Chapter 1

Liz shouted loudly enough for her voice to be heard throughout the house, "THE TEST IS POSITIVE! I'M PREGNANT AT LAST! I'M SO HAPPY THAT I COULD BUST WIDE OPEN!"

She was standing at the doorway to our bedroom and dancing up and down in her joy when the rest of us found her. I grabbed her in my arms for a celebratory hug and kiss, while Billy and Mary hugged us both. "That's wonderful, Honey!" was all I could think of to say at that moment, but it was an accurate expression of the way I felt. The two kids agreed with me, and we all kind of danced together as we digested the long-awaited news.

Liz and I had been married for a few years and we all wondered why she had never been "knocked up." It certainly was not from lack of trying! We finally figured out the reason, but that took a while to dawn on us.

That was eight months ago, and our lives had preceded along their normal paths up until this time. The ultra-sound had shown that the fetus was male, and we had all been spending a lot of time trying to come up with the perfect name. So far, we were still working on it, but the best that we had come up with so far was a compromise: John Abraham Brinkley. Well, we already knew that he was to be called Johnny, and we all liked that. In fact, that was how we referred to the fetus, and there was never any confusion.

The problem was that, on this particular day, Liz had just come into the house from a routine visit to her gynecologist, and Liz was in tears. It was in the summer, and the kids both happened to be home. We couldn't figure out what was bothering Liz until she told us that they were happy tears, not sadness or pain tears.

The explanation was that the gynecologist had wanted some blood for a routine test of some sort, and there had been a problem when the phlebotomist tried to draw the blood. First of all, she had to use three needles before she could find one sharp enough to penetrate Liz's skin, and there was considerable difficulty in piercing Liz's vein. During all of this, Liz had felt no pain at all. Furthermore, as soon as the blood sample was finally drawn, the wound closed and healed before the covering bandage could be applied.

The phlebotomist had not noticed the healing of the wound except to comment that the blood had clotted remarkably fast. Liz had not commented, but she planned to make a test as soon as she returned to her parked car. Liz always carried a small folding knife in her purse, so she used that to try to make a small cut on her arm. To her surprise, though the knife was very sharp, she had not been able to penetrate her skin. That was when she realized that she was becoming like me and my children.

In other words, Liz was becoming superhuman like the rest of her family. Of course, this was another reason for celebration, and we all went out that night for a classy Italian dinner at our favorite restaurant. During the afternoon, there was no other topic of conversation among us but the wonder and joy of Liz's transformation. That was when it dawned on us that her failure to conceive before now was because her body was busy making all of the necessary changes and did not have time for a baby.

This sort of thing had not happened with Janice, my first wife, probably because my body was not advanced far enough to have my semen capable of forcing the change. However, now that my body had changed as far as we expected it to, we guessed that it was ready to change Liz, and had finally done so. Well, for whatever reason, we were all deliriously happy for her and for the whole family. Now, our question was just how long was it going to take for Liz to become just like me with all of her physical protections in place?

We also wondered how much Johnny would be born with and how much he would have to wait to develop the characteristics that his siblings already had. Note that we did not think of them as half-siblings. We had discarded that distinction long ago!

Anyway, as we walked from the front door of the restaurant toward our parked car, we got a reminder of real life! Over the past few weeks, ISIL had opened direct warfare on the American people. We didn't know where they had come from, but we assumed that it was a mixture of imported and local terrorists. In this case, it was a drive-by shooting.

The car was a nondescript sedan in a dark color that drove past us. Suddenly, the barrel of an assault rifle was poked from a rear window on the passenger side and bullets were sprayed in our direction. Dammit, everyone on the sidewalk was hit by one or more bullets, and the screams of the wounded and dying rang through the evening.

In our party, only Liz was actually wounded by the bullets; the rest of us had the bullets bounce off our skin, though our clothes were ruined from bullet holes. As it turned out, Liz's wounds lasted only a few seconds to a minute. The bullets were pushed from her body and the wounds healed of their own accord that quickly. Thank God that she already had developed that much protection.

