TC2D

TC2D-PHARMADIGM

With Washington DC and much of the surrounding area devastated, America undergoes a profound political shift, far exceeding that of the Civil War. The United States proper is reduced to everything east of the Hudson River, basically New York City and New England.Upstate New York, Michigan, and everything in Minnesota north of and including the Twin Cities become part of Canada. The western half of the states of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, including San Francisco, form a new nation called Pacifica. Everything else is reorganized as the New Confederate States of America.

The FBI now operates only in the rump states of the northeast. Their competitors, DECON, has a lot of surviving infrastructure and they grow to fill the role of internal security in the NCSA, now headquartered in Greendome.Director Earl Roland survived, and his obsession with the b’nei elohim survived with him.Every day for a half-hour or more he sits in an anteroom to contemplate a glass case displaying the dessicated white shapes of the modified brains of Robyn, Jerry, Hunky, Dory, and his own daughter Rebecca.The amount of science DECON had been able to obtain by studying the once-living subjects was maddeningly limited, on account of the insufficiently advanced state of technology in the late 1940s.

The Hanford site where Robyn and Hunky were once held was also nuked in Black ’73 but it is about the size of a county and large portions are still in use five years later. The four reactors are completely gone, of course, and Walla Walla downwind is still more or less a ghost town, but contamination levels in the southeast corner along the Columbia River approach the slightly elevated levels of prior to the attack when the facility was used to make plutonium for bombs like Fat Boy, which was used at Nagasaki. This corner is still in use.

The New Confederacy is contemplating shutting the place down for good, but there is still a lot of useful infrastructure, a rail network, a power grid, empty structures, and private industry steps up to keep the ball rolling. The isolation and security are attractive when large corporations meditate doing something that isn’t entirely kosher from a legal standpoint, even the lax laws of the NCSA. So business at Hanford is good.

Enter Pharmadigm, a DECON front company purporting to be a drug maker. Roland gets the ball rolling by turning over a portion of the Hanford site and ordering it tricked out with fake company logos. And Pharmadigm hires one Doctor Amanda Chase as a consultant, with the false narrative that a new high-profile anesthetic drug is stuck in early human trials due to adverse reactions. She is asked to supervise the administration of the drug to two remaining human “volunteers”.

One of the “volunteers” is Freddy Aspin, a convicted murderer on death row who has been promised, in return for participating in the research, the reduction of his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The other “volunteer” is Mike Morrich, who faces a slow and painful death by cancer and has no financial means to manage the pain. For his participation he is promised ongoing treatment.

And all this is happening because Ed Roland has come across the first new case of the “white brain disease” since he asked his own daughter to infiltrate the Boda more than thirty years in the past. He now has in his custody one Dr. Lilith Gervasi, a person of dual British-Israeli citizenship, an officer in the IDF and a former associate professor of linguistics at a college in New Jersey that has since shut its doors.

Lilith came into the hands of DECON in very much the same way Robyn and Hunky had done so, through a chain of puzzled diagnosticians who eventually referred her case to the Center for Disease Control. And with Lilith on the table Roland learned a very interesting thing. One could extract a dark fluid from the center of the bone cup with a syringe, inject it into a dog, and the dog will develop the bone cup as well.

By any stretch of the imagination the things Mike Morrich see in Washington, D.C. on October 19, 1973 far surpasses anything Lilith had witnessed or endured in the death camps, but somehow they affect him far less. Perhaps he is wired differently. At seventeen, Mike is a pretty good kid. Sure, he drops out of school just before his senior year, to the great consternation of his father, but Mike figures the kind of work he can obtain after one more year of school wouldn’t be all that much different from the work he can obtain now, so what’s the point? Sure he’s a skinny young black man with a wild afro, but nobody living in the Seventies would look back a few decades later and say they were proud of their hair.

Mikes father has a civil service job, his parents are still together, and Mike loves both of them. If he had been born ten or twenty years later, he would have been the exception rather than the rule.So that Friday he’s on the job site in a cavern which is dug under the city, a space intended to become an ornate Metro station when the system was slated to open just three years later, although it never would. Mike doesn’t have any construction skills per se, and lacks the upper body strength in any event, but his job is simply to keep the area as clean as possible while the other men work. He does so with a great deal of youthful energy.

The lights go out and there is something like a long earthquake. An eerie white light reflects down one of the connecting tunnels and hot dust fills the cavern even as the light fades to red. But the light never disappears entirely. The city above was on fire. Mike Morrich and his co-workers are lucky, there are very few survivors so close to the footprint of the Soviet fusion warhead.

