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Author’s note: This is the conclusion to the “Twist of Destiny” story, Book Two. There have been a few changes to the story which I need to go over quickly, to avoid confusion:
Project: Odyssey is now called Project: SERAPH (Soldier Enhancement Research: Allied Powers Headquarters).
Book One has been edited and reworked completely (especially the London scenes)- I’ll be reposting that at some point in the future.
This second part of the story is primarily adventure/sci-fi. There IS a good deal of sex in it, but the story is what takes the front seat here. The sex is merely part of the story. I sincerely hope that you enjoy it and I look forward to your comments, suggestions and feedback in the Comments section at the end. Please don’t forget to vote and speak up!
A Twist of Destiny: Book Two
Chapter Twenty-Two: Paradigm Shift
“A lot can happen in a year.” People say this all the time and it’s become a cliché, a phrase that is bandied about between observations about some of the crazy things that can happen in a short period of time. It’s glib and obvious. But to people for whom a lot really does happen in a year, it seems practically banal.
That said, a lot can happen in a year. Allow me to summarize:
Team Alpha is now known as The Guardians. The name change came about as a matter of public opinion, which was championed by the media. Apparently “Team Alpha” wasn’t catchy enough. Marvel at the “power of the people.”
The Guardians, as a brand name, have generated over a billion dollars in marketing revenue for the U.S. Government, which holds the rights to our name and likenesses. The scary thing is that it’s only been a year.
The Guardians included rescue and damage control into their retinue. Three earthquakes, five tornadoes, one flood (Levi earned his paycheck on that one!) and countless fires- all around the globe, not just in America.
Terrorism has become a fringe market that very few people have a taste for since the four of us have managed to capture most terrorist cell leaders.
Tank managed to get himself hurt pretty badly on a rescue mission in Tibet (earthquake), mostly due to stupidity and over-confidence. It took him a month to wake up from the coma.
After he recovered from his coma, Tank manifested a new power: he now has the ability to govern gravitational forces in a localized area. He can make things heavier or light as a feather at will. It’s a great ability to have when facing off against an army or if you want to make buildings crumble in a few seconds. So far he’s only broken a few bones with this new ability.
“Ownership” of The Guardians (if you can call it that) has become a contested matter of debate between the U.N. , NATO and the United States. For the time being we’re still under the control of the United States and welcome in almost every country, but national leaders are openly voicing the opinion that, as “evolved” human beings, The Guardians have a duty to all of Humanity.
My masked face has been on the news in the last year more times than the President’s- our identities are still a well-kept secret, thank God.
The origin of The Guardians is still unknown to the majority of the world.
And, in my personal life:
Holly and Kathy have grown considerably closer in the last year and we’ve all three enjoyed more trysts than I can count.
Holly has mastered her ability to perfection and can go back in time at will now. She’s also figured out that if she goes back in time by just a few seconds, she can still go to any location she wants to. It took me a long time to explain how the time-space continuum works, seeing as how I only took physics in college when I was in my mid-twenties, but I’m fairly certain that she understands it now and respects just how tricky it can be if she isn’t careful.
Darren, my step-son, was attacked by some bullies after school. He was beaten pretty severely and there was concern that he might not walk again. He can walk now and, for a short time, he could fly. He was so traumatized by the mere sampling of The Process, however, that he doesn’t ever want to experience it again. That said, he’s in fantastic physical condition now and exercises regularly. His attackers, by the way, each got a pretty nasty visit from yours truly. I didn’t maim them but I definitely put the fear of God into their black little hearts.
Although he’s still a minor at age sixteen, Darren has expressed an interest in bedding his mother when he comes of age. All of us can understand his position: he’s very likely feeling left out and we can’t blame him for that. Nothing concrete has been decided on the subject, since his eighteenth birthday is still two years away, but Kathy and I have given it a little discussion already. On the one hand, it’s only fair. On the Amsterdam Shemale other, the circumstances that led to our change in lifestyle were significantly more complicated and unique. Kathy, much to her own surprise, isn’t exactly opposed to the idea; she, like I had been with Holly, is deeply concerned about screwing his mind up more than it already has been by relying on him to keep what we do a secret.