Meanwhile, the car was still moving relatively slowly down the street with bullets still being fired. Mary rushed to take care of Liz while Billy and I dashed after the shooter's car. It was amazing how fast we could run when we really tried, and we caught up to the car in less than half a block. I went for the driver and Billy went for the shooter.

Just as we caught up to the car, I yelled to Billy, "DON'T KILL HIM! WE WANT INFORMATION!" Fortunately, Billy heard me and acted upon my words. This was a four-door sedan which made things a little easier for us. The car's air conditioning was on so that all of the windows were closed except for the one beside the shooter. Billy reached in and grabbed the AK-47 rip-off from the shooter and tossed it to the ground. The shooter lost a trigger finger in the process because he tried to shoot Billy while Billy was pulling the gun from the shooter's hands.

Billy grabbed the door frame at the open window and jerked it from the car as if the lock and mounting hardware had been made of paper-mâché. He grabbed the man from the car and tossed him to the pavement. The result was an unconscious man who was finished with his evil deeds.

There was another man in the back seat who was holding a pistol, but he never got a chance to shoot. Billy grabbed him from the car and threw him down beside his compatriot.

Meanwhile, I thrust my bare fist through the driver's window glass and shattered it. That was the first time the driver knew that I was there. I grabbed him by the arm and also threw him to the street. He was stunned, but still conscious; nevertheless, he was also done. There was no one else in the car, and it moved forward for a few more feet before the motor died for lack of fuel.

We now had three prisoners, but what were we going to do with them? Police sirens could be heard in the distance, so we had to decide quickly. I realized that the cops would be happy with the driver and the shooter, so we could "kidnap" the third man for not-so-gentle questioning if we acted fast. I told Billy, "Grab that third guy and take him up that fire escape. Wait for me on the roof. I'll join you in a minute."

Billy nodded and did as I requested. I ran back to Liz and Mary. Liz was already sitting up and recovering from her wounds. I said, "Mary, help Liz to the car. You two wait on Billy and me. We will be along shortly after we get some answers from one of the shooters." Mary nodded agreement, and I ran back to the fire escape. It took me only a few seconds to join Billy and the prisoner on the roof.

The captive was still unconscious, so Billy woke him by pissing in his face. When the man came to, he refused to answer questions, as was expected. Well, I won't bore you with the details of what we did to him, but both of us were thoroughly annoyed by his actions, so we were not gentle with him. We did manage to get a good bit of information before we acceded to his request to be martyred. We dropped him five floors from the roof to the alley. That went a long way toward relieving our annoyance at him.

We rejoined the ladies, and Billy drove home while I talked to Liz. She was mostly annoyed at the way the shooter had ruined her new dress, and was full of regrets that she had not been able to take part in the questioning. Oh, well, we couldn't have everything we wanted.

The cops and EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) took care of all of the other people, and we were never noticed, other than that there was considerable speculation about what had happened to the car that was stalled in the street and the two men lying on the pavement beside it. That question was never resolved to everyone's satisfaction. The ISIL men readily admitted that was who they represented, and they kept demanding to know who were the supermen who had attacked them. They were turned over to the CIA and simply disappeared.

We had gotten enough information to go after the local ISIL cell. We hoped to gather enough additional information to move up the chain, but that was problematical at the moment. Hopefully, we would learn more as we went after the rest of the cell.

As nearly as any of us could tell, Liz was completely recovered physically from the attack, but it was several days before she got over her mad. Her personal safety was not what she was so irritated about, it was Johnny that she was concerned for. However, as it happened, none of the bullets hit her anywhere near where he was being carried, so she was able to reconcile herself to that. Her only physical after effects were some itches where the bullets had struck, and she agreed that they were probably just emotional reactions.

We had two addresses that we could follow up, so we started into that the following night. Mary understandably wanted to join Billy and me on our visit, but I managed to convince her that Liz needed looking after just in case something happened. I suspect that she saw through my cover story, but Mary was smart enough to quit when she saw that she was not going to win the argument.

