The Origin of God


Chapter Thirteen: "Revelation" anarchy

Star City, several years later

"God's judgments are meant to move you towards repentance," the preacher said while standing behind his podium on Baker street, a light set up behind him so the crowd could see him better. He had just healed a blind lady. A few of his companions stood to one side, hiding in the blackness of the night. The moon couldn't give much illumination either because two weeks ago it had turned blood red and stayed that way. The signs you have seen lately are not natural phenomenon. They were prophesied in Revelation long ago." There were no stars visible in the night sky, except for the odd one which streaked across the heavens every few minutes and burned up.

A few hundred yards away, a long finger of fire flashed from heaven and scorched the ground, filling the air with the smell of acrid smoke. A large hailstone as big as a boulder fell from the sky and pulverized a parked car, shock waves from the explosion causing those in the vicinity to cover their ears. "These signs, along with the plagues and scorching heat of the day, are to make you realize His judgment of sin is very real. Don't wait until past death to feel the full fury of it. Come to Him now while you still can." Everyone who was listening to the message, approximately three hundred, responded.

The speaker finished leading everyone in a sinners' prayer, as Shaun led his gang silently through the crowd, sneering at the weaklings who were listening. He motioned for Nick, Chris, and Mark to circle around behind while he and the others took up positions in front of the podium.

"Who is your master, preacher-man," Shaun said.

The man paused. "Jesus Christ."

Shaun pulled out a gun and pointed it at the woman beside him. "Is this your wife?"

The man nodded.

Shaun grinned an evil grin. "Tell me your master is Satan."

The man paused briefly before shaking his head in deliberate fashion.

Shaun blew the lady's head off and pointed the gun at the man. "Say it!"

The man shook his head again and calmly said, "No."

"I hold the power of life and death over you."

"You have no power over me except what is given you from above. God has already told me my physical life is to end today, but I know I will live again. You can have that assurance too if you come to the foot of the cross."

"Screw you," Shaun said, as he put his gun in his holster. He pulled out a long sword from a sheath on his left. The man didn't try to get away, but Mark held his arms anyway, and Shaun slowly pushed the long blade through his belly. The man gasped short breaths, as Shaun methodically twisted and turned the sword. After a few seconds, he fell to the ground. Then Shaun said, "Kill everyone who came with him! And everybody who listened to him too!"

His men mercilessly carried out their orders. Nobody even tried escaping. Nick hesitated for a moment, a part of him resisting, but the stronger dark power of Stro-kar pushed him to kill. After he was done, he found he had enjoyed it.

"Collect the Christians' bodies," Shaun said. "They'll fetch a handsome price with the demon authorities."

However, before they could do so, a Cadillac zoomed around the corner. Several men hung out the windows and started shooting. Shaun ordered his men inside an abandoned hardware store for cover.

It was their rivals, the Falcons, trying to steal their prize.

They returned fire and succeeded in killing the driver. The Cadillac lost control, and overturned. The surviving Falcons jumped out of the Cadillac and took cover behind some trucks across the street.

Shaun and his men ran forward and took refuge behind the Cadillac, where Nick saw a Falcon pinned underneath the passenger side and pointed his gun at the man's head.

"No! Don't kill me! I can tell you where to get grenades, man."

"All right," Nick said and put away his gun. "I won't shoot you if you tell me."

"We have some in the trunk in a bullet-proof container."

Nick's left eyebrow rose in mild surprise. "Good boy. Thank you very much." Nick pulled out a switchblade.

"No! Wait!"

Nick smiled as he slit the man's throat. "I kept my promise. I didn't shoot you." He relished in the sensation of slicing flesh and drawing blood, look of fear and pain adding to the excitement.

Shaun peeked over and rattled off several Uzi rounds, but couldn't aim very accurately in the darkness. Shaun's second in command, Mike, hurled a Molotov cocktail. The explosion lighted up the surroundings to show it had fallen short by about three yards. The Falcons returned fire, and Mike ducked behind the relative protection of the car-shield with the six other gang members.

