March 2006 Archives

Back In A Flash

Part One

By Dwayne MacInnes

"Data telemetry 95%, adjust two-seven-eight and four-two-niner," the monotonous voice advised over the radio.

"Adjusting two-seven-eight and four-two-niner," Colonel Diana Kemper replied in her British accent. Her calm voice hid the barely controlled emotion of excitement that tried desperately to bubble forth. Diana was about to be the next Chuck Yeager and she was destine to become a historical icon.

"System diagnostic nearly complete," her American co-pilot Major Thomas Barnes sitting beside her in the cockpit said over the radio.

"Data telemetry 100%," the monotonous voice of the ground controller replied.

Over all her years in the military, Diana noticed that no matter where they came from or what age or sex they were, all ground controllers spoke in the same flat emotionless tone. She found it ironic that her in-flight computer displayed more human emotion than the controllers did.

"That must have been something they learned in school. Either that, or the school searched for people with the personality of a tree," she laughed silently as she completed the thought.

"Something I missed?" Tom asked as he looked over to Diana in the pilot seat.

"Nothing," Diana replied realizing she had not laughed as quietly as she thought.

"All systems are in the green. Prepare for acceleration in twenty seconds," the impassionate voice advised.

"Roger, ground control," Diana replied.

This was it. Diana repressed another wave of excitement as she thought about being one of two of the first humans to break the light barrier. The programmed remote drone and the animal flights all proved highly successful. Now, it was the big moment for human flight. The British and American governments collaborated on this program to fly faster than the speed of light. Something thought for over a hundred years to be impossible.

Their spaceship, the Zephyr, would accelerate towards light speed. The closer they got to the speed of light, communications with Earth would become impossible. Therefore, the computer would mostly control the flight. It would fly out to a preordained coordinate and automatically return towards Earth. If the worse case scenario happened and the human crew was unable to respond, the computer would land the Zephyr back on Earth at a base outside Manchester.

"I feel like the train engineer with the dog," Diana thought to herself. From her history studies, she remembered that as 20th century progressed, trains became more and more automated. The owners of railways kept engineers onboard to reassure the public. The old joke was that an engineer and a dog would run the train; the engineer was there to make sure nothing went wrong. The dog was there to make sure the engineer did not touch anything if it did.

"Acceleration in 10, 9, 8..." the ground controller started counting down.

The flat voice brought Diana back to the present. She looked over the flight panel. Everything looked good. She glanced over to her co-pilot and flight engineer Tom sitting next to her. He was taking one last glance out the window at the stars before he returned to reading the flight computer's readout on its screen.

"7, 6, 5..." the voice continued over the radio. There would soon be no communication until the Zephyr finished its flight plan after it had decelerated from light speed and was again in close proximity to Earth. Diana tried to sit back further in her seat. The straps had already secured her to the flight seat so snuggly that she really did not move much.

"4, 3, 2..." the radio relentlessly counted down. Diana's grip tightened on the flight control. She wondered if Major Tom realized that there was a song related to his name composed one hundred years ago. Probably better if he did not.

"1, acceleration go, engines beginning full burn," the voice concluded as the thrust from the Zephyr's engines threw the two passengers further back into their seats. The g-forces grew oppressively greater as the ship sped faster through space.

If the invention of artificial gravity had not come to be in the last couple of decades, acceleration like this would be impossible. As it were, the inertial dampener took a few seconds to catch up to counter-act the g-forces from the thrust. For those few seconds, Diana feared that she would be crushed to death. Fortunately, the g's pushing her back into her seat relented as the artificial gravity inertial dampeners compensated for the thrust.

Diana watched the image of stars beginning to flash past her windscreen. If she could see behind her, she realized that she would not be able to see anything once they reached light speed. All signals from Earth were now effectively severed.

The Zephyr began to shake violently as it approached closer to the barrier. It felt as if the small spaceship was going to rip itself apart struggling to push through and past the light barrier. A quick glance down on the flight panel showed that the navigation shields were holding at full power. Another necessary space flight innovation, without the navigation shields a micro-meteor would end the flight quickly and disastrously.

As suddenly, as it began the Zephyr's flight smoothed out as if it was gliding on glass. Diana glanced down at the flight panel again. A red light flashed on indicating a problem with the quantum flux matrix. Before she could do anything, a bright flash flooded the cockpit for a nanosecond. The illuminate flash indicated the breaking of the light barrier much the same as the sonic boom indicated the breaking of the sound barrier. That was the last thing Diana remembered before she blacked out.

* * * * *

"Colonel?" a voice sounded out from the blackness.

"Colonel Kemper, are you OK?" persisted the voice with an American accent. Diana forced herself to focus on the voice. She willed herself to swim out of the blackness and into the light. As Diana regained consciousness, she fluttered open her eyes. The light burned her retina before her brown irises compensated for the bright sunlight flooding into the cockpit.

"Sunlight?" the thought completely brought Diana back to her consciousness. "Where are we?" she asked.

"According to the computer programming we should be back on Earth outside of Manchester," Major Tom replied.

Diana undid the straps and sat forward in her seat in order to get a better view outside the windscreen. The Zephyr had landed in a vacant field. Trees lined the horizon, bright sunlight flooded through the windows and puffy white clouds floated across the blue sky. They were at least back on the Earth.

"I lost consciousness just as we exited the 'flash'," the American offered. "When I came to, we were here. According to our instruments, we were out only for ten minutes."

"There was a malfunction with the quantum flux matrix. Run a complete system and subsystem diagnostic to make sure that is all that went wrong."

"Yes, ma'am. That will take about two days to run."

"Manchester base this is Zephyr do you copy?" Diana spoke into her radio headset. Nothing came back but static.

"Manchester base this is Zephyr do you copy?" Diana tried again. Again, her only response was static.

Diana made sure that the radio was on the correct frequency. She tried a few alternate emergency frequencies without any results.

"There must be something wrong with our radio. Can you get a fix with the GPS?" Diana asked her co-pilot.

Tom looked at the instrument for a second. He pushed a few buttons and again looked at the GPS.

"Colonel, this doesn't look good. I am not getting a GPS reading at all. Maybe we're more damaged than it looks," offered the major with a hint of concern in his voice.

"You said that the computer is stating that we should be at the Manchester base, correct?"

"Yes, that is its preprogrammed flight course if the human pilots are incapable of flying the ship."

"Computer," ordered Diana.

"Flight computer on line," the mechanical female voice responded in a British accent.

"How did you fly back and land on Earth without the radio and GPS being operational?"

"Radio and GPS are fully operational...my subprogram allows me to use astrogation and highly detailed topographical maps to land at my preprogrammed coordinate," replied the computer.

"Computer, how can the radio and GPS be operational if we are back on Earth and neither one works?"

"There are no signals for the radio or the GPS to pick up."

"Computer, are you sure we are on Earth?" Diana prodded.

"There is a 99.9% probability based on gravity, density, diameter, axial tilt, astrogation position and land masses corresponding to my topographical maps."

"Computer, did we go back in time?" Major Tom asked trying another track.

"Negative, based on astrogation planetary and stellar position we have not gone back in time."

Diana and Tom both silently cursed as the computer gave its analysis.

"However based on the same information," the computer continued, "we are two hundred thirty one years in the future from the date we launched."

Diana and Tom looked at each other as it dawned on them that they were in the year 2299.

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

The Magistrate

By Douglas E Gogerty

"That is quite a story," the magistrate said with a little disbelief.

"Your belief is of little concern to me," replied Marius Batiatus Pervalidus with a wave of his hand. "By Neptune, it is the truth, and the men's wounds will confirm my story."

"You killed six men by yourself?"

"No. I killed three men. The men themselves are responsible for the deaths of the other three. I am merely responsible for the head bandit, one of the archers, and the archer's brother."

"You decapitated one man!"

"No, the bandit leader did that with a wild swing. His swing cut the neck of the man and I just finished removing it from its body."

"You used his head as a weapon."

"I only did so to protect myself from the head bandit."

"Someone could make quite a drama out of the events last night."

"Aye, it would make quite a tragic tale of this former Roman soldier turned bandit.

"Do you know who this head bandit is -- er -- was?" asked the magistrate.

"I do not."

"I will tell you. He was Julius Ladro Denunciato. He is in fact a deserter and there is a great reward for his capture. The Republic frowns greatly upon soldiers that leave the ranks."

"It is my pleasure to serve the Republic. That is its own reward."

"That is admirable and well stated. Marius Batiatus Pervalidus... Batiatus? Batiatus? Where have I heard that name?"

