Your Neighbor Could Be An Evil Mutant
    Let me warn you ahead of time that this tale could easily be misunderstood as a cheap attempt to steal some of the readers of those senseless guns and death, high body count books that sit cowering in the back of your local Book Universe store, but it isn't.  This really happened and I should know considering that I was there.  This is a realistic guns and death, high body count tale as seen by my eyes.
    I'm warning you because this story is truly in the Cobra/Die Hard/Out of Africa class of blatant object lesson in morality tales.  It also has a lot of senseless violence and cruelty thrown in for good measure.  For those of you who might not be able to take the shock of the tale I'm going to summarize it for you so you won't miss the whole storyline/education harmony thing.  Here goes:
Animal experimentation, needles, death, Graves lecturing, more death, gunfire, Ton-O- Death, 5 gallons of blood, bald  Nazi stereotype, bigotry, torture with farm implements,  physical deformity, decapitation (ceremonial), mega-death, electric shock, Hozler getting  philosophical, rape (sort of), death city, revenge, and of course, a threatened sequel.
   Okay, if you think you can't take the mental trauma of what I just described (things that are an everyday occurrence in our present society) then you should flip on through to Tale 6 and you'll never know what you've missed.
    If you think you can, then. . .

    "Vince, are the test animals ready?"
    "I don't know Aarron, subject number three looks awful bad, I don't think it'll make it.  Should we be doing this . . . It seems so . . . so . . . inhumane?"
    "Oh!  A fine time to get a conscience Vince.  This is a very important experiment . . . I'll raise its odds to 20 to 1."
    "Hey no problem, a sucker and his money are soon parted."
    Yeah, I know what you're thinking, "Let's call our friend in the Animal Liberation Front and show this Graves creep what it feels like to have oven cleaner sprayed in his eyes."  I myself was confused when I dropped by Graves' office after being invited earlier in the morning.  Of course at first I was excited because Graves said on the phone that he had an interesting wager for me.  However when I saw the Frankensteinish piece of machinery that dominated the center of his office I immediately thought this was just another one of Graves' sick adventures that would most likely get me killed.
    This seemed a more likely possibility as I had noticed that hanging around in lab coats and rubber gloves were Vince Hozler, Doctor Earnest Itchyfinger, Raydon Ali Baba, Miss Mercedes Chance, and Graves' habitually comatose drummer Ken Sledgehammer.  They all seemed to be keenly interested in whatever Graves had in the silver box he held.
    "Come here Benson, we are in the middle of a very important experiment and if you want to get in on it then you'd better hurry."
    "Don't tell me you're testing women's makeup on innocent bunnies?"
    Graves looked unusually hurt.  Not hurt in the physical sense like when you fall off a cliff and land on jagged rocks.  More like hurt in the feelings sense (though I'd never thought Graves to have feelings).  "I'm shocked Benson, tests such as the one you used as an example are needless . . . besides they now use puppies for those tests.  Actually my colleagues and myself are conducting a more humane experiment."
    "Cockroach racing," blurted Hozler while at the same time discharging static from his hair (mousse-ville) momentarily stopping my watch.  But at that moment my watch wasn't too important because I was trying earnestly not to burst into hysterical laughter.
    "Cockroach racing!  You call that an important experiment! Graves you have means available to probably solve the problems of time travel, world hunger, AIDS, and cancer, but Cockroach racing? I would have thought that a man of your educational background would have realized that a roach is a roach of course of course!"
    Graves reached into the box and picked up a bug. He looked pretty smug and when Graves looks smug be ready to feel immensely stupid.  "That's where you're wrong Mister Benson although the Mister Ed play on words was quite refreshing.  This is a Palmetto Bug . . . It looks like a roach and it tastes like a roach but it's not a roach.  Each of the insects in this box are all of different genus species and I am merely conducting a test to gauge their levels of intuition, stamina, as well as their survival instinct."
    It took a couple of seconds for my brain to translate what Graves had just said and even afterwards I was still confused.  The strangest part was that I would almost swear that the bug said "that's right."
    "Graves these are bugs not Gurus . . . THEY KNOW NOTHING!"
    I was right, and as usual, I was wrong.
    "That is where you are wrong Mister Benson.  This species of insect was scurrying around the planet before the dinosaurs appeared and remained after they all died.  This bug will be around long after we are festering corpses in the ground.  When you get down to it we humans should endeavor to be like roaches.  They don't worry about things that don't apply to them.  You never hear of roaches going to psychoanalysts or having high blood pressure." Graves paused wiggling the bug so that its antennae swayed in a hypnotic manner.  "Besides, name me another organism that can eat high yield plutonium and not die . . . I mean other than Sledgehammer.  This is a bug; no wimpy Praying Mantis or cuddly Fire Ant . . . this is a man's bug.
    Hey! Who could argue with that kind of reasoning?
    Resigned to complacency, after stopping briefly at the refrigerator to get several beers, I crashed in the La-Z-Boy Atomolounger hoping the pain from the spectacle would go away.  You know the chair I am talking about.  The very chair that sitting a mere five minutes in causes the legs to go numb and any duration over an hour isn't recommended unless done in conjunction with intravenous injection of methamphetimines and 50 volt neuroelectric shocks to keep organ and nerve atrophy from occurring.  Oh yeah.
    "Come on Aarron put the damn bugs in the chutes and start the race, I feel like I'm going to take some money from Itchyfinger."