Life was very different now that Khur-ak was in full control. Some people had been afraid at first but slowly most fully integrated with the aliens. Somewhere along the way, though, things went bad--very bad.

"The grenades in the trunk would take care of them pretty quick," Nick said.

Khur-ak had eventually openly declared his true identity to be Satan. By then, many didn't care, for they had totally enmeshed with the fallen spirits, becoming creatures that loved to behave like animals--brutal, selfish, and unfeeling. The demons were in complete control and plunged the world into utter depravity, simply because they loved it. When their hosts died, they would join another. Many demons could live inside one person. The fallen angels had transformed themselves into aliens of light, and had managed to totally deceive the world.

Since Satan claimed defeating God required rebellion against all good, Satan's new world government was very iniquitous. Murder and other forms of violence were widespread and nobody cared or tried to stop it. In fact, torturing and killing Christians brought a handsome price with the demon authorities. Basically, anything one wanted to do was allowed. Over time, the demons had managed to destroy people's consciences and do away with moral restrictions.

"Really?" Ronny said. "I didn't think the Falcons had such hardware."

"I guess they have a new contact," Shaun said. "I think I've got a plan." Nick knew Shaun would love to torture the Falcons, but he was also practical. It would be easier to blow them away. Even though Nick was infested with Stro-kar, he would never understand Shaun's viciousness.

Nick began to feel uneasy as Shaun stared at him. Their leader was the wickedest person he'd ever known, unpredictable and brutal. Even without demon possession, he must have been born that way. It seemed so natural to him. But Nick still struggled with Stro-kar.

Shaun pointed at Kevin, who was beside him and crouched low. Kevin hadn't let off a single shot yet. "You're the most expendable. You've been a coward since day one." Shaun quickly reached into his belt, pulled out his revolver, and shot Kevin in the head. He slumped to the ground, mouth frozen open in silent protest. "One clean shot. The less holes in him the better."

"Watcha got in mind, man?" Ronny asked.

"Nick's going to use him as a shield. Tear me a strip from your shirt."

Ronny immediately complied. Their leader tied Kevin's limp legs to Nick's. "There," Shaun said, "that should keep him from flopping around." He grabbed the back of Kevin's jacket and pulled him up straight.

Nick was stunned at what had happened and hesitated.

"Well, grab it," Shaun said and Nick slowly obeyed.

"Everybody cover him!" Shaun said. "He's going to get the grenades!" Nick didn't want to, but disobeying orders meant instant death, so he had to try.

All gang members acknowledged with a curt nod. As Nick jumped into the open, they opened fire on the Falcons. Nick shot open the trunk and quickly grabbed the only metal container he could see. Kevin's body recoiled as it took a few bullets. Within seconds, he was behind the shelter again.

Shaun opened the metal box, at least a dozen grenades inside. "They would have used these on us. I'm going to give them some of their own medicine." Shaun pulled the pin on one small handheld bomb and hurled it without looking. A loud explosion rocked the Cadillac. "Did I get them?"

Ronny peeked around the corner. "No."

Shaun pulled another pin. "Cover me!" Everyone started shooting simultaneously. This time Shaun carefully judged the distance before throwing.

Another explosion rocked the street as the bomb clearly hit its target. One person staggered about, clutching his head and screaming; he was on fire. Shaun took aim with his gun.

Nick could hardly believe his eyes. Here Shaun had an opportunity to watch a man slowly burn, and it looked as if he were going to shoot him. It seemed out of character.

Shaun let off rapid-fire rounds, overshooting the man by several yards, and then adjusting appropriately to riddle his legs with holes. The man collapsed and screamed as he burned. Shaun laughed. This was more like their leader, Nick thought.

