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Extinction: Imminent
Broadcast Signal: Pirate

District of Olympus Archives
Mortal Hall
Αρχείο Περιφέρειας

Temple of Dione

Extinction: Imminent
Broadcast Signal: Pirate
District of Olympus Archives
Mortal Hall
Αρχείο Περιφέρειας
Temple of Dione

Chapter 1 – William Hork

Dr. William Hork, aka Zeus, is sitting on the set of a tv news studio getting ready to give an interview.

Book III Present Day

NBC Affiliate, Denver, CO, USA

“Dr. Hork, sir, are you ready?” Sarah was shy as she approached, her voice meek as she mustered to gain William’s attention. “We’re live in one minute.” Her eyes were intent, gracefully swallowing adrenaline in an effort to mask her subtle nerves.

Although there was nothing technically special about this morning’s routine satellite connection with New York, she still held her breath while the production team established communication. On any normal day Sarah inherently strived for perfection, but today was anything but normal. The entire world would be tuning in and mistakes would not be tolerated. The great Dr. Hork was making his first public appearance since the unveiling of Regeneration, and it was her job to ensure that the interview went smoothly.

William’s gaze panned across the set, taking in the tremendous amount of work that was buzzing behind the cameras. Stage workers with headsets darted from one side of the studio to the other. Technicians measured lighting and audio. Others, people who William assumed were network executives along with the station’s senior management were all dressed in business suits. They stood off to the side and spoke in hushed tones, anxiously anticipating the upcoming broadcast.

“Yes, my dear. Can’t wait.” William’s voice was calm and sure, his eyes finally falling upon Sarah.

“Excellent,” Sarah forced a smile. “Remember, sometimes there’s a bit of a delay with the satellites, so allow Cameron to finish his question before you start your response.” Her eyes now needlessly scrolled her clipboard while she recited the on-air checklist. “You don’t want to be talking over one another,” she added. The young woman’s knuckles were white as they curled around the clear plastic frame, her freshly painted fingernails dimpling the production notes.

“Got it,” William bowed his head with reassurance. He could feel her anxiety and used his blinding confidence to set her at ease. The striking contrast of his loose posture, a powerful frame that filled the polished chrome rolling chair like a throne, made a mockery of the nervousness exerted by the staff. His assurance permeated into her pours, and with a smile his mindless gaze browsed the set once more. “Oh, and Sarah, thanks for all of your hard work this morning. This place would collapse without you.”

Sarah O'Callaghan, PA at local news affiliate in Denver, CO. Image created by Adobe Firefly.

Sarah blushed and hugged her clipboard, unable to hide her smile. His words levitated and she swelled with dizziness. Pride poured down her spine as not only was she being noticed, but she was appreciated. “Absolutely, Dr. Hork. It’s always such a pleasure having you.”

“Live in twenty!” A voice boomed over the loudspeaker, direction coming from the control room.

“Break a leg…” Sarah whispered, softly stepping backward and out of the view of the camera. She then hesitated while William watched, awkwardly trying to find a place to stand amongst the executive team. The suits did their best to ignore her and William’s gray beard rose to one side. He let out a youthful smirk that shot in her direction. She fumbled once more. He knew his attention made her day, and he reveled in it.

“Five… Four…” The cameraman gestured the remaining numbers of the countdown and silence captured the studio.  Television monitors flickered as the First Light returned from commercial. The production team began the global feed and William’s earpiece flooded with Cameron Jenkins’ introduction.

“We are pleased to welcome back to First Light the titan of biological engineering and Nobel prize–winning scientist, Dr. William Hork. Dr. Hork, good morning.” Cameron greeted in a no-nonsense tone.

“Good morning, Cam. Thank you for having me back.” William flashed his unmistakable grin.

“Dr. Hork, your recent breakthrough, Regeneration, has been plastered all over the media in recent days. Would you mind recapping your findings for our viewers?”

“Certainly. In short, discoveries have been made in small mammal DNA, and with the combination of quantum biology, that essentially allows us to regenerate the subject without traditional reproduction,” William answered plainly.  “Complete duplication of the subject.”

“Cloning, yes? Cloning has been around for years, Dr. Hork. What is significant about your particular research?”

