September 2005 Archives

Terra Mortis


By Dwayne MacInnes

It was now fall and the snow would soon be falling on the cabin. The small party had fallen into a routine. Though they had never been assaulted or discovered at the cabin they never let down their guard. Watches were rigorously maintained. The sergeant continued to train them in small arms and hand to hand combat. Brady and Sarge would sometimes go hunting for fresh meat.

It was still late spring when they reached the cabin in early June. So their first priority was to plant a small garden. They had a small yield, but the next year with a proper planting schedule and larger garden they hoped to increase that.

The food supply was still good. Sarge had brought a lot of canned goods for them to consume during the winter months. These were stored in the small root cellar amongst some preserves that Brady's mother always kept down there. They even found a small stash of Herbert West's fine imported wine.

The cabin was fortified having the lower story windows boarded up. Sarge suggested that they cut down the trees leading to and around the outhouse. This meant that the outhouse would be more visible from the cabin and therefore less dangerous to use. A small palisade was erected around the lawn and the outhouse. A watch tower was added to the roof of the cabin. It could be accessed only from inside the cabin. Fire wood was chopped and stored all summer for the wood burning stove that would heat the interior of the cabin and serve as their cooking appliance.

That Thanksgiving the small group had a lot to be thankful for. The table was full of game and their own grown vegetables. A good French wine was the drink of choice. A pumpkin pie was cooling for desert. Nori read from the book of Psalms.

"You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to you, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever. Psalm 30:11-12. Amen," Nori concluded

The rest of the group raised their heads and began passing around dishes of food. The sound of laughter and clinking dishes resounded throughout the interior of the cabin as snow started to softly drift down from the skies.

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The Bounty

Part 3

Essdy began the final part of his story:

After a few days heading towards Thradlum, Eagle, Sparky and the Iguana II were about to enter orbit around that planet.

"'L', open a hailing frequency," Eagle asked his computer.

"I have Xeno-Minister Evor"

"Thanks 'L'. Minister, I am responding to the bounty for the Nimrov Commander David Daniels."

"How did you... Uh, very good."

"I await your landing coordinates to turn over this individual to the proper Thradlumite authorities."

"Uh, yes. Coordinates. Give me a couple of minutes," stumbled Minister Evor.

"I'm not going anywhere," replied Eagle confidently.

"I don't feel right about this," whimpered Sparky.

"Relax. They're a bit xenophobic. This is pretty standard for them."

"Relax? How can I relax? You're taking me to be arrested! How can I relax?"

"If you are innocent, as you claim, then you have nothing to fear."

"That doesn't make me feel any better!"

Minister Evor sent the landing coordinates to Eagle and he promptly landed at the prescribed location. Armed authorities, who were there to take Sparky Daniels into custody, met the ship. Eagle claimed exemption 27, so Sparky wasn't taken into custody, but held inside the Iguana II. This would give the two men more time to converse, and it would be far safer for Sparky. Who knows what would happen if the Thradlumites took him.

Eagle knew Commonwealth law pretty well, so he was going to act as Sparky's attorney. The fact that he knew about exemption 27, was enough to convince the Thradlum court. Thus, Commander Daniels had representation. The interaction between Eagle and the court put Sparky somewhat at ease, be he was still concerned.

Eagle excused himself to interrogate the witnesses. He was certain his friend had nothing to fear. Since this world was part of the Galactic Commonwealth, they couldn't convict him without additional witnesses. It would never come down to a 'he said, she said' scenario.

However, Eagle was hoping to clear this without any court intervention. He was anticipating a strong show from Commander Daniels's human counterparts who should be arriving in a few days. Eagle was going to try to have everything arranged by the time they arrived.

Eagle, using the Galactic standard gestural language, questioned the princess's staff. The princess herself would not be available for questioning. He was very careful not to use his voice. It was a taboo for out-worlders to speak to native Thradlumites. However, the citizens permitted the use of sign language. This is how they conducted business on this isolated world.

The servants backed up the story of the Princess. They were a bit too precise in the series of events in Eagle's opinion. Someone had coached them. It was going to be a battle, but the Galactic Commonwealth would not let something like this to disrupt peace between Commonwealth worlds. He just hoped that the Nimrovs would be aware of this fact. A strong showing would be the key to Sparky's freedom. He didn't know what he would do if these humans did not cooperate with him.

The days waiting for the UNSS Connelly to arrive were spent investigating all possible angles to get Commander Daniels freed. Although he would never let on to Sparky, he was beginning to get worried. He might have to make a break for it with his bounty.

When Eagle wasn't nosing around Thradlum, he spent his time talking about old times with Sparky. He did it to relieve Sparky's misgivings about being there, and he did it for his own well-being. He missed his old friends, and it was good to spend time with one.

With Sparky there, Eagle also got some help with the voice of his computer. Sparky wasn't the best aid in the technical aspects of the voice system, but he remembered 'L's voice well. He knew when Eagle had it right. The two friends spent hours tweaking the computer voice, and reminiscing about their days at the Academy.

The days waiting for the Connelly went by quickly for Eagle and Sparky. However, the UNSS Connelly didn't fare as well. They had a bit of trouble and were nearly a day later arriving at Thradlum than Eagle had anticipated. They had a few narrow escapes from some asteroids and this slowed their trip considerably. The crew was exhausted when they arrived.

Unfortunately, the ship landed in the middle of the Thradlum night. The Thradlum department of Xeno affairs briefed Captain Connelly of the situation before Eagle could do anything. While Captain Caruthers was relieved that Commander Daniels was unharmed, he was a bit upset with Eagle Douglass. Certainly some of this anger was from their days at the Academy.

Instead of contacting Commander Daniels and his captor, Captain Connelly contacted Earth command. It was understandable since it was night where the Connelly and the Iguana II were stationed.

However, this caused a bit of a problem for Eagle. Contrary to Eagle's assumption, the United Nations of Earth's assembly decided that Sparky was expendable. They would allow the Thradlumites the opportunity to try Sparky in their court. With the court geared towards their way of doing things, this could only be bad news for Commander Daniels.

The next morning, Eagle noticed that the UNSS Connelly had finally arrived. Further, there was much activity around the ship, and this could only mean that Eagle wouldn't be able to brief Captain Caruthers before he spoke to the Thradlum bureau of xeno affairs. Eagle was beginning to think that fortune was frowning upon him.

However, Captain Caruthers wished to discuss the situation with Commander Daniels before making further contact with the Thradlumites. With his anger tucked behind his teeth, Captain Caruthers asked Captain Douglass to see the prisoner.

Eagle expected this formality, and he attempted to break the tension by giving Captain Caruthers a warm handshake.

"Hey Nige! Long time no see," started Eagle.

"I am Captain Caruthers of the UNSS Connelly," declared the serious Captain. "I formally request to see the prisoner."

"There are no prisoners on board my ship," explained Eagle.

"I formally request to see Commander David Daniels," insisted Captain Caruthers.

