August 2006 Archives

Just Super - The End

By Dwayne MacInnes

Within an hour, a priest entered the Bat Cave with Superman, and a wedding ceremony took place. Robin moaned in agony with Batman keeping vigil at his side. The priest married Clark and Lois, and then he presided over the last rites of Robin.

"Clark, thank you," Lois whispered before she expired.

The priest then performed the last rites for Lois. Superman and Batman escorted the priest out of the mansion. As the holy man left, Batman put a hand on Superman's shoulder.

"Clark, we fought till the end. I'm going to give those two a proper funeral. This mansion shall be their pyre. We have to do it before they reawaken as the undead."

Superman nodded his head in silence.

The huge fire licked the sky as Wayne Manor burned furiously. The two superheroes watched the inferno consume the mansion.

"Clark, this world has no room for us anymore. I nearly lost it when Alfred succumbed to the plague in the early days. Did you know I saw Salina Kyle devouring commissioner Gordon? I even saw Batgirl fall to a horde of undead. I have to leave the safe-zone. Maybe I'll head west, roam the land. You can join me if you wish."

Superman just shook his head. "I have to stay. You think Diana will return?"

"Maybe, if Paradise Island is safe. But, I have a feeling that even it was hit by the plague. You know we are probably the last living humans -- well you know what I mean... The last humans are those of us in the safe-zone."

Superman just nodded his head.

Sometime during the long night, Batman slipped away. Superman did not notice that he had left. The Man of Steel just continued to watch the flames.

In the morning as the collapsed mansion continued to smolder Superman walked through the ruins. Superman walked unconsciously and found himself at the Bat Cave's secret entrance. The one used by the Batmobile.

The Man of Steel was making his way back up the hillside when a noise reached his ears. It was the sound of someone rustling in the undergrowth.

Superman spun around to see Lois shambling out from the cave's entrance.

"Lois!" Superman yelled. "You survived after all."

Superman pulled the undead Lois into his arms. As he hugged her close, she tried to bite the Man of Steel's neck. Superman took this for a kiss and began to kiss his wife.

* * * * *

Clark was preparing to return home when he watched Lois stagger into the Daily Planet's office. Her skin was mottled and rotted. Her teeth showed through where her left cheek used to be.

"Hi, honey. Glad to see you made here," Clark said. "I'm just going to say goodnight to Perry."

Clark Kent rapped again on the glass door and entered the Chief's office. Perry White was still looking out the dirty window.

"Hey chief, Lois is here we're going to knock off for the night," Clark looked down upon the loose sheaves of paper on the desk he placed there early that day. "I see you've read my report. I hope you liked it."

Clark turned and left. As the door closed behind him, the blank pages of white paper fluttered off the table and scattered upon the floor. Perry White continued to look down upon Metropolis as the sun was setting. The zombie chief let out a grunt as he vacantly stared down upon the undead citizens of the safe-zone shambling about in the twilight.

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The problem with taking some pictures, is you can't get far enough back...

Hank in the Boundary Waters

This is in honor of our recent trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

Meeting with Octavius

By Douglas E Gogerty

"Marius Batiatus Pervalidus?" queried Gaius Octavius. "You seem familiar to me."

"I get that a lot," replied Pervalidus.

"I remember a giant of a man who was a gladiator from Lentulus Batiatus's gladiator school. At a festival once, the venue called for him to fight a child of 11 or 12. I was only a few years shy of that age myself at the time. He tried his best to make it look like a match, but the kid was too green."

"I remember that all too well."

"You were Validus Maximus? I thought you were taller..."

"I get that a lot also."

"It must be the eyes of youth. Everything from my young days seems smaller now."

"Indeed."

"You were put up against a child in that match!"

"That episode caused me much trouble."

"The kid could barely hold a sword. He swung it at you, and it went flying. You allowed him to retrieve it. After futilely attempting to make the match look good, you swept him up in your net. You threw your trident into the ground, which pinned the child in your net. Then you walked off."

"The patron obviously wished this child dead," added the former gladiator. "I did not oblige him. He should have just fed him to some exotic beast."

"I will bet that episode cost you."

"His next festival featured me against three men..."

"Three? You are here to tell the story, so you are clearly a competent fighter. It is a useful skill in such dangerous times. I heard that a group of two dozen bandits was attacking travelers near here."

"Two dozen?"

