"My replacement is from Nevada," J continued. "He's a Major
Luc drew a sharp breath. "Oh, dear god, no..." he whispered,
raising his eyes to heaven. He closed his eyes tight shut then his head
His team mates exchanged concerned looks. There was clearly some serious
Tubular steel shrieked across the floor as Luc shoved his chair back roughly
and ran out of the infirmary. Theo caught the chair before it fell.
Maxine ran after him. "Luc, stop!" she called down the thankfully
He skidded to a halt and spun round to face her, wild-eyed. "Leave me
alone!" he said, face and voice fierce. "It's not something I talk
about. Ever." He looked around like a hunted animal searching for a
refuge, then dived into the men's bathroom.
Maxine stared at the slowly closing door in frustration. Radu was one thing.
Following Luc into the men's room was something else. She returned quickly to
the infirmary and bumped into Theo coming out.
"He's gone into the men's room. Can you go see what's the matter. He
might be willing to talk to another guy. He certainly won't have anything to do
with me... "
Theo nodded and followed the direction of Maxine's pointing finger. She
returned to the infirmary.
"Any idea what that was about?" she asked J.
J shook his head. Gently. "Not a clue. The only link that comes to mind
is that this Major Kellermann is from Nevada, and Luc's family lives in Las
Vegas. But I've known Luc for going on nine years, so this must go back a long
way. I know he keeps in touch with his family, but he doesn't visit all that
often. I've always put it down it being an expensive and time-consuming
Several minutes later, Theo came running back in. "Luc's gone."
"What?" the other two exclaimed.
"When I got to the bathroom, he'd gone. I checked the other men's room
on the way to the locker room. Nothing. Then I checked the locker room. Not
there either, so I checked up top. He's signed out and grabbed a lift with
Captain Norton who was leaving at the same time."
"Shit, and I'm tied up in here. Theo, can you try his apartment? Now
if you would."
"Sure thing," Theo said, already half way out of the door.
It was 17.15 when Theo reached apartment 3-12. He knocked on the door.
There was no response. He tried opening the door. It was locked, damn it.
Remembered J's lock-picking lessons. Gave it a try. A couple of clicks and the
lock yielded. Not exactly state of the art...
Inside, the room was dark - curtains drawn against the sun. Theo could just
make out Luc's head over the back of the sofa.
"It's me. Theo," he said softly, wanting to attract his attention
without disturbing him unduly. There was no response. Theo walked around the
sofa and looked down at his teammate and friend.
Luc was staring dead ahead as if in a trance. He was clutching something to
"Ok if I sit down?" Theo asked.
Still no response. Jeez, this looks bad, he thought. How do I
break through? Without getting killed...?
They sat side by side in silence for nearly two hours. Finally Luc said in
a low, dull voice, "You're not going to give up, are you?"
"Even if I tell you to go away and leave me alone?"
"Especially not then," Theo said gently.
"Then make yourself useful and fetch some coffee."
Theo gave a small smile, unseen by Luc, and headed for the kitchen. He kept
an eye on Luc, to make sure he didn't try to slope off while he was making the
coffee. He didn't. Must have realized Theo was going to hang on till he got
whatever it was he wanted.
Luc could guess what that was and thought, What the hell. These demons
wants exorcizing and if anyone can do that, Theo can. Maybe he'll even help.
Theo returned from the kitchen and put the mugs down on the coffee table.
"Mind if I draw the curtain back a little? Not much. Just enough that I
can see where my mug is?"
Luc gave a little snort. "Yeah, ok. If you must."
Theo opened one curtain about an inch. It was enough. Enough to see that
Luc was wearing a dreadful haunted look - still clutching whatever it was to
his chest, knuckles bluish-white.
"I suppose you want to know the whole fuckin' melodrama," Luc said
in leaden tones.
"I think you need to talk, but only as much as you're comfortable
with," Theo said, sitting back down again.
"Comfortable? There's nothing comfortable about it!" Luc's
voice rang like a cracked bell - splintered then broke into almost mute sobs.