    "Dream on Hozehead, your puny non-segmented Roach is no match for my Japanese Kamikaze Roach From Hell."
    "Excuse me Doctor Itchyfinger but even though I got a D minus in Botany/Zoology might I ask what is the Genus Species of that insect," replied Hozler.
    "Everyone just shut up! I want to see which one wins so I can kill the rest."  Pause for dramatic effect "and if you all don't do as I say you will all suffer the same fate as the losers of this race."
    That was Mercedes.  Up until she spoke everyone had started to get real rowdy.  Hozler's hair was irritating in its own right, stopping watches and giving off static shocks and all.  Raydon kept mumbling some obscure Arabic insect chant that sounded like a broken water pump.  Itchyfinger was strutting around the arena proudly making his bug dance a little jig.  If you weren't aware of it, his bug happened to be the current World Champion in this field . . . remember when the Soviets didn't send a team in 1984?  As for Ken, well he was apparently talking to his entry but none of us could understand what he was saying.  Upon her shouting though (and waving a handgun that was most obviously loaded) everyone seemed to get real quiet-like.
    Graves poured the roaches into the starting chute and got ready to open the gate.  I had become bored with the whole spectacle and had turned on the TV to dull my pablum-fed mind.  It was noon which made the fact that the Noon News was on ironic (or obvious). I wasn't paying much attention to the news because I try to stay grossly oblivious to current events.  This is because I worry a lot and the news has a reliable tendency of kicking my ulcer into overdrive.  I also wanted the random noise of the television to cover up the bug spectacle behind me.
    But unlike me, Graves has the annoying ability to think and/or do multiple things at the same time (doing all of them very well may I add).  Today was an obvious example of this ability. Graves was herding roaches, lecturing not one but six people (including me), and paying in depth attention to the TV news.  Apparently there was a story about some corporation getting final approval from the Food and Drug Administration to start marketing their vitamins to the public.  This would normally be no big deal but this news story was about the mass of people protesting this approval and the heavy-handed cops that were subduing them with nightsticks and zip-tie handcuffs.  These protesters were accusing this corporation, Bio-Tech Universal, of experimenting on animals in a most cruel and heinous way.
    Graves did not look too good and for a nanosecond I thought he found distaste in antivivisection.
    "This can't be!  I was assured that BTU wouldn't be allowed to market their drugs!"  With that he stopped lecturing us and left the cockroaches to their own paths.
    "Hey Aarron what about the race?  Are you trying to scam on your bet," said Hozler?
    "No Hozehead I'm trying to keep the world from being overrun by evil mutants."
    If Graves were a normal human being this kind of statement would have truly been taken lightly.  In fact most people would have been seriously laughed at.  But since Graves is not a normal human being, we were curious . . . in a worried sort of way.
    We followed Graves over to his desk, interested as to what had aroused his worry.  Aarron had picked up the phone and dialed a number (though being a push-button phone I find it hard to understand why they still call it dialing . . .but then again, that's not the point).
    Anyway this is what was said.
    "Marisol!  I thought you said the FDA was going to ban any product manufactured by BTU."
    "I know Aarron but a few members of the voting board suddenly changed their minds . . ."
    "Aarron I'm scared . . . Today I came to my offices and I found them ransacked . . . The lobbying package you authored is missing as are the files on all of the other cosigners.  I don't know who would do this kind of thing."
    Graves' brow furrowed, "Listen to me precisely Marisol!  Leave your office and get out of town now!  Go to Cranston's place in Death Valley and tell him I'll be in touch.  When you get there call Colonel Mason Ripley at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.  Tell him I'm calling in the debt he owes me and I want his 666th Post Apocalypse Unit at Cranston's place . . . He'll know what I'm talking about."
    "What's wrong Aarron?"
    "Pay attention Miss Braydon. Unless I give you the codeword for my power of attorney activation let nobody near you or Cranston.  Got it?"
    "Got it?"
    "Yes, but . . ."
    "Just do as I've said Marisol . . . and be careful honey!"
    Graves hung up the phone and was greeted by an evil look from Mercedes that could have been used to deflect nuclear warheads.   "Honey!  What's the deal with you and your lawyer?  Have you been checking out her legal briefs?"
    Aarron looked aggravated and was short with Mercedes in a Graves sort of way (though I can't figure out what height had to do with it).  "Mercedes I don't have time to deal with your jealousy but briefly; Marisol Braydon and I met four years ago when I was embroiled in a petty legal battle that threatened to take my company away from me.  Some Mafia thugs kidnapped her son Michael and I helped her get him back . . . I'm like family."
    In a vain attempt to change the subject and answer a question that was burning a hole in my cerebellum I said,  "Who is this Cranston guy, Aarron?  The name sounds familiar?"
    "Lamont Cranston is a wealthy man who considered himself somewhat of a crime fighter in the late thirties.  He has since put his Stetson, cowl and pearl-handled .45's in mothballs.  Now he is just a very powerful old man who owes me a few favors."
    With that Graves opened up the gun rack and started passing out automatic weapons.  Unfortunately there were only enough guns for everyone except me (which always seems to be the case).  It had been a while since I had asked a stupid question and I thought it was as good a time as any.
    "What are the guns for Graves?"
    "Shooting! Isn't it blatantly obvious Benson?  That's what they were designed for you know," replied Graves as he chambered a round and began waving the weapon around in a random pattern. Everyone ducked knowing the kill capability of an Uzi all too well.