Kathy gets regular “treatments” from me and continues to grow a victory garden in our back yard that is the envy of every housewife for thirty miles. She is also five months pregnant and loving it. We’re pretty sure that it’s a boy.
Yes, it’s been a full and eventful year, to say the least. I’m doing something heroic at least once a day that makes the news and the rest of my teammates have grown so accustomed to each other that we hardly even have to talk when we’re working. But we do get down-time. People have tried to sue us for not being there when they needed or wanted us, but each one was tossed out of court almost as quickly as the petitions were filed. We’ve got some enemies, but the majority of the people on planet Earth are thankful for us, which makes cutting through international political red tape a lot easier sometimes. India’s Prime Minister was fired for keeping us out of the country immediately after an earthquake- it was a decision that cost thousands of lives needlessly and the rioting mob outside his residence convinced him to change his mind… but it was too late by then.
By and large, The Guardians have become a welcome and appreciated force of protectors, which suits all of us just fine. But all of those things were small beans compared to the major change that arose about eleven months after our official debut.
One day, an alien ship, a big one, parked itself in orbit above the United States and refused to respond to any sort of contact. It just sat there, silently surveying Earth, like a monolithic, dormant hulk. The media, of course, speculated wildly about its intentions and the major nations of Earth tried their best to not over-react, but since no one knew why it showed up, no one really knew how to respond to its presence.
Well, fact of the matter is, some people had a pretty good idea of why they showed up and The Guardians were stuck right in the middle of it.
“Welcome back to Project SERAPH,” General Hannis, who now wore three stars on his epaulets, said. Just like in the “old” days, Doctor Lamb sat to his left while the four of us looked back at them from our seats at the table. We’d been called back to the place of our beginnings early that morning with no explanation, but since it had only been a few days since the alien ship’s arrival, we all could guess.
“Thank you, sir. Something in my gut tells me that you wouldn’t call us together like this unless it was important.”
“You have no idea how much of an understatement that is, NightShade,” he said hollowly.
“It’s the alien ship,” Tank said in his usual basso grumble. “Isn’t it?”
General Hannis looked at Doctor Lamb. “Doctor?”
Doctor Lamb, who usually seemed the image of ease and calm, looked positively shaken, like she didn’t want to be there. However, she nodded solemnly and took a long, deep breath. “As all of you know, your abilities came from a hybridization of your human DNA with alien DNA.”
“Their alien DNA?” Aventine asked.
“We don’t know. They haven’t identified themselves yet. You’ve all heard about the crash in Roswell, New Mexico. It really did happen. That event was nothing more than… well, the equivalent of a car experiencing mechanical problems and crashing into a roadside berm- an accident, really. What happened at Roswell was just the first in a long string of meetings with alien life forms. Over the last six decades we, Humanity as a whole, have been visited by over twenty different extraterrestrial species as a result of it. Earth, it turns out, is almost in the center of a popular interstellar trade route.”
“Let me guess,” Leviathan cut in. “The Roswell aliens called for roadside assistance just before the crash, which brought even more aliens to our doorstep.”
Doctor Lamb winced at the analogy but nodded. “More or less, yes. Earth, for centuries, has been considered off-limits to other intelligent species because we, Humanity, aren’t very advanced, comparatively speaking. There was even a space buoy in place to warn people away from us. The accidental crash landing at Roswell, however, was cause for a need to update the information about us. We’ve been classified as something akin to the Native Americans- minimally civilized with the potential for growth- as a whole, mind you. There have been some individuals who would easily be considered very civilized by most other sentient species. That got the attention of a lot of different races and we became Rotterdam Shemale a sort of… prize for any number of interstellar trade groups and cultures. Some have clear intentions of enslavement. Others want to protect us from advancing too quickly. Still others want to help us advance more quickly- and all of them have their own reasons for their different agendas.”