“Cloning, as it is traditionally known, is only a DNA replica—a physical copy. It is not replication of the same being. Prior to my breakthough, a duplicate only had the same skeletal structure, eye color, hair color—but once animated the duplicate had their own unique mannerisms, thoughts, and personalities,” Dr. Hork explained. “This new helix and advancement in quantum biology allows us to replicate the being itself—intact with its original emotion and memories… The subject’s essence, essentially.”

“So, what you’re saying is that you can create a copy of someone’s soul?” Cameron cut directly to the crux of the recent media firestorm and purposefully used the buzzword—soul—that was at the center of the project’s unprecedented controversy. William’s discovery, and what was now being spun into the ungodly manipulation of the human soul, had been plastered all over social media and the unrelenting news networks for the past thirty-six hours.

“Well, I’m not sure I’d use the word ‘soul,’ Cam.” William dismissed, irritated by the condemnation of his work. “The media has created quite the uproar by irresponsibly bringing spirituality into the discovery, demonizing the findings before they’re understood.”

Cameron Jenkins, host of "First Light", a nationally televised morning news program. Image created by Adobe Firefly.

Cameron shifted in his chair and straightened his face, his demeanor becoming much more hard-hitting as he prepared to progress the conversation. “You, yourself, used the word ‘essence’ just a moment ago. Isn’t that semantics?”

“I suppose you should ask the Pope,” William fired back. “I’m sure he could better explain the differences between memories and personality verses the human soul.” William then paused, allowing his words to sink in. “Science has already perfected duplicating the physical vessel. Now we can also, in theory, replicate thoughts and personality.”

“Wouldn’t you agree that the soul is directly tied to personality?”

“Are you suggesting that someone with a personality disorder—schizophrenia—has a tarnished soul?” William reversed Cameron’s ill-thought logic. “If the two are interchangeable…”

“That’s an unfair statement—”

“Exactly. This discovery is about biology, not ideology. Bringing the human soul into the project, something neither of us can quantify, is an outrageous leap.”

“Well, suppose for a moment that the public was able to separate the deeply rooted and profound religious contradictions of Regeneration,” Cameron persisted. “Aren’t you concerned with what this discovery will inherently do to society and the world as we know it? If this technology fell into the wrong hands—an enemy of our nation or a brutal dictator that would never die—it could spell disaster for humanity. Mankind’s future is in greater jeopardy today than it was yesterday because of your discovery.”

Cameron’s moral lashing, whether genuine or for television viewership, brought a subtle smirk to Dr. Hork’s face. William paused and straightened, his body language now becoming much more presidential.

“As with any discovery, just as when fire was first harnessed and man began to understand it’s vast capabilities; from cooking food to burning crosses. Just as when ships sailed from European ports destined for the new world—good and bad can come from it.”

“Yes, but don’t you think this is a bit different? You’re basically talking about a fountain of youth, eternal life if someone were to so choose. What if Hitler had Regeneration? Even if you killed him, someone could just re-grow him in a lab, complete with the same atrocious hatred and evil.” Jenkins cut as if any explanation could justify the means.

“That’s a valid point, Cameron.” William remarked with a sympathetic sigh. “It could lead to over population and a host of other horrible unknown consequences. It could also be used for good—what if we still had Einstein, da Vinci? What if Stephen Hawking could have better communicate all of his great theories? Good and evil exists in our world regardless of Regeneration. It’s just another tool; it’s up to us to choose how we use it. As the saying goes, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’”

“The fact remains,” William continued with the utmost sincerity, “that we, as human beings, have progressed far enough to start facing these challenges—whether our dogmatic society is ready for them or not.”

Jenkins paused, adrenaline jittering a pen between his fingers while he searched through thoughts. “It seems to some, Dr. Hork, that this is Pandora’s box. Regardless of the societal, moral, and religious issues—of which there are many—who would be allowed to regenerate? Only the wealthy? Powerful political figures?”

“I don’t have answers to all of the ‘what if’ questions,” William was genuine. “But I know there’s no turning back. If my team and I didn’t discover Regeneration, someone else would have. Just like nuclear fission.”

“Comparing your discovery to the atom bomb doesn’t help your case…” Cameron’s follow was quick and smug. “Although it ended a terrible war, arguably humanity would be much better off without it.”

