Choose Your Own Passion Adventure Myth

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Choose Your Own Passion Adventure Myth

This adventure story is reproduced from the thread I started last year called Easter Myth Week -

Since beginning tomorrow marks the annual rite celebrating  the mythical adventures of the Jesus I felt that everyone should have the opportunity to create their own version.

One can even claim that it's supported in the Gospels, see the above link for all the details.

Have fun with it.


Choose Your Own Passion Adventure Myth

1- When Jesus came into Jerusalem he -
a) Rides in on a donkey colt 2 disciples stole.
b) Rides in on an ass & a colt because he has so much baggage or his own ass was too big for only one.
c) Rides in on an ass he personally steals.

2-After he arrives in Jerusalem he -
a) Goes to the Temple and overturns the moneychangers concessions committing insurrection.
b) Goes to Bethany and the next morning is hungry. He sees a fig tree and wants figs. The Sun Scorched One is so pissed when it has none, wrong season, he cursed it. Hungry, he has ill temper and trashes the concessions at the Temple. The following day, the tree has died. Jesus tells his disciples if you believe hard enough, you too shall cause property damage and untold destruction such as casting mountains into the sea.
c) Spies a fig tree as he is hungry. It has no figs, wrong season. He cursed it and it immediately dies. The disciples are amazed. Jesus says, if you pray hard enough you can have mountains cast into the sea. Jesus doesn't mention this will cause loss of life and tsunamis.

3-Jesus -
a)has a massage, from expensive oil which was done by a woman who is not named. The disciples say it should be sold for cash for the poor. Jesus said no, I liked it.
b)recalls the foot massage a hooker gave him with expensive lotion. He also enjoyed this as well, though the disciples wanted to sell it this time too.
c)recalls the great massage Mary gave him. Judas always looking for money wants to sell it.

4-The priests want to capture Jesus so-
a)Judas goes to them and agrees to do it for 30 pieces of silver.
b)Judas goes to them because Satan has entered him and he agrees to sell out his friend.

5-Jesus wants a location for the Passover meal-
a)so he sends out 2 disciples that are to look for a guy with a pitcher, then follow him home. They are to go inside and demand to see the hall that the master wants for the festival.
b)so he sends his disciples to a man who is told that Jesus wants to have his meal there.
c)so he sends Peter & John to follow a guy with a pitcher home. They are to go inside and ask to see the banquet room.

a)washes the disciples feet.
b)doesn't wash their feet, go to 7

7-Jesus claims-
a)one of them will betray him and he'll have his hand in the main dish with me.
b)one of them will betray him and he'll have his hand in the main dish with me. Is it I asked Judas? Yes.
c)the one that will betray him has his hand on the table at the same time as he does.
d)the one that will betray me will take a sop from me.

8-Jesus said Peter will deny him 3 times-
a)before the cock crowed twice
b)before the cock crows.

9-After dinner-
a)they sing a hymn and go to the Mt of Olives.
b)Jesus tells them to sell their clothes and buy swords.

10-When they get to Gethsemane-
a)Peter, James, & John go with him apart from the others, Jesus then goes away by himself. He returns 3 times finding them asleep.
b)Jesus goes a stones throw from the disciples and prays. An Angel comes to help him. He sweats as in blood droplets.
c)Judas shows up with the armed men.

11-When the armed band arrives to seize Jesus-
a)one of the disciples slice off the ear of the high priest's servant.
b)one of the followers slice off the high priest's servant ear and Jesus immediately healed it.
c)Peter slices off the ear of Malchus, the high priest's servant.

12-After the armed men arrive-
a)Jesus said he could have 12 legions of angels for defense if he wanted.
b)all the followers flee in fear, one so terrorized he loses his robe and runs naked from the scene.
c)Jesus causes them to all fall to the ground with just words.

13-After he is captured, Jesus is taken to-
a)the high priest's palace.
b)the high priest's father-in-law's house.

14-Peter follows and gains access-
a)by walking into the outer courtyard, warming himself by the fire.
b)when another disciple who is known to the priests goes in and informs the woman at the door to let him inside.

15-Peter denies knowing Jesus first to-
a) a serving maid at the fire and then the cock crows.
b)a woman who approached him in the courtyard.
c)a woman inside the hall.
d)the woman at the door who lets him inside.

16-Peter denies knowing Jesus the 2nd time to-
a)another woman while he was standing around near the fire.
b)a maid while he is on the porch.
c)another who claims he too was among the followers.
d)those standing about the fire.

17-Peter denies knowing Jesus the 3rd time-
a)to others who said surely you are one of his followers as you are Galilean. The cock crowed a 3rd time.
b)to those about the fire. The cock then crows.
c)to a man who said, he is one of them as he is Galilean. Jesus then looks directly at him.
d)to a servant who is a relative of the guy who's ear Peter had cut off.

18-Jesus is taken-
a)to Pilate. Who decides to quickly dispatch him to his execution after he gave the people a choice between Jesus and Barabbas.
b)to Pilate. Who heeds his wife's warning as she had a dream he should have nothing to do with this incident. He then washes his hands of it, He gives the people a choice, Jesus or Barabbas will die, the other goes free. They want Jesus executed.
c)to Pilate. When he hears he is Galilean, sends him to Herod. Herod is elated, he wanted to see Jesus' magic tricks. Jesus did not perform. He is sent back to Pilate. Pilate gives the people a choice. Jesus or Barabbas will die, the other goes free. They want Jesus executed.

19-Jesus is taken to his execution site-
a)en route Simon is pressed into service to carry the cross.
b)en route Simon is pressed into service to carry the cross. and Jesus has time to discuss with the many women how their lives will become filled with woe.

20-While on the cross-
a)the other 2 criminals say nothing to him.
b)the other 2 criminals insult and make fun of Jesus along with the lynch mob.
c)one of the criminals insults and mocks Jesus while the other is repentant.

21- When Jesus dies-
a)the veil in the Temple is torn in two.
b)the veil in the Temple is torn in two. There is an Earthquake and dead people rise from the grave wandering the city.
c)it is right after he tells his mom and a disciple, behold thy mom, behold thy son.

22-Observing the execution-
a)from afar were many women including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James & Joses, and Salome.
b)close enough to talk with Jesus were Mary his mother and his disciple John.
c)may have been some of his followers from afar. (optional)

23-After Jesus has died
a)he is speared.
b)he is not speared.

24-Joseph asked Pilate for the body of Jesus-
a)and he was a rich man.
b)a Pharisee
c)a good & just man.
d)all of the above.

25-Jesus is placed-
a)in a new tomb with new linen by Joseph
b)in Joseph's own new tomb.
c)in a new tomb after Joseph removed Jesus from the cross.
d)in a new tomb that was convenient to the place of execution by Joseph and Nicodemus.

26-The Herodian priests and their enemies the Pharisees-
a)went to see Pilate requesting the tomb be guarded and sealed lest his disciples steal the body and claim he had been resurrected as he had prophesied.
b)would not walk across the street to say shit to each other yet alone work on something together.

27-On the 1st day of the week-
a)Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Joses & James and Salome visit the tomb.
b)Mary Magdalene and the other Mary visit the tomb
c)Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James & John visit the tomb.
d)Mary Magdalene went to the tomb.

28-When she/they got to the tomb-
a)an angel is inside who told them Jesus is not there he has risen & will meet his disciples in Galilee.
b)2 angels are inside the tomb who tells them that Jesus is risen and will meet his followers in Galilee.
c)2 angels are in the tomb and they ask why the weeping. When she/they turn around a man thought to be a gardener is asked where the body has been taken. The man says, Mary and is recognized as Jesus.

29-When the women -
a)see Jesus they touched his feet.
b)see Jesus are told not to touch him.
c)leave they tell no one.
d)leave, Mary Magdalene claimed to see Jesus.

30-2 followers/disciples-
a)see Jesus in the country while walking and he was in another shape or form.
b)one named Cleopas saw him on the road to Emmaus. When they stop for a meal, he disappears after he breaks bread.

31-A group of -
a)11 disciples see Jesus in Galilee when they are eating. He gives them their commission & departs for heaven.
b)11 disciples go to a mountain in Galilee where Jesus appears. He gives them their commission. He then is not in the plot of the story any longer.
c)11 disciples are informed of the Jesus sighting on the road when he appears to them in Jerusalem. After he gives them their commission he departs for Heaven from Bethany.
d)10 disciples were hiding from arrest warrants behind closed doors when Jesus appears. He breathes on them the Holy Ghost, rendering the Luke version in Acts pointless. Thomas not there does not believe. 8 days later all 11 are gathered together and Jesus returns. Thomas touches the marks in his hands as well as the gash in his side. Mary M wasn't allowed to touch him earlier but Thomas can.

This will enable you to create whatever version of the story you choose, depending on your mood of the day, the current church or denomination to which you belong or the delusion you consider to be real. You can of course try to say all these things happened and these choices are no more than the perspective of the writer. Good luck with that.

"I guess it's time to ask if you live under high voltage power transmission lines which have been shown to cause stimulation of the fantasy centers of the brain due to electromagnetic waves?" - Me

"God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, - it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these divine attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks please. Cash and in small bills." - Robert A Heinlein.

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 Well, that seems to be an


Well, that seems to be an idea. However, I can write much better than that. What you are offering is pretty clear. It is a romp through the general idea and there is no reason to be consistent. Not that the originals are but even so....


I can do much better. I write fan fiction. My stories have what might be described as super powered beings. However, I deliberately make them all morally ambiguous. Lots of people do not have any special powers but they have some form of authority. Those people, in some cases can direct those who do have powers and they have them do things that are just not what one expects to find in a “nice story”.


In some cases, there are people who are just regular people. They don't even know who they are dealing with. Still, what they think and feel tends to have real effects on the other characters.


Would you like me to post a small clip?

NoMoreCrazyPeople wrote:
Never ever did I say enything about free, I said "free."


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OK,I am taking bits from


I am taking bits from lots of different stories.  The main story line is the 70's TV series The Incredible Hulk.  Minor points come from Steven King's Fire Starter, Black Sunday and The Prisoner.  Props to whomever figures out what is what.