"Your formal request will be brought up at the next council meeting. However, Sparky has been anxious to speak to you," responded Eagle. "If you would like to have a friendly conversation with us, you are invited to do that. However, this is my vessel, and my rules apply. You must leave your Captain-ness outside of my ship."

"Your terms are unacceptable," replied Captain Caruthers.

"Listen Nige," started Eagle. "I know you, and you know me. The events that happened between us were a long time ago. It is time you let them go. We have a great deal to discuss, and your attitude will not do anyone any good. Get over your anger and let's have a conversation like grown-ups."

"I am Captain Caruthers," Captain Caruthers pointed out.

"Yes sir," responded Captain Douglass. "You will wait in this room and I will see if Commander Daniels is willing to grant you an audience."

"Thank you," replied Captain Caruthers.

Eagle realized that he wasn't going to be able to break the ice with Captain Caruthers without Sparky's presence. So, he roused Sparky from his sleeping quarters and briefed him on the situation. Neither of them knew what had transpired during the night. They needed to determine where they stood before they could devise a strategy to get Sparky released.

"Nigel is still upset with me," Eagle explained to Sparky. "He won't listen to anything I have to say, and I have a feeling he has been briefed by the Thradlumites. He may have even communicated with Earth. Therefore, you're going to have to do the talking. We need to know what has been said and to whom."

"Understood," replied Sparky. "It may help me get the correct information if I knew where this is headed."

"We don't have much time, but I'll make this quick," responded Eagle. "This attempted court action is a likely a ploy by the princess for attention. I don't know that for sure, but it is my best guess. If the Earth government stays strong, the Thradlumites will back down. This kind of incident would reflect badly upon the Thradlum world. However, if the inexperienced Earth government allows you to go to trial, then all parties concerned will look bad."

"So you want me to determine what the Earth council has indicated," clarified Sparky.

"Without question," Eagle said. "I also need you to convince Captain Caruthers that I should do all of the talking. I am your official counsel in the eyes of the Thradlum court. Captain Caruthers will likely say things that aren't in your best interest in this situation."

"He's my Captain..." started Commander Daniels.

"He is also inexperienced in dealing with Commonwealth nations. He won't be any help to your situation. We should go."

"You know," interjected Commander Daniels. "You got me in this situation."

"I'm sorry about that," excused Eagle. "I just wanted to spend some time with my old friend. I should have thought this through a little better, but time was limited. Nige! Look who is here to see you."

Captain Caruthers ignored the comment and spoke to Commander Daniels. They discussed the situation completely. Sparky was dismayed to learn that the Nimrov government found him expendable. His training and expertise meant nothing. He was just another useful but replaceable part in the space program.

It took some convincing, but Captain Caruthers finally agreed that Captain Douglass would speak for the Earth Council, the crew of the Connelly, and Commander Daniels.

Once it was all agreed, Sparky and Eagle went to the Office of Xeno Affairs. They were lucky and immediately got a meeting with Xeno-Minister Evor.

"The Government of Earth is quite upset," started Eagle. "They will not stand for this nonsense and demand that a arbitrator from the Galactic Commonwealth be summoned to preside over this matter."

"But Eagle," whispered Sparky. "That isn't what..."

"You're out of order Commander Daniels," interrupted Counselor Douglass.

"Sorry," squeaked Sparky.

"Minister, should we dispatch a communiqué to the Galactic Council?"

"Let's not be too hasty Counselor Douglass," Minister Evor began.

"From all indications," interjected Counselor Douglass. "This is a serious matter. Commander Daniels faces capital charges. I cannot think of any action that would be considered 'Hasty'!"

"Counselor Douglass," Minister Evor stated calmly. "May I call you Everett?"

"Certainly not!" exclaimed Eagle. "Your language understates how lightly you take this matter. Perhaps I need to take it to a higher authority."

"Counselor Douglass," Minister Evor continued. "I have complete authority on this ... situation. We can take care of this now. There is no need to bother the Galactic authorities."

"My client will not be bullied by some local court or any local officials," insisted Eagle. "We certainly will not bribe our way out of this entanglement."

"No no no, you misunderstood. It appears that the Princess was just looking for a little attention from her father. She made the whole story up. No one ever expected anyone to claim the bounty on Commander Daniels. You see, all of the charges have been dropped, and Commander Daniels is free to go."

"Just like that?" inquired Eagle.

"What?" asked Minister Evor.

"We are free to go just like that. We don't get a 'Sorry for the inconvenience'. My client doesn't get any compensation for the trouble he has just gone through."

"Counselor Douglass, you will receive the bounty as agreed," weaseled Minister Evor. "As for Commander Daniels, he will receive a written apology from the Princess. Is that satisfactory?"

"My client and I will discuss this in private," replied Counselor Douglass.

"Certainly," Minister Evor responded as he left the room.

"That was close," Sparky stated.

"Commander Daniels," Eagle said as he indicated that their conversation was being recorded. "Are the terms outlined by Minister Evor satisfactory?"

"While it is not a lot," Sparky replied woodenly. "It will do."

"Let's inform your Captain," Eagle continued.

Eagle received his bounty and gave the entire amount to Sparky. He explained that the money didn't mean a thing to him. Besides, Sparky could use some Commonwealth credits to buy something nice for Captain Caruthers.

Several weeks later Commander Daniels received his official apology from the Princess. Sparky uses that document as a reminder of the adventure he had. Since the Nimrov government thought he was expendable, he allowed someone else to take his place. He got out of the Nimrov exploration and diplomatic business and started his own company with the bounty money Eagle gave him.

"Another fine story Yarnspinner," stated the Thradlumite. "I would like to hear more about this Commander Daniels person. What business did he start? Yarnspinner? Hey tender, where did that story teller go?"

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The Case of the Anniversary Present

Part One

It started off as a normal day for the residence of Supervania. Of course, what was normal for this town would not be normal for most towns. It was going to be a hectic day for the mayor of Supervania. Mayorman would not soon forget this day. At least he hoped he wouldn't forget it because it was his wedding anniversary.

He arrived as usual to the Auditorium of Equitableness. It was early in the morning and he was ready for a normal busy day. His first meeting of the day was with the "League of Yes-Men." Unfortunately, only the Affirminator and the Seal of Approval could make the meeting. "That was hardly a 'League,'" thought the mayor.

"What can I do for the 'League'?" started the Mayor.

"Mayor," the Affirminator began. "You're doing a fabulous job."

"Arh Arh!" added the Seal of Approval.

"The 'League of Yes-Men' considers your leadership impeccable," continued the Affirminator.

"That is very nice of you to say," replied Mayorman. "However, I'm a very busy man. What did you wish to meet about?"

"Arh arh arh," the Seal of Approval began while nudging the Affirminator.

"Yes, I couldn't agree more," included the Affirminator.

"Uh," questioned the mayor. "Are you going to tell me what he said?"

"Yes Mr. Mayor, I certainly would like to," responded the Affirminator. "However, she's a she."