The yield and corresponding destruction is many times greater than the Hiroshima bomb. On Pennsylvania Avenue between the places where the White House and the Capitol building once sat is now a huge crater so hot the Potomac River continually turns to steam before it can fill the hole. Surrounding this is a ring of total destruction where the Supreme Court, the Treasury building, and all the famous monuments used to be.

When Mike steps out of the subway tunnel and looks to where his home used to be he sees the view is largely unobstructed, yet there is no way for him to locate exactly where it was. All the landmarks are gone. He knows in that instant that he is an orphan. There is no point in even trying to look for his parents. They are as gone as anyone can possibly be. So he turns and begins to walk in what he guessed was the next best direction, which is away from the pillar of steam that is ground zero.

As he walks, he passes through a ring of human bodies that are almost recognizable, for they are charred black, and even the beer bottles and car windows lying at their feet are melted.

He passes through a ring of half-standing blackened buildings with white “shadows” along their base that had been people blocking the burning radiation of the initial flash. There Mike has to pick his way through the rubble of structures that had already been burned out just to exit to the next ring.

Mike passes through a ring of people who are still alive, but burned so badly they have no hope of recovery, and they are in such a state of shock that they feel nothing, make no sound, and would soon die. They are actually the lucky ones.

He passes through a ring of people who do make a sound, for each of them are immersed in a sea of absolutely unendurable agony that never stops. They have stripped themselves naked because clothes only make the pain worse, and their arms are held at a forty-five degree angle at their side, for if their arms touch their bodies the pain of the contact is too great.

Mike is forced to remain in this ring until the fires of the rings farther away burn themselves out. He hasn’t been injured, but even as he walks the residual radiation of the blast does its invisible dirty work, tearing at the DNA in his body, so that in the end, five years later, he does in fact become a victim of the attack with a painful bone cancer.

Earl Roland is faux pissed. Billing himself to Doctor Amanda Chase as the Deputy to the Assistant to the Deputy Director of the Center for Disease Control, Roland fumes with steadily mounting fake rage as Dr. Chase unspools her presentation, and he murmurs all along that this is just a Pharmadigm screwup that has nothing to do with the CDC. Roland also murmurs that he and his team have flown all the way out from Atlanta for nothing.

EARL
Let me get this straight.

He has interrupted Mandy less than ten minutes into her slide show.

EARL
You’ve got a new anesthetic you’ve made from the venom of black mombas or some shit. Phase zero trials with microdoses went okay, so next was phase one, volunteers on full doses with forty-eight hours of monitoring. Something went wrong and now you want CDC to quarantine the folks. Well, how about you bite the bullet and just pay them out? Lawsuits are part of doing business. Take it up with your shareholders, not the government.

MANDY
We are not even talking about money, Dr. Roland. The subjects have all signed releases holding Pharmadigm harmless from any side effects.

EARL
This should be the Food and Drug Administration sitting here. Who’s idea was it to call in the CDC?

Mandy’s eyes drift to Doctor Ian Trochmann, who has been with the project longer than she has, and was focused on the changes to Lilith’s brain.Trochmann was in on Roland’s scam, of course.

IAN
The board called you in, Doctor Roland. This isn’t just Pharmadigm’s problem anymore.

MANDY
There are genetic changes, including changes to sperm and ova. Our drug created two little monsters, and if they get out into the general population they’ll be everyone’s problem, as I will shortly make clear. So please, Dr. Roland, allow me to resume the presentation.

EARL
Do make haste, Dr. Chase.

MANDY
Thank you, Doctor. As I was saying, the first volunteer was a fifty-year old woman by the name of Lilith Gervasi. She holds dual citizenship in the UK and Israel, but was working here as an academic.She’s a Holocaust survivor and a reserve officer in the Israeli Defense Force. The company did a complete physical before the clinical trial in Denver. She is remarkably fit for her age, but bears marks of torture from the death camps. The reason Lilith volunteered was to avoid deportation. As you already know, gentlemen, anesthesiology is more of an art than a science. We’re trying to bring the person on the operating table as close as possible to dying without actually crossing the line so they miss out on all the gory, agonizing parts. Our new drug targets only the gray matter of the brain. It completely shuts down the higher functions of consciousness, but leaves the involuntary functions like breathing completely alone. You don’t even need to have an anesthesiologist attend the surgery. During the drug trial she reported a long and rather vivid dream.

EARL
But that’s impossible!