Theo wrapped his arms round Luc and rocked him gently, his own eyes filling
with tears. It must be something really bad to have this effect. Luc's grip
relaxed on what he was holding. Theo saw it was a framed photograph.
Luc took back control of himself. "Sorry," he said tersely. He
handed Theo the picture.
It was a golden-haired girl of about twenty smiling happily at the
photographer. Theo figured Luc was that photographer. "She's
beautiful!" Theo couldn't help saying so.
"Yes, she was. Very beautiful in every way - body, mind and
spirit." The pain churned in Luc's eyes.
"Was?" Theo said carefully.
"Yes." It was said so softly that Theo hardly heard the response.
Louder, Luc said, "I guess you'd better hear the whole story for it to
make much sense. How much do you know about Vegas?"
"Very little. Marya says it's a den of iniquity, and Mom's forbidden
Pop ever to go there. From this, I gather that debauchery, drunkenness and
gambling takes place there. Both Mom and Marya think God should rain down fire
from heaven on it and wipe it off the face of the earth. But you come from Las
Vegas, so it can't be all bad," Theo smiled.
Luc gave a humorless laugh. "I wouldn't be too sure about that."
The Ferretti family had came into money just before the Great Disaster.
There was talk in the family of diamonds. From what Maxine had said about the
journals, Luc thought they might have come from P6C-111. There was also talk of
a Maffia connection, though he had never seen any evidence of this.
Louis Ferretti's granddaughter, Luisa, had married Alessandro Lucarelli who
was also quite wealthy. The whole family had then left the Springs and moved
out to Las Vegas in 2067 to avoid the Warriors. Among all the rest, they had
Catholics in their sights too.
"You're a Catholic?" Theo asked surprised.
"Very much lapsed. I'm not a believer any more, knowing what people are
prepared to do 'in Jesus' name.' Anyway, if I was still practising, I'd
be well in the closet."
"Like Ash and me," Theo said sadly.
"Yeah." Luc wondered if that was why he was opening up to Theo
after so many years. He might understand. Probably wouldn't judge him either.
A lot of the taller buildings in Vegas had collapsed during the Great
Disaster, but that was ok because the population in the States, owing to
various meteorological disasters, famine and a 'flu pandemic on top of the
Great Disaster itself, was only about half what it had been a century earlier.
It had bottomed out at just over 150 million, so there was plenty of space
Central Las Vegas had become a walled township, back in the late '60s. The
fallen masonry had come in useful for that. There was a large Italian/Latino
population, and they desperately wanted to keep out the Warriors. There were
guards posted at the gateways into the town, and gun ownership was pretty much
a must. Vegas was also an oasis for the idle rich and those with the desire to
become rich and idle too.
Gambling was officially banned, but within the walls of Vegas, it went on
openly. Luc's father, Marco, owned and ran a club there - called 'Marco's.'
Officially it was a restaurant 'with entertainments.' This was a respectable
club, certainly by Vegas standards. It had singers and musicians, but no
strippers. The main business was in hosting card games - poker mostly. The club
ran some tables, but most were hired out to local business people and tourists
to play whatever games they chose - and also to eat and drink, of course.
Luc's mother, Fiorenza, spent much time playing her favorite game, bridge,
with other wealthy women. This was sometimes at the club and sometimes at home
with a few close friends.
"I was sixteen, and well grown, when it all started -
my downward slide into... well, debauchery, I guess. I was on my own at home,
doing my homework, when Via came round. Viviana Cavalcanti, that is. She was in
her thirties - twenty years younger than her husband, and very attractive -
curves in all the right places, y' know... She was looking for my mother, she
said. In retrospect, I guess she knew perfectly well that she was at the club.
Anyway, she certainly took my mind off the homework... And the sex was
"Hope you didn't catch anything!" Theo said.
"No. I'd already had that awkward lecture from Papa. Then there was a
pack of condoms in my sixteenth birthday card from him, along with a comment
that he hoped it wasn't too late. There were always condoms available in the
club, so later, I was never without."