    "No Graves . . . I meant what are we getting guns out for?"
    "Why didn't you say so? We are getting out the guns because on about seven point six seconds the headquarters of GDI, this building, is going to be overrun by a commando team of evil mutants."
    Oh . . . I have laughed before when Graves had made statements like the one he had just made and this time was no exception; you just can't help yourself.  I laughed for seven point six seconds.
    That was when the entrance of the building exploded inward and ten huge looking guys in all gray jumpsuits marched into the lobby. Nobody was hurt by the explosions though.  This was due to the fact that [1] Nobody was in the lobby at the time and [2] Most of the explosive concussion was absorbed by the wall.  The laws of nature are amazing.
    This didn't stop the commandos from firing an uncountable amount of live ammunition into the walls, the furniture and about a dozen Nagel originals.
    I panicked . . . I'll admit it. These guys weren't just big, they were BIG; and to be blunt BIG guys carrying sub-machine guns and huge Rambo-style machete/sword knives do not leave me feeling warm and fuzzy inside . . . especially when they are shouting "Graves is a dead dude!  And so are his associates!"
    Graves told us all to get in the region of his desk.  Granted this desk was big and made of solid oak but I didn't think it was enough to stop the onslaught of ten big thug-types going full-auto with expensive German-made weaponry.  But seeing as though Graves was pointing his gun around in an erratic fashion we moved as told.
    Now I am certain that none of you have ever been in Graves' office so I'm going to draw you a mental map.  It is rectangular in shape except that unlike a geometric design it has nice carpet.  The entrance to the office is in the north-west and a huge window is in the south-west.  Half of the room is open space with only a couch and the elaborate racetrack in that area.  In the east side of the room is the true office motif; desk, book shelf, coffee maker, gun rack.
    Now you may be saying "Who cares about Graves' office!  Where's the death, more death, and Ton-O-Death?  I coughed up quality cash for this book and I want results."  Well don't be alarmed, it will come all too soon.
    Like now.
    The ten thug/gigantor-lookalikes kicked the door to the office in and pointed their weapons at us.  They didn't look at all like the classical images of toxic/nuclear/fast food mutants you'd imagine.  Instead they looked like over-pumped, steroid-enhanced, muscle-bound neo-Nazi stormtroopers with no brains . . . or in layman terms WWF Wrestlers.
    "Aarron Graves!  Do you have any last words before we kill you in a most bloody fashion," asked the thug leader?
    "Yes. Rudolf Speigler, President of Bio-Tech Universal sent you . . . correct?"
    The thug smiled and said, "Yes, anything else?"
    "Yes . . . that's Professor Aarron Graves."
    At the moment that the ten commandos were applying pressure to their triggers Graves pressed a green button on the pocket calculator he had pulled out of his jacket.  As the bullets exited the barrels of the weapons a huge plexi-glass wall came down from the ceiling, splitting the room in half.  The bullets barely scratched the barrier.  I also noticed that I had to change my shorts.  Of course I know this all occurred because I watched it later on slow-motion instant replay.
    The commando-types didn't look too happy and started removing more explosives from their backpacks.  Graves proceeded to press another button on the calculator which caused a steel wall to cover the doorless entrance the commandos had entered in.  Then from the air conditioning vents in the ceiling a knockout gas began pouring out.
    "It is a knockout gas isn't it Aarron?"
    "No. Cyanide . . . super concentrated."
    "These guys don't seem to be too bothered by it . . . is this a good sign?"
    The commando leader was yelling at Graves and seeing that I can read lips it went something like "You're a dead man Graves!  We're going to blow a hole in this wall!"
    Graves smiled and said, "I really wouldn't do that if I were you you'll only . . ."
    ". . . blow yourselves out the window."
    Let me tell you now, seeing a confined explosion close up without fear of being hurt by it is cool in a sadistic sort of way. These guys apparently weren't too smart because they had put about 30.4 pounds of plastic explosive on the north and west walls as well as the plexi-glass barrier and detonated them at the same time.  They were shaped charges but not quite powerful enough to penetrate any of the walls so the blast was backwashed on the commandos and blew them out the window which was not reinforced. Once again the laws of nature become enjoyably convenient.  I told you that there would be death.
    Sort of.
    Graves raised the barriers and we peered through the smoke and out the huge hole in what used to be the south-west wall.  Thirteen floors down on the front steps of the GDI building were the remains of the commandos.  What was unnerving was that one of them was still moving.  Now I'm not talking moving as in he was doing low impact aerobics . . . this would be hard seeing that neither of his legs were still attached to his body but he was moving none the less.
    "I'll give BTU that . . . they sure engineered them well."
    We all said that but we didn't get any response from Graves. He was too busy taking an elevator to the main floor.  Naturally we followed more out of stupidity than abject curiosity.
    The lobby was trashed; the damage in the tens of thousands but this didn't bother Graves (though I saw him wince at the state of his Nagel prints and seeing that they were signed and numbered by the artist who is now dead, I could see why).
    When we reached the moving commando we all realized that it was the leader who was still among the living.
    "Graves! You are a marked man . . . you and all of your associates are targeted!  More of us will follow to finish where we did not succeed!  The Legion of the Genetic Purists shall roll over the impure like a holy tidal wave.  The Jews, the blacks . . . they will all perish.  The storm of justice is about to erupt and all who are not pure shall fall," shouted the leader!