"Perhaps you have heard of Lentulus Batiatus. He ran a gladiatorial school in Capua long ago."

"Gladiator?" enquired the magistrate. "You are a gladiator? That explains a few things."

"I have paid for my freedom," Pervalidus replied curtly.

"Were ... you were a gladiator."

"I was."

"In my younger days, I used to regularly attend the gladiatorial exhibitions. I remember a mountain of a man who went by the name of Validus Maximus. Strong and large that described him quite well. He fought with the trident and net. He was absolutely unbelievable!"

"I am pleased that you enjoyed the contests."

"He used the trident like no one I had ever seen. It was part staff and part spear. Those with gladii were no match for him. He could knock those short swords away from the other gladiator with one swipe."

"It is important to know how to use your weapon."

"You could tell that he was so much better than everyone else. He would just toy with the other gladiators for the sake of the crowd."

"The gladiatorial games were for the crowds and the gods. It is not wise to upset the immortals."

"One time he took on three gladiators. I think the patron of those particular games wanted to see Validus lose."

"It is a danger of the profession."

"Anyway, Validus fought a very defensive fight at first. He made one of his opponents swing wildly and hit one of the other gladiators -- like -- in your tale ... of ... last night..."

"It is a useful tactic."

"Hey! Validus -- Pervalidus..."

"Yes, I was a gladiator that fought as Validus, and later Validus Maximus."

"Now I believe that the guy thought you were seven feet tall. I thought you were too -- in my youth."

"Stature can be deceiving."

"Wow! Validus Maximus. Our legion could use a man like you."

"While that may be true, I have paid my service to the Roman Republic."

"Have you heard the former proconsul Gaius Julius Caesar has crossed the Rubicon? He marching his troops toward Brundisium to meet with Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. It means civil war. You could provide a great service to the Republic."

"I am quite happy serving the Republic in the manner that I did in ridding it of this group of bandits. I owe it no other allegiance."

"I am indebted to Pompey the Great. I must side with him."

"That is no concern of mine."

"Let me finish," replied the magistrate. "If Pompey is defeated I could lose everything. I could lose my estate, my position, perhaps even my life."

"That is quite a sad tale."

"That is just the half of it. I am in line to become Proconsul myself one day. If the Republic falls, all that I have worked for will be gone. I am running for Praetor!"

"My tears are falling like rain..."

"However, if you side with us -- the Republic -- and help us, I can make it worth your while."

"I doubt that even you have that much to offer me."

"Then do it for the Republic and your fellow Romans."

"While I must admit, you are telling quite a sad tale. With the loss of your estate and the loss of the Roman Republic, it would certainly make for a great tragic play. However, I have a much greater tale of loss than you could ever know."

"Caesar is a great general. We could use all the able-bodied men we could get. Pompey is also a great general, but his troops are green. There will be quite a battle. It would be quite a tragedy if the Republic falls."

"I will make a bargain with you. If I tell you my tale of loss, and if it is not more tragic than your own, I will join you."

"Very well, tell me your tale, and then I will fill in the rest of my tale of misery. I am confident in my tale of woe."

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Terra Mortis II: The Gathering

Chapter 25

By Dwayne MacInnes

For a week after the Labyrinth claimed the lives of his companions, Brady sat in the jail cell alone. The only time he ever saw anyone was when the jailer brought his meal once a day. Brady didn't talk and no one talked to him.

Brady couldn't erase the memory of seeing Lisa and Coop being bitten by the zombies. A pregnant woman and boy being feasted upon by the ghouls played repeatedly through Brady's head while he was awake or asleep.

He was past crying, past feeling. He was just numb. Brady didn't feel his shoulder twinge with pain nor did he feel the pangs of hunger as he waited for his next meal.

Khan had waited a week to let the torment and tortures of Brady's own mind work its poison through his system before he was also thrown into the Labyrinth. Khan didn't even know the girl was pregnant, even if he did that didn't matter to him -- not anymore.

As usual at noon, the cellblock's main door opened. But this time the sounds of two sets of feet could be heard marching down the corridor. Khan had come to finish his game.

"I'm glad to see that you are well, Mr. West," laughed Khan.

"What is wrong, Seth? He doesn't seem to have the gift for words he had the last time we visited him," Khan noted to his burly companion who just laughed.

"Well, I have one more surprise for you. The young lady who...um, past away last week, the one who betrayed you, she also gave us information about what your little community is. Camp Crystal Lake was it?" teased Khan.

"I decided that they are too much of a threat so yesterday I've dispatched the Horde to take it out. I very much doubt your cherished sergeant will be able to stop my mighty Horde and their half-track."

Seth and Khan laughed for minute at this. Brady just stared at them as if not comprehending what they were saying.

"Hmm...too bad. It looks like our friend is catatonic. Well, we have an appointment to maintain. Seth, please show Mr. West to the Labyrinth. The people deserve a show."

Brady didn't pay much attention as he was being led to the Labyrinth. It was clearly a different manhole cover than where Lisa and Coop were dropped. It probably added more sport to have the zombies hunt for their prey than to just drop it on them Brady reasoned.

As the cover was removed, the two guards pushed Brady toward the opening. He expected them to toss him down as they did Lisa and Coop. However, Brady noticed that one of them had a .38 special police revolver hanging tucked into his belt and he sprang into action.

Brady quickly grabbed the gun, but not before the other guard shoved him toward the hole. Brady stumbled backwards into the darkness and landed on a pile of wet paper and leaves eight feet down the hole. The wind was knocked from his body and he just stared up and watched as the manhole cover was replaced.

Brady thought about just climbing back up, but then he heard something heavy being dragged into place over the cover. Light from the lone lamp on the wall illuminated a wet and dirty scene. The smell of stagnant water, rotting vegetation, and flesh permeated the air.

Brady stood up and started stumbling down the corridor. He needed to find a way out like Coop almost did. The sound of water dripping and the screech of an occasional rat echoed down the sewer. It was the only sound he heard and that was good.

Even if he had his glasses, Brady wouldn't have been able to see much better. It was fortunate, that he was already used to using his ears and nose to help him out. As long as he didn't hear that awful death-moan and/or smell the overpowering stench of rotting human flesh he was OK.

Brady decided to check his revolver. He cracked open the cylinder and noticed a single bullet. "That bastard planted that on the guard," Brady thought to himself. He was at least given a choice. Go down fighting or end it all through suicide.

"Well, we'll see what I can do," Brady thought.

Brady kept walking down the corridor, on his way he tripped over something. Brady splashed into the water as his feet became entangled in something long and metal that caused him to fall. After pushing himself back up Brady fished around in the water until his hand landed on something. It was a piece of rebar. It was about two feet long and felt pretty good in his hand.

"Now I have a weapon," Brady shouted to the camera on the wall hoping Khan was noticing.

Brady continued on his way, still looking for boarded up passages. A mournful moan echoed down the chamber chilling Brady's blood. They finally had his scent, the hunt was now on.

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Back In A Flash

Part Two

By Dwayne MacInnes

Diana and Tom were both stunned into silence as the computer's remark sank in.

They both just stared at each other at a loss of words. Diana looked out the cockpit windscreen again and viewed the surrounding sylvan glade. Even if they were, over two hundred years in the future there should have been a base or some buildings.

Diana's eyes widened as a terrible thought came to her. "Computer," she said in a trembling voice.

"Flight computer on-line."

"Computer, give me a reading on the surrounding radiation level," Diana ordered hoping against hope that she was mistaken. The look of fear on Major Tom's face showed that he too was following her train of thought.

"Radiation level is higher than normal, but will not pose any immediate health concerns with a limited exposure."

Tom started looking at some of the other instruments on the panel. He tapped on one with his fingers as if to make sure the needle was not stuck.

"Colonel, the rads are much higher than normal. Instruments show that the o-zone is virtually gone and…" Tom's voice broke off in a swallowed sob.

"Please continue Major," Diana said calmly.

"Based on the half-life readings this happened over two hundred years ago. The strontium-90 and cesium-137 readings suggest that this was from a nuclear exchange instead of some natural disaster."

Diana sat there for a minute wrestling with some internal dilemma. The colonel just stared out the window watching the trees' leaves flutter in the slight breeze. It all looked so deceptively safe.

"Major, we need to find out what has happened."

"I agree, we can fly the Zephyr to some ruins and hopefully find some records. Maybe…"

"No," Diana cut off the major. "We still don't know all that may be wrong with the Zephyr. I will need you to stay here, finish the diagnostics, and make any repairs that you can. I will head towards where Manchester should be."