MANDY
Yes, Doctor Roland, it is. Naturally the company was disappointed when Lilith reported having a dream. But the benefits of this drug as a general anesthetic were judged to outweigh that side effect. After observing the woman for two days the company did a complete physical on her again with no changes noted, and I mention that because those two physicals will be important later in my brief.

EARL
Maybe the woman lied about the dream.

MANDY
I was not yet working for Pharmadigm when this testing was taking place, but the company prepared a second volunteer and brought me on board to advise. But as it turned out, it doesn’t matter if Lilith was lying about the subjective side effects of the drug, because there are objective side effects. As promised, Pharmadigm obtained for Lilith the required paperwork blocking her deportation and sent her home.

EARL
Then why is she here at Hanford?

MANDY
A month after the drug trial she sought us out because she was scared. But I’m getting ahead of myself, Doctor. Let’s back up to the day Lilith was discharged. The following day I was hired. After being briefed, and reviewing the results with Lilith, I wanted to try a male for the follow-on test because there could be a gender differential in the response to the drug. I chose Fred Aspin, who is to be executed for the crime of killing Oboe Man for his spare change. Next slide.

An image of Freddy Aspin slides into view, waving the stump of his bad arm, which is missing a hand, at the camera.

Roland is mock-astonished.

EARL
You wanted to flush out Lilith’s lies by using a convicted criminal?

MANDY
I chose Freddy Aspin, Dr. Roland, because I realized we might have to abort the trial after two or three tests and he was the most anxious to continue. Jerry has every incentive to be truthful. He is on death row for killing Oboe Man. The company found an appellate court that was willing to give him a lighter sentence if he participated in our drug trial.

EARL
So what happened?

Mandy gives a hand signal and the audio tape rolls.

FREDDY
I knew I was dreaming even while I dreamed, and I thought, what a complete bummer! I thought I was moving through a dark tunnel and getting closer to a bright white light. The light wiggled. It was just a flashlight being held by a New Confederate soldier who was waking me up in a tent. He said, ‘Aspin, get your dumb ass up on the wire, you’re late!’ So it was just a dream about al-Berta.It was, in fact, the day I got fucked up, in rewind. I grabbed my rifle and my gear and stumbled my way toward the business end of the observation post. There was no volition in any of my movements. Somehow I was just riding behind my own eyes. The whole prairie was lit up by a flare, but it was fading. Corporal Street said, ‘We got ourselves a visitor.’ He nudged the bayonet-tipped muzzle of his rifle toward a certain spot just as a fresh flare cast enough light for me to see what he was pointing at. There was the headless body of a Canuckistani fighter lying there, and an up-ended pot of pink and yellow stew where his head and helmet should be. I’d seen this sort of thing countless times before. ‘Adios motherfucker!’ was all I had to say to the Canadian. To Corporal Street I said, ‘How’d he get through the perimeter? ‘Probably started crawling at sundown,’ the Corporal said. Now we know why they started irrigating this particular bean field this morning. The water covered the sound of him crawling. After this asshole came calling we’ve been watching with night scopes, but we haven’t seen anyone else moving out there.’ Famous last words. A dozen Islamists had been crawling toward the observation post inside the irrigation canal, invisible to the sniperscope under the cool water even as other jihadis drew the attention of my unit by land. When the flares started this only slowed them down, forced them to move only between bursts. There were eight NC troops in the position, and two of them were sleeping. When the enemy came over the sandbag wall they outnumbered us two to one. I’m the only one who survived the initial assault. They wired one of my arms to some nails in a stump, tight! Another Islamist brandished an axe. ‘God commands this, you understand,’ he said. And the axe fell. I screamed in pain. I was the victim of a certain militia in alBerta devoted to spreading a very nit-picky version Sharia law throughout Canada. In their interpretation of the Qu’ran, New Confederates occupying any portion of the rapidly expanding Dar al-Islam were stealing the land, and faithful Muslims knew what to do with thieves. Off with their hands!Dreams aren’t supposed to hurt! It felt like the real thing, this dream. So you know what you can do with your so-called anesthetic! I didn’t die there in Canada, but in my dream I guess I did. I went to heaven, which was a forest with a pool surrounded by a wooden deck. The Savior was shorter than I always imagined He would be, and not nearly as good looking as the Hollywood versions. He had brown skin, black eyes, and no beard, but His leather sandals were right out of the gospels. He looked like a kid, really. He was seated at a wooden desk near the Sacred Pool, drinking wine and reviewing paperwork. The Lord pointed his hand, and I settled into a wide wicker chair in front of Him. Two armed female guards in green garb complete with bird feathers stood behind Him, to his left and right, flashing thigh, but they made a point of ignoring me with intense military bearing. I’ve been in prison a long time and I couldn’t help saying, “Both of you girls got pretty nice sticks. Jesus said, “I’m reading about the slow-motion train wreck that was the life of one Frederick Aspin. Oboe Man had, what, seventeen dollars in quarters? ‘I’ve paid my debt to society, Lord,’ I said. He said, ‘I’m a busy man, as you can imagine. Normally you get your outbrief from a close relative who preceded you. I only get the hardest of the hard cases. But they said to Me, ‘here’s another one like Lilith Gervasi.’ And Jesus, reading the last page of my file, shuffled all the papers together and closed it up. He looked at me with infinite sadness and shook His head. He said, ‘It would do a great disservice to you were I to take a life like yours and extend it indefinitely.’ I just chuckled, and said, ‘Normally a final decision like that would set me to worrying a little bit, but this is all just a bad trip. I’m hallucinating all of this! I just have to wait until the drug wears off and goodbye to You. In fact, I can feel it wearing off already.’ Jesus said, ‘Ahhh…it’s a drug. That explains what’s going on. Clever! Chokhmah told me you people in the Twentieth would probably stumble on to something like this. We must craft an appropriate response.’ ‘Craft away,’ I said, ‘neither you nor your followers can stop me from doing this.’ And I shed my white terry cloth robe, dove into his Sacred Pool and swam headfirst into darker waters, far away from the light. What a crazy dream. That’s some powerful stuff you whipped up, Dr. Chase! But never again!