    "Idiot!  You're confusing religion with racism and the two simply don't go together.  It's too bad all the drugs they pumped you up with didn't increase your IQ.  You are as impure as the people you call impure . . . Nobody is perfect and nobody has the right to call himself better than anyone else just because of his skin color."
    "You mock the Purists Mister Graves!  You shall see who has the last laugh!"
    Graves started laughing.  "Who has his legs blown off and who doesn't.  Obviously it is I who laughs last . . . Oh and by the way, it's Professor Graves."  With that Graves blew the leaders head off.
    "Itchyfinger, I want you to take specimens of the others and conduct a thorough autopsy on this one.  I want everything studied . . . blood, skin, brain scan, organ stability, DNA structure.  I want a complete chemical breakdown on my desk in two hours."
    "Vince, get me every scrap of data on Bio-Tech Universal and its founder Rudolf Speigler.  Also I want all material and findings from the Nazi death camp experimentation during World War II, that includes the material our government kept for their own programs. I don't care if it is classified.  I want them on my desk in two hours as well!"
    "In nice binders with those multi-colored tabs for easy identification?"
    "Don't be absurd Vince, you can use old binders."
    "Ken, call the police and make sure Captain Weider is on the case.  We won't get hassled that way and be sure they get a couple of fire trucks out here to hose down the pavement."
    Graves turned to Miss Chance.  "Mercedes, get me an estimate on how much the damage is going to cost me and have it taken care of by this evening.  Also inform my insurance company that they are going to have to cough up for the Nagel prints and deal with employee trauma.  That mutant commando insurance sure came in handy."
    Mercedes looked disgruntled.  "Oh sure, give the woman the womanly jobs.  While I'm at it do you want me make some coffee or give birth to a child?  You talk a nice talk about discrimination but you're no different."
    "Come on Mercedes, Is Earnest the most qualified for biological research?  Is Vince the best person to do long term research on historical subjects?  Is Ken most qualified to deal with cops?"
    "Do any of them have any sense of taste, or any knowledge in dealing with mental trauma?"
    "So is it discrimination to use people who are qualified to accomplish a required task?  Only an ignorant person would employ an unqualified person to do a job . . . unless the government forced that person to hire them."
    "Good call, sorry."
    Graves started walking back into the building when I called out to him, "What about me?"
    "Oh, you've finally stopped puking . . . I thought you'd never stop.  What's the problem Mister Benson, you've seen dead people before."
    I hadn't realized at the time that I had been puking my guts out (as well as a few other vital organs).  Though it was obvious to me as to why I was blowing chunks I was astounded by Graves' utter lack of humanity as well as his senseless cruelty.
    "Aarron you just blew these commandos to pieces when you could have let them be until the authorities came, but that is a null point.  What astounds me is that you utterly disregarded this man's right life!  He was totally helpless!  He had no legs!"
    "That was obvious.  These men were sent to kill me not sell me Tupperware.  Unlike some people I don't take to the idea very well. You don't seem to see the blatant fact that these commandos are no longer considered men.  Their minds have been completely erased and new memories implanted.  They have been injected with drugs to mutate them into over-pumped, steroid-enhanced, muscle-bound, neo-Nazi stormtroopers . . . besides I personally don't relish the idea of spending the rest of my life bound in a wheelchair unable to even pick my nose . . . and I wouldn't want to be the one to let a person suffer that kind of prison."
    "Euthanasia," I said sarcastically.
    "Practicality Mister Benson."
    Okay, I'll say it now . . . never in my travels with Graves have I been so completely pissed off at him.  But there was no sense in arguing with Graves any further because I would only get more angry and would still be unable to change Graves' way of thinking so I decided to change the subject.  "Why do these people want to kill you . . . did you talk to them or did they once work for you?"
    "No Mister Benson, though your humor is quite refreshing and surprising after your complete distaste with my opinions.  When my associates gather all of the information I need all will be made clear to you."  With that he walked back into the building.
    Great!  I had to wait and see what Graves was going to do to get us all killed.

    It was about an hour and 45 minutes later that we were all gathered together in Graves' office awaiting the Professor's analysis.  Graves was speed reading the material gathered by Vince and Itchyfinger.  First of all this gathered information was by no means meager in size.  To be blunt there are many libraries with less printed text.  The rest of us scanned the material Graves had already gone over and concluded that we were better off letting Graves explain it to us.
    "So what's the scoop," asked Hozler?
    Hah!  He asked first saving me the pain and anguish.
    "You are all aware that human experimentation occurred during World War II in the Nazi death camps?"
    "Yeah, the Holocaust," I said.
    "No . . . a holocaust is a complete and thorough destruction. The extermination of 6 million Jewish people was merely an unfortunate part of war and in no way complete and thorough.  The difference should be obvious in the fact that there are still Jewish people alive today. But that is not the point . . . Many of the so-called scientists of the camps were never found after the fall of the Reich.  One such man was supposedly Herr Doctor Rudolf Speigler.  A man of only 20 at the time, he was considered brilliant by even the legitimate scientific community.  At that time in history he was a forerunner in the field of genetic alteration.  Of course this title was based on what was known then. By today's standards he would be nothing more than a hack fraud or a plastic surgeon.  Hitler put Speigler in charge of a program codenamed PROJECT: ETERNAL WARRIOR.  The object of this program was to create the perfect fighting machine embodied in man . . . a genetic warrior with increased immunities to chemical attack, fatigue, and pain.  Being both fanatical and psychotic he couldn't see the faulty equations he came up with."
