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Don Pendleton

Doomsday Disciples

The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.

Joseph Conrad

Men never do evil so completely and so cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.

Pascal

It is not up to me to judge a man's religion. I leave that to the Universe. But when religion is perverted, twisted by the savages, it's time for man to give the gods a hand.

Mack Bolan, The Executioner (from his journal)

Prologue

Mack Bolan never had the time to adopt an organized religion. The son of church-going parents, as a youth he drifted from the rituals and trappings of the faith and sought a universal truth in his own place and time. He saw enough bigotry and persecution in his travels to recognize that demagogues habitually use religion as a cloak for their fanaticism. The cross inverted was a bloody sword, and he knew that holy wars were often the most vicious and unholy.

Not that Bolan was an atheist — far from it. He believed devoutly in the concept of Good and Evil battling for the hearts and minds of men. From adolescence he was a volunteer combatant in that ageless war, striking when and where he could against the cannibals and savages. Bolan was his brother's keeper, endlessly at war, offering his future as a sacrifice to the common, universal Good.

And in that sense, he was a deeply religious man. The holy warrior, standing guard on a grim frontier.

As a military strategist, he recognized the role of organized religion in the history of human conflict.

From the earliest Crusades to the ongoing conflict in Ireland and the Middle East, God and doctrines have provided motivation for the massacre of countless millions. No cause ever rallied men to arms with such predictable efficiency as a call to strike against the infidel, the unbeliever.

America has seen her share of doctrinal dissension. The Founding Fathers were refugees of persecution — Catholics in Maryland, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Puritans in Massachusetts — building a sanctuary for their own unorthodox beliefs. Some who sought a new world of tolerance would launch inquisitions of their own, but in the end they were all Americans, united in the pursuit of freedom. Together they forged a Bill of Rights, beginning with a guarantee of liberality, the fundamental right to worship, to believe, without fear of government harassment.

Along the way, there were some who willfully mistook their freedom for a kind of license. Bigots and borderline fanatics, celebrity saviors with a keener eye for profits than prophecy, the Constitution sheltered all of them.

There is a line that divides holy men and harmless cranks from other, more sinister practitioners. When the mask of worship crumbles to reveal corruption, when minds and lives are twisted and manipulated, primal laws of preservation and survival supersede the Bill of Rights.

Mack Bolan was a master at survival, dedicated to protecting and preserving Man the Builder. He carried the cleansing fire to Asia in his youth and brought it back home to purge another band of savages. That fire consumed his old identity and he rose from the ashes as 'Colonel John Phoenix,' then embarked on another bloody mile of War Everlasting.

Bolan knew there were limits to a single warrior's capabilities. He also knew a fighting man could lose a battle by concentrating on his limitations. Defeatism had no place in his personal philosophy.

War was the game; survival was the game's real goal. The Executioner was staying hard, staying large.

1

North of San Francisco, the fog rolls in at night like silent smoke across the water, rising from the bay and crawling inland. It devours everything, muffling sounds and making simple movements a ghostly dance. The chill it carries creeps inside a man, penetrating flesh and bone, fastening upon the soul.

The fog is neutral, unfeeling, but men invest it with the qualities of friend or foe. To police and firefighters, motorists and airline pilots, the mist is an enemy, bothersome at best, a potential killer. To others, men and women who transact their lives in darkness, away from prying eyes, it can be a trusted ally.

The fog was friendly to Mack Bolan. He wore it like a cloak and let it shelter him. Secrecy was everything, and the canny warrior thanked the universe for any helping hand.

He was counting on the famous San Francisco fog, knowing the mission couldn't wan, and this time the cards fell his way. Weather did not make the penetration simple, but it shaved the odds a little, made the risk acceptable.

Bolan reached a six-foot-high retaining wall and paused, resting his back against the cool stone surface. Daytime reconnaissance had showed him the wall completely circled a thirty-acre estate. The wall ensured privacy, but posed little difficulty for determined infiltrators; he could scale it easily.

Bolan had skinned into his black night-fighting outfit away from the scene, donning it in the privacy of the night. He had strapped on the web belts, hooking the holster of the lethal AutoMag onto his right side. A shoulder holster for the Beretta was next.

The AutoMag made a heavy weight when he slid it into the leather hanging on his hip. A familiar, comforting weight for Colonel Hard.

Yeah, it was a big gun. Too big for most shooters to carry. Too much weight. Too much recoil.

But for Mack Bolan it was an appropriate weapon. It took a man like him to tame the big silver gun and adopt it as his head weapon.

There was no other automatic handgun in the world like the late model, series C, .44 AutoMag.

With even the short (for the AutoMag) 6-1/2' barrel, it was 11-1/2' in length. Unloaded, it weighed almost 4 pounds. It was constructed of stainless steel, reinforced at crucial points with titanium steel.

Seven fat .44 Magnums rode in the magazine. With another sitting in the chamber, eight powerful brain- busters simmered within the big guy's grasp.

Cartridges were so powerful that the big silver beauty required a rotary bolt with six locking lugs to contain the enormous explosive internal gas pressures generated when the shootist squeezed the trigger.

Like a rifle? It was as close to a rifle as any handgun could be. And adjustable rear sight made it as accurate as a bolt-action shoulder arm.

The cartridges were in fact cut down from 7.62 NATO brass cases and re-necked for a .44 slug. The bullet that Bolan preferred was a heavy 240-grain boattail that could tear through the solid metal of an automobile engine block.

Sure, it was a big gun. It was special. In the same way that Mack Samuel Bolan, the Executioner, now known as John Macklin Phoenix, was special. One of a kind.

This was a handgun designed for one purpose only: to take down the largest, toughest, most ferocious big

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