Project Icarus
When Jack McGee had first started working in the newspaper industry, almost twenty years ago, he'd had hopes, like any other in his profession, of finding something of real importance to the American people, of making a name for himself.
Well…a near brush with alcoholism nearly undid his career. But he was slowly making his way back up into the business, as alert for the big story as ever.
McGee was, as investigative reporters went, rather more principled than others of the breed; but he was just as dogged about getting his story as any in the business, and he probably would have gotten the story he was looking for. But then he met the green-skinned creature he called the Hulk, and his fate was sealed…
Already considered somewhat "questionable" because of his previous history with alcohol, his insistence that the Hulk was real did not go down well with his peers…
You're a reporter, Jack! This creature of yours belongs in a sci-fi movie. If you want to write sci-fi, publish a novel. Keep it out of the paper…
It hurt, being considered a laughingstock, or-worse-a cautionary fable…Mind your Ps and Qs, kiddo. Or you'll end up just like Jack McGee…
But Jack McGee knew what he had seen, and he had managed to come away with at least a few photos of the creature.
His boss, Mark Steinhauer, tolerated McGee's obsession with the creature-barely-because the creature made good copy, entertaining readers who were also entertained by stories of the great and powerful falling from grace. The Hulk might have been sci-fi; but-until the public stopped eating it all up with a spoon-McGee would be allowed to pursue the Hulk to his heart's content.
Mark's daughter, Pat, had a less patient attitude about the Hulk. She warned McGee that he was becoming obsessed over the creature, something he had always vehemently denied, even though he had almost been killed a few times during his quest to locate the creature. And the nightmares…
…Always, it was the same; lost in the desert, pursued by the hulk, and caught with no hope of rescue…
There had been a few times when even he had questioned the wisdom of doing what he was doing-he was a reporter, for God's sake! Not a bounty hunter, or a lawman-but someone would send him an item detailing the Hulk's appearance in some godforsaken town or other, and he would be off like a shot.
What it came down to was this; Jack McGee couldn't have stopped hunting the Hulk if his life depended upon it; he had been well and truly caught…
Since that first sighting of the creature, McGee's life had become a curiously rather shiftless thing, most of his time spent on the road, traveling to sites where the Hulk had put in an appearance. McGee had come quite close to capturing the creature on a few occasions. There'd even been a time-one of those times where the reporter had come very close to losing his life-where he had spent a few days with a man he called John Doe…
Jack McGee-crippled with a broken leg-had been forced to depend upon John Doe for survival in the face of a raging forest fire, among other things…
Even now, with that incident safely behind him, the sound of wolves in the distance never failed to chill his blood.
But McGee had come away from that encounter with a few hard facts: John Doe was the Hulk. Although Doe's face had been bandaged, Jack McGee had witnessed the transformation with his own eyes. Another fact was a little harder to swallow…
John Doe was a good man; the kind of man who would literally give his life for his friends, an idealist, just like McGee's father…
McGee remembered telling Mark Steinhauer that the Hulk was a man. He remembered Mark's laughter.
Jack, I think you've finally slipped your clutches. Did the doctors check your head while they were checking your leg?
After that, McGee decided to keep any theories to himself. No matter how politely they put it, what they were saying was that they thought he was crazy…bonkers…completely off the wall…
But Mark continued to let him travel all over the country in search of the creature, and McGee was beginning to realize that he didn't really care that everyone in the National Register thought he was nuts. Eventually, patience would pay off-as it always did-and he would locate John Doe again…
Until that day came, Jack McGee could only do what he had been doing all along; investigate any sightings of the Hulk that were passed along to him.
That was what he was doing on the bright, sunny day of June twentieth, nineteen seventy-nine. On his way to Stannsville Indiana, he decided to take a detour and stop somewhere in Center City for lunch…
That was where the accident occurred, the accident that would change his life beyond all recognition…
Chapter One
Driving through the main streets of Center City, Jack McGee was simply looking for a place to get a quick lunch-a diner, or something along those lines-when it happened. It happened quickly, as accidents always do. McGee had the light, was driving across the intersection. Another driver failed to notice the light was red, and barreled right into the reporter's blue Ford. McGee had just time enough to see the other car. Then, all he saw were stars…
The officers who arrived on the scene sorted the situation out briskly. The driver who had run the red light was fine, just a few scrapes and bruises. McGee lay slumped over the steering wheel of his car, blood dripping from his nose, a nasty-looking gash on his left temple.
"He's got a pulse," one officer commented after laying a finger to the base of McGee's throat.
"The ambulance is on its way," the other replied.
Indeed, the wailing sound of the sirens could already be heard, distant at first, but getting nearer. Then, the ambulance drew up, parking nearby McGee's dented Ford, and two men got out from the ambulance's rear door, bearing a stretcher loaded with blankets and various, sundry medical things…
Once there, the ambulance attendants moved quickly, getting the unconscious reporter out of the car carefully, settling him on the stretcher, and immobilizing his head and neck to avoid the possibility of spinal injury. Then, loading the stretcher back into the ambulance back into the ambulance, they were off, heading toward Center City Hospital.
"…Then my three-year-old Niece told my-very solemnly-that chocolate made her crazy," Moira Kelly spoke over a cup of tea. "I swear kids really do say the cutest things. Do you have any nieces or nephews, David?"
"Uh… No," David Bannister-nee Banner-had only been hired by the Department of Radiology a very few days ago. This was just his second day of work at the hospital.
"I was married, but…no children."
"What happened?"
"She died."
"Oh! I'm so sorry!" Kelly put a hand to her face. "I'm always asking these stupid questions! I'm sorry if I brought any bad memories back."
"Doctor Kelly," Banner hastened to reassure her. "It's all right. I've long since dealt with all of that."
That was true. He'd done his grieving, for the second wife as well as the first. Besides, he had bigger things-both figuratively and literally-to worry about. He had been mugged, in Stannsville Indiana, around ten days ago. That, of course, had brought out the Hulk, and Banner had been forced to leave Stannsville. Jack McGee would be coming to Stannsville as soon as he heard about it, so the only thing Banner could do was take off. Again…
So David had taken a quick trip to Center City, and an even quicker job interview. Now, Center City Hospital had a new Radiologist-David Bannister-and Banner was-hopefully-out of McGee's line of sight.
Banner liked Moira Kelly. She was unselfconscious, and tended to live very much in the moment, which was something Banner was beginning to realize he had never done. Even before the Gamma-Ray accident, his eyes-and mind-had always been focused on the horizon, never on the here and now. The realization hurt because he knew that-with the Hulk inside him-he would never get the chance to live like that again.
Someone put his head into the small office, said:
"There's a car accident coming in, a man with a possible cranial injury. Doctor Henkle wants a radiologist on hand."
"I'll take it," Banner volunteered. "I've finished my lunch."
Five minutes later, Banner was beginning to regret he had been the one to volunteer. The injured man turned out to be Jack McGee. The reporter was unconscious, but the bleeding seemed to have stopped. Even so, Doctor Henkle had ordered a full series of skull x-rays to be taken. As nervous as Banner felt about being in the company of an unconscious Jack McGee, he was in total agreement with the doctor. Head injuries could do strange things to a body…
McGee never stirred through the whole process, leaving Banner torn between relief and worry. On the one hand, Jack McGee had been a most persistent pain in the arse, always turning up at the most inconvenient of times, always right on the cusp of discovering Banner's secret. But Banner would never forget that time he had spent with McGee, trying to survive hungry wolves, and a raging forest fire. The achingly vulnerable human being he'd come to know during those days was a good man-if a haunted one-a man Banner wouldn't have minded having as a friend.
Wheeling the stretcher back into the ER Treatment Room, Banner took one last look at McGee. The other man wasn't going to awaken any time soon. Praying McGee would be okay, Banner beat a hasty retreat, heading back to Radiology.
Maybe I won't have to disappear just yet…
Feeling groggy, Jack McGee opened his eyes.
Where the hell am I?
Glancing around, wincing at the pain even this simple movement brought, he realized he was in a hospital.
What happened? Oh… Right…
Now he remembered that split-second of time, seeing the other car bearing down on him. He moved to sit up, but sudden stabbing pain in his head and neck made him stop. Just then, a nurse entered the room. Seeing him awake, she said:
"How are we today?"
"We? Lady, I don't know about you, but I've felt better."
She bustled around cheerfully, fluffing pillows-whether they needed it or not-fetching a glass of water, and maintaining a steady stream on inane chatter that threatened to send McGee back into the darkness from which he had so recently awakened. But, just before she left, she told him the doctor who had been on call when he had been brought in would be seeing him in a few minutes.
Jack McGee lay there, feeling sore all over. Then, the door opened again, and a tall man, roughly McGee's age, entered the room.
"I'm hoping you're the doctor," McGee spoke earnestly.
"I am," the man spoke, revealing distinct traces of a German accent. "Werner Henkle, at your service. It's good to see you awake."
"How long was I out?"
"Well," Henkle paused, looking at the stat sheet. "They brought you in around Lunch-time today; so you were unconscious around eight hours. How does your head feel? Your cranium took quite a blow."
"My head is harder than it looks," McGee spoke dryly.
"That's good," Henkle put the stat sheet down. "I need to ask you a few questions."
"What kind of questions?"
"The Trauma to the Head Kind."
"Ahh…let me see. My name is Jack McGee, born October Thirteenth, nineteen thirty-seven. I'm a reporter for the National Register, and if it's still today, it's the twentieth of June. Is that what you wanted?"
"Excellent," Henkle took out a penlight, checking McGee's eyes as he spoke.
"How are you feeling?"
"Sore," McGee replied. "But I guess that's what usually happens when your head hits the dashboard."
"At least you were wearing a seat-belt. It would've been much worse if you hadn't."
That was a sobering thought…
"How long before I can get out of here?" McGee asked.
"You only just woke up. One or two nights, just to be on the safe side."
"Okay, one night I can see. But I need to do my job. I can't do that from a hospital bed."
"At least let us run a few tests," Henkle pleaded. "Cranial injuries are strange beasts, and we always prefer a healthy dose of caution where the brain is involved."
McGee nodded rather reluctantly. He knew he was missing out on this chance to locate and identify the Hulk, and he didn't know when he would get another chance…
Henkle put his penlight away, said:
"Try to relax. If you need anything, buzz the nurse. Is there anything we can do for you?"
McGee tried to ignore his throbbing head as he replied.
"If you would call the National Register, let them know what happened, I'd be grateful."
"I'll see what I can do," Henkle promised. "Get some rest."
He left the room. McGee settled his head against the pillows, closing his eyes. He was asleep in minutes.
Doctor Henkle walked down the hospitals halls, heading for the Service Area. The three store rooms, set side-by-side-by-side, served the janitorial and lavatorial needs for this floor, and one of the store rooms had a little bit extra…
The storeroom at the end of the little hall had a secret door secreted at the extreme far end of it. It had been equipped with the latest in Security tech, having an electronic lock system. Pulling out a card that looked like a credit card, Henkle slid the thing into a slot, and then waited a moment. The locked door opened as if by magic, and the doctor stepped through, entering a small, rather stuffy, little hall that led directly to an elevator and a flight of stairs going down. Glancing behind, Henkle saw the secret door close behind him, and then turned to enter the elevator. It had only two buttons.
Henkle pressed Downstairs, and the elevator door slid shut. When the door opened, the doctor stepped out into the Main Lobby of the Phoenix Foundation's underground complex. Unbeknownst to all the people who worked Upstairs, here was where all the latest research was being carried out on paranormal phenomena. Henkle, himself, was involved in one of the most controversial projects in the history of human knowledge.
