onto his back while pulling
his gun back into existance. He fired on instinct ten times, barely even aiming.
The troops seemed quite surprised when their guns flew apart in their hands
and even more shocked to see the plastic shields of their gas masks bursting
in their faces. In the ten shots, all seven guns and masks were out of commission.
"I wasn't sure you'd get it," Alison wheezed.
"Come on! Close your eyes!" Red said, jumping to his feet and leading
her back deeper into the warehouse, his eyes clenched as tightly as he could
manage. Behind them they could hear Charles, William, and the guards fighting
as they all fell over each other trying to get back out the front entrance.
A bit further away, he heard the van crashing through the garage door, it's
tires squealing as it turned out into the street.
"Where are we going, Red?" said Alison.
"I figure they're all waiting out front," said Red. "We find
another way." Every few feet or so he opened his eyes for a split second
to get his bearings. Even that minute exposure was making his eyes sting immensely.
Both he and Alison were coughing and he could actually feel spit pouring out
of his mouth down his chin. Fortunately, the last time he opened his eyes,
he made out the blurry outline of what he was looking for.
"Crouch down here," Red said to Alison.
"Where are we?" Alison asked.
"The door near the bathroom," Red said.
"Isn't that door locked?" Alison asked.
"So?" said Red. He put the barrel of his gun up against the lock. "I've
got a key." He pulled the trigger. The sound of the lock shattering didn't
come as a surprise to him. The massive explosion from beyond did catch him
off guard. He pulled the door open. He could smell the bitter cold of the
fresh winter air, along with odd currents of heat from whatever exploded.
He opened his eyes as he stumbled through the door, dizzy and nauseated.
He blinked his eyes as the water filling them leaked out the corners of his
lids. The bright image that swam before him was an afternoon sunlight colored
blur with a fire red center dancing directly in front of him. He imagined
his eyes matched his former suit about now.
He heard Alison vomit. He fell to the ground. His hand hitting the pavement
jerked back his finger, pulling the trigger on his gun. Water sprayed in Red's
face, the pressure taking him aback for a moment until he noticed how much
better it felt to flush out his general nose/eye/mouth area. He took off his
glasses and attempted to rinse out his mouth, still acting as a saliva fountain.
"Al… Kimmy," he said, "Here…" She crawled
to his side and the two of them soaked themselves with the spraying water
until the stinging lessened a bit.
Red blinked and looked around as best he could. They were rinsing themselves
in a jet of water spraying out of a bullet shaped hole in a fire hydrant.
To their right was the street, blocked by a number of vehicles. Two of the
cars and a van, all sitting more or less in a line straight from the door,
were in flames.
"Lucky shot…" said Red. The look on Hayden's face gave away
the fact that he was unamused. The guns his brigade of troops were pointing
at him weren't laughing either. Red didn’t mind if they kept quiet.
Argento stood off to Hayden's left and slightly behind him. Red noticed that
the suits Hayden and Argento wore were both a bit scuffed, especially around
the knees. He only wished he could have seen them all scrambling for cover
when the bullet had gone through the three gas tanks, blowing the three cars.
"Congratulations, Mr. Cain," Hayden said. "Not only have you
managed to help a man intent on causing Armageddon escape, you've blown up
three of our vehicles, what? For kicks? Not to mention driving through not
one, but two of our walls back at the compound. You could have just used the
lot, you know."
"Yeah, and I'm sure you would have even validated my parking after the
old brain drain, too, right?"
"Red…" said Hayden, "I know you still only have the
memories of a beginner, but still, I can't help but be disappointed in you.
Why would I tell you what I did if I was going to rechristen you? Why go to
the trouble? We wanted you to go back to Patrick. We followed you. We've been
planning, organizing, and then you blow our whole operation in a matter of
"Screw your operation!" Red spat.
"Tell me, Red," Hayden walked up to him and crouched down to his
level, "What does old Father Patrick have planned?"
"I have no idea," Red replied.
"A lie. Let me help refresh your memory. Our prophets have been telling
us that the world will end in neither fire nor ice, but in a hideous plague
that will cause bleeding pustules to break out over the bodies of mankind,
causing a painful, oozing mass suffering until the disease finally makes it
deep enough into the innards to make holes in the internal organs, leading
to the death of our entire race in… two weeks?" He turned and looked
Alison elbowed Red and mouthed, "See?"
"Closer to one, actually," Argento said.
"One week, then." Hayden turned back to Red. "Since you've
just helped him along with that idea, I thought you might be willing to give
us some clue as to, oh… where we could find him and what his plans are."
"Not a chance in Hell," Red said.
"Don't tell me the little speech I gave you did it's job that well!