    Graves let the sentence hang as he went to the chalkboard and drew.  Now we were in for it.


    "A machine can be designed to perform a set function to perfection but is limited by its program.  A Human performs many functions to various degrees of near-perfection.  This variety is due to ones ability to reason and adapt.  You can make a gun that sees its targets and shoots them . . . That is a perfect killing machine.  Human beings have consciences and make decisions whether or not to kill . . . that is not a perfect killing machine.  When a human is altered to perform only a set function to perfection that person is no longer a human.  This is because it has lost that which makes human beings the most complicated design ever patented . . . it has lost its humanity."
    "To make a long story short, many attempts were made at the expense of their human lab rats.  When allied forces finally rolled over Germany they found some of these experiments.  Their final disposition is mostly unknown to me or any other member of the scientific community but there is a strong theory that our government has used some of the data gained by the Germans.  For the most part though, most of the data on the project was destroyed."
    Vince chimed in.  "Some say that Spam, Velvetta and Tang are some of the results of this experimentation."
    The Professor gave Vince a bothered look.  "Anyway, when the war ended the Nazis scrambled for dark holes to hide in.  Claus Barbie went to Argentina as well as did many others.  Speigler especially wanted to vanish because of his deeds at Dachau.  A great deal of high-ranking Nazis believed that they would not be blamed for what happened in the camps because they weren't directly involved; they were wrong.  Speigler disappeared and wasn't heard of until 1978 when he formed Bio-Tech Universal.  Unlike the witch hunts the Israeli government conducted on even the lowliest guard their pursuit of Speigler was just.  Mad scientists be they Nazi or Baron von Frankenstein should not be allowed to roam the world at will.  They tried to have him arrested, planning to put him on trial for war crimes.  This might have succeeded but unknown forces came into play and he was never prosecuted."
    "At first BTU made vitamins and exercise machinery but two years ago I heard from some of my associates that BTU was using animals in some highly irregular experiments.  I looked into the case and found that they were playing around with genetics, creating eight foot tall rats and stuff like that.  I authored a campaign to stop their experimentation and with the backing of many influential people it was quite successful.  But as you saw on TV, apparently a change of thinking has taken place."
    The Professor adjusted his glasses.  "Admittedly working on opening the door to genetic control is a very important endeavor. Unfortunately the way BTU went about it was bad.  To add to this, an organization of militant racists called the Purists became associated with BTU.  It is obvious that BTU has mastered engineering genes to create a group of racist commandos.  As for the holy war, it is obvious that the Purists have something devious in mind.  All this world needs is a bunch of superhuman white supremacists running around burning crosses and saluting dead Nazi's."
    "What are we going to do," asked everyone, even me?
    "We are going to lower ourselves to their level."
    "You mean genetically alter a being, burn crosses and salute dead Nazi's."
    "No you fools . . . We attack BTU."
    I was taken aback.  I mean all of this data had been gathered to find a means of taking care of the problem in a civilized and rational fashion and what does Graves decide?  Well I for one was confused.
    "Your confusion is obvious," said Graves as he threw the rest of the data to the floor.  "But it should be apparent that normal means of stopping a problem like this have failed.  Lobbying and financial means didn't work.  Legal means only made a few judges richer; so, the only option left is to blow the hell out of BTU and destroy every mutation they have created."
    Mercedes had a glow about her that could have powered Nebraska.  Vince accepted this proposition as well by nodding and checking the amount of ammunition in his machine pistol.  The same could be said of the others in their general acceptance of the Professor's proposal.  I was coming to the conclusion that Graves had finally lost his marbles.  I mean one just can't go and destroy a company or person because his opinions differ from others.  Who did he think he was, the government?
    But Graves never asks for my input.
    So soon we were in front of the BTU building and were greeted by a throng of angry protesters.  They carried signs like "BTU IS RACIST", "BTU KILLS BABY WEASELS" and "BTU CAN BLOW ME!".  The front doors of the building were guarded by six of the huge atomic test rejects from hell.  The thing that seemed to set me off guard was the fact that nobody seemed bothered by the fact that we were armed to the teeth with a vast array of totally lethal weapons.  It was also apparent that the police were nowhere to be seen.  Of course I attribute this to the fact that either the city didn't want to cough up overtime cash or they ran out of zip-ties.
    Graves, who always seeks to be in control of any situation from a war to a simple conversation about the taste of water, took the megaphone he had in the van and got the protesters attention.
    "Attention angry protesters!  I am Professor Aarron Graves, Ph.D., and I am aware of why you are protesting this place.  I agree with your beliefs but I must ask you to leave this area because very shortly this entire building will be nothing but a pile of broken concrete and twisted steel girder.  Now aside from the fact that I don't want to be sued by any of you, I don't want to see any of you hurt, so please pack up your signs and leave."
    Nobody left and in fact a few had started protesting Graves by waving signs saying "GRAVES IS A LIAR", "GRAVES SUPPORTS KILLING ANIMALS" and "GRAVES MUST BE CASTRATED."  This is the real reason Kent State and the Watts Riots turned out like they did; Graves was the mediator.