"Guess your Papa was lapsed too?" Theo grinned. It brought a
small wry smile to Luc's face.
"Anyway, for a short time, I fancied himself in love. A very short
time! She mostly ignored me except when we were alone - not even a knowing look
came my way. I came to tie in her visits to me with her husband's business
trips out of state. Made me realize that she was just using me as a sex object.
On the plus side, she was way better than any manual when it came to learning
how to be a good - no, make that a great lover!"
"And so modest with it," Theo smiled. He was wondering to himself
what was so bad that could have provoked such a severe reaction. He didn't
think this was it.
Luc continued, "It wasn't long before I was providing the same service
to other members of the bridge group, occasionally with two or more. I think
the only one who wasn't in the know about it was Mamma." He looked both
repentant and sad about the deception and sighed.
"I was living every teenager's fantasy - well perhaps not quite yours,
Theo," Luc smiled. "I was getting as much sex as I could handle and
then some. Leaving aside the physical health dangers - though I was always
careful and they appreciated that - ultimately, it wasn't good for me. That
'scratch an itch' sort of sex led me to objectify women. I saw their principal
function as being to provide me with sexual gratification, as I did for Mamma's
friends. Guess I became something of a sex addict. I would try my luck with any
female between twenty-five and forty, preferably married. They had experience
and weren't looking for commitment. I let them know I was available. And good.
I never tried to force the issue if the woman was unwilling. There were plenty
more who were.
"Well, I certainly wouldn't kick you out of bed," Theo said.
"Um... if you were... um... and if I hadn't met Ash, of course."
"You're lucky like that," Luc said with wistful smile. "I
didn't think I was capable of forming any meaningful relationship. Hell, I
didn't need to. Or so I thought."
"So what went wrong?"
Luc seemed to retreat into his own personal hell again. Theo sat silently
beside him, giving him space, then went to make more coffee. This could take a
In his mind, Luc was reliving the past, not yet able to talk about it.
[ Flashback ]
In his twentieth year, he meets
Christine. She lives in Henderson outside the walls of Las Vegas. She's
different. She's his own age - golden haired, beautiful, gentle and kind. She
also seems to like him for himself. He makes a faint pass at her - nothing
really serious - much as he would do later with Maxine. She finds it amusing
rather than erotic or offensive. Christine piques his interest and he soon
finds that the impossible has happened. He's fallen in love with her.
It takes six months before they even
kiss, and horny as he is, he has no sexual contact with any other woman during
this time. Three months later, they finally make love in her roomy double bed.
He takes a cab to her home a couple of
days later with the intention of asking her to marry him. She seems a little
distant at first. No - more worried than distant. He asks if she's ok but she
shrugs it off and they soon retire to bed.
As they reach a noisy completion, the
bedroom door is thrown wide open and there is a howl of anger. A man in his
mid-forties stands in the doorway, red-faced and furious. There are two others
behind him. Crap! Christine pulls up the covers over her head as if trying to
"S-sir," Luc stammers, all the
smooth talk deserting him. "I would like your p-permission to m-marry your
daughter. I have good prospects-- "
At this, the man becomes apoplectic with
rage. The one thing Christine has not told Luc is that she is already married.
If she had, maybe they could have run away together and lived out their
But it's not to be. This angry man
bellowing on the threshold is not her father but her husband. It had been a
marriage of convenience - a business arrangement between her father and a
business colleague with whom he sought a closer relationship. It was not a
match of her desiring but Simon Kellermann was rich and quite fit and handsome
for his age, so she'd gone along with it. Whenever he is away on
business, as he often is, she removes her wedding ring so she can forget she'd
ever met the brutal bastard. (She had put the bruises down to her own
Now this bastard is home a day earlier
"Told you she was no good, Pa,"
declares one of the two youths behind him.