"Well, that is what I heard. In any event, fortunately for future travelers they ran into this enormous man.... Anyway, this man managed to single handedly kill six of them including their leader. I understand it was quite a fight. All the man had as a weapon was some sort of walking stick with a horse head carved into it. In any event, after killing some of the men, the rest of them ran off. Knowing this man is still out there should scare any bandits from wantonly attacking travelers in these parts."

"Let us hope so."

"Let us get back to the matter at hand. With you and about 3,000 veteran soldiers from Gaius Julius Caesar's army, we will march on Rome. I will claim what is mine, and I will punish those responsible for my adopted father's assassination. The group of us will make great names for ourselves."

"No sir. Leaders are remembered in the histories. We fighters rarely find our names in the annals of time."

"You have proven yourself on many occasions. Your sword will be useful."

"Neigh sir! I shall use a spear. It is closer to my weapon of choice."

"No matter -- all shall remember your name. Marius Batiatus Pervalidus will be of much renown."

"I will not argue the matter with you. I am getting up in age, and I was renowned for my time. Vadilus Maximus seems like a lifetime ago. I tried to stop fighting, but the gods wish me to continue. I give you my spear and shield in service."

"I most humbly accept your invitation."

"The only thing is... Well, I have never killed more than twenty-eight men in one day...

"Twenty-eight is a good number. I'll ask the men to pick up some of the slack."

"It has been two life-times ago since I fought under Spartacus in Legion fighting. I may only be good for 23 or 24..."

"All joking aside, let us hope that it does not come to that. I ask only for Marc Antony to give me what Caesar placed in his will."

"He has great ambition."

"He is playing the politician quite well. He has appeased the senate, and incited the people."

"Marc Antony is playing both sides quite well."

"Our march on Rome will show the people that we mean business. We will not reward murderers with governorships. Crimes should be punished."

"What if Marc Antony puts up a fight?"

"I know what are in Julius's papers. He left me a great legacy. Antony cannot deny my rights without losing a lot of political capital."

"It will be war. A man does not willingly give up the power that he wields."

"We can defeat him. We have a well-disciplined army who were loyal to Julius Caesar. They do not like how his murderers got away with their actions. They will fight hard to avenge his death. Antony's army has little motivation. That alone will tip the balance in our favor."

"It is quite the feat that they are willing to follow you at such a young age."

"While it is true that I am in my 18th year, I wave the banner of a cause."

"I agree that the fight is just. That is why I am joining you. I owe much to Caesar and the gods wish me to fight. I believe you will be an excellent leader in battle and in matters of state. I just wish there was a better way."

"I have not found such a way."

"That is why we march on Rome."

"It is indeed. You should rest now equestrian. We need your spear to be sharp and ready when we begin our march. Antony will not allow a fight in Rome, but I am sure a fight will occur. We all need to be ready."

"We shall be victorious!"

"I'll only expect 19 or 20 fallen at your hands."

"I will hold back for the sake of the others!"

"In the morrow then."

"Aye!"

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Mac MacKinnon and the Race for El Dorado

Chapter 10: Back from the Dead

By Dwayne MacInnes

Dan knew he was a dead man. He had been expertly tied-up with a bomb counting down the last few minutes of his life just out of his reach. His struggling to loosen his bonds had only resulted in rope burns. Regardless of the pain in raw wrists, Dan continued to frantically struggle. He could not scream because of the gag in his mouth. Not like there would have been anyone to hear him in the desert.

The clock's rhythmic ticking pounded into Dan's ears. It was the only sound outside of Dan's violent and futile attempts to free himself. There was only half a minute left before Dan resigned himself to his fate. He closed his eyes and relaxed. At least he would die peacefully.

Dan heard a noise. He opened his eyes to see a man run out of the hangar with the bomb. The man then ran back into the hangar and slid behind the wall just before the dynamite sticks exploded thunderously. The hangar rocked and dust flew in through the open doors.

The mechanic watched as a figure walked towards him through the cloud of dust. Dan recognized the man as he approached closer. It was Mac and as usual, he was there just at the right time.

"Looks like you've gotten yourself tied-up," Mac said dryly.

All Dan could do was groan through the gag in his mouth. Mac removed the gag and began to untie Dan's arms and legs.

"What took you so long?" Dan asked.

"I ran into the zeppelin. They nearly shot me out of the sky. I had to coax the Jenny back home. Even then, I land a couple of miles shy of the hangar and I had to run back here," Mac explained hurriedly. "I'm sorry I didn't get here in time to save the professor and Rebecca."

"Yeah, a man named Johann von Hutten kidnapped them and took off with them after trying to blow me up," Dan replied. "Looks, like they now hold all the cards. We can't even follow them."