The gang went ahead to investigate the carnage, but Nick lagged behind to talk privately with Ronny. Even now, Stro-kar urged Nick on, pushed his inner self to let go, but Nick resisted. Usually, though, he was unsuccessful. The battle was too difficult and he was too weak.

Nick remembered how it had seemed so right at first to merge with Stro-kar, how free he had begun to feel, as he let what he believed to be a benevolent alien transform his mind. Over time, ideas of good and evil, right and wrong, began to meld as one in his mind, and nothing was to be condemned, all was allowed, everything was relative. The demons transformed the world slowly at first, by reinforcing and pushing the world's growing acceptance of immoral sexual lifestyles, such as homosexuality. They started with giving the world medical solutions that removed all negative consequences of any sexual behavior, perfect birth control, perfect antibiotics and perfect antivirals that cured AIDS, gonorrhea, syphilis, and any other sexually transmitted disease that existed or might ever come into existence. Then they started encouraging sexual "freedom". Under this cloak of freedom, most people's consciences did not detect the subtle damage the demons were doing to people's minds, as the "aliens" pushed for more and more sexual license.

Following on the heels of worldwide legalization of homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage, the governments of the world had quickly codified many types of perverted sexual behaviors as lawful, including polygamy, incest, and pedophilia, since it seemed so logical to their demon infested minds that total sexual freedom should be the norm and judging any type of sexual behavior was wrong. Any people with dissenting opinions to this new standard had been viciously muzzled by beefed-up hate speech laws, which demanded immediate and indefinite incarceration upon proof of any written or verbal condemnation of any type of sex act.

The world had fully bought into the lie that mere expression of disapproval of certain sexual practices constituted hateful speech that must be suppressed, since all sexual behavior groups had become classified as persecuted minorities with special legal protections. The Bible had soon become banned as hate speech, since it soundly condemned many types of sinful sexual behaviors but had long since been proven false in the eyes of the world, since most believed there was no God. Mere possession of a Bible could land one in jail for ten years, an edict that had inspired mass burnings of a book that had come to be mostly considered an irrelevant collection of stories about ancient man's interactions with alien-gods and full of outdated beliefs and hateful writings, not a serious guide to sexual morality. But in reality, the hate speech laws were simply demon inspired legal justifications to destroy any conscience left in society.

Despite some mild religious protests, to help aid in the evolution from old religious faith to enlightenment, claiming belief in Jesus as the only way of salvation was also outlawed as hate speech. In the eyes of the world, it seemed so narrow-minded and hateful for religious holdouts to stubbornly cling to exclusive claim that Christ was the only way to eternal life, especially in light of all the knowledge and advancements the "aliens" had brought mankind. The proof was in what the Balazons could do. Eternal life would be wrought by internal transformation to exultation. Khur-ak had promised it. It would be done.

Soon sexual laws seemed passe to the evolved and enlightened beings that humans were becoming and people began pushing the envelope further. Emboldened by the new legal protections, people began engaging in sexual activity in open public places, or at work, then soon with dead bodies, animals...any sexual behavior was allowed and encouraged, anything with anyone, anywhere, anytime, the more outrageous the better. With the aliens' help, mankind was "evolving" beyond the need for sexual moral restraint.

"I wish they were gone," Nick said to Ronny. He spoke quietly, so the others wouldn't hear. Nick felt he could only be open with Ronny, who likewise sometimes struggled with his inner evil companion. He started to reminisce about life before the Balazons' unveiling.

Those were the good old days, Nick started to think, but the demon Stro-kar forced that part of his personality back. Nick let out a small scream of agony.

"What's wrong?" Ronny asked, but instinctively understood. "Wrong thoughts are punishable. How many do you have now?"

"Still just Stro-kar, but that's enough. You know, Ronny, I wish I had never heard of the Balazons." Nick continued to speak in low tones. "They suckered us like patsies. Now we know the truth but still we can't do anything about it." He wined slightly. "He causes so much pain inside me. My mind feels like a hot iron sometimes. I can't resist his dark power."