Project Icarus. The attempt to turn a Null-PSI, someone with absolutely no PSI ability, into a true telekinetic…
After decades of research, some questions had been answered, enough for the Phoenix Foundation to enter into the active phase of the Project…
The earlier phases of the Project had involved people who already had the ability, spoon benders and the like. But the results had been surprisingly disappointing. You couldn't take someone who was already telekinetic, and make him stronger, more powerful. People, who had the ability in a latent, unexpressed form, were even more disappointing than the first group.
That was when Henkle had had the idea that changed the path of the Project. He had been following Jack McGee's articles on the Hulk in the National Register.
Unlike the vast majority of people who read the Register, Henkle had known that the Hulk probably was real, and he had even managed to think his way through to figure out how the Hulk might have been created in the first place. He understood that Gamma radiation lay at the heart of the matter, and that led the way to an even greater inspiration…
Gamma Radiation affects physical strength. Can it also be used to affect other abilities and strengths?
Research had been started to study the proposition, and Henkle's hypothesis had been proven correct .If used in small doses, along with hallucinogens and neurotoxins, substantive results were obtainable, depending on the Blood-Brain chemistry of the subject…
That, along with cutting-edge work done on "Junk DNA", paved the way for Project Icarus to begin its work.
With all of that done, the Phoenix Foundation had settled down to the work of gathering a small number of subjects, not necessarily volunteers, upon which to work the experiments. The attrition factor was rather high; omelets couldn't be made without breaking eggs, and a telekinetic couldn't be made without breaking brains. It was simply part of the price to be paid…
Thus, the Foundation was always on the lookout for a few good men, or women…
Walking down the pristine halls, Doctor Henkle came to the office of his immediate superior, Doctor Andrew Forsythe. Knocking on the door, he waited until he heard Forsythe's rich, British-accented voice.
"Who is it?"
"It's me."
"Come in," Forsythe continues speaking as Henkle let himself in. "Icarus Thirty is beginning to look rather hopeful."
"Josie? What's he doing?"
"We caught him levitating cups and plates this morning."
"That's nice, sir. I think I've found a new prospect."
"Tell me about it," Forsythe picked up a mug of tea, indicated that Henkle was free to get some tea as well. The younger man made his report while making his tea.
"You know that reporter for the National Register? The one who writes all those articles about the Hulk?"
"What about him?" Apart from the fact that it was McGee's articles that had helped Henkle arrive at the truth about their project, Forsythe wasn't particularly interested.
"He's Upstairs, with a concussion. While we were running all of the regular tests, blood workup, x-rays, etcetera, I took the liberty of doing an analysis of his Blood-Brain chemistry. He's a perfect Null-PSI. But his BB chemistry is perfect. It's even a better match than Josie"
Forsythe raised an eyebrow.
"That, I'd like to see," he said. "How are you going to get him down here?"
"Head injuries can be weird," Henkle sipped his tea. "A convulsion or two, plus a coma, and a faked death will do just fine, and-considering the nature of the injury-nobody will think to look deeper than that. Leave it to me."
"Be careful," Forsythe warned. "We don't want his brain damaged. Especially if his potential is as exceptional as you say it is."
"Relax, Andrew," Henkle spoke in a soothing voice. "I know how to do this."
After almost two years of this, Henkle certainly did know how to do it…
David Banner arrived at work early the next morning. As he got his first cup of coffee for the day-an important ritual, never to be missed-he listened to the chatter of those who were going off duty for the day…
"…Yeah, and the patient in room 316 threw her cup of water at me. She said the water wasn't cold enough."
"Some people…Well, at least she's well enough to move around, unlike that reporter they brought in yesterday…"
Banner felt his heart lurch a bit. Before he could stop himself, he found himself walking up to the two nurses.
"What about the reporter?" He asked. Please, let it be someone else! Not Jack McGee…
"Were you on when they brought him in?"
"Yes, Angie. We are talking about Jack McGee, aren't we?"
Angie nodded, picking up her jacket, as she said:
"He woke up around nine PM, but had a really bad seizure around Midnight. He went Code Blue."
Cardiac Arrest, Banner realized with a chill
"Did he die?"
"Not as far as I know," Angie shook her head, slipping into her jacket. "They took him to the ICU. That's all I know. It's a shame, really. He was a nice-looking guy."
"Thank you, ladies…"
Banner strode off, heading-much to his surprise-over to the ICU. Feeling vaguely guilty somehow, he felt as if he owed something to McGee. He bumped into Doctor Henkle just before he got there.
"Well, Mr. Bannister, what brings you down to the ICU?"
"I…uh…just wanted to look in on Mr. McGee," Banner stammered. "I've read all of his articles in the National Register."
"I'm sorry," Henkle replied. "Mr. McGee died about an hour ago. The damage caused by the seizure was just too profound."
Banner closed his eyes, overwhelmed by the mix of emotions that assailed him.
He wasn't going to be hunted anymore.
Jack McGee was dead…
"Did you like his work?" Henkle's voice intruded on his thoughts.
Banner opened his eyes, surprised by the amount of grief he felt for the man who had been his chief nemesis.
"I respected him," he said at last. That, at least, was true.
"Well…" Henkle looked at his watch. "Mr. McGee's family were informed, and they are on their way here."
Along with several of Jack's newspaper friends, I'm sure, Banner thought. It would be best to stay out of sight for a while.
He nodded to Henkle. Then, he was off, heading back to Radiology. He would deal with the changes wrought by McGee's death later, when he had more time to himself.
Doctor Henkle stared after the radiologist as he disappeared around the corner of the hall. What was it about celebrities that even a minor one like Jack McGee could cause everyone to come out of hiding? McGee wasn't even a real celebrity. He was just a reporter for a seedy little tabloid. But even he attracted curiosity-seekers…
Shaking his head, he headed for the storeroom with its secret door. Minutes later, safely Downstairs, he stood next to Doctor Forsythe, looking down at the newest acquisition for Project Icarus. The small room was filled with the beeping sounds of a heart-monitor, and the sighing sounds of a mechanical respirator.
"He will do well, I think," Forsythe spoke without looking up. "I had some extra tests run on him while you were Upstairs. He really is an exceptional find."
Henkle basked in the other man's praise.
"It was just luck that brought him here," he admitted. "If that accident hadn't happened, we wouldn't have found him."
Leaning over, he brushed a lock of hair away from the comatose patient's forehead. Jack McGee-nowhere near as dead as claimed-was on oxygen, the ventilator breathing for him; but there were subtle indicators that he would be coming out of it soon.
Soon, we can begin…
He looked over to Forsythe.
"When do you want us to start?" he asked the other man.
"As soon as the subject regains consciousness."
Forsythe left the small cubicle, and Henkle bent to look at the file attached to the foot of the bed. Ignoring the beep of the heart-monitor and the sighing sound of the ventilator, he studied the file carefully. It was a new one, the heading Icarus 31 printed on the cover-sheet. Jack McGee didn't know it yet, but he was on the brink of taking part in one of the most exciting research projects in human history. Death lay at one end of the path. But glory lay at the other end.
You should be honored, Mr. McGee. One way or the other, your name will go down in history…
Chapter 2
Jack McGee slowly opened his eyes. He ached all over, couldn't quite figure out why.
What happened?
The room was different; just the bed he lay on, four walls, and a door. Feeling panicky somehow, McGee moved to sit up, realized he had been strapped down.
What the hell?
Alarm building up inside him, he tried to pull his wrists free. The door opened and two men entered the room. McGee focused his attention on the man he recognized.
"Doctor Henkle, where am I? What happened?"
The other man replied instead.
"You have been selected to take part in an experiment to push back the frontiers of human knowledge and endeavor."
"Excuse me?" McGee was completely taken aback by this pronouncement. "Why have I been tied down?"
"You probably won't like some of the experiments you'll be taking part in."
"Me? Look, I'm a reporter, not a lab rat. Doctor Henkle, I though you were going to call the people I work for."
"Sorry," Henkle looked apologetic. "Your blood workup suggested you would be perfect for this project, so…I didn't call them."
Thoroughly alarmed, the reporter struggled against the restraints.
"You can't do this!" he grated. "It's kidnapping!"
"And other things as well," Henkle produced a syringe. "But we won't speak of those, shall we?"
"What's that?" McGee stared fearfully at the syringe.
"Neurotoxins and hallucinogens. We're going to see if we can open your Inner Eye."
"My Inner What?" McGee continued to struggle, terrified at this sudden turn of events.
"Relax," Henkle spoke soothingly. "We're trying to improve the human condition by tapping into the untouched reserves of human potential."
"Human potential. Right." McGee already knew a little about the dangers of that. The elusive John Doe must've been involved in something very similar. Look at what that got him…I don't want that to happen to me!
Powerless to prevent it, the reporter felt Henkle inject the drugs into his bloodstream. Terrified, he felt something shift, as if restlessly turning over in its sleep. Then, darkness reared up, swallowing him in its ocean-tide waves…
Henkle and Forsythe stood over him for a minute. Then, Forsythe said:
"Put him in Isolation Cell One. We'll continue the Series from there."
He is walking, alone and lost, in the desert. How and why he is in the desert is a mystery to him, a question he has never gotten around to asking. It's enough to know that he is here, lost, and without hope of shelter of any kind.
He is lost in the desert. But he is not alone. There is another out there, another who wants to kill him.
There! Green skin glowing in the hot sun's rays…The Hulk…chasing him.
As always, Jack McGee turns to run. As always, his ankle turns, and he finds himself sprawled, facedown on the hot desert sand. He struggles to get back to his feet. Too late… The creature is here now, towering over him, reaching down for him with one massive hand…
Jack McGee awoke with a strangled cry, heart hammering. It wasn't real.
Just that damned nightmare again…
Feeling dry and the mouth, and vaguely nauseous, he tried to take stock of the situation. He was lying on the floor of what appeared to be an isolation-cell. The floor, walls, and even the ceiling were heavily padded…
The ceiling?
Looking around, McGee saw no bed. There wasn't even a chair, just the padded walls and floor. Pulling himself into a sitting position, he realized he wasn't wearing the hospital-robe he'd been wearing earlier. Now, he was clad in paper-thin trousers and shirt, as if he were a prisoner…
His heart was racing, and the cell was spinning a little. Suddenly, the door opened, letting in blinding light. As McGee tried to back away from that brilliance, three men entered the cell. Two of them wrestled McGee to the floor, knocking the breath out of him, while the third administered an injection that-once again-tossed the reporter into into that restless ocean of darkness. Then, their job done, they walked out into the light of the hall, closing the cell-door, leaving McGee in darkness both inner and outer…
The horrible thing was that, despite the darkness, McGee remained relentlessly aware of everything happening around him, inside him. When the convulsions started, he felt all of it…
They kept him in that state for seven days, but McGee had lost track of time right from the start. Those seven days were a blur of excruciating convulsions, accompanied by terrifying nightmares of the Hulk stalking him. Then, one day, the darkness receded, and McGee slowly opened his eyes. The padded floor felt cool under his cheek, and his head felt clearer than it had in a long time.
What are they waiting for? Surely they haven't forgotten?
They hadn't. The door opened, letting in the brilliant light. McGee cringed against the wall, blinded by the light.
This time, it was just the two guards. They hauled McGee to his feet, and dragged him out of the cell. The reporter tried to fight, but his arms and legs weren't working properly. Semi-paralyzed, he lay limply in their arms as they hauled him into what seemed the very definition of a "proper" laboratory…
There were several devices in that pristine lab-most of which McGee couldn't have identified if his life had depended upon it.
The guards set him down upon a medical examination table, strapping him down with quiet efficiency. After that, the guards left, leaving the reporter alone in his fear. The door opened again, and Doctor Henkle walked in, accompanied by two assistants.