It spurs Kellermann into action. He
strides across the room, wrenches back the bedclothes, and reveals his naked,
"Adulteress!" he screams. He
climbs on the bed, straddling her. Ignoring Luc, he wraps his beefy hands round
her throat, slowly choking the life out of her. "Die, you filthy whore! Go
to hell - where you belong!"
Luc tries to pry the powerful fingers
away from his beloved's neck - delicate, slender neck - but he's not strong
"Thou shalt not kill!" he
cries in desperation, "Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not kill, thou
shalt not kill, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not
kill..." He chants it like a mantra.
Thinking the adulteress is dead - and
tired of Luc's nails clawing at his fingers - Kellermann releases his grip a
little. "Get him off me!" he roars.
The two youths, Reuben and Zane, are
Kellermann's sons from a former marriage. They are about Luc's age or a little
older. They grab Luc. He hears Christine's final rasping breath before
Kellermann's fingers tighten again as he finishes the job. She is no longer
Devastated, he makes no attempt to defend
himself as they set about punching and pummeling him, then kick him out of the
room. They grab him by his arms and legs and throw him down the stairs. The
turn at the bottom of the stairs halts his fall momentarily - long enough for
the instinct of self-preservation to kick in, albeit reluctantly.
Christine is dead. He is witness to her
murder. He will have to die too. If that happens, who will avenge her?
He grabs a slender baluster. Hauls
himself to his feet. Grabs his calico duster coat from the rack. Has to cover
his nakedness. His attackers are thudding down the stairs. He spots a set of
keys in a dish on the credence chest. Grabs them. Legs it outside. The vehicle
outside the house matches the fob of one of the keys. The door is unlocked.
Still naked, he leaps inside, dumping the coat on the passenger seat. He thumbs
down the lock as his pursuers reach the car. Fumbles the key in the ignition as
they try to break in and drag him out.
The warm car starts with ease. He revs
the engine as a warning then floors the pedal and shoots off down the road. As
he turns a corner, a bullet pings off the rim of the rear window, cracking the
glass. He races towards the south side of Vegas. No pursuit so far.
Sudden panic. Where's his I.D.? His
billfold? Feels in the coat pocket. Still there. Breathes again. Doesn't think
there's anything to identify him left behind. Changes direction and heads north
instead. Pulls over in a side road, struggles into his coat, then carries on
driving. The sun is sinking in fierce red glory.
When he's close to the north gate in the
wall, he drives the car slowly and sedately into a storm drain. Out of sight.
He climbs out and legs it home, barefoot. His route in life so far has taken
him from Via Cavalcanti along his own personal Via Dolorosa.
He discovers that he hates God.
Theo was shocked by what he saw when he returned with the coffee.
Luc was sitting curled upright on the sofa, arms wrapped round his knees,
rocking backwards and forwards and chanting in a quiet hoarse voice,
"Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not kill, thou
shalt not kill, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not kill..."
He was clearly in a very bad place. Theo put the mugs down, and sat beside
him. Tentatively, he reached out to put his arms around Luc, at which the dam
burst. Luc gave a great shuddering cry, buried his head in Theo's shoulder and
It took a long while before Luc was in any sort of state to continue his
story, and the coffee was cold by the time he neared its end.
"Fortunately, we're a close-knit family so I was able to turn to them
for help. Naturally, I stuck to the facts about our relationship, my love for
Christine and her murder. I didn't touch on my earlier whoring myself to
Mamma's bridge friends."
"Christine?" Fio Lucarelli asks, looking
worried. "What's her last name?"
She gasps and puts her hand to her mouth. "Oh
"He's a Warrior - quite high up and one of the
worst," his father says.
So begins Luc's hatred of the Warriors of Christ.
"Think back, Gian," Marco Lucarelli urges.
"Did you leave anything behind that could lead him and his boys back to
"I don't know. I don't think so Only my
clothes," he adds, staring at the floor in shame. "But it's not like
they have my name in or anything."
"And they probably won't think of DNA
testing," Marco muses, "because they don't believe in that kind of
thing - even if they've heard of it."
"So do we go to the authorities now?" Luc
demands, "and charge Kellermann with... with his... with his wife's
"That's the last thing we must do!"