Did I actually turn you so far against us that you're actually trying to help bring about the apocalypse? Did one little girlfriend mean that much to you?"
Hayden stood upright and walked back to stand with the others. "Let's
face it, Red, you don't have much choice. We've got you surrounded, with no
chance of escape. You're going to do exactly what I tell you to because that's
what we sainted you for. And if that's not a good enough reason, there's always
the fact that we are the only ones who can tell you the truth about your past.
In fact, on that note, Argento? Let's bring out our little surprise."
Argento seemed to deflate a bit at that. The troops parted a bit as he walked
back to one of the non-exploded cars filling the street. He opened the car
door. A woman around Red's age got out. She had short blonde hair that was
pulled back into a ponytail. She was wearing a pair of blue jeans, a pink
sweater, and glasses. As she approached her eyes met Red and seemed to light
up a bit.
"Red?" she asked. "Is that you?"
He stared blankly at her.
"Is it true what they told me, Red?" she asked, her eyes watering
up a bit. "You really don't remember me at all?"
He shook his head.
She laughed a bit and sniffled. "I know… I know that's not a reflection
on what happened between us. They told me to expect it, but… I just
couldn't bring myself to believe that you could forget." She bit her
lip and began wringing her hands nervously. "I've missed you… I've
missed you a lot, and I just wanted you to know that-"
"Excuse me, miss?" said Red, rising to his feet. "I'm sorry
to interrupt, but I was actually having a conversation with Mr. Hayden here.
I mean, I don't want to downplay what you were saying there, it was awfully
emotional and all. It's just that I don't…. well… care."
The blonde blinked for a few seconds.
"Hayden," Red continued, turning back to the man, "You actually
seem to have it completely backwards. I have all the choices in the world;
it's you who have none. I know where Patrick is. You don't. Now, neither one
of us wants the world to end, so I suggest you let us go and I'll do what
I can to stop it."
Hayden was flabbergasted. "You… you can't be serious. You expect
us to just let you… waltz out of here and go about your business?"
"Yes," said Red, matter-of-factly.
"Why?" Hayden asked, smirking.
"Because," said Red, "I might not throw the world away over
one girl, but there's more than that at stake here. I tell you what you want
to know, you continue to use me, play games with my head, brainwash me, God
knows what else. If my only options are death or slavery, I have nothing to
lose. You, on the other hand, have a whole world hanging in the balance. This
whole show here with this young lady was all nice and good, but frankly, I
like what I have going for myself now, thank you. So I'll be the one who gives
the options. Your choices are let me go save the world or ready yourself for
a few pustules."
Hayden's smirk was noticeably smaller. Almost non-existent. Argento almost
looked like he wanted to laugh. Or cheer.
Red held out his hand to Alison/Kimmy, helping her to her feet. The blonde
turned and ran.
"Isn't she a bit young for you?" Hayden asked, grumpily.
Red sighed, then said, "Yes. Yes, I must be a goddamned sicko. Are you
going to give us a car or what?"
The two men stood staring at each other for a moment. Eventually, Hayden
nodded. He gestured to one of the troopers.
"Actually, sir…" said the trooped, "I was driving the,
um… the car that exploded."
"Well, then, someone!" said Hayden. Another trooper took out a
pair of keys and tossed them to Red.
"What if you can't stop him?" Hayden said.
"Toss me you're signal watch," said Red. "I need you, I'll
call." Hayden took off his watched and tossed that, too, to Red. "Which
car is it?" The trooper gestured and soon Red and Alison were climbing
into a black sedan. "Do me a favor?" Red said. "Lie down? Yeah,
all of you. If you could all just lie down, I'd feel a lot more comfortable.
Thanks." He waited as each and every DI&R trooper, Hayden, and Argento
reluctantly lay own on the ground, and then, in one fluid motion, hopped the
rest of the way into the car, started it, and sped off.
"I can't… I can't believe you just did that!" Alison said. "Did
you see the look on his face? Woo! In his face, that fat bastard!" She
bounced excitedly in her seat. "You completely kicked them in the ass!"
Red smiled a bit. "I'm glad you're excited, but there's still an apocalypse
to deal with, you know."
"Where are we headed? Where is Patrick?"
"I have no idea…" said Red. "I was bluffing. Do me a
favor, pick up that map over there?"
"Sure…" said Alison. She got the map and unfolded it. It
was a map of the city. "What are you going to do?"
"Get lucky, again, I hope," said Red. He fired his gun in Alison's
general direction. She screamed, causing him to almost go off the road. "Whoa!
Jesus, relax! It can't hurt you remember?"