"I beg your pardon," blushed the mayor. "Are you going to tell me what she said?"

"Arh arh arh arh," clapped the seal.

"Of course," started the Affirminator. "However, I don't speak Seal."

"Is there are going to be any point to this meeting?" questioned Mayorman.

"Naturally ... we wouldn't waste your valuable time Mr. Mayor. However, the BootLicker and his toady, 'Toady', were the heroes that wished to bring up the issue. Unfortunately, their car was vandalized this morning, so they had to cancel. We were just here to support them. They are very important heroes. Very much like yourself," the Affirminator went on.

"Arh arh!" added the Seal of Approval.

"Do you have any idea what this issue is regarding?" asked the mayor.

"Of course we do. However, we have been sworn to not discuss it without them."

"Well, I guess this ends this meeting then," finished the mayor.

"Absolutely," the Affirminator said. "It has been an honor and a pleasure coming here and having you meet with us on this important issue."

"Arh arh arh," added the seal.

"Nice seeing you," responded the mayor. "If you would like to reschedule, please see The Assistant. Thanks for coming."

"Yes yes," the Affirminator stated while MayorMan issued them out the door.

The Assistant entered the mayor's office at the Auditorium of Equitableness. "Sir," the mayor's assistant started. "Anonymous Man is here to see you."

"Very Good. Send him in."

"Mr. Mayor," started Anonymous Man. "You have to do something!"

"Yes," replied the mayor. "Yes I do."

"Do you know what I'm talking about?" asked the superhero.

"Naturally," started Mayorman. "Yes I do. Of course I know. Yes ... Well no. I have no idea."

"Some vandal is throwing balloons full of paint on cars all over town," replied Anonymous Man.

"Water balloons?" asked the mayor.

"Not water balloons. Well, water balloons filled with paint. So, they're more like paint balloons," stumbled Anonymous Man.

"Sir," interrupted The Assistant. "We have just got a report that these balloons are hitting cars all over the United States."

"This is obviously the work of some sort Evil Ninja Cyborg," exclaimed the mayor. "But what could it mean? This looks like a job for..."

"The League of Yes-Men!" exclaimed the Affirminator.

"Do you know what is going on?" asked the mayor.

"Yes!" replied the Affirminator. "Of course we know."

"Are you going to tell us?" asked the mayor.

"Certainly, if we could Mr. Mayor," responded the Affirminator. "You know that we would."

"Arh arh arh," added the Seal of Approval.

"I see," replied the mayor skeptically. "Assistant, please show these heroes out!"

"Absolutely," replied The Assistant.

"I would like to say that you are doing a wonderful job as mayor..." started the Affirminator.

The Assistant's eyes turn a brilliant lime green as a roar rings throughout the room. The Seal of Approval and the Affirminator are lifted off the floor of the mayor's office and are whisked out the door by an unseen force. The pair of superheroes travel throughout the Auditorium of Equitableness and are planted softly in front of the building. The Assistant's eyes turn back to their naturally dusky color and a faint smile of satisfaction crosses his lips.

"Anonymous Man," started the mayor as he attempted to get more information. "Is there anything more that you can tell me?"

"Yes," Anonymous Man replied. "Of course, I could. Naturally, I would like to... Sorry, the League of Yes-Men got to me. I don't think there is anything more I can add."

"Thank you for your report Anonymous Man," the mayor said as he moved around his desk to sit down. "If you think of anything or need anything else be sure to let us know."

"Thank you mayor."

"Do I need to show him out too?" asked The Assistant eagerly.

"No need," answered the mayor.

"Oh," The Assistant responded as he sulked back to his desk.

"However," the mayor indicated to The Assistant. "I do need to get something for my wife for our anniversary."

"That is not my job," The Assistant replied curtly.

"My schedule is quite full, and I need to get her something nice," whined the mayor. "This looks like a job for..."

"Sorry," interrupted the mayor's assistant. "There isn't anyone here to see you."

"Rats!" exclaimed the mayor.

"However, your wife is on line 1."

"Thank you!" replied the mayor as he picked up his phone. He pressed the blinking light and began speaking to his wife on the phone. "Hello Dear, did you get your breakfast in bed? I didn't want to wake you, so I left it beside the bed there. Knocked over? I'm sorry; I thought I kept the cat out of the room. The open window? Oh, that explains it. She has always been a smart cat. How's that? Of course, I made the reservation. I made it weeks ago. Our table will be ready at the restaurant at 8PM. I hope I won't be late, but we're a little swamped here already. There is an emergency happening as we speak. I'll try to be on time. I have arranged for the America's Original Evil Ninja Cyborg Horse and Buggy Service to pick you up and take you to the restaurant. The city can't function without me. Who was that? Flash, your old boyfriend called? What did he want? That was pretty bold. Did you tell him that you're happily married? Of course I'm happy. Why would you ask such a thing? When I married you, I became the luckiest man in Supervania. He is going to give you an anniversary present? Now dear, I'm not going to compete with a Ninja Cyborg. I'll give you your gift at dinner tonight. I'll be on time. I promise. I've got another call waiting dear, so I have to let you go. I love you. Have a good day. Good bye. Assistant!"

"Yes sir?"

"You did reserve our table didn't you?"

"Of course, I made the reservation. I made it weeks ago."

"Good, could you contact AOENC Horse and Buggy Service and send a buggy to my house at 7:30?"

"Yes sir."

"While you're at it, could you pick up something nice for my wife?"

"Sir, I am unaffected by the influence of the League of Yes-Men. Since that is not part of my job, you will have to find someone else."

"All right already! Speaking of the league, did they reschedule?"

"Yes. They'll be here next week. However, I pressed and their issue is that 'League' is such and old fashioned term, and they wish to change their name."

"Ugh! Every year a group of superheroes wishes to change their name! What do they want to change it to 'The Uncanny Yes-Men', 'Instructor Confirmation and his Yes-Men', 'The Ultimate Yes-Men'?"

"I didn't press that far."

"My Ninja Cyborg wife's former boy friend calls to inform her that he's giving her and anniversary present, and I have to deal with superheroes with marketing issues. I guess that is what it's like to be the mayor of..."

Super Supervania
Poems are found by the quatrain-ia
And read without much eyestrain-ia
It's Super Supervania.

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The Highest Court

By Dwayne MacInnes

"Mr. Davis?" a soft voice called, "Mr. Davis, are you ready?"

John looked around as he jolted awake. He didn't know when he fell asleep and was greatly disoriented. He found himself sitting on a white bench in a long white hallway that was filled with a pure white light. There were others on the bench with him. An old woman was sleeping to his right and a young soldier sleeping to his left. In fact, everyone sharing the bench was asleep except for him.

"Ah, Mr. Davis welcome," a rather good-looking man dressed in a white business suit with matching tie and leather shoes and holding a folder smiled at him.

"Where...where am I?" John asked as he took in his surroundings again.

"Hmmm, of course. What is the last thing you remember?" asked the man in white.

