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This Friday night I am doing homework. It is something of a reverse of the old image of a student muddling through a creative writing assignment, stretched out on the bed beneath the high school pennants on the walls and sneaking comic books out from under a volume of You & the Participial Phrase or whatever it is you are plagiarizing. In this case, the comic books are Realm of Chaos and Eye of Terror from the Warhammer 40,000 series, a popular role-playing game that my son explains to me is not really an RPG, a distinction I can't make out. These are the textbooks I should be working from, but I keep eyeing Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Craft of Fiction. I have been promising Jason for months that I will learn the game and play it with him on-line, each of us in our respective bedrooms, maybe three feet from each other on opposite sides of the same wall. I have been putting him off because, among other reasons, it is complicated. I have been driven to it tonight because I have come to suspect that his fascination with the game may be rife with clues as to the world he inhabits mentally for most of the day and quite possibly a good deal of his dream time. Any entrée into my son's world must be pursued. I feel like Dr. Robert Lindner in The Fifty-Minute Hour, in the chapter he calls "The Jet-Propelled Couch," in which he enters a patient's delusional world in a risky attempt to expose its flaws.

On the game table I have a cheap Tijuana trinket, a reproduction of a Mayan pyramid, the one at Chichén Itzá, which in this case represents the Golden Throne.

For zealous aficionados, my apologies; I am sure to have much of my scenario inaccurate.

In the chthonic years of the 40,000-year war, the Emperor's son, the Warmaster, Horus, has imprisoned the Grand Lord of the Imperium. Horus is a monster of Chaos. For Chaos read "Evil." For the Imperium, I am reading the kingdoms of both Heaven and Earth. I am still very new to the overwhelming volumes of material my son has on the history, sociology, strategies, uprisings, and counter-uprisings, vast, space-faring wars et cetera, but I can find no single name for the bound Emperor. For my purposes, I am thinking of Horus's father as me, for one, and God for another. Horus is like a fallen Lucifer, his father's favorite. Both have been out of the picture for some 10,000 years before any action or play begins between participants.

My son is Abbadon, a mercenary for Chaos, selected for his "buff physique" and "cool Chaos armor." Abbadon is often transported into battle surrounded with Terminators -- not exactly Arnold types. Abbadon wields a great sword and a lightning claw.

My incarnation for the coming battle is Rogal Dorn (selected for his access to the Emperor in the mists of time and his bitchin' name, which I may adopt on a more permanent basis). Purists may say I cannot do this because Dorn would be an anachronism or something, but I have it all worked out with icy, geometric, crystalline logic.

As Dorn I have enlisted the aid of Sound Marines, the Eldar (an Elvin race with certain emotional qualities key to my plan), and Psykers. The Psykers have psionic abilities, also key to my plan.

The Emperor is in a morally ambiguous limbo in the Golden Throne and has been bound that way for millennia. To ward off complete obliteration from the forces of Chaos, he must sacrifice thousands of Psykers every year. Why he has to do this and why Psykers is unclear to me as yet and may bring ruin upon my plan. This much is clear, the Emperor may be a god, but not a very good one; his son is not divine but a porcine and brutish monster, a creature of Chaos whose legacy has terrorized the Imperium for time immemorial.

As Dorn I have utilized the Trojan horse ruse, and this will test my son's memory of this ploy (I related it to him myself years ago). A Leviathan, robot-like device known as a Carnifex (a tank or personnel carrier), has been secured by my men, and several of my Psykers have been rounded up in a phony sweep to be taken to the Throne for execution. Under cover of a troupe of actors (Harlequins, who reenact the awakening of an obscure, ancient god, Slaanesh), they are brought within the mystic walls of the Golden Throne, where His Imperial Vagueness and I await them. Upon their arrival after the staged skirmish tomorrow morning, they will disembark from the Carnifex and immediately employ a spell to allow the Eldar (Jason has a certain affection for these Elves that I can use here) and Harlequin players to enrapture the army of guards who keep watch over the Emperor, kept in a half life/half death state by magical means. This rapture will, I hope, set the stage for something like a conversation between Hamlet and his father -- or Oedipus and his dad.

If this all seems like frustratingly complex nonsense, you have no idea. I have to be convincing every step of the way in order to orchestrate the possibility of a seemingly primal confrontation between father and son.

If the Harlequin can argue for the literal resurrection of whoever Slaanesh is, I will argue (as the Eldar Elves) for the possibility of bringing the Emperor and the long-defunct Horus into a mystical circle or chamber (whatever the hell it is), where they may speak openly of their atrophied emotions.

You see, I am betting on the appeal of the freakish but powerful Horus to the players of this best-selling game as having the same root appeal that aliens (such as, say Michael Valentine Smith from Stranger In a Strange Land or E.T. ) in the field of sci-fi have in general. Readers/viewers identify with everything from bug-eyed-monsters (Alien, Predator -- just power-fantasy versions of bad-ass little brats akin to Chucky) to more sympathetic humanoid-type aliens because they themselves -- as teenagers mostly, emotionally anyway -- feel alienated all the time.

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