“And some of them shared their DNA with us, to give us an idea of what we might become over time,” Tank finished thoughtfully.
Again, Doctor Lamb seemed to wince. “Tank is essentially correct. The irony is that the DNA that was given to us was from a particularly powerful federation of cultures who would rather we just be left alone to evolve on our own. They didn’t expect anything like Project SERAPH to arise. Frankly, no one did, not even me. I started the project simply to study the properties of alien genetic structures. Our own advancements in genetics, coupled with the few meager discoveries I’d made on my own, led me down the path that we’re all on now.”
“And someone’s pissed,” Leviathan said.
Doctor Lamb was quiet long enough to Aventine to offer her own insight. “No,” she said as she studied the doctor’s facial features. “No one’s pissed, Tommy. They’re worried that we might have bitten off more than we can chew. The Guardians shouldn’t exist.”
That hit Doctor Lamb like it had been a right cross and I felt it from across the room. “The problem,” the doctor began slowly, “is not necessarily with you, per se.”
I narrowed my eyes as I focused my senses on her. “It’s the project failures that have them concerned,” I supplied. Doctor Lamb opened her mouth to answer, but slowly closed it and nodded. The others looked at and waited for me to continue. “I sensed her feelings of failure and regret,” I explained. “Those feelings were particularly associated with her thoughts and feelings on the subject of these… concerned aliens. She feels personally responsible for putting us in danger.”
“I don’t get it,” Aventine said as she leaned forward. “We aren’t in danger… or are we?”
General Hannis then stepped back into the conversation. “His talent, to put it in simple terms, is luck. Anything that might happen in his favor is bound to happen. He alters the laws of probability.” He tapped a button on the table in front of him and a picture of a man who looked like he was in his mid-thirties came up on the screen. “His name is Sergeant Jack Hanson, Army. After The Process, he exhibited signs of extreme schizophrenia which bordered on psychosis. His ability didn’t really manifest until just a few days before we put him in cryo-stasis in May of 2009. His current mental state is a complete unknown.”
“Let me get this straight,” Tank said with unmasked confusion. “This guy, Hanson, is a threat because he’s lucky? What’s he gonna do… take over Vegas?”
“Mind the sarcasm, Damien,” I said to Tank and then looked at Doctor Lamb, who seemed even more abashed. “How did he escape?” I asked the general.”And when?”
“He escaped about a month ago, shortly after our… visitors arrived. There was a power fluctuation in his stasis unit, something we didn’t catch right away because the power surge confused some of the monitoring circuits. When the power dipped, the stasis unit’s backup computer thought that it was being powered down on purpose, so it initiated the revival subroutines. But the monitoring sensors, which had archived data to guide it, somehow didn’t agree with the computer and decided to echo past data as a sort of baseline. We didn’t realize that he’d left the facility until almost two days after he’d been fully reanimated.”
I scowled at that. “But how in the hell did he get out of here? There’s got to be almost a half-dozen levels of security for him to get past!”
General Hannis shook his head. “Like I said, son, Hanson’s ability is luck. On the particular day this happened, everything that could’ve gone wrong did. No one specific person is responsible for his escape- at each and every level of security there were glitches, distractions or general mix-ups that all conspired to work in his favor. We actually have video footage of him walking out the front door, looking a little bewildered but generally normal. He even held the door open for someone on his way out.”
“Could he have had some outside help?” Aventine asked.
“It’s difficult to tell, but if he did have help, they would have to have been extremely well-connected and equipped with some pretty advanced technology. And there’s no indication that Sergeant Hanson ever had those kinds of contacts before we recruited him into the project. But between you and me, I don’t think he could’ve gotten out of this facility without help.”
I didn’t see that line of questioning leading us anywhere, so I changed tack. “So why now?” I asked. “Why not six months Netherlands Shemale or a year ago?”
Silence answered me, but I could see the look of frustration in General Hannis’ eyes and the look of doubt and worry in Doctor Lamb’s. I didn’t need to be empathic to decipher their obvious emotions and I didn’t need to be a telepath to figure out what the answer to my question was: the aliens who were currently in orbit had somehow awoken him.