"What the hell did you do that for?!" Alison shouted, smacking
"Check the map, see where the bullet hole is, tell me what's there.
I figured all my shots so far today have been pretty dead on, I must be doing
Alison examined the map again. "Let me see… oh, of course, I get
"Where is it?"
They walked up to Rockefeller center about an hour and a half later. They
had parked the car in Brooklyn and taken the train just in case there was
a tracking device in the car. Father Patrick, Joshua, and the van were nowhere
to be found.
"Do you think maybe this is not where they were going to meet us?" Alison
"No, you were right," Red said, "It made perfect sense. That
whole thing with Patrick calling Joshua his 'son'. They'll be here. We'll
And wait they did. A few hours of ice-skating, coffee, and street vendor
hot dogs later, just as it was getting dark, they finally saw the van drive
up and drive around the block a few times until it found a space. Red and
Alison made their way up to it as quickly as they could. They pulled open
the side door of the van and hopped in. Father Patrick was driving and Joshua
was in the passenger seat.
"We're glad you could make it," Patrick said. "We had our
doubts. How did you manage to get free?"
"I'm a Saint," said Red, "They couldn't hold me."
"That-a-boy!" said Patrick. "You show those holier-than-thou
bastards who's at whose right hand!"
Red pushed the box full of loose 20 to one side, up against the frog launcher,
making room for himself and 'Kimmy' to sit. "Where are we headed?" he
asked. "Where is the big deed going to go down?"
"Right here," said Patrick. "I had so much fun coming here
and skating I decided to make it the ground zero for the beginning of my rapture.
I'm sorry we kept you waiting so long. I couldn't bring the van too early;
security in the city has been crazy. They won't let any suspicious looking
vehicles stay in front of any landmarks for long without causing some trouble."
"What's the plan?"
"We wait," Patrick said.
"For what?" said Red.
"For him," Patrick said. "Open the door."
Red popped open the side door of the van and his eyes met those of a gangly
young man in a black trench coat. "Red, Kimmy, Joshua," Father Patrick
said, "I'd like you to meet Lenny Braun. Lenny, this is Red, Kimmy, and
my little Joshua."
Underneath his black trench, Lenny wore black jeans and a black Megadeth
T-shirt, neither of which he seemed to fill out. His eyes were sunken, a dark
shadow seemingly surrounding them, he had a five o'clock shadow, and he had
the ugly looking habit of keeping his bottom lip tucked under his front teeth
when he closed his mouth. His hair was long and black and about as greasy
as any Red had ever seen. He was carrying a ratty looking black backpack with
numerous heavy metal patches sewn onto it. He closed the van door behind him.
"Hey, do you, uh, do you have the, uh, the money?" Lenny asked.
"There in the box," Patrick said, climbing from the driver's seat
into the rear of the van.
"I don't understand," said Red.
"Here's the, uh… you know, thing. The disease," said Lenny.
He reached into the ratty backpack and pulled out a metallic canister, cylindrical
in shape, about a foot long and six inches in diameter. He tossed it to Patrick.
"Lenny here is a virologist. Well, virologist second, anarchist first.
Lost his job recently for unauthorized and illegal experimentation. He needed
someone to fund his work; I needed a holy plague… a natural fit. So
it does what I asked?"
"Uh… yeah," said Lenny. "The virus has been designed
to, um, you know, target a genetic trait that, uh… a trait shared by
first born males of a, a thing. Can I see the money?"
"Of course," said Patrick. "Red?"
The box was right next to Red. He knelt next to it and opened the flaps that
had been folded together over then top.
"Five million dollars in twenties," said Patrick. "I… hope
you don't mind, they're just sort of thrown in there."
"As long as, um. As long as I can… spend them. And they're real,
"Of course," said Patrick. "How about the vaccine?"
"They're here," said Lenny. His hand reached into his pack again,
this time coming out with a crinkled paper bag. He unrolled it and reached
within that. He dropped the bag on the floor, in his hand a vial of bluish
liquid and a handful of needles. "Do you want me to…?"
"Yes, please," said Patrick. "My little boy and I are both
first born. You, Red?"
"Uh, yeah…" said Red. "Err… I think so."
"Ok, then I can… uh, you know, do this," said Lenny. He was
in the process of loading the needle. Patrick was rolling up Joshua's sleeve.
Kimmy's eyelids fluttered.
She leaned over to whisper in Red's ear. "Red… it doesn't work."
"The vaccine?" he whispered.
"That too…" said Alison, "I mean the virus. It's going
to kill everyone, not just first born, not just males. Everyone. I saw it."
"No secrets among friends, you two," said Patrick, a needle now
pressed into his arm. "What's going on back there, hmmm?"