"I know what you mean, man," Ronny said, equally softly. "I've got two of them. Sometimes I wish--" Suddenly, he let out an anguished yelp, facial grimace vividly showing his internal punishment for rebellious thoughts. "I wish nothing." He spoke louder so the others would hear his affirmations of allegiance. "I am at one with my masters. I will do as they tell me. We love to roam free and live to please our every whim and desire."

Then a sorrowful expression came over Ronny's face and he quietly said to Nick, "They want me to rape another woman. I don't know if I can do it." There was a slight pause before Ronny screamed and fell to his knees.

The gang members looked back, unconcerned. At one time or another, each had resisted and experienced punishment, so they were tolerant of Ronny's weakness to a degree. Even Shaun had admitted to mild rebellion during the early part of his conversion. Eventually, however, they fully surrendered to the darkness within. They also knew Nick wasn't totally given over, but tolerated him too. Both had been loyal gang members, and Shaun said that in time, they would become full partakers of Satan's spirit.

After awhile, Ronny stood up and said, "Let's go get us some women."

Nick nodded. He felt a sudden urge to inflict pain on a child. He remembered how violence had seemed the next logical phase in advancing sexual freedom, as Stro-kar soon bent his mind to think rape was just another form of free sexual expression, which had to be upheld at all costs. The governments of the world agreed and passed the Sodom and Gomorrah act, which legalized rape and basically transformed the world into the licentious Biblical cities after which the act was sarcastically named. Then it wasn't long until the world abandoned laws altogether, except the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest. Ironically, soon after this phase of alien enlightenment, many like Nick and Ronny had awakened to the reality of what they had become, and some semblance of conscience had returned to them.

It hadn't been too long after this renewed awareness of conscience that Nick had encountered an outdoor preacher. The man had been preaching from the book of 1 Corinthians chapter six, which talked about sexual sins. The preacher had warned that verse nine explicitly said people who practice sexual sins will not inherit the Kingdom of God, but will eventually end up in hell. The man went on to conclude verse eighteen nicely summarized what had happened to the world since integration.

Verse eighteen talked about how all other sins were outside of one's body, but sexual sin was an intimate personal violation that one did to his or her own body in a very unique way. The preacher said that when the world had embraced all sexual behaviors as normal, the worldwide degradation that followed was just a natural consequence of the inner destruction of the souls of people who blur moral lines to such a degree as to accept all sexual behaviors and lifestyles. Without even fully realizing what they were doing, open acceptance of all things sexual violated an intimate spiritual boundary that soon enabled the "aliens" within to confuse people into fully accepting their evil philosophy of moral relativism to the extreme, basically turning people into animals, driven by brutish instinct, passions, and the natural code of survival of the fittest. The preacher had claimed Jesus was the only hope of escape from this downward spiral and the only hope of salvation.

Nick had been driven into a rage at the preacher's words and only briefly considered calling the police and pressing charges for the hate crimes of judging sexual behaviors and claiming Jesus as the only way of salvation. Instead, Nick chose to violently beat the man to death with his bare hands. It had been his first kill, and he had enjoyed it, which terribly confused him. He thought the alien merging was supposed to make him a better and a more enlightened and evolved person, but Stro-kar hadn't done anything to prevent him from killing. He started to question everything in the aliens' philosophy and what was happening to him. But it was too late. Stro-kar's hold had grown too strong, and Nick had realized with despair that he had accepted an ethic of sexual anarchy with homosexuality as its lead issue, volunteering for a slide into a moral cesspool under the guise of "safety", "tolerance", and "freedom".