"Ahh, Mr. McGee," Henkle spoke jovially. "How are you on this fine morning?"
"It's morning?" McGee's voice was raspy. "I hadn't noticed."
"Not surprising," as Henkle spoke, the two assistants went to work, practiced hands slipping under McGee's shirt to attach electrodes to his chest, whilst other electrodes were being attached to his head.
Henkle began going over all of the machinery in the lab, flipping switches, turning machines on, setting others into "standby" mode.
"What are you doing?" McGee couldn't help himself. He was a reporter and reporters asked questions. Even if the answers were fatal…
Henkle glanced over his shoulder at he other man.
"We're going to stimulate your brain cells," he said. "We'll be using small doses of Gamma radiation for this."
The two assistants finished their work with McGee, immobilizing his head and neck. Then, at Henkle's direction, they left the lab.
Henkle pushed a button, and panels in the ceiling opened as a segmented machine swung down to position itself directly over the thoroughly frightened reporter.
"What is that?" McGee hated the tremor in his voice
"That's the machine we're using to focus the Gamma rays."
McGee made one final effort to save himself.
"You don't have to do this," he said. "You can stop this madness right in its tracks. This can only end in tragedy. Stop it, stop it now."
Henkle paused, looking at the reporter.
"You don't know what tragedy is," he replied. "Humanity is a tragedy. Haves and have-nots in constant war against each other."
"You think doing this will help humanity?" McGee couldn't quite believe his ears.
"Yes." Henkle spoke with the shining assurance that only the truly insane can manage. "All things shall be equal to each other. And you will be the first of the new species."
"Oh god," McGee whispered. I'm in the clutches of a madman…
Henkle studied the machinery. Everything was good to go.
"We're ready to start," he announced to McGee. "This will probably hurt a little," he added as he flipped a switch.
It didn't hurt a little. It hurt a lot…
Henkle and Forsythe watched the videotape of the experiment later that afternoon. That the subject was experiencing terrible agony didn't even enter their minds; they were too absorbed by the medical readouts and brain scan…
"Absolutely amazing," Forsythe spoke in awe as he looked at the results. "All this after just one week?"
"Yes," Henkle pointed out certain spikes in the readout. "The drugs and radiation are having a desired affect on the cellular structure of his brain. I'm not sure, but I think we've already registered a mild Telekinetic Event. It almost felt as if something were trying to push me away. But that could be wishful thinking."
"It's a little early for substantive results," Forsythe agreed. "Where is he now?"
"Back in Isolation Cell One. We've already started the second week's series of treatment."
"Good," Forsythe clapped the other man on the shoulder. "Always strike while the iron's hot."
Chapter 3
David Banner was beginning to adjust to the new phase in his life. To be sure, it didn't happen all at once, but the realization that there was no one to hunt him, now that Jack McGee was dead, began to instill a calmness in Banner that he hadn't felt in years. There were still times when he felt that vague sense of guilt about McGee-it felt wrong, somehow, to feel such peace as the direct result of another man's death-but the reporter's death had been due to an accident. There'd been nothing Banner could've done to prevent it…
So, life had begun to take on a less frenetic pace, as Banner slowly-very slowly-began to emerge from that self-imposed shell. The Hulk still lay within him, but-with the days taking on a peaceful regularity-the actual chance of the creature putting in an appearance remained small.
Banner had even begun dating again, taking Moira Kelly out to the movies a time or two. He was somewhat hesitant about it, already having been exposed to three very painful losses. But the joy of simple human contact more than made up for the fear of devastating loss. There were new friends here, and people who needed him. Banner had even begun to adopt Moira Kelly's philosophical approach to life, living in the moment, enjoying the surprises the day brought. All in all, it was a very beneficial time for David Banner.
It couldn't last, of course…
The second week of injections had gone pretty much the same for Jack McGee as the first week had, days and nights of torturous convulsions and truly terrifying nightmares. The Hulk appeared in most of the nightmares, but was conspicuously absent in the worst one…
Jack McGee is back in Chicago, in the building that houses the headquarters for the National Register. Although the afternoon sun shines brightly through the windows, the entire building seems to be deserted. McGee wanders through the building, seeking even one familiar face…
"Why did he have to be such a fool?"
McGee whirls at the sound of the woman's voice. Pat Steinhauer…
She isn't visible. McGee starts hunting frantically through the empty halls and offices, calling her name as he runs down the halls. Now, he hears Mark's voice.
"I should never have let him hare off after the creature like that!"
Abruptly, McGee finds himself in what looks to be a chapel. Pat and Mark are standing side by side, staring at something that lies in front of them.
"He was such an idiot!" Mark speaks sadly. "Why couldn't he just stop?"
"Because he was an arrogant, stubborn SOB! That's why."
Then, Pat and Mark disappear, leaving McGee alone in the chapel. In front of an open coffin… Unwillingly, the reporter steps forward to peer inside…
He sees his own body, dressed in his best suit; hair combed neatly, arms lying at his sides. McGee stares down at the body, trying desperately to understand. Then, the other opens his eyes, revealing eyes of total black…
Jack McGee awakened to find himself sitting bolt upright, sweat dripping into his eyes. In spite of the extreme physical discomfort of his surroundings, he actually felt relief of a sort.
I'm alive. I'm not dead yet…
His relief was short-lived. The cell-door opened, and two men entered the room. Again, McGee tried to fight, but his effort was a pitiful thing. It was the lab again, with that all those devices from hell…
Henkle walked in as the assistants finished with the reporter. McGee looked at his torturer, wondering what could possible drive a man to do this to another human being. There were no words this time. Henkle pressed the button, and the reporter watched that terrible machine descend from the ceiling one more time.
Then, when all was ready, the doctor flipped a switch, and it began…
Some hours later, the guards brought McGee back to the Isolation Cell, dropping him onto the padded floor. He laid there, body curled up in agony, breathing raggedly. A third man entered the room, ready to give the reporter another injection. That was when all hell broke loose…
Voices communicated with each other over the intercom…
"Icarus 30 is in Transcendence. Please take appropriate measures."
"We copy, Icarus 30 in Transcendence."
Josie was aware of all that was going on around him. He was especially aware of the semi-conscious man in the Isolation-Cell only a few yards away.
Such irony!
Josie knew himself to be a success by the Project's definition of the word. A Null-PSI, he had been tortured with drugs and Gamma radiation until the Talent began to manifest itself. But other Talents had come with the telekinesis and psycho creativity. He knew things sometimes.
Such as now…
Jack McGee would be the best success ever, the strongest Talent ever. There would be no one better than Jack McGee. He would be-as Doctor Henkle had promised-the first of a new species. Unless he managed to escape somehow…
But, in his condition, escape was clearly beyond McGee. Unless someone helped him…
Abruptly, doors everywhere flew open, the door to McGee's cell catching one of the guards in the back of the head, as something picked up the second guard, and the man about to give McGee the injection, hurling them out into the hall. All three men lay where they had fallen, stunned into unconsciousness, the door wide open.
Summoning his powers, Josie thrust a ghostly finger into McGee's ribs.
Wake up, Mr. McGee. Get up now!
McGee's eyes fluttered open. He didn't want to get up. He didn't want to move…
Get up, you idiot!
Somehow, the reporter found the strength to pull himself to all fours. The voice in his head kept on hectoring him…
Find the elevator. You'll be safe Upstairs.
Vision blurring in and out of focus, McGee tried to climb to his feet, didn't quite make it. Staggering out, he used the nearest wall for support, not at all certain that there was a way out. Everything was chaos, pure chaos… Everything not bolted down was airborne, flying as if caught by a tornado. Leaning against the wall, un-noticed for now, McGee saw the young man who was responsible for all of this…
Josie was standing in the middle of the hall, a blinding aura cascading around his body, smiling like the proverbial Cheshire Cat. Then, he saw Jack McGee. Their eyes caught and held…
Here's a warning for you, Jack McGee…
Josie's head exploded blood and brains spattering those who were closest to the young man. McGee experienced a wave of pure terror, and suddenly, he was on his feet, running like hell.
Amid all the chaos, it was rather easy to find the elevator. Entering the elevator, McGee remembered Josie's mental voice saying something about Upstairs. Leaning against the wall, that sudden wave of terror-induced energy almost spent, the reporter pressed the button for Upstairs. It was just in the nick of time; a guard saw him, was reaching for something, possibly a gun, as the elevator's door slid shut. When the door slid open, McGee stumbled out into a short little hall, an open door beckoning at the end of it. Moving as quickly as he could, he passed through the open door into a storeroom. The storeroom gave out into a hall that led to what looked like the main lobby of a large hospital…
David Banner had just wheeled a young patient from Radiology back to the Pediatrics Unit, and had decided to stop at a vending machine for a cheap cup of coffee…
That was when he got the shock of his life. The man stumbling down the hall looked as if he had been on the bender to end all benders. Hair uncut and uncombed, at least a week's growth of beard, the man was unmistakably Jack McGee…
But he's dead. Doctor Henkle said he died…
It was such a visceral shock that Banner forgot to hide. He just stood there, paper coffee-cup halfway to his lips, staring blankly like a deer caught in the headlights of a car…
The other man had a dazed look to him, a look that Banner recognized.
He's been drugged…
Banner watched covertly as McGee approached a security guard. The older man took in McGee's bedraggled appearance, said:
"What's wrong, young fellow? Need any help?"
"There's a group of people underground," McGee seemed to be having difficulty speaking, his words were slurred, and he was trembling, as if it was hard to remain standing. Nonetheless, he was doing his best…
"They're doing illegal experiments down there. You have to call the…call…"
He swayed, and Banner's medical instincts kicked in. Moving quickly, he was just in time to catch McGee as he fell, convulsions wracking the reporter's body. Fortunately, Banner and the security guard both knew how to deal with seizures, and they both did what was needed to stabilize the man.
When the seizure had spent itself, Banner leaned over, brushing hair back from the unconscious man's forehead. Yes… it was Jack McGee…
This is insane. What the hell is going on here?
"Here. We'll take care of him," the man's voice brought Banner's head up. The two men standing there looked like enforcers for the Mafia, young, with close-cut hair, and bulges under their suits indicating the presence of guns…
"He's just had a Grand Mal seizure," Banner fought to keep the trembling out of his voice. "He needs to be examined by a doctor."
"He has one already."
The two men had already produced a stretcher, were in the process of strapping McGee in. The fact that these two men were armed suggested that a cautious approach would be best. So, after the two men had set off with the stretcher, Banner followed them at a distance, trying not to lose track of them. He traced them to a small side hall. But that was where he lost them…
The side hall only held three storerooms. No exits, or anything else. Banner stood there, completely flummoxed, and in strong doubt of his sanity…
"What are you doing here?"
Banner whirled, heart in his throat, to see Doctor Henkle standing in front of him, hands on hips…
He very nearly told the doctor everything he had seen. Then, he remembered…
Henkle was the one who told me Jack was dead…
"The lavatory is out of toilet paper," he lied.
"Oh. Very well then," Henkle watched as Banner darted into one of the storerooms, reappearing with several rolls of toilet paper. Beating a hasty retreat, Banner almost ran to the nearest Men's Room. Dropping off the paper, he headed back to Radiology, trying to figure out what to do next.
Doctor Henkle probably never called Jack's family. They must be getting frantic by now… Should I call the police?
Somehow, Banner knew that would be a terrible mistake, one that would get McGee killed. The trick would lie in finding the way that would get Jack McGee out of this alive, and in one piece.
I'll have to call his paper, the National Register…
Werner Henkle took the elevator Downstairs. The chaos of earlier was over, the mess-along with injuries and the one fatality-being cleaned up. Andrew Forsythe was in the Main Lobby, directing the cleanup…