"Begging your pardon, ma'am, but I must strongly protest against that. You don't know the dangers out there. We cannot become separated from each other."

"We can't take the Zephyr with us for fear of destroying our only way out of here. Plus…" Diana held up her hand as Tom began to protest. "As I was saying, we also cannot afford to abandon the Zephyr for something else happening to it while we are gone. Therefore, the only option left is for one of us to head north to where we believe Manchester may still be."

"Then I suggest I be the one to go. I'm physically stronger and six years younger than you. No disrespect, ma'am."

"None taken. However, I wouldn't think that thirty-seven was old. In any case, you are the engineer and the only one who can repair our ship. I, on the other hand grew up in Liverpool just north of Manchester. I have spent a lot of time in Manchester, something I am sure you can't say."

Major Tom relented and nodded his head in agreement. Diana did not relish the thought of leaving the security of the Zephyr for a jaunt in an irradiated world. But, her mind was made up.

Fortunately, when the Zephyr was constructed it included a cabin behind the cockpit that stored two bunks, the head, and a small galley. The room behind that held the tools, space suits, airlock and other equipment for space repair.

"I'll take an environmental suit, a torch -- flashlight I believe you Yanks call it, and some food. I'll minimize my exposure to the air. I have my palm computer that I can download whatever information I come across. It only has a four terabyte hard drive. I hope that will be enough."

"I believe that you should be within range to transmit that information right to the Zephyr's computer. Keep in contact with your radio. I'll alert you to anything new that may arise here while you are away," Tom added.

"Right," Diana answered, "well then I better get ready. I should only be gone for a couple of days. Cheers."

* * * * *

Within half an hour, Diana had descended the airlock in the bottom of the Zephyr, climbed down the stairs, and had set out across the grass field towards the tree line to the north. The temperature was quite warm. Luckily, the space suit could regulate the temperature inside the suit as well as recycle the air. Diana was sure that her air supply should last seventy-two hours. At least, that was what the scientists claimed before she set out on this adventure.

A few insects flew in the air. They for the most part appeared to be unchanged by their environment. Then again, these same insects survived several natural disasters that wiped out whole species of life forms in the past. Meteor impacts, rapid environmental changes, volcanoes, etc. These tended to kill off larger species like the dinosaurs, but the simpler ones tended to survive well enough. At least, the cockroach was not the only inhabitant of Earth. There appeared to be some dragonflies and mosquitoes as well.

Diana entered the wooded area and the Zephyr soon disappeared behind her. There were no signs of squirrels, or other mammals. Though she did believe she heard a bird call somewhere inside the woods. While she was back on Earth two hundred years ago, the trees were not as tall or thick. At least, that is the way it seemed to her.

"I suppose these would be considered old-growth by now," Diana thought to herself.

The colonel continued to walk northward using her compass as her guide. The woods appeared deeper than she first suspected. Back on the old Earth, this was all buildings and roads leading to the space base. There were no signs of them at all. Certainly, even after two hundred years there would still be some sign of a road, a building, or even an automobile rusting away somewhere.

Two hours later the woods ended and she found herself in another field of tall grass. There did appear to be a mound ahead of her. It was long and continuous. It disappeared over the horizon in one direction and led to some hills in another.

As Diana approached the mound, she realized she had come across the old railway line. The occasional rusted steel rail poked through the grass covered soil. The timber ties had long since rotted away. This would greatly help her on her trek towards Manchester.

Soon Diana found an overturned train with its many passenger cars scattered about. Some were even lying across the old tracks. Diana ran over to the nearest passenger car half buried in the ground. It was lying on its side, the metal skin was tattered and twisted, the steel trucks and wheels were rusting away. There were several openings where a door or window used to be. All were long gone.

Diana poked her head into the darkened interior. Grass and the occasional small tree had started to grow inside the car. The beam from her flashlight illuminated the interior as Diana ran it across the seats on the side of one wall. She lowered the beam to a ghastly scene.

On the bottom of the car, that used to be a windowed wall, laid the remains of the doomed passengers. The skeletal bones of the occupants were now mingling with those of his or her neighbor's. Skulls with empty eye sockets and in a silent scream all seemed to look pleadingly at her. Passengers, possibly fleeing the cities had packed the unfortunate train.

Diana pulled her head out quickly and sat on the mound crying over the remains of the unknown victims. Names long lost to the passage of time. People never mourned until now.

"Colonel," the voice of Major Tom brought Diana back to herself. "Colonel, do you read me."

"I read you Major," Diana responded in her head set trying to gather herself together.

"Sorry, Colonel, you haven't checked in for awhile. I was getting a little worried."

"I must have lost track of time. I have found a train track and am following it to Manchester. I should be there before sundown."

"Very good," Tom responded, "don't forget to keep in touch."

It was just at sundown when Diana reached the ruins of Manchester. The hills she spotted as she left the woods were in fact the decomposing remains of tall buildings. The entire city appeared to have tumbled down upon itself. Plant life had taken over the metropolis. Grass, trees, and flowers now covered the streets and walkways of the city.

Steel girders, tumble stones, and piles of bricks hinted at where buildings and houses once stood. The rusted out remains of an automobile occasionally poked out of a grass covered dirt mound. Navigating around Manchester was going to be difficult. A quick scan with her Geiger-Counter indicated that the radiation was no worse than that at the Zephyr.

The sunlight was rapidly disappearing and Diana needed to find shelter fast. She scanned around and found an opening in one of the torn-down buildings. Diana ducked inside and searched it out with her flashlight. It was the entranceway of some public building. The passage of time affected the marble floor minimally. A metal stairway had at one time lead to the upper stories and still appeared to lead down to the lower floors. For now, Diana found an old bench that was sturdy enough to bear her weight and prepared to spend the night.

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

Becoming a Slave

By Douglas E Gogerty

European Map

I was young. I had not become of age yet. I had probably experienced 12 summers when King Mithridates invaded Bithynia where my family called home. My father, hoping that our homeland would be free, died in battle against the invading King. That left my mother to take care of my older brother, my younger sister and I.

I had a maternal uncle living in Cyzicus. Thus, to seek refuge, my mother and I headed for that Bithynian city. This was an unfortunate move for us as before we arrived, Mithridates laid siege to the city. This trapped my family between the army of Mithridates and the advancing army of the Roman Consul Lucius Licinius Lucullus Ponticus.

Instead of engaging in battle, Lucullus prevented the delivery of supplies by land. While it did eventually lead to Mithridates breaking his siege, it was not going to allow us to make our way into the city.

My family and I followed our mother to an encampment by the river Granicus. We spent a few days there fishing and determining our next move. Fate was once again frowning upon us as Mithridates in his attempt to escape Lucullus, found his way to this very river.

The two generals staged a great battle along the river, and my family had nowhere to go. I saw my mother and sister die beneath the hooves of a Roman equestrian soldier. I saw my brother speared by one of King Mithridates soldiers. I just sat at watched the carnage of the two great armies fighting.

There were men fighting valiantly on both sides. The carnage was incomprehensible to such a young person. The insides of a man were no longer a stranger to me. The blood flowed into the river like its own small stream. I sat and could not turn away. Soldier after soldier fell throughout the battle.

Lucullus was victorious on that day, but King Mithridates escaped by boat along the river. Lucullus fresh from victory gathered up the spoils of war, which included me. I was marched away from the land that I called home.

We marched for weeks towards Rome. Everything I had ever known was lost. There was no way that I could ever find my way back to my home. I spoke not a word of Latin, but that mattered little to the Romans.

We were marched right past the city of Rome and taken to the large slave-trading center in Naples. The Romans would sell the former soldiers and citizens of Bithynia alike at the next auction. We were suddenly simply a commodity.

It was like a bad dream in which I could not awaken. Everything was as if I was fresh from the womb. The sights, sounds, and smells were strange to me.

The slave trading masters stripped us all down and sent us into the baths. Afterward, they closely inspected the newly acquired merchandise. I had not come of age, and I drew quite a bit of excited looks. I was young, strong, and in excellent health. I had to endure many inspections by several individuals.

I scarcely remember the interview with the officials of the slave auction. They were excited. I heard a translator mention something about a high price. I have vague recollections of remarks of my looks and my youthful appearance. He slapped some name on me, and held me out towards the end of the selling day.

A murmur fell over the crowd as I walked out onto the platform and inspected by the potential buyers. I stared down at my chalked feet and shuffled in my naked nervousness. Several patrons examined me quite closely for a few minutes and the bidding began.