    Let me be the first to say that Graves doesn't like being ignored.  It is my impression that he feels that anything he says is wisdom imparted from a source higher than God and should be paid attention to in the most intense manner.  Graves put down the bullhorn, picked up an M-37 Assault rifle and fired off about 5,000 rounds into the air.
    This got their attention, to say the least.  This also caused a stampede of people trying to vacate the area in a hurry.  I guess there is something to be said about when to talk and when to shoot.
    We were steered clear of by the protesters seeing that we all had weapons (including me which was the most startling thing about this event).  So before you knew it the place was devoid of people, with the exception of us.
    Oh, and the mutant guards.
    It was obvious from the moment that all of the protesters disappeared that the thugs had spotted Graves.  It was also apparent that they had been patterned to attack him on sight.  I was intimidated, to say the least, due to prior experience.  Though they were only six guys and we had bigger guns than them, I keenly remembered the events in Graves' office.  At that moment I wasn't filled with any great amount of confidence.
    But how I feel never seems to matter when dealing with Graves and his associates.
    Have you ever seen that scene from the movie Predator where all of Ah-nolds friends shoot every weapon they have continuously for like five minutes?  In doing this they succeed in moving down every tree, plant and spore in a 500 foot radius but missing the alien.  Well the only difference between that scene and this one was that we hit the bad guys.  Now I'll admit it, these commandos were really strong and could take a lot of punishment.  Of course when every scrap of flesh and bone on their bodies was shredded, there weren't any pieces bigger than a bread box to keep fighting.  A point that must be made was the enjoyment Mercedes seemed to be having . . . Psychologists should not be given gun permits.
    Shortly thereafter we were in the headquarters of BTU and were surprised at the fact that nobody was in the lobby waiting to kill us instantaneously.  I was relieved to say the least but there was that certain nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that always seems to be prevalent when dealing with Graves.  This either meant I was hungry (which wasn't the case because I had eaten a dead cow earlier in the day) or some heinously diabolical plot was in the works.
    Graves didn't seem to be too surprised by this and I had to ask.  I'm sorry, temptation is a bitch.
    "Well it should be obvious Mister Benson.  The Genetic Purists are quite aware that we are here and are marshaling their forces in one area to simply overrun us by sheer numbers."
    "Great!  So what do we do, stay here and get slaughtered or leave and be hunted down like stray dogs?"
    "No Benson, we plant these explosives and . . ."
    The periods are there because Graves was cut off mid-sentence by the fact that a huge cage had dropped on us.  We were all trapped like laboratory rats (bad analogy).  Mercedes was firing her gun in all directions but it didn't harm the cage.  Sledgehammer and Hozler were trying to bend the bars but that didn't work either.  Ali Baba was trying to do some mental thing but even that famous dude who could bend forks wouldn't have been able to bend the bars.  Graves and Itchyfinger were standing patiently as was I.
    "I am pleasantly shocked Mister Benson, I would have expected you to be attempting the same futile actions that the others are to get out . . . why?"
    "It wouldn't make any difference, you can't get out."
    "Yes!  It is obvious that you recognized that these bars are made of an Iridium/Titanium alloy and are nearly unbreakable, especially by the means we have at hand.  You're beginning to think rationally."
    "Not really, I'm just too tired to try."
    Get ready, it's bald Nazi stereotype time, we even have that traditional German voice stereotype.  Now don't get lost while reading the text just accept the fact that the V's are there in place of W's because that's how they do it in the movies and I am too tired to describe in length what the voice sounded like.
    "Yes Herr Graves you cannot escape the cage.  I vas very surprised that you ver so bold as to even come here.  You are not as smart a man as I was led to believe Mister Graves."
    "That's Professor Graves and it was not a smart action on your part to attack me or my associates.  I have resources that are far beyond your infantile grasp."
    "I hazard to guess that you are referring to your friend Colonel Ripley, the military man.  I'm afraid his soldiers vere not quite prepared for an assault by my genetic commandos.  However, I must thank you for providing my soldiers vith such an excellent training opportunity.  Even I hadn't expected you to be able to pull up military resources to shield your employees.  I'm sure they vill be sorely missed.  Of course once their families get over their initial grief they vill enjoy that $100,000 military death benefit."
    I was pretty angered by that one.  "The same can't be said about the 8.7 million people you and your Nazi friends killed in death camps during World War II."
    Speigler laughed at me.  "Ah the sacrifices that have to be made in the name of science."  The creep continued his conversation toward Graves.  "But fear not Professor, Miss Braydon and Mister Cranston are quite alive.  A fact that can't be said about Colonel Ripley and his men.  You vill be pleased to know that she makes a very villing test subject, and also has nice legs."
    At that moment Graves did not look well.  For the first time in my association with him I felt that his confidence had been shaken.
    "No Professor Graves, I've spent my entire time in exile perfecting the theories I started vork on in 1943.  Vhen all was ready you and your lackeys came along and threw a vrench in the works.  I waited two years to take care of you and your associates who have caused me so much grief."  And with that the disembodied voice stepped out of the shadows allowing us a clear view of him. It wasn't a pretty sight.
    He was bald but he was also quite deformed.  His skin looked like an dermatologist's nightmare (or dream come true depending on your economic view).  Freddy Krueger didn't look this bad.  I would also like to point out that that was the good part.  This guys fingers were abnormally long and quite twisted.  I surmised that typing must have been a real bitch for this guy.  Added to this was the fact that the rest of his skin was really pale and pulled tight to the bones.  Basically this guy was messed up beyond all comprehension.  Have I made this point clear?