"What happened with Josie?" he asked Forsythe. The older man look up, features grim.
"Josie went Transcendent," he replied. "But I think Josie became more then telekinetic. He was probably the one who helped Jack McGee escape. But we'll never be able to ask Josie."
"Why? Did he burn out?"
"No, Werner. He killed himself by exploding his brain. Did you find Mr. McGee?
"Yes, Andrew. We got to him before he could raise an alarm. But it was quite close. He was trying to tell a security guard what was going on, but was felled by a seizure before he could say anything of importance."
"Thank god, " Forsythe breathed. Then he went on. "With Josie dead, Mr. McGee is our only hope for a true success. I think we should keep him strapped down for the duration of the experiment. We're so close now, and I don't want us to become sloppy, or careless. Also, we need to step up the process, accelerate the process. Start administering the drugs, and exposing him to the Gamma radiation simultaneously. We need to start pressing for results."
"Agreed," Henkle started to walk away. "I'll get right on it first thing in the morning."
Jack McGee opened his eyes, knowing he had failed. The straps holding him down were all the indication he needed. He was in that lab. Again…
The door opened, and Doctor Henkle entered, smiling crookedly.
"I hear you tried to fly the coop," he said.
McGee, too full of despair, said nothing. Henkle went on.
"We're going to have to keep you strapped down until the experiment is finished."
"Until I die, right?"
"Who knows? Maybe you'll be our success."
"Believe me, you don't want a success."
"Why wouldn't we?"
"Ever heard of the Hulk?"
"I've read your articles, yes. What's your point?"
"He's not a monster in the normal sense of the word. Most of the time, he's a normal guy. Hell, he's a nice guy, the kind of guy you'd want at your back when the going gets tough. That is, until something sets off the process. I've seen it happen. Now, near as I can figure, he had to have been involved in an experiment very much like the one you're doing here. That's my point. I don't want something like that to happen to me."
"You needn't be afraid of that," Henkle spoke reassuringly. "We're not making monsters here."
"Tell that to the guy who went bonkers earlier today," McGee retorted. "He was shredding everything in sight. Then, his head…"
McGee broke off, the memory replaying itself in his awareness. Finding his voice again, he said:
"I don't want that to happen to me."
"It wont," Henkle assured him. "You are a potential power of an entirely different order of magnitude. Believe me when I tell you this."
"All right," the reporter fixed him with an intense gaze. "Just suppose I'm everything you say I am. What then? What exactly do you want me to do? Will I be allowed to go back to the paper I work for?"
"Ahh…no. Mr. McGee, several…concerns…have funded us over the years. These concerns require an eventual return on their investments. Look, Jack, I've been honest with you. Here's some more honesty for you. You have no choice or free will in this matter. You will be what you are designed to be. Whatever you were before, that part of you is dead and gone."
Henkle paused to collect his thoughts. Then, he said:
"We'll be starting the next round of treatments tomorrow morning. We'll be intensifying the series, so you'll want to get some rest now, while you can."
With that, Henkle departed, leaving McGee alone in deep despair.
Chapter Four
On his way to the apartment complex where he lived, David Banner picked up a copy of the National Register. They were still running articles written by Jack McGee. Either the man had an impressive stockpile of stories stashed away somewhere, or the people in charge were re-running some of McGee's older articles. At his apartment, Banner looked through the paper, trying to find the Register's telephone number; it had to be listed somewhere in the paper's contents.
That's how Jack always came so close to finding me. All these people would phone the Register with tips, saying they'd seen the Hulk.
Finally, he found the listed number. With his heart in his throat, he dialed the number, fairly certain he would get the runaround. The phone rang three times. Then, a woman's voice answered:
"Good afternoon. This is the National Register. How may I help you?"
Her voice was warm, and utterly impersonal; the perfect receptionist…
"Uh…" Banner was uncertain how to broach the subject of Jack McGee. "I, ahh…I'm calling about one of your reporters, a Mr. Jack McGee-"
"Please hold, sir," the woman interrupted, no longer impersonal. "I'm putting you through to the Associate Chief Editor."
What Banner couldn't have known was that the people at the National Register were frantic with worry over their missing reporter, and had taken steps to locate him; one of those steps being that any phone calls made by-or about-Jack McGee were immediately forwarded to the Associate Chief Editor, Pat Steinhauer.
In seconds, Banner found himself forwarded to the Associate Chief Editor's office. The phone rang once, then a secretary picked up the phone.
"Good afternoon, National Register, Associate Chief Editor's office. May I help you?"
"I have information regarding one of your reporters, a Mr. Jack McGee-"
Again, he was cut off.
"The Associate Chief Editor is here. Let me put you through to her."
Less than thirty seconds later, another woman's voice, filled with pain and worry, came on the line.
"Pat Steinhauer speaking. Do you know where Jack is? Have you seen him? Is he all right?"
Banner answered her questions as best he could.
"I saw Mr. McGee earlier today, but don't know where he is now. I'm David Bannister, by the way, and I work at Center City Hospital."
"How was he when you saw him?" Pat pleaded. "Is he all right?"
"I…" this wasn't going to be easy. "When I saw him, he seemed to be having a seizure."
"A seizure? But he doesn't have epilepsy. What happened?"
"Something profoundly unpleasant, I think. Look, Ms. Steinhauer, I know you don't know me, but I don't think we should be talking about this over the phone. Could you come over to Center City? This could be a matter of life and death for Mr. McGee."
"Why haven't you called the police?"
"Because the people who have Jack McGee have already faked his death. All they need is to hand the police a death certificate for a John Doe and it becomes a non-issue."
He heard Pat's gasp over the line.
"Ill be there by tomorrow morning," she said. "When I get to the hospital, how do I contact you?"
"Go to the Main Lobby and have one of the receptionists page David Bannister. I'll meet you there. Okay?"
"All right."
They both hung up, the Pat commed her secretary.
"Marcy, I'll need a ticket for the first plane out to Center City."
"Yes, Ms. Steinhauer," as her secretary got to work, Pat dropped into the chair at her desk, head in her hands. Then, composing herself, she picked up her favorite photo, the one with her and Jack McGee. Dear, sweet, pigheaded, obstinate Jack McGee…
McGee had gotten into scrapes before; each time seemed to add a gray hair to Pat's head. But that was part of the job, a risk that every reporter knew about.
You dig for the truth; sometimes you get dinged up a little. Or a lot…
Jack had certainly collected his share of bruises in the course of his career. But this was different somehow. And Pat was terrified she'd never see Jack again…
Jack McGee lay there, strapped fast to the bed, looking up at the ceiling. He was a dead man. He knew that now. They could keep on injecting him with those drugs, and exposing him to Gamma radiation until they got what they wanted. Or his heart stopped beating.
Either way, I'm dead…
He had never felt so powerless before, so absolutely incapable of influencing his own destiny.
Is this what John Doe felt?
In spite of his fear and despair-or maybe because of it-he fell asleep…
Again, that dream, standing on hot desert sand, hair sweat-plastered to his forehead, knowing the Hulk is out there, hunting for him…
Jack McGee is tired of this, tired of running, tired of it all…
There! The creature can be seen in the distance, the hot sun shining on green skin. McGee stands his ground, too tired, too sick at heart, to run. The Hulk draws closer, then stops only a few feet away, hesitation sitting oddly on its brutish-looking features.
"Why are you stopping?" McGee yells at the creature. "You've found me. Why don't you finish it?"
The Hulk continues to stare at him, head tilted to one side, and the only word McGee can put to the expression on the creature's coarse features is confused. Then, astonishingly, the creature smiles, holding its hand out to him…
McGee awakened suddenly, drenched in sweat, heart thumping painfully in his chest. That was when hope died entirely…
Chapter Five
David Banner was busy in Radiology, wheeling patients to and from the x-ray labs. But he was in a distracted state of mind. Even Moira Kelly noticed…
"What's up?" she asked him. "Did someone spike your morning coffee?"
Banner shrugged nervously.
"A friend of mine will be stopping at the hospital. I haven't seen her in ages."
He had never met Pat Steinhauer before, but didn't want to advertise that he was going to be meeting an associate of Jack McGee's.
"They", whoever they are, could panic and kill Jack. If they haven't already…
"David Bannister," a woman's voice announced over the PA system. "Please report to the Main Lobby. You have a visitor."
"Must be her," Moira Kelly sounded just a little sad.
"Relax, Moe," Banner tried to reassure her. "She's just a friend."
"Sure," Kelly put on a mock-tragic face. "That's what they all say. Be back as quickly as you can"
"I will," Banner promised. Then he was off to the Main Lobby. When he got there, he walked up to the receptionist, said:
"Good morning, Carol. Where is she?"
She pointed to a petite brunette. Banner walked up to her.
"Hello, I'm David Bannister."
The woman looked relieved.
"I thought we would miss each other," she said. "Have you seen Jack since yesterday?"
"No," Banner offered his hand. "Let's go to the cafeteria. You need to sit down for what I am going to tell you." And I need to sit down to tell you this Banner thought to himself.
A few minutes later, they were seated at a small booth, talking over coffee.
"Have you ever read Jack's articles?" Pat asked Banner. "Jack drove me crazy over his obsession with the Hulk."
"Why was he so obsessed?" Banner had gotten an answer, of sorts, from McGee while they were stuck in the burning forest, but something about the reporter's answer had never felt quite right.
As if Jack were trying to convince himself that his answer was true…
Pat shook her head, smiling somewhat sadly.
"Because the creature frightened Jack. He hated being frightened practically more than anything else."
"This was just his way of facing his fear?" in a way, Banner was horrified.
"Well…you don't know Jack. He's never liked being vulnerable, never wanted to let anyone see the human being behind the shields."
"You love him," Banner said, suddenly very sure.
Pat blinked, reddening a little.
"I don't want to know how you did that," she said. "Yes…I…do love him. I'm so afraid for Jack. Can you tell me anything about him?"
Banner stirred cream into his coffee.
"Did anyone call from the hospital a couple of weeks ago?" he asked. "Mr. McGee had been involved in an auto accident on June twentieth."
"No one from Center City Hospital called us," Pat stated. "Certainly not about that. How badly was Jack hurt?"
"It seemed to be just a concussion, but he had a seizure that night, and went into cardiac arrest."
"Oh my god!" Pat almost spilled her coffee. "Why didn't they call us?"
"It gets worse," Banner replied. "The doctor on call the day of the accident was also the one who told me that Mr. McGee had died of complications from the seizure early the next morning. This was almost three weeks ago. So, as you can see, there is something extremely questionable going on here. That was Jack McGee I saw yesterday."
"But why would the doctor lie that that?"
"Well, Mr. McGee is a reporter," Banner spoke slowly. "And he has a reputation for really pushing for a story. Does he have enemies who would want to kill him?"
"Jack's an investigative reporter, Mr. Banner," Pat said. "Most people in Jack's line of work do eventually get on one at least hit-list. But this seems just a little too elaborate for someone who wants to see Jack dead. Doesn't it? Besides, you saw Jack last. When, exactly, did you see him? What happened when you saw him?"
"I saw him just around lunch-time," Banner replied. Then, he told her everything about that moment, about seeing McGee, the seizure, the guards, and how they had all disappeared without a trace…
"It's enough to make me believe in evil conspiracies," he finished morosely. "There has to be a secret door, or something. But, who are these people?"
"I don't care about their identities!" Pat snapped. "I just want Jack back, safe and sound. You did follow the guards, didn't you?"
"Yes. All the way to the store rooms," Banner stood up as Pat came to her feet. "Are you up to this? I could be wrong about this."
"At least it's a starting point. I'll tear the hospital apart to find Jack, if need be."
Doctor Werner Henkle walked into the lab. Jack McGee seemed to be asleep, but opened his eyes as Henkle moved closer. The doctor studied the reporter's haggard features carefully.
Such bleak despair!
"I see you're awake," Henkle spoke gravely. "It's time to start."
McGee didn't reply, keeping his gaze fixed upon some indeterminate point. Henkle busied himself, giving his prisoner the first injection of the day, and warming all the machinery up, as his assistants began attaching McGee to the devices that would show the workings of his heart and brain.
