“Every death even the cruellest death drowns in
the total indifference of Nature/Nature herself
would watch unmoved if we destroyed the entire
Peter Weiss (1964)
The twisted coil of DNA - representing the code of life - splits down the
middle of the tightly wound helix like rungs of a spiral ladder breaking under the
weight of a heavy body. Base pairs are ripped apart. The cell writhes and contorts
with the exposed and isolated DNA strands awash in the primordial soup of the
cell's nucleus. RNA attaches to the DNA as lonely strands find their opposite
partners and base pairs link in an ecstasy of reunion. The genetic information is
copied to the RNA which then separates from the DNA and races off to carry out
its function of protein synthesis. In this manner the genetic information contained
in DNA is copied and utilized to form proteins, enzymes, organs and tissue.
During meiosis, or sexual reproduction, DNA forms distinct chromosomes
within the cell’s nucleus. As the cell divides to become an ova or sperm, one half
of each chromosome pair ends up in a daughter cell. With the haploid number, or
one-half the usual number of chromosomes, each cell has all the information
required to create a new being when combined with a sex cell from another
individual of the same species. Only then can the miracle continue.
At the moment the sperm penetrates the ovum the resulting zygote again
contains the full complement of chromosomes. The DNA begins a dance of life.
Chromosome pairs match up, bringing together characteristics from each parent to
create a new and absolutely unique individual.
Mitosis, or non-sexual division of the nucleus that produces daughter cells
identical to the parent, results in growth and regeneration of cells in a body.
During these fragile times, when cells are dividing sexually or somatically,
the cell is the most vulnerable. Mutations can alter the form or function of the
cell, or of the proteins coded for by the DNA. Slow, orderly mutation causes
minor changes that alter the organism very slightly. If the mutation is beneficial,
the organism flourishes and by natural selection passes the change onto its
offspring. If not, the organism is not successful, either in living or reproducing.
This evolution has proceeded for millions of years, changing and improving the
life forms that inhabit the Earth.
These mutations are caused by many factors, natural and unnatural.
Natural causes include cosmic radiation or genetic accidents. In modern life, more
frequent or serious mutations can occur; caused by drugs, environmental
pollution, chemicals in food or water, or strong radiation.
Sometimes these mutations can lead to deadly malignancies. And if the
mutagen is strong enough, may sometimes lead to something worse - something
much worse …. something monstrous.
August 18 - 1030 a.m.
Society Islands, South Pacific Ocean
Sleek and beautiful, and gleaming white against the azure ocean, the Sea
Witch sliced through an early morning glassy sea at forty knots. Spray arced from
her bow, glittering with an untold number of tiny rainbow spectrums. In contrast
to the beauty of the tranquil sea, turmoil reigned on the yacht’s bridge as her
darkly handsome skipper paced nervously, running his fingers through his black,
wavy hair. Apprehensive about yesterday’s unexpected encounter with a Chinese
gunboat, he checked the GPS to ensure they were on course, and for the twentieth
time glanced fearfully at the radar screen, searching for any evidence that the
Chinese ship was still in the area.
It remained clear.
Alphonse Carelli was an excitable, hot-tempered Italian and was easily
rattled by unexpected events. Yesterday’s experience with the gunboat had left
him frantic. He had tossed and turned all night, worried he might be prevented
from delivering his valuable cargo to its final destination. The Chinese vessel,
which had been detected by the yacht’s radar while still several miles away, had
no authority in these waters and absolutely no fathomable reason for being here.
“What the hell is he doing down here? We’re thousands of miles from
China, for Christ’s sake!” Alphonse complained to his first mate Paul Jeter. A
man of few words, Jeter had just shrugged his massive shoulders and headed
After picking up the load of drugs in the Philippines the Sea Witch had
traveled east along the equator and then turned southeast toward French
Polynesia. Carelli’s plan was to spend leisure time in Bora Bora and Tahiti to
divert suspicion. He loved powerboats, this one in particular. This was his second
smuggling run using this craft and he was taking full advantage of these trips to
live a life of luxury while sailing the South Seas. This latest assignment,
smuggling the largest shipment of heroin his boss had ever imported into the
United States was going to make him a rich man. Ricky Wong, after many years
as a small time crook, was quickly becoming one of the most powerful Asian
Mafia bosses on the west coast and Carelli was hoping to rise right along with
After two weeks of sailing between the islands, with Alphonse and his wife diving and snorkeling in the blue-green waters around Moorea and lounging
on pristine white beaches, the Witch had left the Society Islands sailing east. They
avoided normal shipping lanes and were planning on swinging north to approach
the west coast of the United States from the South. Yesterday, just as lunch was
being served, and while still in an uninhabited portion of the South Pacific they
had encountered the Chinese ship.