"Sorry about that," Red said. "I was just thinking of something
"What's that?" Patrick asked.
"This," Red said. He grabbed a hold of the 'intake' tube on the
frog launcher and whipped it into the box of money, rolled over backward and
kicked as hard as he could, opening the rear doors of the van. Father Patrick
had enough time to yell "No!" before Red pressed the large green
on button on the machine. The engine rumbled to life and twenties began to
be sucked up the tube. The device was designed to launch frogs all the way
over a church and as such had more than enough power to launch twenty-dollar
bills between ten and twenty stories into the air.
"What the, um, Hell?" said Lenny. He grabbed at the canister in
"Joshua!" Patrick yelled, "Drive!" Joshua jumped to the
driver's seat and started the car as the Priest struggled to keep his hold
on his custom plague. The car launched forward. Red grabbed a hold on the
launcher in order to keep from falling out the back of the van.
Behind them people were shouting and cheering as they reached for the sky,
snatching twenties out of the air. The windfall spread behind them as they
Patrick kicked Lenny in the crotch and then smacked him in the face with
the canister. He landed on Red's back and then rolled off on the street behind
Patrick was huffing. "Red…" he said, "That was not… a
part… of the plan."
Joshua hung a hard right. Red tumbled over on his right side and then flopped
forward into Father Patrick's legs, sending the priest tumbling headfirst
into the box of money. Patrick flailed about, screaming until he found the
off switch and stopped the device, helping him up. Patrick turned to face
Red. Red couldn't help but laugh. Alison joined him, nervously.
"What are you laughing at?" Patrick screamed. The device had sucked
him a big purple hickey on his cheek and neck.
Traffic seemed rather light leaving the city, as opposed to the hordes driving
in. Kimmy pulled shut the rear doors of the van as Joshua drove them towards
the toll before the George Washington Bridge. Red pulled his sword and stood
hunched between Patrick at the back and Joshua up front. Kimmy stood at Red's
side, holding his shoulder.
"You've been laughing at me the whole time, haven't you?" Patrick
said. "From the moment you stepped into my confessional, you've mocked
me and mocked my beliefs! Do you not see that even if I'm not the Son of God,
the world needs to be united under someone? I saved those children's lives!
I performed miracles! I am a leader of my people, someone they can stand behind,
believe in, and what do you do? You humiliate me in front of my flock, making
them all abandon me, you kill one of my angels, you ruin my dramatic speeches,
you turn another of my angels against me, you probably lead DI&R right
to my door, and now, now you're messing with my plans for the end of the world.
Is there no end to your disrespect?"
"None in sight right now, you sick delusional bastard," Red said. "Oh,
and I didn't turn Kimmy against you, she just got replaced."
Alison whipped off her mask, her features once again becoming her own. "Surprise," she
"Oh, that's very funny," said Patrick. "Very funny. Unfortunately,
mockery is not enough to stop me. You can't risk using your sword on me, you
might hit the canister, and I'm assuming that's what you're trying to stop,
is it not? Same with your gun."
"If you release that virus, everyone will die," said Alison.
"Ha," said Patrick. "Well, I'm sure I can trust you on that!
After all, you've never lied to me. I'm sure you wouldn't say something like
that just to stop me from doing-"
Red spun around a swung his sword in a wide arc, cleaving the front of the
van from the back half that he, Alison, and Patrick occupied. The two separate
pieces of the van spun out of control. Patrick, Red, and Alison were thrown
out of the vehicle onto the outbound lanes of the GW Bridge. The canister
scuttled, clinking and clanking, off to the center of the highway. The three
of them scampered to the shoulder to avoid getting run over. Joshua was not
The front of the van spun out to the right, the front end hitting the rail
and flipping across the walkway over the edge of the bridge and into the Hudson
"No!" Father Patrick called out, "Joshua!" Red and Alison
were both speechless. Patrick jumped the guardrail to the walkway where the
front of the van had flipped off. He looked down into the water for a moment
and then leapt over the side, screaming.
"Jesus Christ!" Red yelled. They heard a splash. He and Alison
ran to the side and looked over the edge. It was evening now, too dark to
really see anything.
"Do you think they're alive?" Alison asked.
"I doubt it," said Red.
"What should we do?" Alison asked.
Red hit the signal button on the watch Hayden had given him. He took the
watch off and threw it over the edge of the bridge. "Let's get out of
here," he said.
The back half of the van was causing traffic to slow quite a bit. They stopped
the traffic for a second, grabbed the canister, took the box with the rest
of the money from the van, and offered the lead car twenty thousand dollars
to get them out of there as quickly as possible.