The brain is more important, now, than the heart, Henkle thought. We have already changed the inner structure of his brain, and the way in which it functions. This could very easily be the Day…
Henkle watched as the drugs took Jack McGee down. He leaned over the reporter, thumbing the man's eyelids open to peer at the eyes. The pupils were dilated, leaving nothing of the iris visible. Stepping back, he pushed a button, summoning the machine from the ceiling.
"All right, Jack," he whispered. "Let's see what we can do."
He flipped the switch...
Banner led Pat to the storerooms. They both stood in the hallway, totally at a loss…
"David, are you sure they took Jack here?"
"Yes. That is perhaps the only thing I can be sure of."
"But this is ridiculous!" Pat exploded. "People don't just disappear like that. Do they?
"If they're desperate enough, they might. Pat, we'll just have to check all the storerooms out."
"What for?" Pat faced Banner, hands on hips.
"Secret doors, maybe?"
"You're scaring me, David. That's the most paranoid idea I've ever heard. What kind of people would need a secret door?"
"People doing illegal experiments on innocent victims?"
Pat stopped, staring at Banner.
"They could be doing that to Jack?"
"Yes," Banner wanted to spare her the knowledge, especially now that he knew she loved Jack McGee. But, a scientist himself, he had never felt so certain of anything in his life. It all fit.
Even the seizure Jack had yesterday…
Pat had said McGee didn't have epilepsy.
Well, he does now. And the probable cause…
Banner shuddered. He knew all about dangerous experiments, having subjected himself to such an experiment using Gamma radiation.
But I didn't even subject willing volunteers to this. Which was just as well. Bad enough I had to create the Hulk in the first place. But I didn't do it to anyone else. It's my demon alone…
But Jack McGee…what did they do to him?
The very fact of a seizure suggested alarming possibilities dealing with the brain…
It was Pat's hand on his arm that brought him back to here and now.
"Are you okay?" she asked him.
"Yes," he said. "Let's start checking those storerooms."
Doctor Henkle gave his subject another injection of the drug mixture, keeping a careful eye on the heart-monitor. The last barrage of Gamma radiation had induced a particularly severe seizure, and McGee's heart was racing, possibly taxed to the limit. As a precaution, Henkle had slipped an oxygen mask over the man's nose and mouth, the feeder turned on high. The seizure had spent itself in a matter of minutes, but the reporter's breath was coming in hitching gasps, even with the oxygen mask on. A Crash Cart lay near at hand, of course, but Henkle prayed it wouldn't be necessary. Leaning forward, the doctor laid a hand on the other's sweat-soaked forehead.
"Are you ready to stop fighting us?" he whispered.
The desert sun is beating down upon him with its punishing rays. Stumbling, Jack McGee falls, the hard ground knocking the breath out of his lungs. He tries to force himself back to his feet, but there is nothing left. The stony ground feels hot under his body, and he begins to realize that he is going to die here, alone, with not even the dubious comfort of the Hulk to witness his passing…
The pain in his chest and head intensifies as blinding light begins to explode inside his skull…
Doctor Henkle, bending over McGee, saw it happen. McGee's eyes snapped open, pupils dilated, a terrible emptiness showing in their depths…
Henkle held his breath. Then, hardly daring to hope, he spoke quietly.
"Jack? Do you hear me?"
Those empty eyes surveyed him for a moment. Then, a force lifted Henkle, slamming him into a wall. As he lay there, stunned, Henkle saw the straps holding McGee down snap. The reporter slid off the bed, lifting off the oxygen mask with a trembling hand. As he moved, the electrodes snapped off his chest and head, falling unheeded at his feet. McGee turned to face the door. It exploded outward on its hinges, and the reporter stepped out, Henkle forgotten…
Pulling himself together, Henkle staggered to his feet, and pressed the intercom button.
"Icarus Thirty One has attained Transcendence. Take appropriate precautions. Don't let him become another Josie!"
Alarms went off all over the complex. Jack McGee was unaware of the sound-and what it represented-as he was unaware of the voices over the intercom.
"Warning! We have a First Tier Telekinetic in Transcendence. Approach with caution."
"The subject is radiating a Force Ten electrical field."
"Take the subject alive. Put him to sleep before he pulls a Josie."
"Easier said than done. He's glowing."
Jack McGee saw everything, heard everything, and understood nothing. The dance of the molecules-all around him-demanded his complete attention. They were everywhere. They were everything…
They danced in the walls, in the floors, in flesh, and in the spilled liquids that lay everywhere. The air…the air was alive with trillions of tiny points of light. They danced and swirled about him, into him as he breathed in and out…
Then, the presence of men in front of him dragged his attention away from those points of light. Several of them held guns, each gun armed with tranquilizer darts. McGee frowned, trying to pin down an elusive memory of having used such a gun once himself; but the memory slipped away, borne on the path of a trillion dancing molecules…
"One of the men stepped forward.
"Hi there," he said. "Doctor Henkle wants you to go back to your room. He says you need to get some sleep."
McGee didn't move. The molecules swept around him, through him. No breeze wandered into the hall. But something in the air ruffled through McGee's hair. Then, a force lashed out, sweeping the men off to one side.
That was when the lightning bolts began to strike…
David and Pat had already searched the first storeroom. Now they were in the second of the three. Neither knew what they were looking for exactly but they both believed implicitly that they would know when they four whatever it was that they were looking for.
Please be all right, Jack…
She tried to keep her hopes up, but her imagination kept on trying to tell her all the possible things they could've done to Jack McGee
Enough! No more!
"How are you doing back there?" Banner's voice brought her back to herself.
"I'm fine," no, I'm not… "No secret door yet."
"Keep on looking, Ms. Steinhauer. It's here. It's got to be here."
Banner heard the frustration in the woman's voice, felt it too. Jack McGee was very near…
But, if we can't find that secret door, Jack might as well be on the Moon…
Then, Banner became aware the building was shaking.
An earthquake? In Center City?
The lights in the hospital flickered, and then went out.
"David?" Pat's voice was alarmed.
"I think it's an earthquake," Banner took a step backward. Then, he stopped. A door was opening right in front of him.
"Pat! I've found it!"
He heard her footsteps as she raced over to him. Standing in the dim glow cast by emergency generators, they both stared at the door.
"You going in there?" Pat asked him.
"Fine. I'm going with you."
"No. You're not."
"David, Jack is in there!"
"Yes, he is, Pat," Banner spoke earnestly. "Look, it'll be dangerous enough with just one person going in there. Even without an earthquake. Use your head, Pat. This entire building could go down."
Even now, they both could hear the hospital's alarms going off, voices on intercoms saying something about patient evacuation…
"Stay out here, Pat," Banner continued. "The police will be here soon on account of the earthquake. You'll be able to tell them about Jack's been kidnapped. Besides, I don't think Mr. McGee would ever forgive me if I let anything happen to you."
"All right," Pat nodded. Banner could tell she hated this. She wanted to rescue Jack McGee herself. Standing on tiptoe, she brushed Banner's cheek with her lips.
"Bring him back."
"I will."
Pat left, and Banner walked through the secret door. Passing through, he walked down a short hall, coming to an out-of-order elevator, and a flight of stairs going down into pitch-black darkness…
Although he moved quickly, the care he took in setting his feet, and his firm grip on the stair-rail, kept banner from any unfortunate accidents. About halfway down, he became aware of an eerie-looking glow pervading the area.
Emergency power generators, Banner decided as he continued grimly down the stairs. But why is it flickering like that?
Finally, he reached the bottom.
What's going on here? A hurricane?
Flashes of lightning seemed to beckon in the distance, and Banner very nearly turned back the way he had come.
Jack McGee is somewhere in all of this…
Men and women ran past Banner, not noticing him in their frenzy to escape. Moving cautiously, Banner moved deeper into the underground complex, finally penetrating the inner sanctum. Several guards were already there. They hadn't noticed the interloper yet, and that struck David Banner as being rather odd. Then he saw Jack McGee…
McGee still wore that prison-style garb he'd been wearing earlier. But that wasn't what caused Banner's breath to catch in his throat…
The reporter stood there; sweat gluing his shirt to his chest and back, the empty-eyed gaze seeing nothing…
Oh dear god…Jack…
Banner, horrified, watched as the guards rushed the reporter. Then, he saw it. McGee made a gesture, as if to swat a fly aside. All six of the guards flew through the air, as if caught by the hand of a giant. They were hurled right into David Banner. As they all sorted themselves out, another man strode up, impatience in every line of his body.
"Why haven't you subdued the subject yet?" he asked the guards. Banner, seeing the newcomer, tried to make himself as inconspicuous as possible.
Doctor Henkle…
"It's hard to do that sir," the commander of the guards replied. "He's up to lightning now."
Banner, still ignored, was studying Jack McGee. The reporter was glowing in the dark, little flashes of lightning crackling all over his body. Banner felt a thrill of fear work its way up his spine. What the hell have they done to Jack?
He took a step toward McGee, half afraid the man would spear him with a lightning bolt, but the reporter remained insensate to the rest of the world.
"What are you doing here, Mr. Bannister?"
Henkle's voice brought him around. Gesturing in McGee's direction, banner said:
"What have you done to Jack McGee?"
The doctor shook his head.
"You shouldn't have come down here, Mr. Bannister."
"What did you do to him?"
In the face of Banner's persistent questioning, Henkle shrugged, thinking It's your funeral…
Then he said:
"We used neurotoxins and hallucinogens in conjunction with timed doses of Gamma radiation."
Banner felt a lump in his throat at that declaration.
They used Gamma radiation? On Jack?
Finding his voice, he said:
"How could you do something like that? Don't you have any idea of what you've done to him?"
"We've opened his Inner Eye."
"Doctor Henkle," Banner spoke urgently. "Gamma radiation is dangerous. It has been known to create monsters."
"He's not a monster," there was an odd note of pride in Henkle's voice. "Although Jack was worried about it. He kept on telling me he didn't want to end up like someone he called John Doe."
Banner closed his eyes in pain. That would've been a fear of Jack's… Opening his eyes again, he said just one word.
"Because the time has come for it, Mr. Bannister, because evolution has proven itself to be a dead end. Because we now have the technology, and medical knowledge to do it."
"And your subjects, are they volunteers?"
"No, but you already knew that. Can you imagine a man like Jack McGee actually volunteering for this? Of course not. But he is the perfect subject for this, and he will be the most powerful telekinetic ever created. We have been able to grant him this gift."
Glancing at Jack McGee, seeing the terrifyingly empty gaze, Banner said:
"Somehow, I don't think Jack would call this a gift."
"Well, that's just you, Doctor Banner" Henkle's words froze Banner into immobility. "Actually, if it hadn't been for your work on Gamma radiation, and McGee's articles on the Hulk, I would never have put the whole thing together. You have my eternal gratitude."
After a pause David realized that this man knew who he was. That would only be possible if Doctor Henkle was part of the scientific community. Then it hit him; this was none other than Werner Henkle! The only problem was that Werner Henkle had dropped off the face of the planet a few years ago…
Gesturing to two of the guards, Henkle said:
"Take our visitor, and put him in one of the cells. We can deal with him after we've taken care of McGee."
Banner tried to back away, tried to get closer to McGee, but the two guards overpowered him very quickly. As he struggled in their arms, he said:
"Doctor Henkle, you don't know what you've done to Jack McGee."
"I have a pretty good idea," Henkle cast a smiling gaze upon the reporter.
He made a gesture and the guards dragged Banner away. Other men armed with guns ran up. Banner tried to pull back, looking over his shoulder at McGee. The other man seemed to be unaware of the new arrivals, but something had lifted those men-all six of them-bowling them over like Nine Pins.
The guards dragged Banner to a cell-door. As they opened the door, Banner tried one last time.
"Please! You've got to stop this! They're going to end up killing Jack!"
One of the guards punched Banner, hard, in the solar plexus. As Banner doubled over, the breath knocked out of his lungs, the guard shoved him into the cell. Banner lay there, gasping for breath, hearing the door slamming behind him, the key locking it behind him. Alone in the dark, pain, fear, and rage began to work its inevitable magic…