The audio ended of Freddy’s interview.

MANDY
The most interesting thing in that interview, Dr. Roland, was that somehow Freddy knew the name ‘Lilith Gervasi’ To the best my knowledge he had never met the woman.’

EARL
Can you state with absolute certainty that no one on your staff spoke of her to Freddy?

She started to blurt out an answer in the negative, but thought better of it, and shook her head.

MANDY
After the second test, the clinical trial of this drug as an anesthetic was officially called off. The memory of Freddy’s pain was so vivid he refused to take the drug again. And no one is going to sign up for a guaranteed Near Death Experience or even a lucid dream when all they want to do is sleep straight through an operation.

ROLAND
Dr. Chase, I’m sorry your research failed and your company wasted money. But what does any of that have to do with the CDC?

MANDY
Lilith came back in to Pharmadigm. At the back of her head is a little white oval cup with stiff black hairs inside, or bristles, and it looked curiously artificial.”

The next few slides were photographs of the cup taken from various angles.

IAN
Doctor Roland has already been thoroughly briefed on this structure.

MANDY
Does he know that Lilith’s story of what happened to her doesn’t match what happened in reality at all?

EARL
What do you mean?

MANDY
She said, she still says, there was no drug trial with her at all. She doesn’t know what Pharmadigm is. She says she went to a hospital with the bone cup, and they referred her to the federal government.

IAN
Obviously a delusion that is part of the brain changes.

MANDY
But that isn’t all. Lilith Gervasi now possesses two sets of female genitalia.

The slides Mandy showed next were decidedly gynecological in nature.

EARL
Movie make-up.

Roland knows full well he had once seen the same thing with Kimberly Zinter’s body.

EARL
You folks are just having a big laugh at the government’s expense.

MANDY
But that doesn’t explain the genetic studies. Here is an image of one of Lilith’s X chromosomes from a white blood cell in a sample taken before the trial. You see that it is perfectly normal, a long capsule and a short capsule joined at a constriction called a centromere. This next slide shows one of Lilith’s X chromosomes after the trial. You can see that it is now three identically short capsules joined by two centromeres.

EARL
Neocentromeres in humans are associated with chromosome breakage during cell division.

Roland spouts this from his prior research.

EARL
It’s a deadly mutation.

MANDY
We have seen no evidence of genetic damage in Lilith, other than this structural change, outside of the radical modifications to her brain, which Dr. Trochmann says he is still puzzling out. We are attempting to sequence the chromosome to verify that the change is purely structural, but the results will take some time, and it will take even longer to identify any new genes. Meanwhile, we are calling this changed chromosome a Z chromosome because the two constrictions are like the joints of a three-section set of nunchucks. The chromosome can literally drift into the shape of the letter Z, or N.

EARL What about the other subject?