    "How many times do I have to say this to members of the scientific community, never drink chemicals until they have been properly tested, especially genetically altering chemicals.  You must have studied in one of those Third World colleges that can't afford expendable Lab Assistants."
    The Professor then looked at Itchyfinger.  "Don't you remember the time in 1983 when I stopped you from drinking that beaker full of liquid.  Do you remember that it was supercondensate liquid Nitrogen?"
    "Hey, I thought it was just really cold grape Kool-Aid."
    "Excuse me Aarron, I think the ex-Nazi wants to say something, he had a funny look in his eyes."
    "Benson!  If you consumed mutating chemicals do you think your eyes wouldn't look funny."
    "Professor Graves your humor is most boring. Admittedly you are correct in the sense that I should have found a guinea pig like I had at Dachau to verify the performance of my formula but desperate situations called for desperate actions.  My first experiments vith genetic alteration did not go as planned.  I vas disfigured but also experienced a rapid deceleration of my aging process.  I have been 55 for the last eleven years and conversely have the strength and stamina of a man in his mid thirties.  So in the end a loss of looks vas a fair tradeoff.  Like they say if you don't have your health vhat do you have."
    "Of course you also learned where you had made your mistakes and perfected your mutational drug."
    Speigler gave a smile of appreciation.  "As is evident in my genetic varriors.  The Fuhrer vas vrong in his assessment of genetic purity . . . he himself vas flawed.  The only vay to make pure humans is to reshape them.  Those who survive vill be disease free, immune to toxins and germs, have expanded life spans, and vill rule the planet.  Now the vorld rests at my feet and soon by selling my pills the unfit vill perish.  Only the pure vill remain."
    "Oh I am well aware of the drugs you've designed to accomplish your goal.  Chemicals that seek out set patterns of DNA and reshape their coding to new specifications.  What about those whose bodies fight this change?"
    "They die Mister Graves.  Cripples and the diseased have no place among the new humanity.  They vill be the topsoil that a greater humankind vill tread upon."
    "Yet your chemical discriminates."  Graves paused to fiddle with something in his pocket.  "It seems that negroes, hispanics and other racially diverse cultures suffer the worst."
    "By statistics yes, very few non-Caucasian injectees survive but not by design.  It's just that they are impure and so not pictured in the scheme of a greater humanity."
    "You fool!  That's not greatness, that's arrogant self-importance, I should know.  What of Carver, King, Confucius or Hamurabi?  They contributed to a greater humanity and yet being non-Caucasian don't fit into your picture.  I'd hazard to guess that the baseline DNA structure in your formula is based on your own."
    "Of course, who better to use as an example!  And then my legion of soldiers vill aid me in ruling the vorld."
    "Or be wiped out by your own mutant strain."
    "This arguing is senseless, the time for moral debate has come to an end!"
    You know I always wondered that myself.  Why is it that the bad guys always spend senseless time arguing their plans with their arch-nemesis?  I mean it is a proven fact that if you give a person time he will figure out a way to defeat you.  Then again I guess sometimes in life there are things that just can't be explained.  Of course I was all too happy to have this conversation in literary stereotype happen because I knew that it was giving Graves time to formulate a plan to escape.
    Of course this verbal banter didn't last long and I saw my hopes dashed on the metaphoric rocks.  We were tied up and taken to one of those psychotic laboratories from hell.  You know what I mean; lots of needless electronic equipment with not a single button labeled, electrical implements and tools that don't seem to quite fit in anywhere other than at True Value.  Tools like bone saws, vice grips and ice picks.
    Also in the room was a fearful Miss Braydon, Graves' loyal and trusted lawyer.  Next to her were a handful of worried people I had seen in the news or on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous but never met.  Rich and famous people normally gave me the creeps but seeing that they were in the same predicament as I was I felt quite comfortable.  "Hey Malcom, how's it going?"
    "I dumped my bike when they nabbed me."
    "As you can see Mister Graves I have brought your friends who sought to end my plans.  You don't look too vell, apparently there is a limit to your arrogance."
    Graves did look mighty humbled by everything.  In fact Graves looked like his will had been broken.  I wasn't feeling too good myself and it could be attributed to the fact that Graves was looking so bad.  It's funny . . . even though he has put my life in jeopardy at various times Graves does have the ability to give others an inner strength because of his utter confidence in himself.
    "Mister Graves I'm not going to kill you or any of your associates.  This vould be too simple and vould only cause undue suspicion against me.  Instead I am going to turn you all into my mindless lackeys.  By doing this it vill allow me to vield greater power until the day arrives when I am in total control of the vorld."
    Speigler picked up a syringe and grabbed Mercedes by the arm. She tried to struggle but it was apparent that however ugly the man was, he had muscles.  The German then put the needle up to her neck and a look of fear spread across Chance's face.  This in my eyes was a mistake but not as bad as the one he was about to make. Mercedes didn't say a word when he grabbed her face but it was apparent to me that she didn't like it.  It was then that Speigler tried to kiss Mercedes.  This was a mistake of historical proportions.
    Graves seemed to be struggling with his bonds and I felt that for once in his life he had true romantic feelings for Mercedes. This was both good and bad.  Good because it would stop Mercedes' constant brooding over how he never shows affection.  Bad because more often than not women cause nothing but grief.