The bidding process took a long time as I had garnered much interest. I had still not recovered from the general daze that I was in since the death of my family and the march away from my home. A Campanian man whose name I have long forgotten purchased me for the quite high price of 125,000 sesterces. I was to be his personal house servant. I heard of others going for as low as 2 sesterces, so I briefly wondered what was special about me.

Roman House Layout

When we arrived at my new master's house in Campania, his wife looked at me with an odd look of disgust and desire. Perhaps she liked how I looked and perhaps she was disgusted at the high price her husband had paid. I am not certain.

My master and his wife fought often over me. One hundred twenty-five thousand sesterces was a lot of money to pay for an ordinary houseboy. I think my naiveté prevented me from seeing the real purpose. It became quite clear a few weeks after arriving.

The mistress of the house took a group of servants to tend to an elderly relative. He had spoken to the remaining servants and explained that he did not wish to be disturbed. No one was to come to him while he was in the peristylium or any adjoining rooms in the rear of the house. He also asked me to serve him his meal in the exhedra rather than have his meal in the traditional triclinium.

I did not find this request unusual, but some of the other servants snickered at the order. I obtained the food from one of the other servants in the cucina and took it into my master in the nearby exhedra. The master had a strange smile on his face and he regularly chuckled as he ate his meal.

When he was finished, he gave me a carafe of very cheap wine. He ordered me to drink it, but it burned the back of my throat. I could only take a few sips, but my master insisted I continue to drink.

He briefly left the room to check on the other servants. While he was out, I dumped a good portion of the awful, cheap wine in one of the urns that decorated the open peristylium.

Upon his return, he checked my progress on the wine and gave a wry smile. He asked me to recline in one of his couches. I was still confused upon the events that were taking place. "Why is my master asking me to recline on the furniture? This is certainly new," I thought to myself.

I did as he requested, and sat on the long couch. He began stroking my hair and mumbling something in Latin. While I had picked up a few words by this point, I did not have any idea what he was saying. He looked into my eyes and smiled a very disturbing smile. He arose and removed his tunic. Something was exiting him.

He told me to drink more of the wine. I took another bitter sip, and spilled a generous portion down my tunic. With the smile still upon his face and his excitement growing, he ordered me to lie face down across the dining table.

I tried to understand what was happening, but I could not put the pieces together. Thus, I refused to cooperate. He grabbed me firmly by the arm to force his will. I was strong and I easily slipped out of his grasp. I let out a small chuckle.

His anger grew greatly as he yelled something. I can only assume it was a curse of some kind. He came at me again, but with the flask of cheap wine still in my hand, I smashed him over the head with it.

He fell over like a goatskin filled with sand. Blood poured from his ear. A great deal of blood spilled onto the floor beneath his head. I knew he was dead or at least soon would be.

I ran through the peristylium as fast as I could and slipped out of the posticum. With his strict order to be alone, I was sure no one had seen what I had done. I ran through the streets of Campania and made my way to the hills outside of town.

I had not reached manhood, and I had killed my first man. I was alone, and I would never find my way to my home. I just murdered the only person who would have made sure I had what I needed to survive. I was on my own.

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Terra Mortis II: The Gathering

Chapter 26

By Dwayne MacInnes

Splash, splash echoed down the corridor as Brady sped as fast as he dared through the sewer. He finally came upon a boarded up section. It wasn't the white one he hoped for, but maybe he could pry off a board or two. Brady grabbed a plank of wood and tried to remove it. However, it wouldn't budge. He even whacked on it with the rebar to no avail.

The choking smell of death forced Brady to continue his search for a way out. The zombies were getting close. Also, he couldn't exactly tell from which direction the smell was coming from. He only prayed that it was coming from behind.

At that moment, a moan from in front greeted Brady. It was much closer than the last. He had no choice; he would have to back track. Brady turned around and started running back in the direction he came. That was when he heard the explosion.

The entire sewer system shook, Brady nearly lost his balance. The lights flickered and then died. It was now pitch black.

Brady started walking as fast as he could with his left hand out against the wall to guide him where he needed to go. He could hear the moaning of the undead getting closer behind him. As he moved along, the smell was getting stronger. The hairs on the back of Brady's neck were rising. He never remembered being so scared in his life.

Then a new smell overcame him. As a child, he always enjoyed the tangy smell of gasoline. But now it was almost as overpowering as the stench of the undead. This new smell was coming from in front of him.

Brady noticed flaming liquid drizzling down through the storm grates into the sewer. What kind of game was this? Now he was to be fried with burning gasoline. Brady decided to take his chances with the zombies. He turned around again and headed toward the undead. The flaming gasoline was pouring into the sewer behind him. The only saving grace was the flickering light it provided.

Brady didn't know how long he'd be able to breath or even if the gasoline would explode down here. He did know that either way he was dead, so Brady decided to go down fighting. There was always still the chance he would find a white boarded-up wall.

In the flickering light, Brady saw the lead element of the undead. He raised the pistol, aimed as carefully as he could at the blurry target and shot the first zombie in the head. The undead dropped right where it stood as if it was a puppet that suddenly had its strings cut.

Tossing the pistol into the water Brady brandished his piece of rebar. Without his glasses, fighting hand to hand was going to be extremely tricky and dangerous. The next zombie that exposed itself, he struck in the temple cracking the thin bone. This ghoul dropped as well. Another zombie soon replaced this one. Brady had to push on forward as the flaming gasoline continued to follow him.

Again, Brady lashed out with his rebar and again he felt the sickening crack of a skull as another zombie crumpled. But the flames were now right behind Brady and the heat was becoming very uncomfortable. The young man grabbed the next zombie by the lapels, swung it around, and tossed it into the flames before the undead could bite his arm. The zombie lit up like a dry, old Christmas tree in a bonfire.

Brady didn't know how much longer he could go on. His arm was weakening, he couldn't see very well, and the flames were pushing from behind. But the thought of the results of Lisa's tiring, renewed Brady's strength a bit. He swung again and connected again. But this time as he crushed the undead's head the rebar slipped from his hands and tumbled into the water behind the next zombie.

Brady's heart slumped. He was done for. There was no way he could turn and run through the fire, nor could he push his way through the ghouls. In addition, he had already wasted the suicide option that Vanders had provided.

Brady just stood there as the zombies approached from the front and the flaming gasoline flowed ever closer from behind. This was it. This was the end of the line.

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Back In A Flash

Part Three

By Dwayne MacInnes

Diana spent a troubled night trying to sleep in a space suit. It did not help that she kept having nightmares of the skeletons in the train car and people going up in flames. At one point in time, she dreamt she heard a wolf howling in the night. However, when she awoke from the dream the sound did not repeat itself.

The morning sunlight spilled into the small lobby where Diana dwelled. She woke up shortly before Major Tom and gave him a status report. Diana removed her helmet and had a quick breakfast in the natural air of the ruined world. The experience brought back familiar smells of plants of her native England. These smells mingled with those of decay and dust.

Diana replaced her helmet and began to search around the room where she had spent the night. There were faded posters on the crumbling walls. A rotting desk lay against another wall. A quick search of the desk revealed some evidence of the building's former occupation.

By great fortune, Diana had stumbled upon an old bookstore. With a little more luck, she may be able to find some answers to her questions. She found a pile of decomposed newspapers, long faded and crumbling with decay. Most of the books she found were in the same sad condition.

Diana decided to take a chance and try the stairs to the lower level. Maybe the elements were kinder to the material down below. The stairs held her weight as she gingerly walked down them.

With her flashlight held out as a weapon to pierce the oppressing darkness, Diana started to search amongst the books. She found a few in better condition than any she found on the main level. Some appeared to be promising. She used her palm computer to take a quick scan of the books and sent the information back to the Zephyr's flight computer.

Diana was thumbing through some promising DVDs when she heard a noise in the back of the bookstore. She swung the beam of the flashlight instantly in the direction of the sound. She thought she saw something white disappear behind a bookcase.

The colonel cautiously approached the bookcase. The flashlight held out in front of her. It never occurred to her to bring a weapon of some sort. However, the Zephyr did not have any, but she could have at least picked up a crowbar or found a sturdy branch on her trek here.

The bright beam of light from the flashlight scoured the area where Diana had heard the noise. The only evidence that someone had been there was the skeleton huddled in the far corner. It was unlikely that it was the bones that she saw duck behind the bookcase. Nonetheless, there was nothing else there.