MANDY
Jerry, being male, only carried a single X chromosome with two thousand genes, paired with a shorter Y with only eighty genes. His Y chromosomes are unaltered, but they are now paired with Z’s. Now that we know what is happening, we need to draw samples from another subject on a set schedule, stain the slides, and watch the changes to the chromosomes in more or less real time. For that we need to do a final drug trial with the third volunteer

Roland expresses faux exasperation.

EARL
Your drug causes genetic damage and you want to give it to yet another subject?

MANDY
Michael Morrich is black.

Roland’s objection melts away. But he tells Dr. Chase he still thinks Pharmadigm is pulling his leg.

MANDY
Then we will administer the drug with yourself attending, and you can define the parameters of the experiment any way you like.

EARL
And assuming that convinces me, Dr. Chase, Dr. Trochmann, what is it, exactly, that you’re asking the CDC to do?

MANDY
It should be obvious. Every X chromosome in their body is changed. Even their gametes. They can pass these changes along to their children. So we’re really talking about a new species here. I’m asking for sterilization, right after you see what it does to Mike.

After Dr. Earl Roland of the CDC pretends to examine Lilith, Freddy, and Mike for himself he takes Dr. Chase up on the offer and conducts the final drug trial on Michael Morrich under conditions totally of his own design. Roland chooses the operating room and brings in his own cameras and recording equipment. Of the Pharmadigm team, only Amanda Chase is permitted to attend, and that only in the role of an observer who is not permitted to touch any of the apparatus. Of the CDC, only Roland is present.

When Roland satisfies himself that Mike Morrich is fully human he makes sure Amanda watches him transmit two copies of the chart to his office in Washington by two different routes, fax and hand courier, using someone he knows and trusts. Then he administers the drug to Mike himself.

The transformation of Mike Morrich into a b’nei eloah takes a week and for the first time Earl Roland witnesses it happening before his eyes. He sees how a bump on the back of Mike’s head grows and cracks open to reveal the white bone cup.Photos of Mike’s crotch taken every few hours documents the change from human male to nephilim jen as female genitalia forms under hez penis. One of hez testicles crawls inside and becomes an ovary.

Blood and skin samples are taken from Mike by Amanda Chase and she witnesses how the pairs of XX chromosomes in every cell changes into XZ pairs. The X is replicated, then bonded to the Y with a second centromere. She finds the entire thing enthralling.

Lilith and Mike stay in a clinic very much like the one where Robyn and Hunky were held during the War, but they are not confined. Or at least, they are not made to feel as though they were confined. Roland imagines Lilith and Mike will be more communicative if they do not feel like captives, and indeed they are. Lilith, in particular, is quite free with har information, but much of it they find to be unbelievable. Meanwhile Freddy Aspin, who is merely on loan from the Colorado state pen, is indeed confined elsewhere on Hanford nearly twenty miles to the northwest across mostly empty land.

Mike’s change is complete.

LILITH
Did you finally see what you wanted to see, Dr. Roland?

EARL
Indeed I did, Dr. Gervasi.

He at least acknowledges har Ph.D in Levantine linguistics.
EARL
For three decades I had no subjects like yourself to study. Now I know I can make my own new subjects simply by injecting them with the fluid from existing subjects.

LILITH
But what of your promise to Michael?

EARL
Ah yes, we promised to make his painkillers available to him as he dies of his cancer. Yes, we will continue to do so, for as long as he lives. But they will only be available for him here. I’m afraid he didn’t read the fine print.

LILITH
And Freddy?

EARL
We have already obtained his reprieve. He will not be executed, but he must spend his entire life in confinement, and whether he does that here at Hanford or back in Colorado should make no difference to him. As for you, Lilith, are you not grateful you will not be deported to Israel? Certainly with the radiation and the famine that is a death sentence just as real as Freddy’s. You can stay here and help us to understand this thing too.

Lilith walks over and gathers Mike Morrich into har arms in an embrace, and begins a gentle dance with hem. When they have turned so that Lilith is facing Roland once more.

LILITH
I think I can do better for Mike than just make him comfortable as he dies. With Haziel dead, and Yeshua on Barbelo, the b’nei elohim can use a second healer. I think it should be Mike, and che can begin by healing hemself. And Freddy goes with us too. Hy can be our muscle.

Before the watching eyes of Earl Roland, Amanda Chase, and Ian Trochmann, Lilith and Mike simply disappear from the clinic.

Their first stop is the cell where Freddy is being held.

