Chapter I

Dr. Emmanuel Asgaard looked out the window in his rather squalid office slightly disengaged. The ground was being covered by a thick velvet of snow, and beyond that, the soon-to-be-frozen banks of the Hudson Bay licking the shore with it's tender waves. It was summer, it was snow in summer, never before in his life had he seen snow in summer; he was originally from North Dakota, Fargo to be precise, which while bitingly cold in the winter, was generally in the eighties or nineties in the summer. On the banks of the Hudson Bay however, it snowed. Were he more south, the weather would have been nicer, but he had been stationed up in the Northwestern Territories for reasons he was yet to be made aware of.

Turning back from the window, he sat down at his desk, and then opened the bottom drawer and pulled out a bottle of Vanquish. He looked at the bottle of Chardonnay that had been sitting on his desk since he got here. Originally a wedding gift, but it had only served now to remind him of his ever-present loneliness. Sighing, he popped the cork, not even taking the time to savor the rich fragrance that was released in that moment, he poured a small bit into a small glass, and sipped it. He then took one of the Vanquish pills, and swallowed it. He then took another sip, and another pill, and another, and another and another.

He took the Chardonnay, and refilled his glass to continue.

Feodor Arensky ripped off his shirt, panting with exhaustion, feeling the blood race through his veins like a jet plane. He ran barefoot out into the northern air, and felt everything about him relax, all his muscles, his skin, his entire body reached a new state of being, one he hadn't felt in ages; comfort. He fell face first in the snow, his bare chest shivering at its cold touch, but his mind paid it no heed. He slid through its chilly embrace, almost as if he were swimming in it.

Overhead, the howling of the wind swept over him, bringing more snow to bare across him. He listened at it, for while he was finally comfortable in some respect, his mind was still functioning on another level. It wouldn't take them long to figure out what he'd done, and then the voices would come, they with their guns and their dogs, and then he would most certainly die.

Feodor asked himself why he should care anymore, at this point, he finally found comfort, if he was to die, he should die now. However, no matter how much humanity tries to establish itself as distinct from the animals, instincts are as much a part of them as they are in every other living creature on the face of the earth. Feodor had to survive, and so he rose from the snow covered hillside, and ran, stumbling through the snow, heading in the direction of the trees. He needed to go south, and east. East most definitely.

The sound of voices came from behind him, he hoped they weren't what he thought they were, but hope was something he didn't have much of left. They were good at extracting that.

Jacob Lanway was sweating. Riding his bike up and down the asphalt streets of his neighborhood, stuffing certain boxes with the papers he carried in his basket, and suffering in the sweltering heat of what seemed to be an unusually oppressive Virginia summer, he noticed that he was sopping wet. His tongue was dry, and if he opened his mouth any more it would be hanging out like a dog's would be on a day like this. His water bottle was long since empty, having used most of it to cool him off. All he could think about doing was getting home to take a nice long cold shower to cool off.

He wasn't far from home, barely a minute or so away in fact, but already he had decided not to stuff any more boxes, despite the fact that he had three to go. Nothing was going to get between him and that shower. He pedaled faster, not noticing one of his laces come undone, and dangle precariously into the gears. He noticed when suddenly his bike yanked to a stop, and he fell from his seat landing hard against the asphalt.

"Blast!" Jacob said as he turned over, looking at the underside of both arms, he that saw the abrasions were already turning red. He gritted his teeth - it wasn't very painful, it just stung worse than a bee sting - and reached into the mesh of the gears to try and pull his shoelace free. He fiddled with it for a couple seconds before getting to his feet, "Heck with it." he said to himself, not really thinking about the words.

He grabbed the handlebars on his bike, slipped his foot out of his shoe, and began to run beside his bike. That shower! He needed a cool shower! Even now he could feel the beads of sweat streaming down his body, the hair on his head plastered to his skull, and the swirling of the world about him in a mad chaos as everything about him melted in the sultry August afternoon.

As soon as he reached the house, he ditched the bike on the front lawn, ran up the front steps fiddling in his pocket for the key. He became frustrated as his hands fumbled over the lock; every second that passed was one that wasn't spent in that cold shower. Opening the door, he stepped inside, feeling the relative coolness of the air conditioning giving him mild comfort. However, he wanted that cold shower!

Jacob dashed to the bathroom, ripping of his shirt, and kicking off his other shoe as he went. He didn't even bother to check to see if there was somebody already there - his mother always had fits when he entered without knocking, especially when she was using the toilet - he just dashed in, shutting the door behind him. He was alone in the bathroom, and the shower stall beckoned to him like never before.

Jacob removed his pants and undergarments, and stepped into the shower stall without a sigh of relief. He turned the cold knob all the way, and the spray of shimmering ice that struck him was heaven-sent. He could feel the pressure in him relent, the melting sensation ebb, and the general exhaustion cease. He felt his whole body carried to another level of comfort the frigid water washing away the foul scent of his sweat and body and evoked a scene of primal beauty and delight.

For Jacob Lanway, the cold shower was sublimely erotic.

Michael Hall sat at his desk in his San Francisco office. He had his face deep into the latest issue of YARF, all the while fantasizing about being such a creature, to have fur, a muzzle, upstanding ears, a tail, and the general just outright seductive looks of such a creature as he could envision. Behind him was a large window overlooking the bay, as well as a framed issue of Science News hanging to one side. Outside the window was a bright sky, though there were many clouds in the sky still, several other tall buildings, the Golden Gate Bridge, and a small speck approaching from the distance. Of course, Michael was too occupied to notice it approach.

