Sitting at a desk with pen in hand. "It's us against the world." "Watch out, America."

The circle of faces tightens. The air seems heavy. No one breathes. This could be the start of a new world era. One wrong word and it could be the end of this one, and it is impossible to say which outcome is worse.

Moonlight drips in through the window. "Just start it," someone whispers. A hand reaches in and drops the precious sheets of paper on the desk. Only two. One chance to mess up, and that's only if the writing is small...

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He had hoped it wouldn't come to this. Making a strategic withdrawal into a tunnel, luring in the rest of the elite squadron that pursued him to pick them off two or three at a time now that they were forced into tighter quarters. He had not heard the sound of the train from far off, and figured he had the time to keep running, slash a few soldiers, put some distance between them, and repeat.

The tunnel was deceptively longer than he presumed.

He ducked beneath the spray of incoming bullets before making a horizontal slash, Rihatsu cleaving through...

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Bobby had lived in his imagination as a child. Within the universe of his mind, he was an action hero, an iron-willed daredevil. He could meet any challenge, snatch victory from the jaws of any defeat, bravely pull off any stunt.

Now that he was older, he was learning more and more that he would probably never trade tracer bullets with South American guerillas, or infiltrate the secret Appalachian hideout of a band of communist child kidnappers, or balance on the hood of a car, guns blazing, while pursuing Somalian bank thief pirates across a perilous frozen lake.

But maybe,...

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A swing. I found my self under one as i awoke to the devestation. Fires raged every which way, how the playground was not on fire I will never know. I decided to walk out, mostly out of fear, and I was horrified with my decision. Right outside the playground, where children played not so long ago, were burned, rotting corpses. They layed therewith out motion, without life, but not without smell. As i hurried back to the playground to retch, I saw out of the corner of my eyes. A woman. Dazed and confused as i was, but still...

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The lead ninja laughs. "You are a fool, Senzi," he says through his mask. "Never make a boast that you cannot back up with action!"

They have me surrounded, five on each side, and one nimbly crouching on the tracks behind me, ready to leap away once the train came too close. I had no such route to safety; the points of their katanas promised a quick death should I stray from the rails.

All I have is my own katana, and my pride.

The ninjas continue to mock and jeer. I will be dead in seconds, they think. I...

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The hunter followed, exposing himself. Edwin noted his height and confident stride. Their battle would be violent and difficult; but only if the hunter could catch him first.

As soon as he cleared the crowd at the train station he broke into a run, dashing past street vendors and through alleyways, zig-zagging across the city in an attempt to lose his pursuer.

After ten minutes, he paused at the mouth of an alley, leaning over to catch his breath. At the other end, a car went by ... then another ... then the hunter's silhouette appeared again. Slowly and deliberately,...

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Gavin was gloating. "Enjoy your final moments, Kevin ... maybe use them to wonder how I found you. Good-bye ..."

He dismissively gestured at Paul, his personal bodyguard and hitman. Paul, with an expression of a stone, drew a nine-millimeter out of his coat and pointed it at me.

I had to stop him. "Paul, I can give you two very good reasons not to pull that trigger."

Paul said nothing. But he also did nothing. "First: I know where Kendra is."

That got his attention. He still didn't move, though. "She's in China, which you probably already know, but...

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With a roar of displaced air and grinding gears, the blast shields protecting the gun emplacements retracted, and the defensive batteries opened fire. A river of hot lead and explosive ordnance spewed forth at the oncoming creature.

It barely stumbled. What didn't explode harmlessly against its armored carapace whistled by as its eldritch powers deflected the bulk of the barrages.

Attack helicoptors and missile-laden jets zoomed by, but they were mere gnats to the attacker. It lumbered ever closer to the fortress.

General Davis grimaced as a swipe of its claws downed an entire Blackhawk squadron. It wouldn't be long...

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, Nevada. The most nondescript town imaginable. Even the dust had dust. The air was dry, and it was hardly ever cloudy.

A convenience store with a broken sign in this dull town would prove to be the battleground. Mr. Block arrived first, slowly perusing the landscape, planning ahead, preparing for the confrontation. Satisfied, he entered the store to buy a candy bar.

Mr. Arc came next. He'd been following Block his whole life, in a chase that had ruined countless others, never gaining ground, never getting closer. Until today.

Sparks flew from his hands as he increased the voltage...

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"Come on, Brad," she sighed. "Can't you be serious once in your life?"

"Maybe," he said. "We may not know for sure until I'm dead, though."

"This is really important," she told him. "We have to defuse this nuclear bomb before the silo doors open and Dr. Malevolence's computer virus launches it and starts World War III."

"You know, I'm not totally convinced," Brad argued. "How many viruses work perfectly when they're released? Writing viruses is hard, you know. Even evolution needs to try billions of times to get it right."

"You really want to risk the fate of the...

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