The yacht’s captain, Cecil Jameson, notified Alphonse they had picked up the vessel on the radar. It was traveling toward them at high speed. From the ship’s fly bridge Alphonse and Jeter watched with dread as the gunmetal gray military vessel approached, bouncing over the waves, until it began to slow off their port bow. “You don’t think he’s been tracking us, do you?” Carelli asked Jeter.
“How the fuck would I know?” He replied in his deep, gravelly voice. “You want me to break out the heat?” Jeter was six and a half feet of bulging muscle, with greasy, black hair protruding from under a filthy baseball cap. It hung down in front of his eyes and covered his ears. He wore dirty overalls with no shirt underneath, much to the chagrin of Captain Jameson and the rest of the immaculately attired crew. Jeter was always itching for a fight, and the thought of a battle - with weapons blazing, had caused his eyes to shine with excitement in the intense, early afternoon sunshine.
“No! Are you an idiot? Look at the size of the guns on that baby!” Carelli had been
unable to drag his gaze away from the rapidly approaching vessel. He spoke as if to a child, “Remember, we’re just a pleasure boat cruising the South Seas for recreation. Go tell the captain and crew that everybody’s to stay cool and look casual.” He ordered Jeter away with a flip of his hand. “What the hell’s a Chinese ship doing down here, anyway?” he repeated. In very real danger of pissing his pants, he anxiously awaited the ship’s arrival.
Jeter went below. He preferred the dark recesses of the lower decks and the engine room to the bright upper levels. He was prepared, if necessary, to break open the hidden, highly illegal stash of automatic weapons. Jeter couldn’t care less what Carelli thought. There was no way he was going to rot in a Chinese prison, and he didn’t care if he and everyone else had to die in a hail of bullets to prevent it.
The yacht’s crew came on deck ready to prepare her for boarding, but the military ship drew alongside, and to Alphonse’s immense relief, didn’t demand either to board or to search her. The Chinese captain, speaking perfect English with almost no accent, warned Alphonse to leave the vicinity immediately. “Yes sir, is there some kind of a problem we should know about?” Alphonse asked deferentially.
The captain wouldn’t elaborate, but indicated that Alphonse and his vessel would be at extreme risk if he didn’t comply. Apparently in a hurry themselves, they swung their ship away from the Witch, gunned their engines and departed at high speed, their ship producing a wake that caused the massive yacht to roll sickeningly.
Alphonse’s trembling legs gave out and he’d slumped into a deck chair, relieved that the huge shipment of heroin, concealed in the space between a false hull and the real one, had not been discovered. This smuggling run from Southeast Asia to the United States was going to bail him out of debt and make him an extremely wealthy man. His concealed cargo was worth over fifty million dollars and after cutting would be worth even more on the street. Providing this trip was successful, and the heroin delivered to the various dealers, Ricky would sell him the Witch and make him a partner, and there would be many more lucrative ocean crossings in his future.
If it wasn’t successful, the Federal government would confiscate the yacht, his wife
would leave him, and if the government didn’t kill him, Ricky would. This job, a joint venture between him and Ricky Wong, was his last chance and he paled at the thought that he came so close to blowing it.
Arrangements had already been made to divide the goods prior to reaching domestic waters. Smaller vessels would rendezvous with the Sea Witch off the coast of Mexico, and taking separate routes, would deliver their expensive cargo to various west coast ports. The shipment was of very high quality and was promised to drug lords in three major cities. Money laundering had already been arranged and Alphonse Carelli would soon be a rich businessman living in luxury in San Francisco.
Unfortunately, soon after the gunboat disappeared over the horizon, a malfunction of one of their turbine engines brought them to a halt, and they’d drifted overnight while Jeter and the mechanical crew made repairs. This morning found them only a few miles from the location where they’d encountered the Chinese gunboat the previous day.