A primitive fear of the dark was starting to grip Diana's mind. Maybe the ghosts of the former residents of Manchester were now haunting the ruined city. Maybe all of the dead humanity was haunting this devastated world.

Diana tried to push her fear back down, but it was a tough battle. She went back to the DVDs. She picked a few which she would feed into the Zephyr's computer. Occasionally she thought she heard another sound, but Diana could never confirm what she heard.

A final quick search brought forth a few more promising books that Diana hurriedly scanned. The darkness was starting to become more oppressive and the colonel felt an urgent need to leave this place. She felt unseen eyes watching her. For the first time in a long time, Diana was becoming completely terrified.

Diana finished scanning the last book and quickly ascended the stairs back into the entranceway. The sun was still out and had filtered its warm rays into the small alcove. Diana rushed outside hoping that the light would remove some of the irrational fear she was feeling.

Though the midday sunlight did comfort her a bit, Diana felt a dire urge to return to the safety of the Zephyr. She radioed Major Tom to inform him of her find. However, she left out the part about her becoming spooked. Diana started back after she had a quick lunch.

* * * * *

The trip back took less time than it did to get to Manchester. Diana did not know how far she had run to get back. She still felt that she needed to return to the Zephyr's safety.

About two hours of sunlight remained when she returned to the glade where the Zephyr had landed. Diana found Major Tom standing on one of the delta wings with his head inside an access panel over the Zephyr's engine. He had obviously been repairing the Zephyr.

Tom pulled his head out and noticed Colonel Diana Kemper walking towards the ship. He waved a greeting towards her, happy to see her back in one piece. Tom then closed the access panel and began packing up his tools.

By the time Diana was back, Tom had everything packed up and joined her at the ladder to the airlock. Neither said anything until they were both back inside the cockpit. Diana was inserting DVDs into the computer's drives when Tom sat in his seat and looked at her.

"Looks like you didn't waste any time in returning," he joked. Diana just shrugged her shoulders absorbed in her work.

"The good news is that all that was wrong was the quantum flux matrix and I have repaired that. Maybe we can have another go at it and see if we can get back to our time. I have been working on a few theories with the computer. It looks like we may have a chance of returning home."

"I was able to find out a little bit of what happened. The rest I am feeding into the computer now." Diana finally spoke.

There was a moment of silence. Tom cleared his voice and got Diana's attention.

"Something wrong? You haven't said much since you returned."

"Sorry," Diana replied somberly, "I am a little depressed by this world."

"What did you find?"

"It looks like there was a nuclear war on a global scale. The cause of it I am not entirely sure. From what I have glanced at, one nation had become like old Nazi Germany. It is the same old story of some dictator determined to run the world."

"Do you know what nation it was?" the major asked.

"I'm not sure yet. However, I believe it was from the western hemisphere, possibly Mexico or Brazil. I remember reading something about both in one the books I came across. I also know that it began as a democratic nation, but had slowly become autocratic. Something in its past slowly started to erode the individual's rights. Because of some horrible action, the people willingly sacrificed their civil liberties for the sake of security. The poor became poorer and the wealthy became even richer through tax cuts and war profits.

"Unfortunately, the books I looked through weren't in the best of conditions and I didn't read them too closely. I wanted to get out of that ruined city as quickly as possible. I am sure something was watching me."

Tom touched Diana's arm to gain her attention, "Was there any mention of the United States?"

"One of the sources mentioned that the Europe and her North American allies fought a desperate war to conquer the dictatorship. Looks like everyone perished in the fight." Diana looked down at her hands fighting to remain in control of her emotions. "I'm sorry, I haven't had much sleep. I think I will hit the bunks while the computer works on the data. I'm sure everything will be ready by morning."

Diana exited the cockpit leaving Tom alone. She climbed into the nearest bunk and let the exhaustion take control. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow.

It was nearly midnight when Tom shook Diana awake.

"Colonel, you have to see this," the major said excitedly.

Tom nearly pulled Diana into the cockpit. He sat her down in front of a monitor. Tom then took a seat next to her.

"I thought I heard a noise outside," Tom said quickly, "so I had a thermal scan done of the surrounding area."

Tom flipped a switch on the monitor and the green screen showed the image of about twenty lighter green images giving off a heat source. At first Diana thought, maybe her mind was playing tricks on her. Nevertheless, there they were the undeniable images of about twenty humans cautiously approaching the Zephyr.

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

The Slave Revolt

By Douglas E Gogerty

European Map

"You killed your master?" inquired the magistrate. "That crime is punishable by death. I could take you in and have you crucified or thrown off the Capitoline hill."

"Neither you nor I know if the man died. I did not wait to find out if he survived."

"The disobedience of a slave is enough to have you executed. Perhaps they would burn you at the stake..."

"I have received a full pardon from Marcus Licinius Crassus, but that is part of my story I have yet to tell."

"I have heard enough. It is sad, that is true. However, because your master had a soft head and a hard wine carafe does not make it terribly sad story."

"It is your bias that does not equate the loss of my family and home to your potential loss of family, home, and honor."

"Watch your tongue freedman! You have a lavish homestead. You raise horses. You even have a large number of slaves of your own. You have put this great tragedy behind you and the Fates have been kind."

"For many years the Fates were unkind to me. It was not until Neptune smiled upon me that brought me to this place."

"So, that is why you raise horses..."

"It is to give thanks to Neptune -- creator of horses."

"Your horses could be used for the upcoming conflict as well."

"The horses were promised to Crassus..."

"Crassus died four years ago at the battle of Carrhae!"

"Thus, they will only be given to his successor which will be determined by this conflict."

"I could just take them," threatened the magistrate.

"One more body on this pile of four would not be noticed..."

"Is that a threat?"

"I am just pointing out facts; like you are a young man, you are running for public office, you have your whole life in front of you, you are no match for me in battle, that kind of thing."

"You point is well taken freedman," replied the magistrate with a quiver in his voice. "I will grant equal hardships between the stories. Are you going to continue to a greater sadness?"

"If you like; however, I have lived one life more than you. Thus, most certainly I have known greater tragedy than you."

"Are you declaring victory already?"

"I do have the upper hand if you wish to concede."

"Continue with your story Pervalidus."

* * * * *

I was on my own in the hills of Campainia. A few days after my escape, a huge commotion kept me on the run. Roman soldiers were running here and there. "Certainly, I could not be the cause of this," I thought to myself.

Nevertheless, I made extra care to hide. Eventually, my hunger overcame my desire to hide. One night, I came upon a small camp of about one hundred men. They had Roman army weapons, but this was not a Roman army camp. I was on the march with the Roman army for weeks, and I knew their habits.

I was certain they would not miss a little food. Needless to say, I was careless and immediately caught. The men on guard took me to their Thracian leader. I explained that I had just escaped, and I wished to return to my home in Bithynia.

"Bithynia?" exclaimed their leader. "My home was just across the Bosporus from Bithynia! I too hope to see those shores again!"

I immediately offered the man my services. The crowd of men laughed. "You have not yet achieved manhood," interrupted the leader. "What service could you provide this group of escaped slaves?"

"You are escaped slaves too?" I asked forgetting the other part of his question.

"We have freed ourselves from the bonds of slavery, and freed some Roman soldiers of their weaponry. We plan to raise a small army, and will fight our way out of Rome to our homes!" shouted the leader rousing a big cheer. When the cheers died down, he continued, "You, my young friend, have not seen enough summers to do battle..."

"I have already killed my first man!" I responded.

"With what weapon houseboy -- your good looks?" the leader asked to the roars of laughter.

"I smashed his head with a wine carafe," I said timidly.

The crowd erupted with even more laughter. "Fair enough young warrior, we accept your wine carafe! They call me Spartacus! We will teach you to use the sword, for when you enter manhood, you can join us. These are my Galatian cohorts Crixus and Oenomaus. Mind them well!"

Spartacus took me under his wing and taught me how to fight. He became my second father. I learned how to fight under these men. We camped under the shadow of the great mountain Vesuvius. We gathered what we could from the surrounding countryside. Rural slaves came from all around to join us, and we all prepared for the inevitable upcoming battle.

The first test in battle came against 3000 raw Roman recruits. Using the great mountain to our advantage, we surprised the inexperienced troops and easily defeated them. I was in the group to draw the Roman soldiers up the mountainside, but the experienced fighters, using vines and ropes descended the mountain and got behind the Romans. Even with our lesser numbers, our group surrounded and routed the Romans quickly. Our reputation began growing throughout Rome.