Michael was turning the last page, when he finally heard it, and turned to look at what it was. A gray helicopter roared up over top, slowing down as approached his building. It wasn't completely unusual, helicopters landed on buildings in this town every now and then, and it wasn't unusual to see political candidates leave the city in a helicopter. However, what failed to occur to him, as he was too busy reading, was that the helicopter had landed on the building he was in. No helicopter had ever done that before.

Michael would have completely forgotten about the event too if not a few minutes later his phone rang. "What is it, Evan?" he asked his secretary.

"There's a Samuel Morgenstern here to see you."

"Morgenstern? I don't remember having an appointment with any Morgenstern?" Michael cautiously slipped the YARF into his bottom drawer. He moved the mouse on his computer, shutting the screen saver off, returning back to the document he was supposed to be working on.

"He seems to be pretty insistent." Evan replied.

Michael sighed. "Well send him in then."

After languishing in the shower for over an hour, Jacob finally forced himself to get out. In all actuality, it was his mother that forced him to get out, reminding him rather curtly that he had left his bike, and shoe out in the front yard. Jacob reluctantly got out of the shower, and redressed himself.

"And another thing, Mrs. Tuckerman called. It seems she didn't get her paper today." his mother scolded him.

"I was just too hot. I couldn't think." Jacob said, feeling hot already, even in the air-conditioned house. He shrugged the sensation off, the house was cool he knew that, he just got too used to the very cold shower he took, making this cool house seem warm by comparison. It was the only explanation.

"That's the same excuse you've come up with everyday this past week." his mother pointed out, then her expression changed form one of rebuke to one of concern. The change was subtle, but Michael, being nearly eighteen and ready to go off to college, knew his mother well enough to know her moods. "Are you sure you're okay? You could be coming down with heat stroke."

Jacob admitted to himself this time, that yes it was possible. Before he didn't want to even consider the idea that he could be in bad health. While he was not the paragon of physical prowess, he had always been healthy, he was rarely ever sick, and most of his peers were jealous of the fact that he didn't have acne. "Well, if I am, what can I do?"

"I think we should take you to a doctor. I'm just a little tired of having to turn the thermostat back up in the morning." the last was given with a hint of the former rebuke.

"I can't sleep if I'm hot." Jacob protested.

"Well I don't like to freeze either." his mother pointed out. It was the same argument before, and of course, his mother won, since there was simply no arguing with his mother. Of course he knew that she really did mean the best for him, sometimes it got quite aggravating.

"I guess I better go finish up my route." Jacob moved to leave, when his mother noticed something else.

"What happened to your arms? You've ripped them up pretty bad." his mother grabbed him and was looking over the abrasions carefully.

"I fell off my bike." Jacob replied his eye on the door.

"Come on then. I have to doctor you up." his mother pulled him towards her room, and Jacob sighed. He sat down on her and his father's bed, while his mother got out her medical kit. It wasn't very extensive, just the basics to take care of cuts, gashes, or bee stings. She pulled out some Neosporin, and liberally applied it to both of his arms. Jacob sat staring out the window at the lush green of the trees as they swayed in the wind. Without realizing it, he welcomed the application of the Neosporin, for it was cool, and he was slightly hot again. Maybe he was coming down with heat stroke after all.

He looked at the papers in front of him in disbelief. He looked to them, going over every line, making sure he found no error in anything he saw. He then sat dumbfounded, confused, and then very frustrated and agitated. He reached for his phone. He quickly dialed, muttering, "C'mon, c'mon, pick it up, pick it up." as he listened to the dial tone.

The answer came, "Yes? Drewe?"

"Houck you're not going to believe this, but something's very wrong."

"What is it?" the man named Houck replied.

"Not over the phone. I've got to come over to your office now."

"Please do."

"Thanks, I'll be over in a sec." Drewe put the phone back on the receiver, nearly ripped a floppy disk out of its drive, and grabbed his keys. He dashed down the steps from his apartment, and ran through the parking lot to his car. It was a Red Nissan Sentra, the '94 model, and he made sure to carefully extract himself from the parking lot.

Once he was on the highway, he began pushing the Sentra to its limit. He was already posting eighty, eighty-five, ninety. He was passing by a group of smaller cars, trying not to have to slow down at all. He looked ahead on the highway, a highway he'd traveled many times before, but none of them ever before at such a high velocity. He moved alongside a trucker, and saw that his path was about to be blocked, as the trucker directly in front of him was not going above the speed limit. He looked between the two trucks, and saw a little space. If he hurried, he could squeeze between them before the gap closed up.

He pushed his car to 100, and slowly turned into the grove, moving between the two trucks. He glanced up at the one on his right, and he could see the moving a bit faster to cut him off. Henry pushed his car even faster, trying to get ahead of him in time; his knuckles had gone white he was gripping the steering wheel so tightly. Then like a gunshot he was out ahead of the truck, the way before him was clear, and he began to ease up on the pedal, and turn the wheels back. Suddenly, he felt the steering wheel jerk out from underneath him, and his car began to spin out of control. He tried to hold it tight, but the wheel just ripped at the skin on his palms. He slammed his feet on the brake and the clutch, trying desperately to get control of the car, but to no avail, everything seemed to stop about him, and only one thing moved anymore. He could not take his eyes off of it, nor did he even realize what it meant until it was already upon him. The trucker he had slipped in front of, was bearing down on him, with such momentum, survival was not an option.

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