"What? We let him get away with it?" Luc is
"What we do is, we make sure you 'get
away with it'," Marco says drily.
Luc is flabbergasted. "Y- you think I
"Of course not," his mother soothes.
"But it's what Kellermann will say," his
father points out. "He has a dead wife to explain away and he has his two
sons as witnesses to say that his beloved wife was - well, probably raped and
strangled by an intruder."
Luc runs to the bathroom and throws up.
"It was agreed that I needed to get away from Las Vegas as soon as
possible and as far as possible. First, my parents set about changing my
appearance. My hair was my most distinctive feature as it was quite long and
wavy back then. The women seemed to love running their fingers through it.
Mamma cried as she cut most of it off. I left off shaving my sideburns and
It wasn't a totally radical change but enough to make the Kellermanns look
twice if they saw me again. Papa got me a new ID. Said the original had gone
through the wash by accident. Then they took me to stay with relatives in
Manitou Springs and I enlisted at the Air Force Academy - same intake as J. And
now you know the whole story. So far."
Theo realized that, although Luc had healed
superficially, beneath the scar ran a river of pain that was soul deep.
"So now, I hereby renew my solemn oath that I will kill
Simon Kellermann and his sons or die in the attempt."
Theo was aghast. "Murder?"
"No. Retribution. And it's been way too long a-coming.
Or, if you prefer it, throwing out the planetary trash."
Theo opened his mouth but Luc wouldn't let him butt in.
"No Theo. You really don't know what you're dealing with here.
The Kellermanns are among the worst of the Warriors. They're all dedicated to
rooting out 'sin,' and acting as judge, jury and executioner. They
already have blood on their hands and will have more. My friend, they
wouldn't think twice about killing you - or Ash - if they picked you for a
"But that doesn't give you the right to act as judge, jury and
executioner either. Two wrongs don't make a right," Theo protested.
"You said it yourself - 'Thou shalt not kill...'"
"You still don't understand, Theo. These men have blood on their hands
many times over, most of it probably innocent blood. And if I don't act
while I can, many more innocents are going to go the same way. Do you
really want that?" Luc demanded passionately, adding softly,
Theo couldn't find an answer to that one.
"Look, if there were such a place, I would gladly burn in hell
a million times over for killing Christine's killer and his sons."
"Well, just don't do anything without thinking it through. You won't
be any use if you get yourself locked up. Or worse. Ok?"
Luc gave a soft acquiescent sigh. "Ok."
It was quite late in the evening by the time Theo was sufficiently reassured
that Luc would be all right. He couldn't begin to imagine how Luc was really
feeling right now. He himself felt like a wrung out dishcloth. He'd taken heed
of Luc's warning however, and made a mental note to take extreme care while
this Major Kellermann was around. Tired as he was, he made a brief detour to
Ash's pad to warn him. as well.
The next day, SG-24 was called for a briefing for a mission the following
Monday. It was also a 'meet and greet' for the new team members. As expected,
this mission was to the real P4D-161, the world SG-24 should have gone
to on the last mission. Present were Luc, Theo, Maxine, Lt. Kern and the two
new members. Back to a team of six...
The briefing was uncomfortable for everyone except Major Kellermann and
Captain Bachmann, who were already in the briefing room with General Bradfield
when the rest of the team filed in.
As Luc came in, following Theo, Kellermann halted his progress with a rough
hand against his shoulder. Luc looked up and smiled; it was an expression
Kellermann had never seen.
"Where have we met before?" he asked, suspicion painted with a
broad brush across his face. The lanky young man Luc had first seen had filled
out and bulked up into a commanding presence. He looked like someone who was
used to getting his own way, and throwing his weight around if he didn't get
"I don't think we've ever met before," Luc responded calmly and
gave him a friendly smile. "I would certainly remember you."
After the previous day's revelations, Theo was amazed that Luc could seem so
calm about this meeting. He blessed his cousin and her bull-shitting philosophy
for helping Luc to maintain control. It must have taken a great deal of effort
and he just hoped it would last.