However, in the shadow Mount Vesuvius was not the ideal place to winter. Thus, we packed up and moved farther south. We trained and gathered more numbers as we traveled. Our numbers grew steadily as we traveled.

On our southward march, we met two other legions of about three thousand men each. While our numbers were growing, the Roman soldiers still outnumbered us in these encounters. However, the leadership of Spartacus is what allowed us to prevail against the stronger force. These encounters also allowed us to more weapons and armor.

More slaves joined us as we marched towards the coast. Once we reached the coast, we continued along the shore until we reached the town of Thurii. We spent the winter living off the land. We trained and prepared for our next move in the spring. Despite Spartacus's objections, the Galatians continued to gather a large amount of spoils from the Roman countryside.

From our encounters and some pillaging, we were well equipped. We had a fully functioning encampment and spent a comfortable winter in Thurii. Our smiths turned out weapons, and we had grains and meat from the land.

We were well rested and trained for the upcoming challenges in the spring. Our numbers had grown immensely. There must have been 90,000 men, women, and children in our camp.

I had trained hard. I could beat every youngster in the camp in combat. I even held my own against many of the adults. Thus, Spartacus allowed me to join the fighting men. I was officially apart of the "Gladiatorial Army." While my beard still did not grow, I came of age during that winter.

With this army, Spartacus was confident we could march north and leave Rome. We would certainly have to face opposition, but we were well trained and willing to fight.

Crixus and many of his fellow Galatians were anxious for more plunder. They gathered many riches from the towns on our march. Spartacus had a difficult time keeping him in line. At one point, Crixus and his group split off from the rest of us, and the Romans got the upper hand on his group. We arrived and defeated the legions from Rome, but before we could arrive, Crixus died in battle.

We fought a few other Roman legions on our northward march. At the foot of the Alps, we defeated the governor of Cisalpine Gaul at Mutina. We could then march out of Rome to our homes. I longed to go home. There was news of Mithridates still fighting against Lucullus. Thus, I decided to follow where Spartacus led. Many left our numbers to return to their homes.

In our battles, we had gathered many riches, and many wanted more. Others enjoyed their revenge on Rome, and wanted to continue. Others, like me, would follow Spartacus to wherever he led. We were family.

Spartacus decided that we would continue our fight against Rome. Thus, we headed south again. At this time, there were probably 120,000 slaves in our camp and an army of about 70,000 men.

We were a well-seasoned army now. We met our first consular legion and soundly defeated them. A rumor spread that the Consul Marcus Licinius Crassus was displeased with the cowardice of his men, and he executed every tenth man. Our army was strong and men trembled at the thought of facing us.

We did lose some men in our battles, be we managed to survive another season of war. We had crossed the Roman Republic twice, and we were still at large. This time, we wintered at Rhegium. Once again, we trained and planned. Spartacus came up with the plan of making the island of Sicily our own. We would sail to the island and continue the slave revolt there. We would thus free the island from Roman rule and live free ourselves.

We used some of our plunder to book passage to Sicily. However, the sailors betrayed us, and they set sail without our army. Thus, we had to continue our fight on Roman soil.

Our army was strong. However, the Senate would certainly bring the full force of Rome upon us now. We had freed many slaves, and had pillaged many towns. Spartacus must have known our chances were poor even though the numbers were strong.

With the collapse of the Sicily plan, we marched northward in the spring to begin another fighting season. However, when we reached the river Silarus, Spartacus ordered a large group of us to leave the army and head north. I was in that group. He told us that we were to meet a small army of Pompey's and engage them. This was to give him more time against the army of Crassus.

I learned later, that this was a lie. He wanted us to escape the slaughter at the hands of Crassus. We did avoid the slaughter and did engage Gnaeus Pompius Magnus. However, we were no match for him and he routed this minor force easily.

Pompey's men captured me, and I was marched once again into the Roman Capitol. Along the Apian way, on our march into Rome, I saw many of my cohorts crucified along the road. Mile after mile members of Spartacus's army were hanging there. I did not see Spartacus, so I assumed he must have died in the battle against Crassus.

Upon our arrival in Rome, they paraded us in front of the Roman people as a part of Pompey's Triumph. I was part of his spoils of war. Pompey awarded me to Crassus in gratitude for his part in the "Servile War." Despite Pompey facing only a small group of 5,000 slaves, he was given credit for ending the war.

Even at my young age, Crassus knew that I was a formidable soldier. To play the part I spoke of all the men I had killed. In fact, at that time I had killed 103 men including my first master. I informed Crassus that I had killed twice that number.

He could tell that I could be quite a liability; therefore, Crassus sold me to a slave auctioneer. It was then that Crassus pardoned of my past crimes.

I found myself once again naked on the slave-auctioning block. I had fully reached manhood by this time, and I had a few scars from battle. I was a fierce warrior who had seen only fifteen summers. I made sure everyone knew I could kill each and every one of the bidders.

Thus, I was not about to fetch the price of 125,000 sesterces I had the first time. In fact, the gladiatorial school of Lentulus Batiatus's purchased me for four sesterces. I was going to where Spartacus had just escaped. I was going to replace my second father in gladiatorial combat.

Not only did I lose my first family, I also lost my second one. Further, in many people's eyes, I was still a child.

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Terra Mortis II: The Gathering

Chapter 27

By Dwayne MacInnes

The air was starting to get thin as the fire was consuming the oxygen. Unfortunately, the only one this would affect would be Brady.

"It’s not fair, dammit, it’s not fair," Brady shouted.

The anger built up inside him. Damn if he was going to just stand there and die. Brady was building himself up for on last charge into the undead when he saw it. He couldn’t believe it, but there it was. It was what appeared to be a glint of steel reflecting the yellow-orange fire burning behind him as it sliced off a zombie’s head.

Then without losing momentum it slice off another and then another. In less than a minute, the last five zombies lay truly dead in the water.

Hello Kitty P-14

"Come on, we have to get out of here!" Nori’s voice echoed down the chamber her katana at the ready in her hands and the pink P-14 holstered on her slim waist.

Brady instinctively started to follow her. They ran down the corridor gaining distance on the heat and fumes of the burning gasoline behind them.

"I told them to wait on blowing the yard. But I guess they were excited to finally beard Khan," Nori said more to herself than to Brady.

As they were racing down the corridor in front of the flickering firelight, Brady noticed it. A white boarded up wall.

"Stop!" Brady yelled as he grabbed Nori’s arm.

She stopped and turn toward Brady with confusion spread across her face.

"This is a way out," Brady said pointing to the white wall.

He began to push on the wall when he looked down. There on the ground half in the water was the blood soaked denim jacket that belonged to Coop. It lay amongst the gore and bones that was once their friend.

Nori sheathed her sword on her back and started to push on the wall with Brady when she noticed that he had stopped and was now crying. The wall had already moved half a foot and another good push would have it open.

"Come on, Brady I need your help," Nori ordered.

Brady looked up into her pleading brown eyes. He fought back his tears and gave the wall one more good push. It gave way and revealed a boxed-in room with a ladder that led up to a manhole. Nori started for the ladder when Brady pulled her to a stop.

"Nori, I love you," he blurted out, quickly kissed her on the lips and then proceeded to climb the ladder and lift up the manhole cover. Caught completely off guard by Brady’s action it took Nori a couple of seconds to shake off the bewilderment that left her standing dumbfounded at the base of the steps.

Brady and Nori jumped out of the smoking hole and Brady rolled over onto his back on the concrete ground. It had started to rain and the sky was overcast.

Nori reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out Brady’s glasses. She kneeled next to Brady and handed them to him. Brady solemnly accepted them and placed the wire-framed glasses on his face. For the first time in over a week, Brady could see everything clearly, as he focused on Nori standing over him.

"We found them on the hill where we lost Akira. He’s buried there now," Nori said downcast. She noticed that Brady wasn’t responding to her comments, so she went over and stood over him and looked down into his eyes. His eyes were bloodshot and puffy. Tears ran in dirty rivers down his sooty cheeks. His sadness tore at Nori’s heart; she could never remember him being so distraught. Not even the time when they first met and he finally accepted the loss of his parents.

"I think next time you could find a more romantic spot to confess your love," Nori said lying down beside Brady hoping to lift his sorrow a bit. "Granted there was a nice fire, but I’d prefer one that wasn’t toasting zombies."

"Coop is dead," Brady interrupted.

Nori stopped talking looked over at Brady and started to cry herself. Brady sat up, pulled Nori closer to him, and held her as they both cried.