Mac finished untying Dan who began to rub his raw and bloody wrists. Mac reached into his back pocket and pulled out a book. "Not exactly... I had some time to read Dr. Strong's journal. He wrote everything down including the exact route to the location of El Dorado."

"But they have the key and we don't," Dan pointed out.

"That's true, but maybe we can head them off," Mac said. "Von Hutten, did you say?"

Dan nodded his head.

"Our friend Johann must be a relative of Philipp von Hutten. I suppose he wants to carry on the family tradition."

* * * * *

"Now you will notice that this zeppelin has certain amenities that our military airships didn't have during the Great War," Johann pointed out as he had breakfast with his guests. Dr. Strong and Rebecca both sat at the table in the cramped dining room eating sausages and eggs alone with their captor. Johann pointed at the room with his fork, "You'll notice that this gondola is completely enclosed and pressurized. This allows us to heat it up and keep it comfortable even though we are now flying over 20,000 of your feet in the air."

Both the professor and his daughter sat their in silence reluctantly eating as Johann continued to lecture on about his airship. The one sided conversation even began to tire the German.

"Please, you both are so glum," Johann began. "You must have some questions about our ship. Or, perhaps we can talk about El Dorado?"

Dr. Strong cleared his throat before he quietly began speaking, "Surely, you don't expect hostages to carry on with their jailers as if they were on a holiday, especially, when you are more than likely going to kill us after you get what you want."

Johann began to laugh, "I'm sorry, but you couldn't be further from the truth. We have no desire to kill you and your charming daughter. We just need you to correct our course. It is obvious that the Grand Canyon is not the correct location."

"Just like you didn't kill Mac and Dan!" yelled Rebecca as she stood up pointing an accusing finger at Johann.

"Yes, unfortunately, they were an impediment to our plans and had to be dealt with in a more permanent fashion. But, I assure you that we have no such plans for you just as long as you cooperate."

Dr. Strong pulled Rebecca back down into her chair. The young woman's eyes blazed with hatred as she stared at Johann.

"To prove my point you are free to walk anywhere you want in this gondola. You may not access the airbag or try to reach the control gondola. Just one word of warning though, you cannot smoke. The hydrogen that fills our airbags is highly flammable. I also warn you against sabotage. For your life depends on our reaching El Dorado alive and well."

"You shall have no problem from us," Hugo promised.

Rebecca turned her glare upon her father. The professor only sternly looked into her eyes as he continued to speak to Johann.

"As long as you treat my daughter well, I shall be fully cooperative."

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It's just another day to relax. The Tower Bridge in London seems like a nice place to rest...

Hank on the Tower Bridge in London

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

Battle of Actium

By Douglas E Gogerty

"I’m getting old, Octavian," complained Marius Batiatus Pervalidus.

"You have been saying that for the last 13 years or so Validus," replied Gaius Octavius.

"It has been true these last several years. I am approaching my 50th year. Do you not think that is old?"

"You are still the most feared soldier in my army. They will write about you as they did Achilles"

"Are you suggesting I die in battle?"

"If you think it will boost your reputation; however, I would appreciate another performance like the one you put in at Naulochus against Sextus Pompey."

"I do not know if I have another day like that in me."

"I suppose 73 is a lot to ask for."

"73? You must have been using Marcus Aemilius Lepidus's count. I think he got tired of counting after 50. The true count is 78."

"A nice round 100 would solve any controversy."

"You are quite a funny man, consul"

"In any event, the upcoming sea battle at Actium should decide things."

"You said 'things would be decided' when the senate established the Triumvirate of Marc Antony, Lepidus, and yourself. In addition, when that Triumverate expired five years later, you repeated that things would be decided if it was renewed. They renewed it, and it has also run its five year course, and things are still not decided..."

"Is it my fault that Marc Antony is under the spell of that Egyptian Cleopatra? He has been totally unreasonable for quite some time. What options do we have?"

"You know quite well..."

"Have you forgotten the accolades you accumulated at Philippi?"

"While it is true that I killed many men to prevent Brutus's men from entering your tent before you could escape, the rumor has it that you escaped because of an omen. I am completely left out of the story."

"I will straighten out the story in due course."

"Only 53 men died at my hands that day, and we nearly lost the day. We would have -- if Brutus would have pressed the issue."

"It was Julius who said, 'Today the enemy would have won, if they had had a commander who was a winner.' It is fitting in this context as well."