Kellermann's look of suspicion segued into disapproval as Maxine came in.
He clearly thought a woman had no place on any team he led. Lt Kern he ignored
Bradfield introduced SG-24's temporarily assigned leader and his 2IC,
Captain Bachmann. Luc made no comment. He didn't want to draw any unnecessary
attention to himself, and anyway, the positions in the team were only temporary
- especially so in Kellermann's case.
The rest of the team introduced themselves to their new leader. As it came
to Maxine's turn, Kellermann asked, "And what's a young woman doing in a
military team?" The tone was sneering, like he thought her
contribution should be to polish his boots.
"I'm Doctor Esther Pepperday," she said with a tight-lipped
smile that only just hid the gritted teeth. She didn't know what Kellermann had
done to Luc, but she would have no difficulty in believing it. She said
something in a foreign language.
"Speak English, woman," Kellermann snapped.
"I'm sorry, sir," she replied serenely. "I'm a linguist. That
was Aramaic. It means, 'welcome to our humble abode under the mountain.' Of
course, that's not the literal translation."
That would be fuck you and the horse you rode in on, she thought, and
Kellermann looked as if he was revising his opinion of her proper place in
the team - warming his bed... Maxine was rethinking her opinion of killing
The meeting was, thankfully, a brief one. On the way out, Kellermann
detained Theo with a large hand on his shoulder, and hissed in his ear,
"I know what you are."
Theo looked him in the eye and removed Kellermann's hand from his shoulder.
"I'm an earth scientist and engineer. Got some sort of problem with that?
Kellermann let him go without saying anything further.
Theo had the rest of the day to fill before he could go round to check on
Ash. He was a little worried that he hadn't seen him around at the SGC, but
that wasn't particularly unusual.
Worry turned to fear when he reached Ash's pad. The lock had been broken and
the door swung open at his touch. The sole occupant of the apartment, an
elderly man, was sitting on the sofa with his head resting on his hands. He
looked up when Theo came in.
Theo recognized him as Ash's father and the look on his face told Theo
everything he didn't want to know. Only the details were missing. Haltingly, Mr
Kirkwood filled them in. He'd gone round to his son's after work to take round
one of Mrs. Kirkwood's homemade apple pies. He and Ash were chatting in the
kitchen when there was a loud noise in the living room. Both men had gone to
see what had happened.
Three big men had burst in. The leader announced himself as Simon
Kellermann. The wife-killer, Theo thought. They were Warriors of Christ,
Kellermann had said, come to cleanse the Earth and bring about The Rapture.
They had come for the faggot, Asher Kirkwood. Ash's father had tried to tell
them that he was Asher Kirkwood, but it did no good. They'd dragged Ash
Before they left, one whom Theo took to be Major Kellermann had announced -
gloating as he spoke - what was to follow.
At midnight on Sunday, Ash, among others, was to be executed. The Warriors
would be carrying out the Lord's work - His will would be done. That would be
after they'd been 'examined' to root out the Abominations' sodomite
friends on the previous day.
They're going to torture him, Theo thought, horrified.
They were going to light a beacon that would be seen across the state and
stand as a warning to all that they must turn to Jesus and accept Him as their
Savior, or more burnings would follow. Then they'd gone.
Ash's father stood up and looked into Theo's eyes. "Please...
please... Save my son! He's a good boy. Really he is. You both
"If I don't, it won't be for lack of trying!" Theo declared.
"I have some good friends I can call on."
A short while later, Theo was banging on Luc's door.
"I'll burn in hell with you," he growled when Luc let him in.
"Yeah," Theo said huskily and passed on what Mr. Kirkwood had
"So Simon Kellermann's here too then. You'd better go to ground, my
friend - keep out of Kellermann's way."
"No way. That would just make me look guilty in their eyes anyway.
Besides, I'm not running scared - not with Ash's life at stake!"
"Ok. Then we have to come up with a plan."