“I’m sure the nuclear energy your viewers use to power their TV sets, allowing them to watch your show every day, is also an abomination?” William’s wit was much sharper than Cameron’s and the comeback reminded the millions watching of that. However, William’s objective wasn’t to belittle the host and he quickly added, “The Internet is the greatest source of information and communication mankind has ever known. It is also the cause of unprecedented unproductively and harbors an unimaginable amount of illegal activity. There’s good and bad with everything, Cam… Could you imagine our society now without the Internet?”

The host hesitated and stuttered. It was apparent that a producer was barking into Cameron’s ear. He twisted his face and glared off set.

“I encourage everyone to visit my website, watch the presentation, and learn about Regeneration for themselves.” William filled the silence.

William Hork discussing his breakthrough in genetic engineering, Regeneration. Image created by Adobe Firefly.

Still tense but aware they wouldn’t be reaching a resolution to what would now become a dividing and lifelong debate, Regeneration falling somewhere between abortion and gun control, Cameron relented his moral high ground and continued the interview with more journalistic integrity. “To your knowledge, are you aware of any other scientific teams or countries working on developing this technology?”

William eased in his chair, sensing the shift of Cameron’s tone. “I’m sure there are now…” He gave an immodest smile. “We are the only ones, as of two days ago, that even knew this was a realistic possibility. You have to remember that this is still just a theory and the helix mapping is quite complex.”

“How far away are you from actually performing this on a human?”

“Quite far,” William lied. “It could be lifetimes before we get it right or possess the proper technology to actually achieve something of this magnitude on a human. Right now, Regeneration is this elaborate sci-fi idea that’s become a distant possibility—like teleportation.”

“How so?” Cameron asked, trying to reaffirm that the world wasn’t coming to an immediate end.

“Well, at the CERN facility in Geneva, scientists working with quantum mechanics discovered that the same atom can exist on separate planes, or in two places at once… However, getting a human to do that is an entirely different story—just as with Regeneration.”

“So, as of now, Regeneration is purely scientific theory?” Cameron reiterated.

“Well, yes…” William didn’t appreciate his research being dismissed to something as little as an idea. “We’ve isolated the DNA helix containing the subject’s cognitive thoughts and emotions… Not a bad discovery.”

Cameron’s eyes shifted along teleprompter, reading a cue from the control booth. “Yes, Dr. Hork, what a truly amazing and thought-provoking discovery.” He politely agreed.

William nodded, knowing the interview was over and this was Cameron finding his exit.

“We appreciate you taking the time to explain what you’ve found and what this could mean for humanity.” Cameron’s tone lightened as he mentally turned the page from the interview and thought ahead to the next segment of the show.

“Certainly, Cam. Thank you so much for having me.”

  “Please report back to us as your research progresses.” Cameron got in the last word as the segment ran out of time and William’s satellite feed was cut. “Up next on First Light, hot dog gobbler breaks own record with seventy-nine dogs!” And with that, the program went to commercial and the studio began to buzz with life once more.

“Amazing, Dr. Hork. Truly amazing.” Sarah sputtered as she helped William remove his earpiece and microphone. “You did such a great job of simplifying what you discovered so normal people could understand it and, I have to be honest, put us at ease…”

“Thank you. I’m glad you liked it. It’s exciting times, my young Sarah.” His hand gently palmed her entire shoulder as he rose from the chair. “But there’s no need to fear what you can’t control. Embrace it!”

Sarah bristled at William’s touch. Goose skin sprang from her arms while energy pulsed down her spine, sparking as the tingle leapt from the tip of each nerve. Her soft blue eyes met him with curiosity and she wet her lips. William knew she was sliding into tranquility and he loved every second of it.

Wayne Sherman, Executive Vice President Midwest of NBC. Image created by Adobe Firefly.

“Hork!” A network executive shouted as he approached from the far side of the studio. “Hork! Good one, buddy!”

William raised an unimpressed eyebrow at the lumbering mess of a man that was coming toward him.

“You gave ol’ Jenkins a run for his money!” The executive jabbed, his humor falling flat.

“Not my intention, Mister…?”

“Ah yes. Name’s Sherman, Wayne Sherman.” The man extended a hand, coffee stains consuming a sneering grin. “Executive Vice President, Midwest.”