"We did redeem ourselves several weeks later, and 64 Romans had to die at my hands to punish Brutus."

"Do you always count?"

"In order to give proper thanks to Neptune, it is important to know what was sacrificed."

"That is fair enough. Speaking of Neptune, Actium will be a naval encounter. You should be on the ship with Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. Protect him as if he were me."

"Consul, I am nearly twice your age. There is no need treating me as a child. I will do my duty and kill anything that boards our ship. However, Agrippa's plan seems reasonable. Neptune willing, we should have the day."

Ships Battling at Actium

The former gladiator stood on the deck of the Liburnian bireme with Admiral Agrippa. The orders were to stay away from the much larger quinquereme's of Marc Antony. Maneuverability was going to be their biggest asset in this fight. Further, if they were within range of the shore, the troops protecting Marc Antony's base, could bombard the sailing vessels with arrows and other weapons. Thus, they would attempt to keep Antony's forces between them and the shore.

After much maneuvering, Antony ordered his ships to engage Octavian's fleet and the battle was joined. The lighter and fully manned Liburnian vessels of Octavius and Agrippa began inflicting heavy losses upon the opposing fleet.

One of the ship commanders panicked and pulled most of the Egyptian fleet away. Agrippa guessed that Queen Cleopatra was on board one of the vessels. Thus, fearing for the life of the queen, the vessels disengaged from the battle. Once that arm of the fleet left, the remaining ships were soon routed.

The former gladiator did not even need to wield his spear. Not a single soldier boarded the commanding Bireme, and with the battle well in hand, his services were not needed. He was going to join the men in capturing the remaining soldiers, but Octavian ordered him to remain next to Agrippa.

A great victory party was held on the beach of Actium. With the destruction of the vessels, the victorious army constructed a great wall of defeat out of the bronze ramming heads of the destroyed fleet. The battle would continue, but there was much to rejoice about in this victory.

Antony's men were continually deserting him. His love left in mid-battle and he went after her. Thus, he left the battle in disarray. The navy of Octavian with its smaller more agile vessels defeated the much larger ships of Antony. The army would continue with its fight against Egypt, but for now they were rejoicing.

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Mac MacKinnon and the Race for El Dorado

Chapter 11: Escape

By Dwayne MacInnes

Zepplin

Hugo Strong was as good as his word. He soon had the zeppelin on the correct course towards El Dorado. Johann for his part was also as good as his word. Both the professor and Rebecca had full run of the gondola where they were residing. Unfortunately, a jail, no matter its size was still a jail.

Rebecca had fully explored every inch of the gondola. The crew slept in small cabins containing two sets of bunk beds. Dr. Strong and Rebecca had one to themselves, thanks to the recent passing of some of the crew at Mac and Dan's hand. Two tiny restrooms that contained a shower sat at the end of the hall with the crew cabins. The shower had a timer to limit the amount of water used. One restroom had been set aside for Rebecca's personal use. The poor crew now had to crowd into the remaining restroom.

The gondola also contained a small mess hall that adjoined a tiny galley. Nonetheless, the food prepared by the cook was first rate. Johann certainly enjoined the good things in life. Two large storage rooms stored crates and barrels of various supplies. The access panels to the airbag and the flight control gondola were constantly under guard to deter Hugo and Rebecca to leave. Finally, there was a small observation deck.

The view from the observation deck was stunning. As the zeppelin floated above the clouds, Rebecca could not help but feel as if she was an angel looking down upon the Earth. The land and sea that flowed below them looked surreal. Rebecca had never flown in her life and this experience astounded her.

However, after two days of watching the planet pass below her Rebecca began to get bored. There were no books in English for her to read, and she never learned any German. However, if she did, Rebecca doubted that the books available to her were nothing more than technical manuals.

Rebecca wandered the gondola looking for something new to occupy her time. As she walked past one of the storage compartments, Rebecca noticed a crewmember dumping some trash out an access panel to the ground. There was a coil of rope next to panel. The rope must have been for mooring the ship to the ground. An idea passed into Rebecca's mind.

Whenever the airship encountered too much turbulence, it decreased its altitude. If the airship lowered itself close enough to the ground, Rebecca and her father could possibly escape through the access panel. Granted, the plan was fraught with peril, but Rebecca reasoned that it was worth the risk.

That night Rebecca proposed her plan to her father. At first, Dr. Strong was against the idea. However, Rebecca was relentless and her reasoning was flawless. They both knew that there was no guarantee that Johann was not going to kill them after he got what he wanted. Thus, she was able to persuade her father attempt the escape.