"I believe I was getting ready for work. Yes, that's it!" John said as the memories flooded back. "I remember my chest was hurting so I was trying to put on my pants before I called 911. Then...well, I guess I blanked out. Is this the hospital?"

"Oh, no," chuckled the man. "You are quite dead. Remember the near death stories you heard about with the light at the end of the tunnel?"

"Yes, so this is the light, huh?"

"Not quite. But we'll try to get you there."

"So you're an angel?"

"Well, sort of. I'm sorry, I've totally forgot to introduce myself. I'm the Advocate. In fact, right now I'm your advocate and we have to prepare your case. But please call me Lou," smiled the advocate as he shook the astonished Davis's hand.

"Now if you will follow me," Lou said as he led the way down the hall towards an office on one side. Their footsteps echoed down the seemingly endless hall.

The two men then entered the white office with the same radiance as found in the hallway. There was a white desk and two white office chairs. A leather executive chair was behind the desk and a plain white chair was in front of it. Lou offered the plain chair to John who sat down before the advocate seated himself on the other side of the desk.

"OK, let's get down to work," smiled the advocate. He then proceeded to open the file and looked over the contents. Lou then took out a form and pen out of the desk drawer and placed it on top of the desk next to the file. He then began to fill in some lines. John tried to see what he was writing but was unable to make out the script.

"It says here you were a politician. That's a tough road."

"Yeah, it was. A lot of hard hours and a big work load everyday," John said as he began to smile.

"Sorry, I meant it must have been hard to be faithful to your job and to Him," Lou replied.

"Oh, yeah," chuckled John. "But you'll notice that my party fought to uphold His word. I'm proud to be a Christian."

The advocate then scribbled something down as he nodded, "Yes, that's very good. But political affiliations aren't worth much up here. Though the being a Christian will definitely help out.

"You went to church every week and you read your Bible and prayed everyday. That's good," Lou commented as he continued to scribble on the form never taking his eyes off his work.

John smiled with pride. It looked like he'd back the right horse after all. Not just in believing but in following his convictions.

"Uh-oh," Lou looked up from the files and glared at John. "It says here you had an affair on your wife."

John turned red, cleared his throat and smiled sheepishly. He never thought about this end of it when he was cheating on his wife, but he did get caught on Earth so it was only bound to be found out up here.

"I...uh, I did repent," John finally said.

"Good, good," Lou smiled and scribbled something on the form.

The advocate then began to rifle through the papers in the file looking for something. It took only a moment for him to locate it then he sat it in front of it.

"Ah, here it is. This is where I meant it was a tough road being a politician. It says here you rallied support for a war."

"Yes, of course. We were trying to free those people that were being oppressed by their leader. It was a hard fought road and many of our troops paid the ultimate sacrifice, but it was worth it. I would like to shake every soldier's hand for their work."

"Quite," smiled Lou as scribbled some more on the form. "It can be arranged, but please there is no need for grand speeches here. We just need to prepare your case."

"Sorry, force of habit," John replied.

"I see you also have some interesting legislation that you proposed and passed."

"Uh-huh, you'll notice that I helped reduce the tax burden and I cut Welfare spending in half. So that the money went back to the people who earned it therefore they could lead a better life."

Lou wrote on the form again and smiled. "I think we have enough here. Let's meet the judge."

Lou gathered the form and files and then shoved them into a white briefcase that he pulled out from under the desk. He snapped the clasps and stood up.

John stood up and followed the advocate out of the office. They went down the hallway again. The footsteps again resonating with the click-clack of four feet walking down the long hall. Lou led them to a set of white double doors on the side of the wall.

The advocate stopped a moment and adjusted his tie. He smiled and winked at John. John now became self conscious of what he was wearing. He had on the pants that he was struggling to put on before he died and a t-shirt. Davis frowned at Lou and motioned towards his clothes.

"Don't worry He doesn't care how you are dressed. Trust me most come in with a lot less on. But please, we have to hurry," Lou soothingly said as he ushered John into the large courtroom.

There weren't any pews, but everything was the same bright white that everything else was up here. Very monochromatic John noticed. There was a large desk at the end of the room. Lou showed John to one of the two chairs behind a smaller table that was situated in front of the judge's desk.

Behind the desk was an olive skinned man. He had short hair with long forelocks, a beard and a large nose. His face showed the years of one who had lived outside and traveled a long road. But his eyes were different. They were a soft brown with a compassionate look. Their penetrating gaze seemed to strip away a person and get at their core.

"Rabbi Immanuel," Lou began. "This is Mr. John Davis recently deceased. We are here to gain admittance."

John was momentarily taken aback that his judge was a Jew, a Rabbi and not to mention a man of Middle Eastern descent.

"Please, Mr. Davis. Your reaction shows your true heart," the judge said with a soft but stern voice. "Yes, I am a Jew and a Rabbi. I was born in the Middle East, but in what is now Israel. Some call me Immanuel, you know me as Jesus."

John looked ashamed. He knew that Jesus was a Rabbi and Jew. It was that he didn't look at all like how the pictures portrayed him. There was no long flowing hair, pale skin, or blue eyes.

"Mr. Advocate you may begin your case," Jesus said.

"Yes, sir. My client is a devout Christian which is what has guided his path in life. Mr. Davis devotedly went to church, prayed, read the Bible and tried to defend the word. He also through the power of his political career tried to help out his fellow man by easing their burden and freeing them from tyranny. These are only some of the great things he did on Earth. The rest you know.

"You will note that my client did have an affair on his wife. But he did repent his actions and asks for forgiveness. In my eyes, this is the only major stain on my client's good record.

"We formally request that Mr. John Richard Davis be allowed to be with the Father. Thank you," with that Lou sat down.

"Mr. Davis, please rise," Jesus motioned toward John.

John stood up behind the table and looked up at his Lord. He was nervous, a feeling he hadn't felt for years on Earth. He'd always been in control down there, here he felt like a third grader being quizzed by his teacher in front of the class.

"Your advocate laid out a pretty convincing case. But there are some discrepancies that we need to address.

"You are a professed Christian and you did read of my works and know of my ways. You did give donations every week and you did send money to charities. But your practice was only superficial.

"You rarely tithed. You had plenty of money, but you even held some of it back from God. Even your work showed that you chose money to be your true master.

"Yes, you gave tax breaks to help others, but those others you were helping were the wealthy. The poor remained poor and their lots were not improved by your legislation. As for the Welfare cuts you hurt more people than you helped.

"No, no, Mr. Davis, please don't interrupt," the Rabbi forestalled John's protest.

"I know you thought that most of the people on welfare, and unemployment for that matter, were lazy or taking advantage of the system. That, my sir, is not for you to judge. They too will be in front of me, but the fact of the matter is that those who desperately needed the help were denied and turned away.

"You also used your elected position to favor war. You know my stance on war. Now, I don't expect people to let genocide wipe out another race. But, I do expect those who take up my name to think three times before going to war. One of the reasons given for this war was to free the people, but that was after other reasons were given and found to be untrue. This was not a just war.