He didn’t know how long they sat there, probably only five minutes. They didn’t notice that they were in the middle of a town that was in the midst of chaos. People were fleeing, guns were randomly being fired, and buildings were burning but no one seemed to notice them.

After a while, they both pulled themselves up and started to walk down the road. A slender young African-American man walked over and started walking next to them. Brady looked out of the corner of his eye to notice Sergeant Miller walking along side. Then the rest of the Misfits joined in. Then Captain Laurie Germain and the Rogue group joined in followed shortly by the rest of the groups. Nobody said a word as they walked out of Vice-City as it was burning down behind them.

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Back In A Flash

Part Four

By Dwayne MacInnes

There was a full moon out so the ambient light was good. Diana flipped off the thermal imagining and relied on the external camera. She zoomed in on the approaching humanoids. The first images shocked and amazed her.

There standing in the field were what appeared to be humans. They were humans in the basic physical form. The adults stood between five and half to six feet. As you would expect, the children's height varied by age. All of the humans had skin that was an alabaster white, which tended to reflect the moonlight with a slight luminescence. Diana looked down at her own creamy brown skin. No doubt, her skin color would seem as strange to them as theirs did to her.

Even stranger was the fact that they wore no clothing and their bodies were completely devoid of hair. Not even a wisp on the heads of the males or even the females. However, the most marvelous detail of all was their eyes.

The eyes of the queer humanoids were easily three times as large as a normal human's eyes. The irises had no color pigment, just the pink found in albinos. Diana felt a shiver run up her spine looking at the creatures that were so familiar and yet oddly alien.

"This is us?" Major Tom whispered.

Tarsier

Diana nodded her head. She knew that evolution tended to take quick long leaps based on environmental factors. Did humans become nocturnal albinos from living underground after a nuclear holocaust? Surely, the decades long nuclear winter that followed reinforced this new trait. Their faces now resembled the Tarsiers of Madagascar more than they did their own human ancestors.

"Major, raise the navigational shields."

"Yes, ma'am," Tom replied softly keeping his eyes glued to the monitor.

They watched the humanoids all night. The humanoids still communicated with each other, but their language had evolved enough that Tom and Diana could not make anything out from the recordings they took. They also tended to act more animalistic than human. Tool use was back to the basics of early man and the small tribe looked upon the Zephyr with curiosity and fear. Long before sunrise, they left the glade.

Diana and Tom went to their bunks and slept a restless sleep filled with the dreams of hairless, frog-eyed humans walking around with wooden spears. It was still late morning before Diana awoke. Even though she had less than eight hours of sleep over the last couple of days, she could no longer stay in bed. Her mind was racing with questions about how this strange world came to be.

Without waking the sleeping Major, Diana slipped out of her bunk and entered the cockpit. She sat in her flight chair and looked up the progress report of what computer had determined. Diana was surprised to find that the DVDs had faired better than she expected. The computer attained more information off them than she thought was possible after the ravages of war and time.

With a sinking heart, she read over the analysis. Diana was so engrossed in the reading that she did not realize she had been there for over two hours until Tom walked up behind her.

"Find anything out?" Tom asked giving Diana a slight start.

"Yes, Tom," Diana said sadly. "You better take a seat."

Tom sat down in his chair and looked at the colonel. If the colonel had used his first name, Tom new that something was dreadfully wrong. "This is serious, huh?"

"I'm afraid so," Diana replied and sat there trying to find the words of how to begin.

"I've got more information about that dictatorship I was talking to you about. It was not Mexico or Brazil. Tom, I don't know how to tell you this, but it was the United States."

* * * * *

"What? How? When?" Tom sputtered out the questions. His brain was still trying to grapple with the idea that the United States of America, the poster child for freedom had wound up like Nazi Germany. It simply was not possible.

"I don't know where to begin," Diana faltered.

"When did the war begin?" Tom asked straight out staring Diana right in the eyes.

"The final exchange happened sometime in the year 2075 if we base it on the last report that I was able to find."

"You are telling me that the U.S. and the U.K. became mortal enemies just a few years after we launched the Zephyr?" Tom shook his head. It was impossible.

"That's what is strange; according to the report the U.S. had been becoming more autocratic for decades."

Tom just stared at Diana. He could not form any words. His mind was at a standstill trying to comprehend the bombshell the colonel had just landed in his lap.

Diana turned towards the monitor and pointed to the screen. "According to this, the United States had set up concentration camps to take care of dissidents. They would round up troublemakers and have them just simply disappear off the face of the earth. ` "The government monitored personal phone calls and emails, and libraries and postal workers kept tabs on their customers. Neighbors would watch neighbors and anyone thought to be suspicious the government instantly rounded up and imprisoned without due process."

"When did this begin?" The major asked in a sullen voice.

"Remember the 9/11 terrorist attacks?"

"Yeah, my grandfather told me of them often. He told me of how we went into Afghanistan and defeated the Taliban. Utilizing the global goodwill that the U.S. had attained after the attacks and the combined efforts of all nations lead to the defeat of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. We even had our national debt paid off within ten years of the year 2000. Because of that we were able fund this space program with your country."

"Major, this is where it gets very strange. History as we know it changes here. After Afghanistan the U.S. invaded Iraq."

"Why? There were no Iraqis among the terrorists in the al Qaeda bombing of the World Trade Center."

"True, but there were many reason given. Most of the excuses to go to war turned out to be false. However, they public did not find out about it until after the fact of going to war with Iraq. Nonetheless, by going to war with Iraq, al Qaeda found a new breeding ground for terror groups. Your country went in record debt funding the war. It even ran ads on the tellie supporting the war. Many people in the Middle East felt that the U.S. was going to invade them so they decided to fight back. Therefore, things escalated.

"As more terrorist attacks exploded around the world the U.S. surrendered more civil liberties for the sake of security. The president assumed more power and congress became a mere spectator. People were persuaded to vote in certain ways by using fear tactics. Before long, the American citizen had voted away their rights and voted in a dictator.

"The U.S. government also did away with the Geneva conference conduct of war. Prisoners were tortured and humiliated. Soon it just was not just terrorists; it became criminals, and then even ordinary citizens. The same thing happened with phone tapping.

"The U.S. then started to solve all its problems by going to war. Every citizen at the age of eighteen had to join the military for a mandatory four-year enlistment. The United States occupied Mexico and much of Central and South America this way, not to mention most of the oil-laden countries of the Middle East. Even a war with North Korea erupted. This is when France and Germany stood up to the U.S.

"Soon France and Germany had been reduced to nuclear cinders. The rest of Europe and Canada declared war on the U.S. The result you see outside your window."

Major Tom sat there silently looking down at his feet. This never happened in the world from where he came. This was simply impossible. Then something else hit him.

"The flash! When the quantum flux matrix malfunctioned, it did not just send us into to the future. It sent us to an alternate timeline."

"That's how I see it, Major."

"Then the odds of us getting back to our time and place are very remote."

Colonel Diana nodded her head in agreement. "But we have to try. If for no other reason that to find a better place than this."

Major Tom looked up to Diana, "Colonel?"

"Yes, Major"

"I still don't understand how it all started."

"Major, look at who the records say was the president during the first eight years of 21st century."

"That's not possible; he lost that election in 2000."

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

Returning to Bella Pervalidia

By Douglas E Gogerty

"You were just a child," replied the magistrate. "You did not know what it was like to have things."

"I was not yet your age, and I had lost two families."

"Bah! They were not Romans! They may count as half families in front of the Senate."

"My story is clearly more tragic than what may happen to you if Pompey loses. The fates can be cruel or kind."

"Curse the fates! I will not concede that a slave's losses could equal a high-born Roman's losses."

"My story is not yet complete. There are the years in gladiatorial service..."

"Freedman, you were a slave. In gladiatorial service, the Roman citizens lavished you with great wealth and fame. You achieved wealth and fame that I could never match in any service for Rome. Thousands of Romans cheered your name. I was one such Roman."

"In the arena I killed many men. Some I knew."

"Gladiatorial combat was a show! Rarely was anyone killed. You traveled from town to town with the same group. It was all staged!"

"The fight you mentioned earlier when I fought three men, that was not staged. The patron of the festival wanted me dead."

"I am guessing his wife wanted to bed you! That is the tragedy of your life! Many women lusting after you, yet you could have none of it without risking crucifixion."

"Still..."