It probably wouldn’t have mattered.
An Intercontinental Ballistic missile screamed through the upper atmosphere, having reached the highest point of its trajectory in a matter of minutes. Eight thousand miles down range it bloomed like a deadly flower, sending out five blossoms, each with independent propulsion and guidance systems, and each independently targeted for a predetermined atoll, or tiny uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean.
As Carelli continued his pacing, the sea had become restless, with winds kicking up and previously gentle swells becoming whitecaps. The captain reduced speed slightly and with no indication of the gunboat on the radar, and much to the captain’s relief, Alphonse left the bridge around eleven a.m. to find his wife.
Marci Carelli, tall, tanned and beautiful, turned over on her chaise lounge, exposing her shapely nude backside to the sun as the brilliant orb showered her with golden rays from almost directly overhead.
“Alphonse, honey, put some lotion on my back.” Her voice was deep, sensuous.
He came over and sat beside her on the edge of her chaise, leaning down and kissing the back of her neck, breathing in the lotion’s sweet coconut aroma. They looked good together. His handsome Italian features, and dark hair and eyes, contrasted with her pale blue eyes and long blonde hair that cascaded over the chaise’s edge and spilled onto the deck. He squirted lotion into his hand and applied it to her back, working his way down to her buttocks where his hand lingered, caressing.
He gently pulled aside her hair and kissed behind her ear, speaking softly, feeling his own arousal, “You’re going to be the wife of a very rich man, my sweet. In another month we’ll have everything we’ve ever wanted.” He continued to rub the slippery oil on her tanned back. “You know that exquisite white Mediterranean mansion on the hill? I’m going to buy it for you.”
“Oh Alphonse, I love that house! Can you really afford it?” She flipped over, tossing
back her hair and squinting in the bright sunlight as she grinned up at him excitedly.
Suddenly the daylight became infinitely brighter. Marci threw her arm across her face as the fierce light stabbed her eyes, temporarily blinding her.
“What the fuck?” Alphonse jumped up and ran to the rail, his arm held aloft, shielding his eyes from the brilliance. Within seconds the dazzling light faded and Alphonse stood in awe, his mouth hanging open, as he saw a gigantic explosion in the distance. An incredibly huge waterspout was climbing skyward as the ocean vaporized, was superheated, and was sucked upward into a billowing, incandescent fireball; a radiant orange, yellow and angry purple inferno surrounded by roiling gray and white clouds of steam and gases. The column of water grew, an impossible amount of water traveling upward, spreading out into a churning mushroom-shaped cloud that quickly blotted out the sunlight and plunged the day into night. He gripped the rail with all his strength.
“Oh God! Full speed ahead!” he screamed stupidly. His ears popped from the gigantic overpressure created by the blast.
He never heard the explosion.
The sound trailed far behind the light, heat, and radiation. Vacuum created by the rapidly rising and expanding gases jerked the yacht forward, drawing it downward into an enormous trough created in the sea, and then forward toward the growing maelstrom, nearly tearing his grip from the rail.
“No, no, stop!” he screamed, leaning backward, pulling on the rail as if, with his feeble strength, he could keep the yacht from the blast.
Within seconds, as though struck by a giant’s backhand, the Witch slammed to a stop.
He heard Marci’s terrified screams as she, her chair, and everything that wasn’t tied down flew past him, sucked toward the spreading column. He was smashed against the railing, hanging on for his life . . . when something on the surface caught his eye.
“Sweet mother of God!” he whimpered. A wall was racing toward him with blinding
speed, a looming tsunami of water and steam, cerulean blue capped with frothing white.
Searing thermal radiation from the rapidly expanding fireball reached Alphonse. His
clothing melted and fused to his flesh. His hair disintegrated, and flash burns blistered, bubbled and blackened his exposed skin. The leading edge of the concussion wave, traveling unbelievably fast, blasted him and the entire yacht to molecules as the firestorm continued to spread outward from the blast, obliterating everything in its path.
The vacuum above continued to fill with water, gases and steam, until gravity reasserted itself and millions of tons of radioactive water came crashing back to earth, sending shock waves through the ocean, wave after wave, spreading out in pursuit of the retreating concussion front.
The target atoll was gone.