"As for your affair, you said you repented and asked for forgiveness. That is denied."

John gasped and protested, "But, but you said if one asked for forgiveness it would be given."

"That is true, but here is my reason. You repented getting caught, not the fact you cheated on your wife. If your transgression wasn't discovered you would have continued with it. True repentance is from the heart and there in lies my forgiveness. Thus in this case, it is denied.

"Mr. Davis you are not an evil man, but you are unfortunately a hypocrite and as a true follower you are held to a higher degree. You must live and follow my ways. Many people have tried and failed like you have. The road as you know is not easy.

"Yes, the Bible is confusing on some points and contradictory in others, but one thing remains the same throughout, my word. Love thy neighbor. It is easy to remember.

"All I asked was that you follow the commandments and try to help your fellow human beings out. Lessen the misery of the less fortunate and spread your wealth amongst all. This is the love of our Father.

"So it is with much regret Mr. Davis but your petition is denied. Lucifer, you may take this man."

Jesus stood up and exited out of the back of the courtroom.

John stood there with his jaw agape. He slowly turned to his advocate and looked at him hard.

"Yes, yes, I know. Where are the horns and tail? Well, to be honest there aren't any. It was just a little invention by your medieval artists to scare people. The beast and all that ... you know."

Lucifer turned John toward the entrance out of the courtroom.

"Now, hell isn't fire and brimstone you know. But unfortunately it is the absence of Him. To be truly alone with yourself I don't wish on any man."

"I know your next question too. I am just doing a job here. For the Father to find out those who truly love and accept him, he had to introduce free choice and that means 'good and evil'. Now, we angels, yes even a so called 'fallen' one like myself, have no choice in worshipping Him. We know Him and what He has done. Plus, I have read Revelations. No one can beat Him.

"But you humans are his pride and joy; He wants you to turn toward him by choice. That is the test of true love and devotion."

The two continued to walk down the hallway as Lucifer continued to talk to John as he led him towards another door. This one black.

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The Case of the Anniversary Present

Part Two

After a morning of signing documents and making calls, the mayor had a late lunch. It was a busy day with plenty of complaints about cars being ruined by some unseen entity. After a relaxing lunch and some more city business the mayor asked his assistant, "Is there any more information about these balloons being dropped on cars?"

"Several of the city's superheroes have claimed that it is the work of an Evil Ninja Cyborg, but no definite word on the perpetrator."

"Have you heard from The Dugman? He'll be able to tell us what has happened."

"No sir. Do you want me to put out the Dugman signal?"

"Yes, you had better."

"I'll get right on it," replied The Assistant as he rushed out of the mayor's office.

The Assistant walked to the superhero signal board and searched through the list of 'D' named superheroes until he found the one marked 'Dugman and his sidekick Hyper Hank'. He pressed the corresponding button. This activated the search light mechanism with the proper overlay indicating the correct signal.

Simultaneously with the spotlight signal being sent, a phone dialed the Dugman's super advanced message receiving device he called a 'pager'. This informed the duo of superheroes that the Mayor wished to see them in his office as soon as possible.

Dugman and his Giant Green Iguana sidekick Hyper Hank were busy trying to clean the 'Barbie Pink' paint off the super advanced transportation device the Dugman called his car when they received the signal, or 'page', from the mayor. They dropped their meager attempts to remove the pink paint and drove to the Auditorium of Equitableness.

When the two superheroes arrived at the mayor's office, he was pacing back and forth in front of his desk concentrating deeply on something. "Mr. Mayor, you wanted to see us?" asked The Dugman.

"Yes yes! Thanks for coming," started the mayor. "You may have noticed that there are balloons filled with pink paint being dropped on cars all over town. Actually, this is happening all over the US. Do you have any idea of who did this?"

"Let me see," replied the Dugman.

Hyper Hank went into lookout mode as the Dugman went to his all seeing trance. The Dugman closed his eyes to concentrate and then suddenly began "Flash! The Mayorman and his Evil Ninja Cyborg wife are celebrating their wedding anniversary. The mayor's rival to the affections of his wife is going to attempt to break up the marriage. He realizes that with the election coming up, that the mayor needs his wife to gain some of the Evil Ninja Cyborg vote. If he can break them up, and get back the love of his life, he can accomplish two things with a single act. Flash, the former boyfriend, put his plan in action by deciding on the perfect gift to give Mrs. Mayor. He decides to give her a ... pink carnation??"

The Dugman slowly came out of his trance as the words fade from his mouth. "Of course!" exclaimed the mayor. "Now I remember! Her former boyfriend is the Evil Pun Master! Assistant, look in the city computer for the Pun Master's nemesis and signal that superhero! Dugman and Hank, you have provided a great service to the city of Supervania. We should have this vandalizing cyborg behind bars soon. Now, if you could do the city another great favor, I am stuck here at the office until this villain is apprehended. As you yourself stated Dugman, it is my anniversary, and I am in need of a present for my wife. Could you pick up something nice as a favor to me?"

Just then, a green streak is seen heading towards the mayor's door as Hyper Hank darts out of the room. "Sorry Mayor, Hank senses danger and we must be off. Happy Anniversary and farewell all!"

"Rats!" exclaimed the mayor as The Dugman rushed after the scurrying lizard.

"Sir," interrupted The Assistant. "Dirk Justice is here to see you."

"Send him in," replied the mayor as he walked around his desk to have a seat.

"Mr. Mayor," started Dirk Justice. "I'm sure you're aware that cars are being turned pink all over town. Luckily, the Cycle of Justice has been unaffected. I just thought I would inform you that I believe it is the work of the Evil Pun Master."

"Thank you Dirk," replied the mayor. "We here at the Auditorium of Equitableness have just concluded the same thing. We are waiting for ..."

"Slang Man and his gnarly homey Idiom Boy," interrupted Slang Man.

"Zounds!" added Idiom Boy.

"Thanks for coming on such short notice Slang Man," the mayor said. "Here is the situation ... umm ... 'Dude'. Your nemesis the Evil Pun Master is on the loose again. We believe he is dropping balloons filled with pink paint all over the US. It is our belief that this ... urr ... 'bidness' is an attempt to influence the next election. We need you to get the ... uh ... 'lowdown' on him and if possible bring him to justice."

"Gadzooks!" exclaimed Idiom Boy.

"A single minizzle before I cop a mope. Dis mooley, the Evil Pun Master, got a rep with some serious street cred. He could be hangin' at his crib and have his glommers do the nasty and he doesn't even bounce the pad. Can you M.O. this action?"

"Well put," replied the mayor. "I got nothing... Anybody have any idea what he just said?"

"My dear departed mother tried to teach me this stuff," replied Dirk Justice.

"They departed for Florida didn't they?" asked the mayor.

"Yes," answered Dirk. "However I couldn't get the hang of it her all-inclusive language conversion."

"Assistant," called the mayor. "Has the Dugman left the building?"