Khur-ak then moved to the final phase of control, as he openly revealed his true identity to be Satan, the devil, and admitted that the Balazons were his demons. Satan explained that a renewed conscience was God's Spirit striving once again to convict the world of sin, and demanded that all must fully cooperate with the demons inside them or suffer his wrath. Satan plainly revealed that full surrender to the dark beings within was equivalent to accepting the spiritual mark of the beast, symbolized in the Bible by a mark in the right hand or forehead, which indicated your mind and body had fully surrendered to evil. Once fully given over, people would be damned to spend eternity with Satan and his fallen angels in hell. Satan and his minions taunted and tormented people from within, as they enjoyed slowly damning people to hell, daring anyone to try and resist them. Those that did resist were more sport for the fallen ones, and not even suicide was an option for people, as the demons mercilessly tortured any mind that even thought about trying to take such an easy way out.

Nick was losing the inner battle. Stro-kar's hold grew stronger every day. The point at which evil spirit and human were individual beings was becoming indistinguishable. They thought like one, acted like one, and enjoyed what they did together as one. Nick felt sick when he would torture, kill, or rape someone, but a part of him loved it too. Then the part which felt sick would feel even sicker because he had enjoyed it. But he had to keep some small remnant of himself alive that detested these things. If he didn't, he would end up in hell. It hurt to fight, but even if a little bit, he had to continue the struggle.

How the others were able to live without a care, Nick hoped he would never fully understand. But, at least to some degree, he had to pretend. Otherwise, he'd end up like Kevin, an example of what happens to those who fail to be all that Satan wanted. Nick wasn't sure if Kevin had fully taken the mark or not, and wondered if he was in heaven or hell right now. He shuddered to think about it, and realized how vulnerable they all were to stepping into eternity at any moment without the Lord's mercy. He tried to encourage himself sometimes with the idea that if he just kept surviving a little while longer, things might one day change for the better. He was probably just being delusional, so he pushed the thought away and dutifully picked up the dead Christians and followed his leader.

Shaun delivered the dead bodies to the demon station on main street, a small office building kept open twenty-four hours a day. As the gang entered, Nick smelled the pungent odor of rotting flesh.

A short, fat, slimy demon came around the front desk. Since they dropped the Balazon charade, the demons appeared in their natural state. This one had a wide mouth containing hundreds of razor sharp teeth. "Some more, eh?" he said. Good. The master will be pleased. Throw them into the chute." He pointed at the wall.

Shaun ordered his men to obey. "These ones were doing miracles," he said. "We get extra for that."

Nick knew Shaun hated dealing with these low ranking demons. He'd frequently told the gang he adored Satan but wished certain others could disappear.

The creature smiled and stroked his sharp teeth. "Certainly. That is the arrangement." The demon closed his eyes and seemed to be concentrating, probably telepathically confirming their story with the dark creatures inside them. He opened his eyes and motioned Shaun over to the front desk. "Put your hand under the scanner." Shaun obeyed.

"They told us the blistering sun and diseases are due to God's supernatural judgment of sin," Shaun said.

"Yes. If you want it to stop, we must purge the earth of all good. Then we will win and my master will stop the judgments. Keep bringing me bodies like you do and we won't have anything to worry about." The stout beast hit a few buttons on a keyboard and said, "There, I'm done."

Shaun looked at the tally on the financial scanner. Although Satan's iniquitous world system had abandoned law and order, it retained the concept of money, specifically so people had something to selfishly fight and kill over. "One thousand credits? Is that all? Last week I got double for half as many bodies." Shaun must have angered him when he asked for a greater reward, but he immediately closed his mouth. He knew what happened to those who questioned Satan's minions, even low ranking imps. Besides, the gang had opened the chute to the body bin, and the smell of rotting flesh had fully flooded the room. Shaun held his hand to his mouth, undoubtedly eager to leave. "I'm sorry. It's good enough."

The demon eyed Shaun hatefully. "Don't question me again. If you weren't such a good customer, I would kill you right now. Get out of here before I change my mind."

They immediately complied. Shaun led his gang to Armstrong's Pharmacy, where they bought Virtua, the newest mind-trip drug. You didn't even need a prescription, only credits, or something of value to trade. Nick enjoyed it for another reason as well. While high, he didn't feel as bad about himself.