“Of course…” William met him. “Giving Cameron a ‘run for his money’ was not my intention, Mr. Sherman. The Regeneration project is very dear to me and I, perhaps, get a bit passionate when it’s irrationally criticized.”

“No skin off my ass.” Sherman bellowed. “Hell, we’re just so excited to have you here. Ratings—through the roof! Cha-ching!” He finished by playfully slugging Dr. Hork in the shoulder.

William rolled his eyes. “Yes… glad I could help you sell some advertising.”

“Re-resparation sounds like quite the deal,” Sherman continued, tripping over his own tongue. “Wouldn’t mind having a few more Wayne’s roaming the world, am I right! Just feel bad for the poor bastard still stuck with my wife!” His bellow morphed into a full belly laugh, once more the only person amused by his own joke.

Sarah’s jaw dropped with embarrassment. She was mortified at the thought of a single additional Sherman, let alone several. She immediately distanced herself and looked to Dr. Hork with an unspoken apology but already found him disinterested in the conversation.

“So how does it work?” Sherman pressed on with a cocked eye. “Do you need, like, a semen sample and bake a baby in a machine? Or do you inject some John Doe with my blood?”

“Well, again, thanks for having me.” William ignored and cued up an exit similar to Cameron’s. “Sarah was actually just taking me back to my dressing room. Very busy day with you media folks.”

“Oh… I gotcha!” Wayne winked and looked Sarah up and down. “Oooh wee, look at that! This little lady is full service, if ya know what I mean!” He nudged William with his elbow. “I should have gotten into science!”

William stopped. His eyes fell upon on the balding, disproportioned man in an ill-fitting suit. “What was that? I’m quite certain that you have absolutely no idea of what you mean. Any man with eyes can see Sarah’s beauty, but only a fool can’t see her potential.”

Wayne staggered and snickered, William’s words going registered. He was anticipating an incoming high-five for his locker room antics.

“You take good care of him, missy.” Wayne bobbled his head toward Sarah. Her eyes immediately hit the floor in an effort to avoid any further interaction.

“Now listen here, Mr. Sherman.” William took a step closer and pointed his finger directly in the man’s face. “Sarah will be managing that control room by the next time I visit or you’ll be searching for a new job.”

Wayne stepped back, his face twisted. “Excuse me?”

William didn’t waver. “Challenge me. Nothing would give me more pleasure.” He looked the man right in the eye.

Wayne Sherman, TV executive humiliated by Dr. William Hork. Image created by Adobe Firefly.

Wayne chewed on his own tongue for a moment, at a loss for words. He balled his fists as if contemplating whether he had enough strength to drop the scientist with a single punch. Instead, all Sherman managed was a few more huffs and a snarled lip. He didn’t dare test William. No one did.

“Apologize.” William commanded.

“It’s not necessary, Dr. Hork.” Sarah interjected under her breath. By this time the entire studio had gone quiet and all attention was fixated on the escalating altercation.

“Apologize!” William snarled, ignoring Sarah’s plea.

Sherman looked around the room at all of the shocked faces, not a single ally coming to his aid. His career began flashing before his eyes as he realized there was no possible way out of the situation. He wiped spit from the corner of his mouth and chose his words carefully.

“Ma’am… I’m, ah, I’m sorry.” He muttered, avoiding Sarah’s eyes. “I apologize. You’re a fine asset to this team, and I was out of line.”

Sarah nodded, unsure if she could speak.

“I appreciate the effort, Mr. Sherman.” William was sarcastic. “Now, watch your mouth…”

William’s attention turned and raised his voice to all those who were watching. “I, too, apologize for the embarrassment. A little humility goes a long way… Thank you all for having me this morning.”

Sherman remained silent, his stare focused on the crease in his shoes.

“Don’t forget about the control room.” William made eyes at Sherman once more. He then placed his hand on Sarah’s back and guided her away from the confrontation.

The two took several quiet steps before Sarah made an attempt to fill the air. “I am so sorry, Dr. Hork…” She whispered. The young woman clung to her clipboard, hiding behind her professionalism as she apologized on behalf of the broadcast network once more.