“Is he the only one?” I asked pointedly. “Is he the only one they woke up?”
“Yes,” Doctor Lamb answered. “They were curious as to why we’d even put them to sleep in the first place, so they picked one at random to see what we’d do in response. It’s a test.”
“So, naturally and given his ability, it was just dumb blind luck that they picked him,” I said. “What’s his psychological profile like? Is he dangerous?”
“Dangerous? No,” General Hannis answered. “But Hanson isn’t exactly the paragon of ethical behavior, either. Tank jokingly asked if he was going to take over Las Vegas earlier. And, as a matter of fact, that’s precisely where we believe he’s headed, like a moth headed towards a flame. He made a stop at The Riviera in France for a few days, made a small fortune in the underground games and then found passage back to the states under a false ID. We lost his trail in California.”
“So we go to Vegas, find him and bring him back in,” Leviathan said. “Simple.”
I shook my head at that. “No, Tommy. It’s not so simple. First of all, the four of us are known the world over- we wouldn’t be able to look for him without everyone recognizing us and possibly tipping him off. And if we went incognito, Tank would have to say behind because his size would give him away. Secondly, if Hanson feels that we’re a threat to him, we might have a hell of a time getting him under control. Anything we throw at him might be prone to flukes, no matter how improbable. And even if we do manage to talk to him face to face, there’s no guarantee that he’ll go willingly. There is absolutely nothing simple about this at all.”
“I guess, on the plus side, he probably isn’t schizoid anymore,” Tank said. “I mean, if he could function well enough to gamble his way through The Riviera, he’s probably all right.”
“It’s too difficult to tell right now,” I said. “For all we know, he’s fallen completely into a self-constructed world of delusion. And just because a person suffering from schizophrenia can manage to function in society, that doesn’t mean he’s stable.”
“David is correct on that point,” Doctor Lamb said. “Stability in schizophrenics is hard to determine. Many can cope with scenarios that conflict with their perceived realities for prolonged periods of time while others succumb to stress quickly. There is no definite period of time between lucidity and a psychotic break.”
“The only way to know for sure is to track him down and watch him for a little while. See what he does,” I said.
Aventine looked at me through narrowed eyes. “You’re coming up with a plan already, aren’t you?”
I winced slightly. “It’s not a plan, as such. Just a few ideas. If we can determine his mental state then we can figure out how to respond accordingly. I think the best method is to draw him out and bring him in without drawing attention to him. If we can somehow convince him to come with us willingly we’ll save ourselves a lot of headache. Something in my gut tells me that a direct confrontation would end in disaster.”
“How do you intend to draw him out?” General Hannis asked.
I shrugged. “I’m not sure. Again, his mental state would dictate the details, but the general story would be to convince him that he’s being offered a chance to join the team. The doctor can correct me if I’m wrong here, but I’m pretty sure that schizophrenics tend to have very healthy egos. If we can come up with a scenario that is enticing enough for him, he might come in peaceful as a lamb.”
“I don’t get it,” Tank muttered. “If we can find him, why don’t you just ‘port in and ‘port back with him?”
I pointed to the ceiling. “We’re being watched,” I answered. “That’s why. I’m running under the supposition that they set him loose. I have a good hunch that they know exactly where he is and they’re watching us very carefully. This is a test of our morality, ethics and adaptability. And the judge’s panel is peopled by an advanced species. If we can bring him in without incident then they might leave us alone. But if we fall back to type and kill the proverbial fly with a sledgehammer, we might have a completely different set of problems on our hands.”
General Hannis nodded approvingly. “That is precisely what we determined, David. The higher-ups want you to avoid using force with Hanson at any cost.”
“One thing you have over him is experience and knowledge,” Doctor Lamb said. “In the last year we have all learned a great deal about your abilities, how they work and why they work. Mr. Hanson, however, had not. To use one of your colorful American phrases, he is severely behind the learning curve. I’d suggest you use that to your advantage.”
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