LILITH
You’re not going back to the state pen, Freddy. Roland wants you to stay here so he can keep testing his damn drug on you. He wants to keep all of us here until we die. You should go, Freddy. You’ll find you have the power to do that now. I’ll meet up with you later.

Then sha embraces Mike again, and they pop out of existence.

Freddy touches hyz hand to the bars of his cell, and discovers they are rapidly turning red hot.

When the Soviet Union nuked Reactor Row at Hanford in black ’73 they targeted the two active ones on the northeast end, but there were two other reactor complexes miles upriver. The one on the far west end escaped nearly unscathed. This was acceptable to the Russians from a strategic basis because that reactor was the oldest one, the B reactor used for the Nagasaki bomb, and it had already been taken out of service.

There are a handful of smaller buildings that are left intact in that area as well. They are too asbestos-ridden to economically tear down, and it was there, separate from Lilith and Mike and under tighter guard, that Freddy Aspin had been held by Pharmadigm under the terms laid down by Colorado corrections.

Moving north, Freddy encounters a chain-link fence still standing along the shore of the Columbia River, installed to keep boaters (casual or not) from entering the installation. Hy makes short work of the fence with hyz new “talent”, the same one that facilitated hyz escape from the building where they were holding hym. Apparently hy is a pyrokinetic now, though hy isn’t sure if it came from the drug or the screwy afterworld where hy saw Jesus. Hy’d much rather have Lilith’s talent, and just pop in and out of places.

Freddy had used hyz power to snuff out hyz guards back there too. Killing men no longer gave hym much pause. Hy already crossed that particular Rubicon in the war, and even more so when hy killed Oboe Man in Denver, although it was Freddy’s story, and hy was sticking to it, that hy just gave the street musician a short sharp shock, just like hy heard on that song on the radio, and it was Oboe Man’s face hitting the sidewalk that actually killed him. By all rights it should have been Involuntary Manslaughter, but no: it was a robbery, so they gave hym Murder Two.Then the New Confederacy came in and elevated even Murder Two to the death penalty, ex post fucto.

But killing the DoE’s two guards? No regrets. If Lilith wasn’t bullshitting hym, and hy had no reason to believe that sha was, then Pharmadigm and the Confeds didn’t intend to let hym or har or Mike go free for the rest of their lives. At least in prison Freddy figured hy wouldn’t be subject to experiencing dreams that physically hurt.

Later, Lilith would explain to Freddy (using concepts hy didn’t understand at first, like “Maxwell’s Demon”) that the energy hy conjured forth didn’t just pop into being from nothing but actually came from the ambient temperature of the fence itself, focused somehow by Freddy into a white-hot circle. This renders the galvanized steel wire soft enough that a gentle push on the now-frozen fence at the center of the circle gave Freddy a neat hole to walk through. Then hy is staring at Coyote Rapids at Hanford Reach, the last undammed section of the mighty Columbia.

Freddy isn’t a swimmer, and hy knows hy cannot set foot in the water here or hy’d be swept away and drown. There is the Vernita Bridge two or three miles upriver, but already Freddy can see the lights of Department of Energy police cars are crawling all over that whole area, guessing hyz move. Hy can see them clearly enough in the deepening twilight over miles of absolutely flat scrublands.Other flashing lights on power transmission towers scattered across the Hanford site pierce the darkness.

Any other convicted felon would move away from the colored flashing lights of the police vehicles, but Freddy has a new confidence that comes with hyz new talent, and every time he uses hyz talent hy learns more about it.

Freddy creeps upriver on the shoreline until hy can clearly see the bridge. Most of the squad cars are gathered together south of the river, but there is one car in the middle of the bridge where the cantilevered section spans the deepest water. So Freddy sees hyz problem. Hy knows hy can give them a taste of fire, even from a small distance, but how to get that one car together with the others?

Undetected, hy crosses under the bridge and looks at the scene from the west. Hy sees there are four cop cars parked in what passed for civilization around there, a small roadside parking lot with a few trees and a restroom. From a safe distance Freddy sets their gas tanks alight much the way a boy would burn ants with a magnifying glass in the sunlight. Scratch those four cars.

The cops in the fifth car mid-span see the flames and drive off the bridge to render aid. Two cops emerge with pistols drawn, leaving their car running with the keys in the ignition, the fools. In the dark it is easy for Freddy to scramble up to the rest area and make off with that last car. North over the bridge, then west, heading upriver on the far bank. And there is no way for the other cops to call it in. It is too hot to reach any of their radios, even if they are still working.