“You’re sorry?” William eased. “It’s not your fault. I hope I didn’t embarrass you.”

Sarah held her quiver. “Embarrass? That man is repulsive… Thank you.” The two moved off the set and toward the exit. “No one has ever stood up for me before… Not like that.”

“I find that hard to believe.” William smiled.

“It seems no matter how hard I work here, no one respects me. All of the late hours…the years.” She shook her head and bit her lip, her mind reeling as it spiraled toward a blackhole of obscurity. “I’m sorry, Dr. Hork. None of your concern.”

William abruptly halted their progress and turned to meet Sarah’s eye. His beard twitched as he contemplated words.

“Each morning you encounter complete chaos in that studio. You have no idea of what problems may arise, but I know you have the ability to handle them once they do.”

Sarah’s face flushed and her eyes began to well as she read the sincerity on William’s face.

“The world outside of this building is no different,” William continued. “Respect is earned, not only through hard work but with compassion and sound decisions. Somehow that man became a vice president, but I assure you that no one respects him.”

Sarah waged a war with her composure, nodding intently at William’s words while emotion undermined her self-control.

“Each time I visit this station, you are consumed by wanting to give your best effort. You motivate people by never underestimating their intelligence and holding them accountable when they don’t meet expectations. You’ve earned my respect, Sarah.”

Before she could stop herself, Sarah sprang and wrapped Dr. Hork in her arms. She hugged him tightly, burying her face deep into his chest. “Thank you.” She whispered, unable to hold her tears.

William Hork and Sarah O'Callaghan. She is looking upon him longingly. Image created by Adobe Firefly.

Pressed against him, a waterfall of resolution cleansed her mind. Every bit of uncertainty, embarrassment, and humiliation deep inside was replaced with warmth. Serenity. The embrace was a baptism, and William’s hold washed away each of her insecurities. If only for a moment, his attention reinvigorated her and gave her all she needed to face the executives in the studio once more.

William broke her grip and held her by the forearms. “Well, my dear, another top-notch interview.” He jested.

“Stop it, Dr. Hork…” Sarah wiped stray tears from her cheek with her sleeve. “I’m so juvenile…” she was unable to contain her smile. She then proceeded to lead William the rest of the way down the hall and to his dressing room. “Thank you again for doing the interview this morning. I know the network was beside themselves to get you. And, well, so was I...”

William laughed, pleased that Sarah had regained her composure. “I could care less about the network, but as long as I made your day…” He winked.

“Would you like anything else? Coffee? Water? Man of the Year Award?” She teased as they stood in the doorway.

“Man of the Year? Are they still giving those out?” William returned her humor.

“I am…” She rose to her tiptoes and peered over William’s shoulders to see if they were alone.

William closed his eyes and hesitated, letting out a small breath of air as she accidentally brushed against him with her chest. “You better get back, my dear. They need you.”

Sarah too hesitated and then nodded, returning his smile. This was the game they played each time he visited the station. While she did adore him and reveled in his presence, her advances never went beyond harmless flirting. He had the ability to completely knock her off her feet and she feared asking for anything more would make the whole thing disappear.

Sarah’s hair flipped as she turned back toward the studio, clipboard still in hand. William remained in the dressing room doorway, allowing his gaze to follow her down the hallway. The effortless bounce had returned to her step, and she turned back to give a subtle good-bye. William nodded.

Releasing the rest of the air from his chest, William turned and entered the dressing room. Confronted by a plush, black leather couch, his eye cocked and his legs became marble pillars. He gave a moment to allow his mind to wandered, looking deep within the opportune spot for misadventures. A cinematic lover’s epic flicker behind his eyes, consumed by the endless possibilities of taking his flirtation with Sarah to its fruition. The intense passion, the power, the satisfaction. But, the story always ended with his wife and the crescendo of the inevitable hell she would reign upon them. The lengths she would go to ruin the life of their illegitimate child.

“Maybe… Maybe when I wasn’t quite as wise.” He smirked to himself and then gathered his briefcase.

Sarah, a tv production assistant at a local news station in Denver.
Wayne Sherman, a network tv executive.
Wayne Sherman, humiliated by Dr. William Hork. Image created by Adobe Firefly.
William Hork and Sarah O'Callaghan. Image created by Adobe Firefly.