"I'll get him back sir," answered The Assistant as he pushed the Dugman's signal button.

"Is the Dugman a translator?" inquired Dirk Justice.

"I think it is one of Hyper Hanks abilities. He can escape any enclosure and he can understand anything," responded the mayor. "Of course, we need Dugman to tell us what his side kick is saying. While we wait for the Dugman, could one of you run out and get something for my wife for our anniversary?"

"Kerfuffle!" Idiom Boy exclaimed.

"Chill Daddy," added Slang Man. "Ain't no reason to get crunk wit yer ole lady. A gnarled map'll do a kablam on the sitch. A little sweet sauce and some bling-bling and you'd be styling like a Garfunkle."

"Uh, thanks ... 'homey'," replied the mayor. "It looks like a time for ..."

"The Dugman and his trusty companion Hyper Hank!" exclaimed the superhero.

"S'up G?" asked Slang Man.

"Can you dig it?" responded The Dugman.

"It's Dug ... Man," finished Slang Man.

"I was just splainin' to the Mayah and his peeps that they can't give a thumper to the Pun Master without some reasonage."

"Fo Sho!" replied Dugman.

"Okay," interrupted the mayor. "Enough with your ... uh 'rapping', and tell us what he's saying."

"You can't go after the Pun Master without proof that he is the culprit," answered The Dugman.

"Oh!" exclaimed the mayor. "Why didn't he say so in the first place?"

"The man no want no help, he no get no help," mumbled Slang Man.

"Well," continued the mayor. "Dugman, you said yourself that he wanted to give my wife a 'Pink Carnation' for our anniversary."

"I did?" asked Dugman.

"Yes," continued the mayor. "He has masterminded an effort to drop balloons filled with pink paint on the cars of the US. Thus, he would be making the US a 'Pink Car Nation'!"

"The fiend!" exclaimed The Dugman.

"It reminds me of the time he tried to get Hong Kong violinist Sing Yin Huang to marry Tour De France winner Miguel Indurain so she would become Sing Yin Indurain."

"That Monster!" interjected Dugman.

"Zowie!" added Idiom Boy.

"Natch!" agreed Slang Man. "That's all gravy noodles. Are the 5-0 gonna play ball?"

"He asks are the police going to believe you?" translated the Dugman.

"I have my own phone recorded, and his phone call to my wife will be available to the courts," replied the mayor.

"Shazam," started Slang Man. "Sorry I zooted you cats up and down. I'll bag the head banger and pokify him before you can oscillate with your yummy mummy."

"He's sorry for the confusion and he'll have him arrested before your dinner tonight."

"He'd better hurry," replied the mayor. "It is getting late."

"Solid," responded Slang Man as he and Idiom Boy headed for the door. "Dirk made a quick outie."

"Ghostville!" replied Idiom Boy.

"Thanks again for your help Dugman," the mayor said while shaking The Dugman's hand. "You sure helped a great deal with this situation."

"I'm always at your service Mr. Mayor," replied the superhero.

"Oh no!" shouted the mayor. "What time is it?"

"It is 7:15 PM," replied The Assistant.

"That isn't enough time to pick out something nice for my wife!" bemoaned the mayor.

"Sir," interrupted the mayor assistant. "Errand Boy is here to see you."

"He's a little late," cried the mayor.

The young man quietly entered the mayor's office with a bouquet of carnations and ornate wooden box. "Sir," he stated meekly. "The fifth year is the 'Wooden Anniversary'. So, I took the liberty of purchasing this small antique box and this bouquet of your wife's favorite flowers. That'll be $36.47."

"Errand Boy!" exclaimed the mayor. "Here is $50. Keep the change. You once again have saved the city. All is right again here in..."

Super Supervania
Where life is rarely mundane-ia
And anniversaries have plenty of champaign-ia
It's Super Supervania.

"Looking Good!" added Fashionista

The End.

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Terra Mortis II: The Gathering

Chapter 1

By Dwayne MacInnes

The snow lightly floated down from the heavens as Carl Rogers hiked his way down the pine-forested mountainside. Although he was an accomplished outdoorsman, he had rarely climbed as high as he had in the last few days. Finally, he was working his way back down the other side of the Cascades. The cold air bit at his cheeks and the crunching of the snow was the only noise he could hear. His frosty breath came in even puffs as if he was some old steam engine chugging its way over a mountain pass.

"If only I could have used a mountain pass," thought Carl. "This would have been a lot easier."

Nevertheless, the mountain passes across the Cascades had been shut down since the incident last summer at the Marysville ColTech pharmaceuticals plant. Soldiers now staff every possible means of passing over the mountains with the orders to kill whatever tries to pass over them. Minefields had also been laid out and the passes had been further reinforced by connecting barbed-wire and concrete barriers. Not since the Maginot line has there been a continuous string of fortifications stretching across land to barricade the rest of humanity from the threat on the other side.

Therefore, Carl had to take a more indirect and almost impossible route to get over the Cascades. Fortunately, he was familiar with the weather conditions of the Cascade Mountains. Like all mountains, the Cascade's weather was unpredictable at best. A clear summer day could suddenly transform itself into a thunder or snowstorm. The inverse was true as well. Even now during the middle of December with the temperature below freezing on the eastern slope of the Cascades a Chinook wind could swiftly swarm in and warm the air over 70 degrees.

Carl had been making his trek over the mountains for several days now. It was imperative that he get over the mountains unnoticed or he would be shot. It was hard to believe that the hardest part was behind him and yet the most dangerous in front. An odd paradox when one analyzes it, and analyze it Carl had done numerous times over the last few days.

"What's an old man like me doing out here anyway," Carl continued his inner dialogue. "It's cold and I'm hungry and I'm supposed be to be retired and done dealing with this crap!"

Carl was fifty-five years old and a retired FBI agent. He still had contacts and that did give him a certain benefit that the average American didn't have. The average American didn't know about the Marysville incident as it was called. These weren't diseased people running around out there; they were in fact the dead. They are walking dead, or zombies as those in the know are calling them. One bite and a human being is infected. There is no cure and the only way of killing one of these undead was to destroy the brain.

Carl stopped and kneeled down to make sure that his .38 snub-nosed revolver was still holstered on his right calf. Even though he carried a hunting rifle over his shoulder, the feel of the pistol strapped to his leg always comforted him. Maybe it was from the thirty odd years in the service with the bureau that made him feel naked without carrying it. It was the only constant partner he had over the years and none were more trustworthy.

Carl looked up at the sun, and it was starting to set behind the trees to the west. He stood back up, readjusted his straps on the backpack, and started to continue his trek. It wouldn't be much longer before the light was gone. He would need to find a clearing if he wanted to sleep in a tent otherwise he would be sleeping under the stars again.

The thought of waking up under a blanket of snow again wasn't an appealing one for Carl. He never cared much for winter camping even though he did relish the challenge of pitting himself against nature. It was just that freezing one's ass off wasn't his idea of fun. But then again he wasn't out here for fun.