The perfect medicines Nick's dad had told him the Balazons had made were long since discarded. Nobody cared about the sick and the dying, the aged or the unfortunate. Everyone was out for themselves. Humans took what little technology the demons had given them and made new drugs, crap which fed their fantasies and desires.

After collecting the drugs, they stalked the streets for more prey. Then Shaun abruptly said they were going to sit in a private spot he knew. Nobody questioned him, just followed. The poor were begging for money or food. Most had some type of infectious disease, so if they got too close, Mark shot them. At one point, Chris stepped around some garbage and sewage, sending huge mutated bugs and rats scampering, which Mark used for target practice.

The streets were battle-scarred. Everywhere Nick turned his head he saw overturned and bombed-out cars, craters that explosions had made, dilapidated buildings, dead rotting bodies, and skeletons. The refuse accumulated everyday, as people didn't care to clean it up.

They eventually came to a small, secluded, grassy, area. Their leader was the first to swallow a Virtua tablet, lie down, and look up at the shooting stars. He handed the vial to Mike.

Mike popped a pill and passed it on.

Ronny was the last one to take the drug. "Can you imagine coming out here in the day?" he asked Nick.

Nick said, "I've tried it. You can actually stay out for about two hours with a strong sunscreen. Longer than that and you need one of those silver suites that cost a fortune. I'll only do it if I have to. Mostly I sleep in the basement until night."

"Ironically," Ronny said, "war sort of makes this town more peaceful."

Nick looked up at the sky. "Yeah. Less people out. Everyone holes up at home. But everyone has to leave eventually to buy food or work. Then we have our fun with them." Nick talked for the benefit of the others. Deep down, the greater part of him--so he liked to think, if he could get it to stand firm--hated it.

"Why are we just sitting here?" Ronny asked Nick quietly.

Nick whispered back, "Shaun's probably waiting until the drug takes effect before going to work. It'll be more of a kick."

Stealing was their main source of revenue. Many did it these days because the so-called one world government was really just anarchy; the demons had seen to it. The new world government had no standards for law and order. Satan wanted everyone to do as they pleased, and nothing was prosecuted. If one was strong enough to take what one wanted, the demons applauded your abilities. At other times, to avoid uncertain battles with equal or greater opponents, it made sense to trade something of value or use electronic currency.

As a result, the most popular job these days was private armed guard, to protect against the bold attacks by looters. The guards were too expensive to have around all the time, however. The cool of the night was usually the best time to steal, especially since Shaun's informants gave him the times and places of unprotected stores.

Nick knew of at least three unguarded shops at this very moment. "Whatever his reasons are," Nick said, "I'm not going to ask. You know what happened to the last guy who did that."

Ronny sighed and changed the subject. "You ever wonder about getting a regular job? A fair number still do that."

Nick looked away from the sky towards Ronny. He knew his friend was joking but it still irked him. Ronny knew as well as he the only way out of the gang was death. "We don't live in a normal society anymore so why pretend?" Nick looked beside him and noticed Chris eavesdropping. "And I enjoy it. As long as the guards don't catch us, it's usually quite lucrative."

"I agree." So I don't see why we're sitting here, Nick could almost hear Ronny thinking, but Ronny kept his mouth shut.

Nick saw a dark figure about a block down. The street light barely illuminated it. When it glided by, Nick identified it as an enforcer demon. These days, most demons preferred to inhabit human hosts, but a few remained outside the body to encourage evil and enforce the elimination of godly people. Anyone caught aiding and abetting religious people was immediately tortured to death.

If the demon had caught them doing nothing, they might have been in trouble. The enforcers wanted you to be continually engaged in spiritual worship, living out the wicked desires within you. On Saturday, they made you gather at the school gymnasiums to worship and sing praises to the devil. Any large territories that defied them were nuked off the face of the planet; individuals who defied them were slowly tortured to death.