The address we hit first was a moderately large building that had once been used by drug dealers as a marijuana warehouse. We recognized it from a previous visit, and that made life a lot simpler for us. The building was used as an office, a meeting place, and an armory. At the moment, it held several dozen AK-47s with ammunition, 16 RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades) with four launching tubes, and some explosive resembling the American C4. We planned to destroy the building as soon as we got any useful information from it.

The original warehouse office was now being used as the office for the ISIL cell, and we hoped to find some useful papers on file there. Of course, if there were any computers there, and we were sure that there would be, we were going to take what we could from them. The leaders of the cell were not fools, so there were two guards on duty at all times. What we didn't know was just how well trained these guards were going to turn out to be.

Billy and I went in through the roof firefighters' hatch, and down a rope to the floor. We hoped that way not to set off any alarms. The open area of the former warehouse was now partitioned off into several rooms used for meetings and that sort of thing.

We carried our fighting batons on this raid, but no other weapons. We didn't expect to need even them, but it made Liz feel better, so we did carry them. Our first stop was going to be the leader's office, but we were going to check the other rooms before we left.

Our previous visit to this building had resulted in most of the glass making up the walls of the office being destroyed, and those panels had been replaced by chip-board panels. That made it impossible for us to see what was going on in that office without entering, but we assumed that was where the coffee urn would be, so that was probably where the guards were between patrols.

There was now only one functioning door into the office, so that simplified our attack plan. Billy wanted to lead the way, so I stood back while he threw the door open and charged in. Both guards were relaxing with cups of coffee and had no idea that we were in the building.

These two men were quickly subdued and immobilized with cable ties. We found two filing cabinets with four drawers each. There were also two laptop computers that we were taking with us before we blew up the building. The papers in the filing cabinets were a mixed blessing. Some were written in English and some that we couldn't read were written in what we assumed to be Arabic. Fortunately, most of what we found was in English, and we skimmed them quickly. We came up with a stack of papers in the foreign language about an inch thick, and we decided to forward that to the CIA for them to read and process.

We skimmed through the papers in English, and found them to be copies of shipping papers detailing shipments and receipts for odd items that we assumed to be code words for guns, etc. Billy suggested that we check the computers to see if the paperwork was also stored there. The boy was a genius! We found the original copies of the paperwork on the computer hard disk, so we did not need to fool with the paper copies after all. That saved us one hell of a lot of work!

We spent about two hours fooling around in the office before deciding that we had everything that we could use. A quick perusal of the rest of the building disclosed the armory and a workshop for building bombs. It turned out that the two guards were very low-level ISIL thugs, so we left them in the office.

By this time, we had learned enough to know how to use the fuses we found for the RPGs. That was how we planned to destroy the building. We took four of the rockets and two of the launching tubes with us as we left the building. We backed off about 200 feet and shot the rockets at the building. We got lucky and three of the four rockets we fired entered the building before exploding. We thought of it as an early July 4th celebration as we scooted away from the burning building. We had left the guards in the office to let them have their wish of becoming martyrs.

We headed home to begin our analysis of the computer files and to plan our next action. We still had that other address to check out. It appeared to be an apartment down town, so we were not sure what to expect for that visit. We did drive by just to get a first look at its location.

By this time, none of we three originals needed any sleep, and Liz was rapidly approaching that state, so we ate a snack and started looking through the computer files. As expected, the files were a jumble of types with very little organization—just what one would expect from an amateur. It turned out that Mary had the kind of mindset that let her diagnose the scheme, such as it was, of how the files were arranged, so she was the first one to come up with something useful.

It turned out that Phoenix, AZ, was the central point for the distribution of weapons of all sorts across the southwestern states. The exception was California, which had its own distribution network. Nevertheless, we had a string of delivery points in cities in five states. That was just too much for us to hope to cover all by ourselves, so we composed a report to DHS (Department of Homeland Security) listing what we had discovered. Once the report was finished, and that took about four days, Billy took it to a library across town to hook into their system to send out the report. Our hope was that would sufficiently confuse things and keep us from being identified. Frankly, I was still not ready to let out our identity to anyone who did not absolutely need to know, and that certainly did not include the Federal Government!

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