"I doubt that you did not bed your share of wealthy women. You were one of the most popular gladiators in all of Rome. The crowd cheered 'Validus Maximus -- Validus Maximus!' at many contests. I shouted that myself! Roman's knew you throughout the republic. You retired wealthy and -- more importantly -- healthy. You are wealthy enough to purchase slaves yourself! They likely have tragic stories similar to yours, but you care not one whit for their stories. If you lost that wealth now, that would come close to what I will lose."

"No doubt you would suggest we both back the same chariot. We both put all we have on Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus -- the pretender to the victory against my second father Spartacus."

"Uh..."

"Tempt the fates with a general who in many instances was simply at the right place at the right time. A general who defeated only outnumbered and weaker forces, and has let his hubris lead where an army must follow."

"Er..."

"No! I will not place my wealth in his hands for I have no confidence in his ability to lead his legions against well-trained legions. This conflict will play itself out, and I will retain my livelihood by staying clear."

"I ought to kill you ... What ho -- a rider approaches. He is one of my messengers. What news?"

"Sir," replied the messenger taking one knee in front of the two men. "There is news from Brundisium. The forces of Caesar and Pompey have clashed. Caesar was victorious, yet Pompey lives. The great general managed to escape. There is more conflict ahead."

"Tell my men I shall join them!"

"Yes sir," replied the messenger. He arose, mounted his horse, and rode off.

"You have not heard the last from me freedman!" shouted the magistrate as he rushed to his horse.

"May the fates be kind to you," replied Pervalidus who walked back to his house at a leisurely pace.

"Is all well with the magistrate?" asked Pervalidus's wife, Bella Pervalidia, as he approached the house.

"There was no difficulty with the course of events last night," replied the freed gladiator. "However, he tried to recruit me to join him in the fight against Gaius Julius Caesar."

"You are not joining him are you?"

"I have done my duty for the Republic, I owe them nothing further. Nonetheless, the magistrate made me recount much of my life story. It got me thinking about the slaves I own."

"What about them?"

"The magistrate reminded me, that I was once a slave, but now I am a slave owner. I detested my slavery..."

"Your household could not run without help," started Bella. "You treat your staff quite fairly. They do have to work for their meals and place to sleep, but you are not harsh like some have recommended. Free life does not guarantee ease, in fact, ease can only occur on the backs of others."

"You are wise. How did you get so?"

"Your words are kind."

"Do you ever wish to return to your home?"

"Like you, my home is no more. War has torn my home apart, and I am grateful that you purchased me and took me away from all that."

"You were well worth the 75,000 sesterces I paid for you!"

"I was a bargain! The bidding was slow on that day."

"Your words are true again!"

"If you wish, we can query the slaves on their situations."

"You have put my mind at ease, and I thank you. There is no need for any further conversation in this regard. Now, on a different subject, with the defeat of the highwaymen, we have some goods that we should be redistribute. We should feast in honor of Neptune tomorrow."

"It will be arranged."

"There will be much talk of Caesar and his victory at Brundisium. We have been fortunate not to be involved in this civil war. It is good to being a freeman rather than a citizen at times."

"What does this victory mean to us?"

"I think it is inevitable that Caesar will defeat Pompey, but what his plans for the Republic are anyone's guess. He may have himself voted dictator for life. If that should happen, we may have to offer some allegiance. We shall wait and see."

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Terra Mortis II: The Gathering

Chapter 28

By Dwayne MacInnes

The small army of rebels made camp deep in the woodland clearing several miles away from where Vice-City was now burning. Brady explained about Lisa's betrayal, though he kept the fact of her pregnancy to himself, and of meeting his former history professor turned conqueror, of Lisa and Coop dying, and of how Khan sent an army out to destroy their settlement at the lake.

Nori then told how they came across the bodies of the two scouts sent with Lisa. Both had been shot in their heads while they were sleeping. She also explained that it took them a week to follow the bikers back to Vice-City. When they saw the Horde vacate the city, it gave them ample cause to sabotage the fuel depot that Khan had established.

"But how did you convince Nathan to follow us to Vice-City?" asked Brady.

"Oh, that was easy," smiled Sergeant Miller. "Nori kicked the living bejesus out of him."

The resistance fighters began to laugh as they told the story of the little teenage girl who beat up Nathan. After that, Nathan took off and no one heard from him since.

Brady stood up and started to pack up his things.

Nori looked up at him, "What are you doing?"

"We've got to get back to Crystal Lake in a hurry."

Nori pulled Brady down to sit on a log. "Look it took us a week to get here; it'll take us a week at full trot to even get to Crystal Lake. How long does it take to drive there from here?"

Brady put his head in his hands as the answer sunk in, "No more than a few hours."

Nori put her arms around Brady and talked close to his ear, "OK, I'm worried to death about Sarge and everyone too. But we have to get this army together and ready to defeat the Horde once they come back. Who knows maybe Sarge has already taken them out?" Nori smiled weakly.

"That is highly unlikely; the Horde would have had the element of surprise. Plus, they still have that half-track."

"We did pull out some pretty big artillery pieces and rockets from those abandoned depots," Nori said hopefully.

"Perhaps," Brady answered still unconvinced.

Brady and Nori didn't see Sergeant Miller walk over to them.

"Uh, excuse me sir, ma'am? But I wanted to give the captain this," Miller held out Brady's PSGAT helmet and shotgun. The captain had forgotten that he'd lost them when he was hit on the hill.

PSGAT Helmet

Brady reached out and took the helmet and his grandfather's shotgun. He patted Miller's arm and stood up. The sadness in his heart was pushed away as he looked around at their small rebel army. Pride started to pulse through his heart. After all he had lost, could still lose, at least he had gained something as well.

"Sergeant, thanks. Get them men ready for camp tomorrow we head east after the Horde. We'll decide it one way or the other."

The next morning the five groups were up and ready for their long march before sun up. So far, the casualties had been light in the two engagements over the last week. The only deaths were: Akira, Coop and Lisa. Nathan was the only deserter and only two others had minor injuries that didn't seem to hinder them. A roll call found that they had a strength of ninety-seven counting officers. Not bad after a routing defeat the week before and the stunningly successful raid the day before.

On Nori's insistence, Brady was in overall command with her as his second. No one objected, least of all the Misfits, who were pleased to see their own leaders take control of the army. The moral in the small army was very high, all were ready to exact some form of revenge upon the Horde for all that the evil biker gang had done to their loved-ones over the last year.

Brady sent a small scouting party ahead of the main group to warn them of any surprises that may be in wait for them. Sergeant Miller, Jennings, and three more members of the Misfits composed the scouting party. The whole army was marching east by the time the sun rose in front of them over the mountains.

The birds were singing, the warm morning sun was comforting them, and the still lush green foliage contradicted that they were all marching off to combat. It was hard not to tear off and frolic in the open fields on either side of them as they marched ever eastward into the mountains.

Around noon, a small rainfall pelted down on them. Being from Washington and living outdoors over the last few months the army just continued on. The rain was just a slight nuisance to what this group of rebels had already endured.

They were marching down the road between wide fields that were once a dairy farm when Brady saw his scouting party running back towards him.

"Damn," thought Brady there wasn't any cover just the ditches beside the road. The nearest building was a barn off in a field hundreds of yards away.

"Every duck down in the ditches!" ordered Brady.

The scouts ran up to Brady and dropped down next to him.

"Sir, the Horde is on its way here. They have that half-track in the lead," Miller began, but before he could say any more the distinctive sound of metal treads on concrete squealed at them down the old road. Brady looked up over the embankment and saw in the distance the old war vehicle heading straight for them.

"OK, we can't take it out with our small arms," Brady called out to his troops. "I'll take out the driver of the half-track. As long as we stay low, it can't depress its guns low enough to shoot us. We'll have to get the gunner later."

The half-track and a small army of vehicles following behind were starting to close in on the small army. "Damn," Brady cursed himself. He'd hoped that they would have found a better ambush site than this. Maybe some trees that he could put sharpshooters in to fire in on the open top of the half-track or even a hill like the one they had where Akira died. However, he had neither and it looked as if the cost of his turn of bad luck was going to be high.

Brady scanned his troops quickly he noted the grim and determined look on their faces as the noise of the half-track increased. Some were silently praying while others were readying their weapons for one last great attack. "At least, we'll take a few with us," Brady thought as he raised his M-16 aiming at the driver's window on the half-track. The head of man behind the wheel became sharper over the open sight as the half-track approached.

Halftrack

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Recent Comments

  • Douglas Gogerty: Thanks Timmy. It was a fun one for sure! read more
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