Carl was just resigning himself to the idea of breaking out the sleeping bag and finding some form of natural shelter when he saw it in the fading light of dusk.

A small tendril of smoke was snaking its way heavenward behind a line of trees. That meant humans, living humans. Now was the moment of truth. Would they be friendly or hostile? "Only one way to find out," Carl reckoned.

Carl started to walk quietly towards the smoke. "I hope that they are friendly and won't shoot me," Carl inwardly prayed.

The sun was nearly gone when Carl broke out from the trees into the clearing. In his quick survey, he noticed that the smoke came from a lone white Ranger's cabin in the mountains. There was a green army two-ton truck and a yellow school bus parked outside. But what finally made Carl expose himself to the potential of being shot were the two smiling snowmen outside the building.

Light spilled out of the curtained windows of the log one-story building. Carl couldn't see inside, so he approached the door and knocked. As he rapped on the door, the lights suddenly went out and muffled voices could be heard on the other side of the door.

After a couple of minutes, the door opened up and a flashlight blinded Carl as it was shone into his face.

"What do you want?" growled an unfriendly voice.

"Ah, George, don't be so rude. He obviously means no harm or he wouldn't have knocked, eh?" a man's voice with a Yiddish accent responded from deeper inside the cabin.

Under the hand that he was using to shield his eyes, Carl noticed that a rifle was pointed at him.

"I was just looking for some shelter. I don't relish the idea of spending another night in the cold. But if you want I'll move on," Carl responded.

"Put the gun down George. The man only seeks shelter and we can surely offer that to another human being. There certainly aren't that many of us left on this side of the mountain," another voice added.

Carl smiled. He had finally made it and had contact with some friendly people on the west side of the Cascades.

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The Giants

Part 1

"Hey Yarnspinner!"

"Cram!" replied Essdy. "It has been a while, how have you been."

"Can't complain," returned Cram Nayawt. "I'm in the mood for a story. Do you have one that is a little different?"

"Have you heard the one about the giants?"


"They live on an 'uncharted' planet, and they are about 4 to 5 meters high."

"Sounds good!"

Essdy started his story

These giant's live in a world with a binary sun. Their planet has two main continents. One is in the northern hemisphere where there is near constant light. However, it is very temperate as neither sun produces much energy. Thus, with an abundance of water, it is tropical as you can imagine. Plant life on this continent is abundant.

In this environment live the giants. As I said they are 4 to 5 meters tall, and they have razor sharp teeth. Their mouths are big enough to eat you or me whole. They stand on powerful back legs. Their arms look by comparison useless. However, they can easily manipulate tools with their hands. They have a tail that aids in balancing their enormous bulk. They are a nasty looking bunch. In addition, guess what, they are not plant eaters. However, like most life, they will occasionally eat some greens, but they only eat plants in time of famine, and at festivals.

These giant creatures call themselves the Xer and live in tribes of 10 to 20. Each tribe has a tribal leader. This leader is responsible for the well-being of the entire tribe, but they are also the only ones that mate. Of the members of the tribe only a handful are males. The largest tribe of 30 members had only five males.

The Xer have domesticated some enormous plant eaters. These cattle can grow to 25 meters long although most of that is tail. They use every part of these animals. They use their skin for shelters, their bones for tools, and waste very little of this precious resource.

By contrast, the southern hemisphere is where actual seasons occur. They have cold harsh winters. All the life on this side of the planet has adapted accordingly. The plants and animals hibernate during the winter, and are reborn when the thaw occurs. No matter neither the continent nor the season, the precipitation throughout the planet is ample for life.

The southern continent has a wide variety of life as well. However, the scale is much smaller. One particular species developed a thriving civilization on the southern continent. These creatures call their civilization the Easim. They are a small bunch. The tallest ever known was only a meter tall. The young ones that had not reached the age of adulthood could fit in my hand and not hang over at any point. They are furry little people with small pointed ears. They are small but quite muscular and strong. Stout is an excellent description of these people.

These creatures were much more advanced than their northern neighbors were. They built vast cities with a million or more inhabitants. They surrounded their cities with immense farms. The farms raised grains and livestock. The members of this civilization are omnivorous, and their diet is quite diverse. They seemed to eat constantly. These Easim were always concerned about having enough food to make it through the winter.

They had great storage facilities. They could store vast amounts of grain. They built facilities that would keep meat stores during the winter months. However, they needed all of their land just to maintain their current population levels. They knew how much population their lands could support and attempted to keep their population under that level.

Obviously, the Easim's culture and civilization was much more advanced compared to the Xer. In fact, they had sent individuals to the Xer's continent for study for several years. They feared their neighbor's giant stature and their carnivorous ways. Thus, they kept their distance. They gathered quite a bit of information on this more primitive culture, but they were unable to decipher their language. They would get close, but not that close.

The Eacim had begun to explore other things. They had launched rockets, and felt they were well suited for space travel. After all, hibernating for long stretches is beneficial to many forms of long distance space travel. They had begun searching for extraterrestrial life with radio telescopes. They developed minimal inter-planet communication capability. In a few years, they may have been able to join the commonwealth. However, disaster struck their civilization.

It wasn't the Izanian, but the Xer. As they were exploring the outer reaches of their solar system, the Xer began exploring the seas. Most tribal cultures live by the vast resources of the seas early in their development. However, a ship to carry these giants would take vast land resources to construct. Further, with the dietary needs of these massive bodies, a vast number of small sea creatures would be required.

However, there are enormous hulks habiting the seas of this world. The Xer discovered this and began hunting these creatures. At first, it was an activity for the extremely wealthy. After all, only the most successful tribal leaders could afford the time and effort into constructing an enormous sea sailing vessels.

This sea hunting activity began to reshape the Xer's culture. A tribe of 30 was unheard of in the past. The hunt could bring in fresh food with little land resources needed. The Xer obtain a better practical understanding of the sea, and they could stray farther and farther from sight of their land.

The seafaring skills of the Xer became quite modest that in one expedition, they discovered another continent. It was a continent frozen in ice. It was south of their equator, and it was incased in ice. Great stories were told about the frigid and dark continent. Words were invented to describe this land mass as they had never seen snow and ice before.

Nothing more came from it for quite a long time. However, on a fateful day a storm came up during one expedition. This expedition landed upon a lush green continent. This continent was also south of the equator. The storm resulted in a new set of stories of a land that was sometimes covered in lush greenery and when the gods got angry, they covered the land in a cold ice.

Expeditions began to explore the "New World." The Eacim hid as the giant Xer explored the lush lands surrounding the cities. The Xer became convinced that the lands were only occupied by small insignificant animals. This is partially the fault of the Eacim. They should have attempted to communicate with the Xer. They should have indicated that the continent was inhabited by a sentient creature. However, they did not do this, and they felt it was too late to do anything about it.

Eventually, one of the Xer clans loaded a few of their large beasts upon a ship, and headed to the southern continent. They had the intention of setting up a full-time colony on one of the large Eacim farms. They completely intended not to offend the gods in hope that the ice covering would be avoided. They believed that they were effective in appease the gods.