Nick heard a scream and looked down the street. The enforcer had stepped into the light of a street lamp and Nick could fully see his grotesque features. He was about the height of two men and had three bulging oval sections for a body. With the wings on his back, he sort of looked like a huge bee, but he stood on two thick hind legs like a Tyrannosaurus Rex and had a spiked tail. The scream had come from a man who'd been sleeping on the sidewalk. The demon had lashed out with its two razor sharp claws and sliced the man's arms and legs off.

Nick looked away. He couldn't bear to watch. The other gang members laughed and relished in the man's pain and misfortune.

Ronny saw it too and whispered to Nick, "I hate those things. It's bad enough they're inside us, but to do that."

Nick agreed.

"Hey, man," Mike suddenly said to Shaun. "Why don't we knock off a fast food joint? I haven't had a burger in ages." Since Mike was second in command, he was sometimes allowed to make suggestions.

"Don't be stupid," Shaun said. "You know they're under protection from Jarius Armed Guards Ltd. Those guys don't fool around."

"But they aren't ready for this," Mike said as he pointed to Shaun's metal container.

A sly smile crossed Shaun's face. The challenge of doing something bold visibly energized him. "Yeah, Jarius has always been the one with the major hardware. I think it's our turn."

"It will take reinforcements at least five minutes to respond,"Chris said. The gang looked at their leader expectantly.

Shaun stared at them intently before nodding his head. He told everyone his plan, gave them their positions, and one grenade. Mike and Shaun kept the rest, as their job was the most important.

It didn't take long to reach the burger joint Shaun had in mind, adrenaline rush giving them energy to run most of the way. Nick hid behind a bush near the front entrance and the rest took up similar positions around the perimeter.

A young couple carrying machine guns walked up to the entrance, paid the guard the customary bribe, and entered the restaurant. The door was dilapidated and falling off its hinges. The walls were riddled with bullet holes and gaping bomb blasts from earlier encounters. The guard wore bullet proof black body armor that was made of a light plastic. Nick had heard the armor afforded some protection from the plagues too.

The young couple could easily be carrying Dermalgia, an ailment which caused excruciatingly painful sores to appear over one's body, and not even know it. Not even the best scientists knew how it was transmitted, although some suspected drinking the contaminated water brought it on.

Most water supplies had mysteriously become bright red, killing many plants and sea creatures. People didn't want to drink it, but if you were poor, you had little choice. Now Nick knew why these things happened: God's judgment. But he doubted Satan would stop the disasters if he defeated God, as he loved to inflict pain and suffering.

When everybody was ready, Nick started shooting. The guard was momentarily knocked off his feet, but quickly got up and returned fire. Within seconds, many more guards ran out the door and began shooting. Nick gave the signal which ordered a retreat across the street. The guards ran after them, and that's when the grenades hit.

Mike and Shaun revealed their positions on top of the restaurant. They tossed every grenade they had and opened fire. Nick and the rest also tossed their mini-bombs and continued shooting. Caught in the middle, the guards were soon destroyed.

"Yahoo!" Shaun shouted as he came down. "I knew we could do it, and we didn't lose a single man. How's that for my supreme leadership capabilities."

"You're the master," Mike said, and everyone agreed. "But we'd better move fast. Jarius will be sending his goons after us."

Shaun's gang burst through the entrance and ordered the clerks to give them all the food they had. Each gang member soon had an armload and ran out the door, but Shaun ordered Nick to stay behind and kill the witnesses.

"Hurry up, man," Ronny said, standing at the entrance. "We haven't got time to waste."

Nick was sweating and felt pain shooting up his leg, but was unable to act. "I'm having another weak moment. I don't think I can do it."

Ronny nodded his head with understanding. Nick looked away, while Ronny shot the people.

"Please don't tell the others I couldn't do it," Nick said as he turned to see bloody bodies strewn over the floor.

Ronny nodded his head and they left.