    "Any last vords Mister Graves before I turn your associate into one of my mindless zombies?"
    "Yes.  Number one, there is no limit to my arrogance.  Number two, that's Professor Graves!"  With that Graves freed himself from his bonds and inserted his fist into Speigler's face (he punched him).  The force of the blow threw Speigler into a huge electronic contraption that was already brimming with untamed electricity.  This combination of actions proceeded to cause Speigler to smolder and little bolts of lightning shoot from his eyes.
    Herr Doctor fell to the floor, an apparent lifeless lump.  Little bursts of electricity would jump around the body.  It was at that moment that I keenly remembered the days of my youth when on a dare I stuck a 9-volt battery on my tongue.  I didn't think it was too funny then and I doubt Speigler had thought it was funny either.
    Of course there is a fine line between 9 and 250,000 volts. Even though Speigler was out of the way this didn't stop a horde of his toxic commandos from entering the room and attempting to attack us.  I say try because by the time they got through the doorway Graves had grabbed one of the Reflex Lazookas we had brought with us.  Opening fire, he melted the soldiers into puddles of organic slag.  There was a look of cruel satisfaction glimmering in the Professors eyes and I was glad that I was on his side.
    Soon we were freed of our ropes and were promptly directed by Graves to vacate the building because he and Vince were going to plant enough explosives to bring the entire building down, as well as leave a twenty foot deep crater.  We did as we were told, seeing that when Graves finishes something he does it in a spectacular and often dangerous/life threatening way.
    Outside of the building we had brought the other captured dignitaries and waited for the two to exit.  As expected, the two came running outside, shouting at us to get back . . . way back.  We all took cover and waited for the headquarters of BTU to become a pile of rubble.
    Then I noticed it and so did Graves; taking off from the roof was a small helicopter.  Even though I could not see the passenger I knew who it had to be.
    "Hozehead!  How come you didn't make sure Speigler was dead?"
    "What!  I'm not the one who turned him into a human D-cell battery.  What was I supposed to do, pull out an Ohmmeter and check the resistance between his ears? How was I supposed to know his mutated body could take that much electricity?  What do I look like a rocket scientist?"
    "No Vince.  There is no specific branch of science for rockets and even if there was I doubt your temper and flair for hysterics would make you a suitable student.  The fact remains that Speigler is going to escape!"
    As the helo flew away from the building a voice was heard over a loudspeaker, a convenient coincidence.  "I'll be back Graves!  Your days are numbered and the time will come when you will die. You can only slow down what has begun."
    "My kingdom for a Stinger missile," muttered Graves as he snatched the bullhorn Itchyfinger had retrieved from the car.  "Your grasp of the obvious is astounding Speigler, everyone dies sometime!"
    "Especially you Graves," rebutted the German as the helicopter vanished into the distance.
    "You know Aarron, it was kind of pointless to carry on an argument with a guy in the helicopter."
 The Professor turned to me with the bullhorn at his mouth.  "It was not pointless Benson, I was hoping to keep the helicopter hovering so it would get hit when the building blew up."
    Upon uttering those words the building exploded, throwing concrete and steel in all directions.  Fifteen stories came tumbling down and I had that nagging feeling again, sort of a tugging in my lower abdomen.
    Of course by then we had returned to the van and driven back to the GDI building conveniently avoiding police questioning and falling steel.
    So there you have it ladies and gentlemen.  The weak hidden moral message and as promised I gave you all of the senseless cruelty you could ask for (except the decapitation part).  Now there is only one thing left to this tale . . . the question and answer session.
    "Aarron, why is it we didn't just blow up the building from the outside instead of letting ourselves get captured causing me much fear and discomfort?"
    "You would have known, if you had read all of the data that was gathered by my associates here, that many of the co-authors in my lobbying package against BTU had mysteriously disappeared.  I had no idea where they were being held, no less their state of health.  I had to find out where they were and the easiest way of doing so was to get captured."
    "What about your friend the Colonel?  I mean a bunch of Marines getting killed is bad isn't it?  Aren't you worried about the government asking questions?  And what about the remaining Genetic Purists?  Won't they be coming after you?"
    "No.  The Colonel was a military man and not a real friend. Ripley owed me a favor from back in Vietnam where I placed my life on the line for him.  He was trained to be killed and so he was. It sounds a bit cold but then that is how I am.  As for the government, they aren't going to question a military special operations group acting on a tip concerning terrorists."
    "I'm not worried about the Genetic Purists.  I'm sure there are a few still around but as I have pointed out previously they are mindless in that sense.  Without their master actively controlling them I doubt that they will be able to do much in the way of damage."
    "And Speigler?"
    "He's somewhere out there but what he does remains to be seen. Tyrannical type people always have a tendency of popping up again and again like a venereal disease.  Until this little chancre of a man does I'm not going to sweat him.  It is people like Speigler that make life a little bit more interesting."
    "Okay, the trivial stuff is out of the way.  Now to more important topics.  How did you escape the bonds Speigler had us in," asked Hozler?
    "Magic Vince.  Not spectral mysticism, abbra-caddabra type magic, but sleight of hand . . . you know, the kind of stuff Penn and Teller do. Unfortunately, as you know all too well, a good magician never tells his secrets."
    I had another question to ask but we were late for our . . . .

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