Naturally, the snow came, and forced the Xer to retreat. However, many Eacim died that winter due to the lack of food from the farm the Xer had taken over. They did not know what to do with this new situation.

Perhaps they would have to leave their home world. The small Eacim were a peaceful people, and they did not wish to take any aggressive actions against the lesser technology of the Xer. Thus, they put a push on their space program. The Eacim thought the very least they could do was to colonize another planet. That would take the pressure off the farms.

They had not been able to communicate with the Xer in all the time they had studied them. Thus, if their space program was successful, they may be able to obtain some outside help. They hoped to find a habitable planet, or they hoped to find some help in the vast reaches of space.

After much work, they intercepted signals from the galactic commonwealth. They were unable to decode these signals, but it was an indication of life outside of their meager system. They were hoping to obtain help from those beings.

They also sent some of their young ones, who as I mentioned were quite small, to record as much communication between Xer as possible. These tiny Eacim could live under the nose of these giants. They could gather much information; however, it was quite dangerous.

They perceived that this information gathering would greatly improve their chance of survival. As you might be able to tell, they were not very sophisticated in their language skills. Until they met the Xer, they had little concept of another language. It was not one of their strengths.

Three brave Eacim were selected to take a message to anyone that would listen. They would launch shortly before the season of hibernation, and hibernate once the proper time was reached. Thus, they could awaken in the outer reaches of their solar system. This was the best hope the Eacim would have without harming the Xer themselves.

The Eacim were a peaceful race, and never considered force until the launch of their interplanetary probe neared. Skeptics did not believe that anyone would hear their cries for help. The vastness of the cosmos was going to prevent the success of the mission. Some felt they must prepare for battle. This idea had never come up in their history, and it was quite a foreign idea.

A great study of the Xer in every possible way was being undertaken. They looked for weaknesses that they could exploit. They tried to learn their habits and their cultural tendencies as much as possible. However, this was going to be very difficult without understanding the language.

The Xer were beginning to construct vessels that could sail farther, faster, and with a bigger payload. The great sea animals were being harvested, and the population of the Xer began to expand. Before long, their civilization may need spring grazing lands for their livestock. The Eacim farmland was very tempting to them.

The Xer did not believe they could easily develop the technology that would allow them to survive the icy weather. However, with these abundant grazing lands available, some tribes believe they could free up local lands by grazing their herds during the abundant times of this southern hemisphere. They could use their local lands for grazing or other industries for part of the year.

The loss of vast farmlands would decimate the Eacim civilization if something were not done. The Xer acted as if they were the only life on the planet that meant anything. They did not worry about the consequences of their actions. The Xer saw this resource of grazing lands, and they were going to take advantage of this resource. This was a great danger for the Eacim.

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Terra Mortis II

Chapter 2

By Dwayne MacInnes

Master Sergeant Ronald Douglas Greene had been walking in the woods alone for two days now. He had told the others that he needed to go hunting. Though Nori begged to go along. She wanted to learn, but Ronald said no. Brady wasn't fooled. There was plenty of game meat stored up and most of the deer had already moved to a lower elevation in order to forage for better food. But Brady never said anything; Ronald knew that Brady had suspected the real reason.

Ronald was a tall large man. There wasn't an ounce of fat to be found on his toned muscled body. He was even once asked to play on the Army football team, but Ronald turned it down. He didn't join the army to play ball. Even now in his forties, he could easily have been mistaken for an NFL linebacker.

The black sergeant looked a little odd traipsing through the woods dressed in his battle dress uniform with a large black down coat over it all. When he was deployed to staff one of the checkpoints out of Seattle during the outbreak, it was late spring going on summer. Now it was full winter and fortunately, Brady had found one of his grandfather's winter coats that fit Ronald.

Ronald found a relatively dry spot under one of the pine trees and sat down on the reddish brown needles. The landscape was white with the green bows of the trees poking out from under their blanket of snow.

The sergeant then pulled out his wallet and opened it. He stared at the picture of a beautiful black woman and a teenage girl. They were his family. Dora was his high school sweetheart and later wife. They had a daughter Julie, age fourteen. Even now looking at the picture it was easy to see how people mistook his wife for his daughter's older sister. This, of course, embarrassed his daughter to no end. It had been three years today, a week before Christmas, that they were both killed by a drunk driver.

The pain never left, but he could suppress it most of the time. However when the anniversary of their demise approached he would feel the full brunt of their loss. Sergeant Greene's eyes started to tear up. The picture's image started to get blurry as the tears began to build in his eyes. It wouldn't be long before the tear drops started to run down his cheeks and freeze somewhere on the trip down. That is when he heard the chopper.

The sergeant jumped up and shoved his wallet back into his pocket. The helicopter was flying very low and the engines sounded wrong. He could hear the turbines sputtering erratically as he scanned the sky for the chopper.

Ronald saw the stricken helicopter just before it descended behind some trees. There was the sound of breaking branches and screeching metal as the AH-64 Apache crashed out of sight of the sergeant's view. Smoke soon began rising into the air marking the downed chopper's position.

Sergeant Greene was snapped out of his pensive mood and instinctively jumped into action. Ronald nimbly ran between the trees toward the telltale signs of the helicopter's location. His first concern was to get to those crewmembers before they either burned or froze to death if they survived the impact.

It was only fifteen minutes before Sergeant Greene had weaved his way through the trees to find the twisted remains of the Apache laying slightly tilted against a tree among splintered and shattered braches. The rotors were twisted and broken from smashing into the surrounding tree trunks. Smoke was still billowing from the engines and drifting skyward. There was no fire evident so Ronald moved towards the cockpit. The canopy was cracked in several areas but appeared to be intact. The two bodies inside were both slumped forward against their safety belts.

Ronald ran up to the cockpit and searched for a release the handle. As Ronald was looking for the handle, the pilot regained consciousness and opened the canopy. Ronald was caught off guard and jumped back as the canopy opened. The pilot was visibly shaken and slowly stumbled out of the helicopter.

Ronald rushed to the man. The pilot began taking off his helmet. The sergeant helped him to the ground and assisted him in removing his headgear. Then Ronald ran over to the still unmoving gunner. Ronald felt for his pulse and found that it was still strong.

Ronald began unstrapping the gunner from his restraining belts. The pilot approached having regained most of his composure and helped Ronald lift the gunner out of the cockpit. They then laid the man out on the ground and Sergeant Greene began assessing the man�s condition.

"Thank God, it's only a broken tibia," Ronald finally said.

The pilot sat down next to the gunner and looked up to Ronald.

"I'm LT. William Jones," the pilot introduced himself. "This is my gunner Chief Warrant Officer Gregory Smith."

"Master Sergeant Ronald Greene, Army Rangers," Ronald responded.

"What are the Rangers doing sending ground troops into the quarantined area?" the pilot asked. "Once you are on this side you are here for keeps."

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