The remaining guards had surrounded McGee, but were taking no action to subdue him. Henkle had realized that Transcendence was a state of short duration. They could wait McGee out. Eventually-sooner rather than later-the reporter would weaken, and they would be able to do whatever was needful.
What a prize you've turned out to be! Henkle thought as he approached the other man. McGee was beginning to tremble, breath coming in short gasps. The doctor held out his hands, saying:
"Come on, Jack. We don't want to hurt you. You need rest."
McGee backed up a pace, still exerting a force field that pushed Henkle away from him.
"Wait him out," Henkle spoke to the guards. "It'll be very soon now…"
The bestial roar emanating from a nearby cell disconcerted everyone but Jack McGee. Then, as everyone paused, the cell door flew off its hinges…
"What the hell?" a guard spun around to face the cell-not quickly enough-as a huge, green-skinned creature charged out, stunning everyone with its sudden appearance. Snarling, the Hulk picked up a guard, hurling him into the others. Henkle, his attention diverted from Jack McGee, found himself grabbed by the scruff of the neck and held up close, as emerald eyes inspected him. In spite of his absolute terror, the scientist in Henkle put everything together in a lightning flash of insight…
"So…" he breathed. "David Banner and the Hulk are one and the same. Jack McGee has been hunting you all this time. Tell me…don't you want to be left alone? Wouldn't you prefer it if Jack was out of your hair for good? I can arrange for that, you know. Just let me keep him. You will be able to go your merry little way, and never fear the threat of discovery by Jack McGee again. How's that for a deal?"
The creature peered at Henkle, and then swung its gaze to McGee. As the Hulk watched, McGee finally collapsed, falling in an untidy heap to the floor. Turning back to the doctor, the creature bared its teeth in a silent snarl, then cast Henkle aside. As Henkle watched, stunned, the Hulk turned to Jack McGee, concern plainly visible on the brutish features. Gently gathering the unconscious man into its arms, the creature slowly levered itself to its feet, huge arms protectively cradling the reporter. Then, the Hulk was gone…
Henkle staggered to his feet as Andrew Forsythe ran up, accompanied by six guards.
"He got away?" Forsythe asked.
"Yes," Henkle admitted. "But we'll get him back."
"What about that creature we saw?"
Henkle laughed out loud, startling the others.
"That was Jack McGee's Hulk," he said, chuckling. "I know who the Hulk is. We can use this, I think."
Chaos reigned outside as well as inside. The emergency evacuation was well underway by now. Ambulances and busses streaked away bearing patients to other hospitals across town or to other nearby cities as helicopters took off, bearing the more critical patients who were too ill to be driven. As everyone else mingled outside, Pat kept an anxious eye out for Banner and McGee.
"Is everyone out?" she heard the Chief Hospital Administrator ask one of his assistants.
"I think so," the other responded.
A moment later a huge, green-skinned creature was charging out of the hospital carrying something in its arms. Pat felt numb with shock.
Jack was right after all…
Then, as the creature drew closer, she saw what the Hulk was clutching so protectively to its chest…
"Oh my god…" the words came out of her without thought. "Jack…"
Heart in her throat, Pat moved to put herself in the creature's path. The Hulk slowed when it saw her blocking its path. It snarled at her, but she stood her ground. She only had eyes for Jack McGee. He lay limp, seemingly lifeless, in the creature's arms. Holding out her hands, Pat said:
"Please. Let me take Jack."
The Hulk glanced down at McGee, then back to Pat.
"Yes," Pat smiled, arms still held out. "Give Jack to me. I'll take him home."
The Hulk approached her with all the caution of a wild animal, but it seemed the creature was going to surrender McGee into Pat's care. But, even as he approached her, Doctor Henkle arrived on the scene, with several armed guards in tow. As the guards ran up, guns drawn, the Hulk snarled, clutching McGee possessively to its chest.
"No!" Pat tried to forestall the inevitable…
The Hulk roared, running off. It paused only once, to kick a car out of its way. Then, the creature was gone, and Jack McGee as well. Standing there, body stiff with shock and grief, Pat heard the voices behind her.
Pat blinked tears out of her eyes. She didn't even have the reassurance of knowing whether Jack McGee was alive or not.
Oh dear god! Jack… Be alive. Please be all right…
Chapter Six
The darkness was different now. It was quiet now; the only sound he heard was birdsong. He opened his eyes, blinking owlishly at the warm radiance of the sun, feeling soft grass under his body. He felt light somehow, as if he were merely an empty shell…
I'm Jack McGee, he told himself. Everything else was gone, drowned in an ocean of fluff. That bothered him. He knew there was more to him than just a name…
I'm a writer, I think…No…a reporter, for a paper…what happened to my memories?
Giving up on his memories for now, McGee focused on pulling himself into a sitting position, a chancy proposition as flashes of vertigo threatened to pull him back down into the darkness. Then, as he sat up, he saw something that made him freeze into stillness both inner and outer.
The Hulk sat not ten feet away from him, eyes closed, seemingly in the act of falling asleep…
Memories crowded back into McGee's skull at the sight…
The fire in the storeroom of The Culver Research Center. The flight out of the building. The Hulk charging out, bearing a dead woman…
McGee stared at the creature, not quite believing his eyes. He was finally going to solve the mystery…
The Hulk bowed its head, and the Change began, the massive green body dwindling in size even as the skin paled to a more normal human hue. Minutes passed, then McGee found himself staring at a perfectly normal-looking human body. The man who sat before him was breathing deeply, evenly. Then, he raised his head, and all of McGee's certainties went flying out the window…
David Banner…its David Banner. But, he's dead…the fire…
Beginning to doubt his sanity, McGee continued to stare at Banner. The other man's eyes seemed to glow with a white light for a second. Then, Banner took a deep shuddering breath, and all was normal.
Yeah…right, McGee thought caustically to himself. He hadn't seen normal since two years ago…
He stared at Banner. Banner stared back at McGee. Finally, McGee said:
"You? You're dead. I saw your funeral."
"Yes," Banner smiled slightly as he spoke. Then David flashed back to something he had told Jack McGee nearly two years ago. "I told you that you wouldn't like me when I was angry."
That brought a snort of laughter from McGee, which quickly became a grimace of pain. Instantly, Banner was at his side, grabbing his wrist to take his pulse. McGee tried to yank his wrist away, every muscle in his body screaming in protest. That, along with his apparent amnesia, alarmed McGee.
What happened to me?
"Jack? What do you remember?" Banner was grim now.
"Not much," the reporter admitted. "I know my name, and my job. I even seem to recall that I was hunting you. But I haven't a clue as to how we got here, or why you let me discover your secret. Why?"
"You were in a car accident."
"Well, that makes sense," McGee lifted a hand, touching his left temple, feeling the slight trace of a scar there. "I think you're right about that. But I don't remember it at all. Head impacts are like that, aren't they?"
"Yes," Banner agreed. "But your memory loss probably wasn't due to a concussion. You were kidnapped."
"Kidnapped," McGee repeated the word. He didn't remember that at all. But-as if from a dream-a snippet of memory came back to him...
You have been chosen to take part in an experiment to push back the frontiers of human knowledge and endeavor…
…We're going to see if we can open your Inner Eye…
He shivered suddenly, a vague sense of terror crawling up his spine.
"I really was kidnapped, wasn't I?" he said in tones of intense disbelief. "Was it someone who had a grudge against me?"
"No," Banner shook his head. "It was a scientist. His name was Werner Henkle."
The man's name brought a jolt of pure of terror to McGee, and he tried to get to his feet, but the world seemed to go sideways, and Banner was the only thing that kept McGee from falling down face first onto the grass.
"Breathe deeply, keep your head low," Banner instructed him as he eased McGee back down to the ground. McGee obeyed him; feeling Banner take his pulse, then laying a hand to his forehead, like a mother checking her child for fever.
Come to think of it, McGee was cold. Trembling, he said:
"What did these putative kidnappers do to me?"
"They drugged you, Jack. They exposed you to Gamma radiation."
"I'm not a scientist, Doctor Banner. Please say it again. In terms a layman can understand."
"All right. Henkle said he used neurotoxins and hallucinogens on you. Gamma radiation…well…you know about the Hulk, don't you?"
"A little," McGee was beginning to dread the answer,
"An over dose of Gamma radiation was what created the Hulk. Henkle said he used Gamma radiation on you."
"Oh god," McGee looked around, suddenly frantic. Most of his memory was gone, as if it had never been. Looking down at himself seeing the torn clothes he was wearing-he was closer to naked than clothed-McGee immediately suspected the worst…
It was Banner's grip on his shoulders that brought him back.
"No Jack. You didn't turn green. The people who did this to you were trying to give you Psychic powers."
"Doctor Banner," McGee spoke through gritted teeth, he was so cold. "PSI is a hoax. They only exist in the minds of the deluded. I ought to know. I've written enough ESP dreck for the Register to publish a large book. It's wish-fulfillment fantasy, nothing more. Why aren't we contacting the police? I mean, if you're worried about me tattling on you, I would be willing to break a cardinal law of mine. Doctor Henkle strikes me as a far more dangerous man than you ever were, even on your worst days."
"I'm not worried about what you'll do about me." Banner waved the thought aside. "You know the secret now, and there's nothing I can do about that. I'm worried about you. These people were organized. They had all sorts of resources at their disposal. I think they'll stop at nothing to take you back. After all, they did succeed with you. I saw it. You were telekinetic, and psycho-creative."
"What?" McGee couldn't believe what he was hearing. Banner's voice dragged him along; into something he wasn't really quite ready to face…
"I was there, Jack. I saw you. You were glowing. I think you had generated an electrical field of some sort or other. You made a gesture, like swatting a fly aside, and six guards went flying. There was lightning, I saw"-
"Stop," McGee was shaking now, unable to stop it. "I refuse to believe that. It's impossible."
Then, as if awakening from a dream, he remembered the other one, the one who had tried to save him, how he had died…
He huddled in upon himself, finally shattered by it all…
It was Banner's voice that dragged him back into the light.
"C'mon, Jack. We've got to get out of here. If they find us here…"
"They? Who are they?"
Banner stopped, staring at Jack McGee.
He's not ready for this. Well…neither was I…
"Jack," Banner spoke gently. "The people who did this to you are probably looking for you right now. We have to leave the area. Now."
"And go where?"
Banner heard the utter despair in McGee's voice
"There's an old shack nearby, where I've stashed some clothes and money. We'll stop there and get us both a change of clothing. Unless you want to hit the road looking like you do."
Again, McGee looked down at himself. These were definitely not traveling clothes…
He looked back up at Banner, already on his feet. Banner held out a hand.
"Ready to try getting back on your feet?"
This time, McGee was able to stay on his feet, albeit mostly by leaning on Banner, and the two men set off for the shack. Banner's path took them deeper into the woods; he'd heard the helicopters in the distance, getting closer all the time.
McGee's utter passivity worried Banner. This wasn't the first time the two of them had been in a forest together. The McGee of today bore absolutely no resemblance to the McGee he had known then…
McGee was only on his feet because Banner had thrown his arm around the reporter, keeping him on his feet. The man's head was bowed, eyes on the ground.
It wasn't a long walk to the shack, which was just as well. McGee simply didn't have the strength for a long walk. Entering the rickety shack, Banner settled the other man against a wall, then started throwing things together. Pulling a fresh change of clothes out, dressing quickly, Banner pulled out a bottle of orange juice. Walking up to McGee, he opened the bottle, then tried to get the man to drink at least a little of the stuff. It was warm, but McGee was even more badly dehydrated than Banner was. He managed to get the reporter to swallow about half of the bottle's contents
McGee needed medical attention. But, if he took the reporter to a hospital in Center City, or even in the surrounding areas, Henkle's crew would find him, and that, Banner strongly suspected, would be that.
Swearing softly, Banner drew out a second set of clothes; walking up to McGee, he tapped the man gently on the shoulder. The other man looked up.
"Here's something to wear," Banner stammered, caught by the devastated eyes. "Can you manage?"