"What took you so long?" Shaun asked when they got outside.

"Nick wanted to have some fun," Ronny said. "He tortured one guy for a bit."

Shaun's smile indicated his approval. "Well, we've gotta go. Now!"

Shaun decided they needed to steal a car and retreat to Nick's place. They found an average-sized house, clean on the exterior. Undoubtedly, the owner wasn't excessively rich or he would've had guards posted outside, but he likely had a vehicle in the garage. Hopefully, the owner had money to fill the tank too. Shaun had one grenade left so he used it to blow open the garage door. They quickly ran inside and smashed the window of what Nick could now see was a Plymouth Acclaim.

Ronny was an expert at hot-wiring, and within seconds, was navigating the streets like a race-car in some frantic pace to cross the finish line.

"No fooling around," Shaun ordered as they turned down thirty-seventh street. "Jarius is going to be looking for anything suspicious so go straight to Nick's."

Ronny was pulling into Nick's driveway within minutes. He dropped the gang off and drove away to dispose of the car.

Nick led the way to the front door. "Careful of those wires," he said as he pointed to the ground. "Mom's got the whole perimeter booby trapped. You don't want to find out what those can do to you."

Nick unlocked the front door and heard the attack dogs barking wildly. "Stay!" he said and the Doberman pinschers, recognizing their master's voice, quieted. He opened the door and led inside. The dogs growled when they saw the gang members. "Do you know I could say one word and both of these dogs would leap at your throat?"

Mark swallowed hard and looked at Nick. "I believe you."

"Good. But don't worry. I'm a nice guy."

All the gang members laughed, including Nick, but a part of him seriously wished he could turn the dogs lose to destroy the perverseness around him. He wished they could protect him and help him feel clean again. Nick felt the pain of Stro-kar's warning and knew he had better change his thoughts.

They plopped their loot on the dirty kitchen table. The entire house was filthy, as it hadn't been cleaned in years. Garbage was everywhere, and most of the furniture was already ruined from earlier house parties.

Shaun had the honor of tasting the first burger. "Just not the same," he said as he swallowed. "Ever since they've had to start using the local chickens and cows, the burgers have tasted like crap, but go ahead and dig in."

Chris shoved a handful of fries into his mouth. "The home-grown potatoes aren't the same caliber either. I guess fallout gives them that irradiant taste."

Nick laughed, but briefly thought he would like them to die of radiation sickness. Stro-kar punched him from within and he changed his thoughts."That was a long time ago, and many miles away. The winds have carried away the radiation by now." He opened the refrigerator and grabbed a beer. Anybody else want one? My mom has her own brewery machine. It's not like the real stuff either, but it'll get you drunk."

As Nick suspected, they all wanted some.

Nick suddenly heard a loud knock. "It's probably Ronny. I'll get it. Help yourselves."

Nick calmed the dogs and let his friend inside. "Have a brew, bud," he said as he tossed a bottle at Ronny.

Ronny opened it and took a drink. "Where's your mom?"

"Oh, she's here somewhere," Nick said and led Ronny into the kitchen. "Probably in bed with a bunch of people."

Chris was going upstairs to use the bathroom, and Nick threw him a chicken burger sandwich. "It's mom's favorite," Nick said. "If she's up there, you might as well give her one before they're all gone."

Chris nodded.

After a few minutes, Chris came back downstairs and said he'd been asked if the gang would like to join them. Nick wanted to throw up. A part of him was repulsed, but Stro-kar jumped at the suggestion. He-it wanted to, thought it would be enjoyable, but he-it also wanted to run. The warning pains started.

The gang was thrilled at the idea, except for Ronny, who privately expressed his reservations to Nick, not wanting to appear weak before the others. When Ronny finally agreed, that settled the matter in Nick's mind. There was no use resisting. It would be enjoyable-horrible, pleasurable-painful, beautiful-disgusting, and normal-perverted--but at any rate, he would have to obey.