Levi Xu Dangchao was discussing plans with Pope Pius XIII, who had only been in office for a little longer than Dangchao himself had been U.N. Secretary General. They were in the Pope's private residence in Jerusalem.


"The head is due to be placed on the statue in front of the cathedral tomorrow morning. Is that right?"


"Yes, it is," replied Pius. "It was cast yesterday, and it's being delivered today."


"I have a different head for it," Dangchao announced flatly.


"Another head?" the Pope asked in amazement. "What do you mean? Why do we need a different head?"


"What I mean is that I have had another head cast for the statue, and I want you to use it instead."


"But why? What's wrong with the one we had planned to use?"


"What's wrong with it?" Dangchao said to himself, as though searching for an answer. He looked out the window for a moment, to add a little drama to what was to follow, and then he said it again, sarcastically and slowly. "What's wrong with the head that Pius commissioned?"


He turned around slowly and faced Pope Pius. His face had changed. It was hideously contorted. And his voice was deep and raspy.


"What's wrong is that it isn't me!" he growled.


Pius drew back in fear. "Xu! What's happening to you?" he asked. "Your face...!"


Dangchao relaxed, and his face returned to its usual handsome calmness.


"Do you like this one better?" he asked.


"You scared me," said the Pope, relieved to see Dangchao return to normal.


"That was my intention," Dangchao replied. "A lot of people trust me, Pius. You trust me, don't you?" Pius nodded hesitantly, although he was not so sure anymore.


"But I would rather have you fear me," said Dangchao. "I would rather have them all fear me.


"And they will," he added as an afterthought.


Pius tried to swing things back to the original subject. "What does this have to do with the statue of the Blessed Virgin?" he asked.


Dangchao spoke softly, as though speaking to a child. "It has everything to do with the statue, Pius. You see, it's not going to be a statue of the Blessed Virgin. It's going to be a statue of me."


"I don't know if that would be appropriate," the Pope replied. The church had no problems with making statues of saints; and Dangchao might one day be honoured as such. But this particular statue was to be one of the biggest the church had ever made, and it was only right that the Queen of Heaven should be the one honoured, and not the Secretary General of the United Nations, even if he was widely regarded as the greatest leader the world had ever known.


"Do you want to see my other face again?" Dangchao asked, once more speaking down to the Pope, as though threatening a child. "You see, I'm not asking you. I'm telling you.


"You have your cathedral, as I promised, and you have your seat here in Jerusalem. But I expect to take my seat here too; and it will be as I say it should be."


Then, just for a moment, the hideous face reappeared. There was a cold chill in the room, and Pope Pius was overcome with a sense of fear that was so real he could almost reach out and touch it.


"Do you understand?" rumbled the creature that Dangchao had suddenly become.


"Yes... yes! I understand," Pius said, trembling in fear.


But he did not understand. And how would he ever explain it to the rest of the world?


"You'll see," said Dangchao, when the question had been asked, and when he was back to his normal self. "They'll accept it, just as you have accepted it. They may not like it, but they'll accept it. And they'll accept a lot more before we're finished."


Dangchao then proceeded to explain to the Pope what Pius' role was to be in the new regime.


"The chief purpose of religion has always been to enforce the legitimacy of the ruling powers," Dangchao explained. "And your role will be no different.


"The only thing that has changed in the present stage of evolution is that I am going to take off my mask. I'm tired of this hypocrisy. I want people to see me as I really am, and I want them to fear me."


It was slowly dawning on Pius that he was talking, face to face, with the one they called the "Antichrist". The church had always played down such things. They did not like to worry the superstitious masses. But now Pius was being confronted by the real thing; and he had not been adequately equipped to deal with such an experience.


So he had been tricked into making the move to Jerusalem. He was there only for the purpose of propping up the rule of this evil man... if Dangchao really was a man.


But Pius could not go back to Rome now. And even if he tried, would Dangchao let him? He had experienced only a few seconds of the terror that Dangchao was able to inflict just through his presence, and he knew instinctively that this Beast was not going to loosen his grasp easily. He was Dangchao's slave, and there was no way out.


He would watch for an opportunity to use his position to accomplish something good, of course; but for the time being, he had no choice. He must co-operate.


The new head arrived for the statue, and Pius was further disturbed to see that it was Dangchao's hideous face and not his real one. Or was the hideous face the real one?


Dangchao himself answered that question in another one of his patient classes with Pius later the following day.


"In order to get where I am today," he explained, "I have had to wear many masks. And all of them have at least appeared to be good people.


"But I'm not a nice person. I don't want people even thinking that I'm a nice person. I want them to fear me. I want to be able to control them. And I want to be able to do it without having to pretend to be nice.


"You see, Pius, that is the true test of power. Anyone can control people who trust them. But I want to be able to control people who fear me. You fear me, don't you?"


Pius had no choice but to contradict his earlier confession of faith in Dangchao and to nod in agreement with this new assessment of his relationship to the world ruler.


"Yes, you fear me," Dangchao said with a wicked smile. "You are even now looking for a way to escape. But there is none, is there? Where would you go? I control the world, and I am able to do it even when people like yourself would rather that I did not.


"I have been able to achieve that control through the Mark... through my Mark," he bragged.


Pope Pius looked puzzled, but he did not dare to voice his question. Nevertheless, Dangchao guessed what he was thinking.


"You question whether the Mark is truly mine?" he asked. "But that is because you continue to see the mask and you forget the reality behind it. Dangchao's face is not my face, Pius. You have seen the real me. Do I look like Dangchao? Of course not. I merely took advantage of his body.


"Oh, he co-operated beautifully with me before he died, as you yourself, and your predecessors before you, have done so often over the years. But it was only after his untimely death that I took total control of his body.


"But the Mark... I have been working on that for millennia. It is the symbol of mankind's dependence on me, and it is nearing completion. Yes, Pius, it's my mark, and I control the world with it."


Dangchao commanded the Pope to decree that the whole world should worship him, and that they should worship his image. The image of Mary in front of the Cathedral of the Divine Creation was to become the image of Dangchao, or rather the image of the Beast behind Dangchao.


"Don't be so sanctimonious," Dangchao argued, when Pius said it would be blasphemous. "You've been worshipping Mary for centuries, and she's far less divine than I am. The masses never complained about being told that Mary was God's Mother? So if you could get them to believe that whopper, why can't you just say that you've had a revelation that I'm God's Father?"


And at that, Dangchao broke into a fit of demonic laughter that chilled Pope Pius XIII to the bone.