McGee nodded, and Banner left him to it. A few minutes later, both men were dressed, and-somewhat-ready to go. Again, Banner threw an arm around McGee, keeping him on his feet. Walking as quickly as the reporter's physical state permitted, he took a path deeper into the forest, hoping the trees would provide adequate cover against the prying helicopters.
Finally, after a half-hour of silent walking, they came to some train tracks. Helicopters still in the sky, David decided that the track were too open to walk down. Staying just inside the tree line along the edge of the tracks, the two men arrived at the switchyard as the setting sun was disappearing behind the buildings of Center City. Keeping to the shadows, David hustled McGee to a cattle car and heaved the rapidly tiring reporter inside. Then, with McGee safely aboard, Banner tossed his duffel bags in, then scrambled aboard himself.
There was a rather tense wait, as Banner heard the helicopters overhead. Then they heard a diesel engine start some distance away. After a few minutes, the car jumped a short distance as the engine picked it up. A dozen more times, they felt a slight bump as the train picked up another car. Finally, the train began to pick up some speed as it pulled out of the switchyard. As the train picked up speed, banner let out a breath of purest relief. They were going to get away. Now that that fear was out of the way, Banner looked McGee-huddled against one of the walls-over carefully, the doctor in him appalled…
In spite of the summery warmth, the other man was shivering.
Shock, Banner realized. Digging into one of his bags, Banner pulled out a heavy woolen coat he often wore when it was cold.
"Jack?" McGee looked up as Banner approached him. Wrapping McGee in the coat, Banner said:
"Lie down. Get some sleep. It'll be a long trip."
McGee nodded, lay down, trying to get comfortable. In spite of the rough ride, he was asleep in minutes. Banner laid a hand to McGee's forehead one more time, feeling skin that was cold and clammy under his fingers.
If only I could trust the hospitals around here…
Well…McGee would have to wait until they came to a safe place, and Banner hated that…
He'd done all he could for now. He lay down next to McGee, ready if an emergency occurred, but knowing there wouldn't be much he could do about it if it happened.
Get some sleep, he told himself. When Jack needs you, he'll need you to be awake and alert.
Keeping a hand on McGee's shoulder, Banner fell asleep. It was going to be a long ride…
New York City
Richard Powell stopped at the airport newsstand and bought a copy of the London Times. Right on the front page he saw that the Queen was to preside over the 1,000th seating of the Parliament of the Isle of Mann later today. Had presided, he corrected himself. He was after all five hours behind British time on this side of the pond. This would probably be his last real news for some time. Everything in the American press seemed centered around either who was sleeping with whom in Hollywood or with the nuclear reactor that that the Yanks had nearly blown the top off of a few weeks earlier.
Making his way to the Port Authority stand, he booked a limousine to Chappaqua. Apparently in America it seemed that limousine meant a shared van but no matter as long as it brought him to Alexander Ripley's home.
A few days ago, his old friend had called him, obviously under some stress. He had not been able to explain why he needed Powell to come to the states but obviously it was a matter of some importance. No matter, he loaded his luggage into the back of the van and climbed aboard with the other business travelers. A bit more than an hour later, he felt something big happening but not nearby. Whatever it was he received a name. Josie, whoever he was clearly was in trouble. However, the impression only lasted for a few minutes before being abruptly cut off. That could only mean one thing. Josie had died catastrophically.
Not long after that, the van reached his destination. After removing his bags, he stood at the gate and rang the bell but no one answered his summons. Alexander Ripley must have felt the psychic shock of Josie dying and he may have been floored by the impressions he received. Well, Powell thought to himself, no time like the present. Flinging his bags over the fence, Powell climbed over himself and headed down the drive to his old friend's house. Arriving at the house, he found it to be locked. Of course something as simple as a home lockset was no deterrent, Powell having made his way through much tougher locks in his day. It was the work of a moment to let himself into Ripley's home.
Powell found Ripley in the living room lying on the couch. Fortunately, he was conscious but he had clearly been knocked for a loop. "Did you feel that?" Ripley groaned. Clearly, he had taken quite a blow from whatever had happened.
"How could I not?" Powell replied. "I assume that would be the reason why you called me?" Powell hoped that that was not the reason but when Ripley had called, he did not gather the impression that he was being invited to a party.
"Yes, but never as intense as this before" replied Ripley. "Someone is experimenting with high level psychic power. Somewhere in Kansas if I am not mistaken."
Over the following week, Alexander Ripley had filled in his friend and former patient on the psychic impressions he had been receiving these past few months. The intensity had been growing for some time now. But the death of whoever Josie was on the previous Friday had brought the most intense sensations yet.
Ripley had traveled to several cities in an attempt to narrow down the location where such dangerous experiments were taking place. That such experiments were dangerous was something that both men knew inherently. After all, neither of them had been anything other than run of the mill before volunteering for their respective experiments themselves more than a decade earlier. Perhaps run of the mill was an understatement as both men had worked in the intelligence services of their respective governments before volunteering for their trials. Richard Powell working for British intelligence had developed telepathy and Alexander Ripley working for the American equivalent became an empath.
The two had met after the British Government had requested help from the American Government. Richard Powell had been on a mission in Tangiers where he had been captured and tortured. His captors knew nothing of his powers until, in a moment of extreme pain, he had sent a telepathic call for his captors to stop. However, they did more than stop, everyone in the immediate area had simply died where they stood.
When the men of the Special Air Service had arrived to extract Powell, they had found death everywhere. In some cases, men still held whatever tool they had in their hands at the final moment. In a basement, they had found Powell sitting against a wall with his arms wrapped around his knees, his head in his lap. No one could make him talk let alone stand up. Every attempt to move him had met with the men running away. Later, they would report that they had felt that they had been ordered to leave the area but no one could say who had given the order.
In desperation, the Brits had called on their American colleagues for assistance. Sending Alexander Ripley over had been either serendipity or genius, perhaps both on the part of the American government. Powell had nearly died of dehydration before Ripley had made it to Tangiers but once there, Ripley had been able to relieve Powell of enough stress to allow medics to approach him and start an IV line going.
Several days later, Powell had recovered sufficiently to be walked to a waiting airplane. Ripley had not fared so well and he had to be taken to the same plane on a stretcher. On the flight, two intelligence operatives attempted to debrief Powell. However, although Powell could be led by the hand where he needed to be, he would not be induced to talk. However, by the time the plane had brought the two men to England, the two men had recovered sufficiently that the story of what had happened began to emerge.
The two men had become inseparable as one or both of them would begin screaming if more than a single wall came between them. As the months wore on, the two men recovered to the point where they were finally able to part ways. Yet after the experience they had shared, neither one was ever able to work military intelligence again.
Ripley returned to school and became a psychiatrist treating people who had slipped into catatonic shock. Powell, for his part, had chosen early retirement and had settled into a quiet life in the small village of Port Merion, Wales.
Ripley was in the kitchen making tea. Powell had just turned on the television to watch a PBS news program, thinking to himself, this is the only American television actually worth watching. Then a psychic shock like no other before hit both men. Powell dropped to his knees and was just barely able to find a chair to sit in when he heard the teakettle shatter in the kitchen.
Realizing the blow that Ripley must have taken, he forced himself to his feet despite the fact that the psychic force had not abated. Standing up straight was more than he could manage but he did make his way to the kitchen to find Alexander Ripley on the floor shaking as if he was having a seizure. All that Powell was able to do was to turn his friend on his back and prop his head up so that he would have an airway. Powell sat on the floor holding Ripley like that for a timeless interval before the shock faded.
Ten minutes after the shock had ended, Ripley came around to the point where he could sit up. Powell was able to walk to the refrigerator and find a bottle of orange juice. The two men drank directly from the bottle, passing it back and forth for some time until it was mostly gone before they had recovered sufficiently to discuss what had happened.
Ripley was the first to speak. "What did you get?" he gasped.
Taking a breath, Powell replied, "He has been tortured. Tortured and drugged."
"More than just torture, I fear" this time from Ripley. "Who ever he is, he has lost his awareness of time. This could have been happening for a fairly long time."
Powell stood up and pulled out one of the kitchen chairs. "Can you get up yet Alex?" he asked his friend. Seeing that Alexander Ripley was not quite up to the task on his own just yet, he held out a hand saying, "Never mind, let me help you."
A moment later, Ripley having taken a seat and Powell having returned from the icebox with more juice (and two glasses this time), Ripley took a swig of the golden beverage and asked, "Did you get anything about who he was or more importantly where?"
Taking a moment to consider the swirl of impressions he had received, Powell replied, "I think the man's name is McGee." Pausing for a moment he continued, "Yes, I am certain, it is someone named Jack McGee." Powell took a drink from his glass before continuing "Regarding the location, all I saw was the front entrance of the library before he was distracted. The scene jumps as if he was thrown abruptly. How much did you get?"
Ripley was finally beginning to come back to himself. "He was hunting something I think. Or something was hunting him. He was not clear on that matter. I suppose the drugs must have clouded the issue." Pausing a moment he continued, "What was that you said about the library?"
"He was on his way to library when something happened" Powell offered. Pausing to reexamine the mental impressions he continued, "I think I have something we can use. I saw the sign over the door. The library is named for someone. It is the Jason Garrick Public Library. But where would that be?"
Had he had more time to recover, Alexander Ripley would have laughed. As it was, the most he could manage was a quirky half smile. "Have you been retired that long Richard? Bring me the telephone and the pad and pencil."
Powell brought the telephone handset from the wall along with the writing set and dialed a number that Ripley dictated. After the call had been answered, he listened to the one side of the exchange that he could follow. Ripley recited a string of numbers and letters. A moment later he said to whoever was on the other end to look at the inactive accounts. Then he told whoever was on the other end not to worry before asking where the Jason Garrick Public Library was. As the answer came back, Ripley wrote something on the paper. A moment later he asked if there was anything of note on the location. More writing followed then Ripley thanked whoever was on the other end and gave Powell the phone to hang up.
After returning the phone to the wall unit Powell asked, "So what does your older brother have for us?"
"The Jason Garrick Public Library is in Center City Kansas." Ripley replied. "And oddly enough, the power went out citywide twenty minutes ago after a level five fluctuation in the lines."
"Level five you say?" Powell continued. "That would take at least two generators tripping at the same time. What does your older brother have to say about that?"
Ripley replied, "This is interesting, the boards show all the generators in the area as normally active. Whatever caused the event had nothing to do with the utilities."
"Then I think we should travel to Center City." Replied Powell.
"Agreed" came Ripley's single word reply.
An hour later, the two men were packed for an overnight trip to center city. Ripley was still shaky from the shock so Powell drove them to the airport for a hastily arranged flight to Center City.
Fin (for now)…
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NoMoreCrazyPeople wrote:
Never ever did I say enything about free, I said "free."