The opportunity that Rebecca was hoping for presented itself far sooner than she expected. It was the morning of the morning after she presented her plan to her father that the zeppelin lowered itself down to treetop level. Rebecca quickly grabbed her father out of their cabin and led him to the storage room.

The room was deserted and the two captives quickly rushed into room. Rebecca lifted the door open on the access panel. She watched the trees slowly pass along below the airship. This was even better than she had hoped.

"Come, dad you go first," Rebecca motioned to her father as she began to uncoil the rope. Hugo started to approach Rebecca when suddenly the door opened behind them.

A German crewmember surprised the two prisoners. Both parties stared at each other for a minute. It took only a second for the German to find his voice and he started to yell at Rebecca and the professor in German.

"I'm sorry, this doesn't look..." Hugo began as the German roughly grabbed his arm.

The archaeologist began to struggle with the German. Both men started to toss each other about in the storage room. They would crash each other into boxes and barrels oblivious to Rebecca who just stood there shocked to see her father fighting. The older man was doing remarkable well against his younger opponent.

The German crewmember finally shoved the professor against some sacks of flour breaking their hold on each other. As the German approached to continue the fight against the older man, Hugo kicked out violently with his right leg. The German caught the blow to his stomach, which sent him staggering backwards toward the open access panel.

The German flailed his arms as he stepped onto the empty air. In a final desperate attempt, he grabbed onto Rebecca with his left arm pulling her along with him. Hugo lunged to grab his daughter as she fell through the access panel. Hugo's fingers narrowly missed Rebecca's outstretched hand. The last thing he saw was the look of fear as Rebecca plummeted towards the earth.

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After aiding in the negotiations for a Mid-East cease-fire, Hank visits the pyramids in Egypt.

Hank on Pyramid

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

The Storyteller and the Brother

By Douglas E Gogerty

The civil war was over, and Marc Antony had been defeated. He and his lover Cleopatra had committed suicide. Any challenger to Julius Caesar's adopted son, now calling himself Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus, was eliminated. Politics in Rome was now different. The power in Rome was now concentrated in one man, Caesar Augustus. Thus, Marius Batiatus Pervalidus could return home.

As was his habit when traveling, he would visit the local public bath. These were the gathering places for Roman citizens. It was a place to exchange news and hear stories. As the former gladiator was relaxing, he overheard some men telling stories.

"I guess we now have a tyrant for life in Augustus," started one citizen.

"He is lucky to be in this position," replied another. " Marcus Junius Brutus had him to rights, if it was not for his dream. He escaped his tent before they could get to him."

"That is not what I heard," interrupted a third.

"Tell us," responded the men.

"Gaius Octavius, had a giant guarding his tent. The man was as wide as he was tall. He was an enormous man."

"Was he naked and painted blue like the Gauls?" asked one of the citizens.

"No this man was no barbarian. He was a freedman and a member of the Equestrian Order, although it is said he was formerly a gladiator. His name was Marius Batiatus Pervalidus."

"Batiatus? He was a freed gladiator all right," one man added.

"Pervalidus? I wonder if it was Validus Maximus... He was an enormous man that I saw fight at the games as a child."

"This could all be true," continued the storyteller. "He was armed with only a spear, but a master with the spear he was. When the alarm rang, Octavian's camp erupted in confusion. Brutus's forces completely surprised them. Octavian had to gather his things and go, but it would take some time. He asked Pervalidus to protect his retreat.

"Pervalidus being strong and true stood his ground. Whenever a soldier from the opposing side would get near the tent, Pervalidus would quickly defeat him. Soldier after soldier came and they all had the same fate. The Brutus's soldiers were stacking up pretty high as the mighty Pervalidus dispatched them one by one.

"Soon, they would come in small groups as more forces arrived at the camp. One, two, a dozen made no difference to Pervalidus. Every group ended the same way -- dead. His job was to protect the Consul, and that he did.

"He had been fighting for hours giving Octavian plenty of time to make his escape. He was beginning to tire and the men kept coming. Soon, he found himself surrounded by 30 soldiers. It looked like he had taken too long to make his own escape. However, before anyone could flinch, he killed three more and was gone.

"Brutus found the tent empty, but did not press the issue any further knowing that 153 of his men died at the hands of one man."

"It was just 53," injected the former gladiator.

"What?" asked the storyteller.

"Only 53 of Brutus's soldiers were killed by Pervalidus," returned Pervalidus.

"53 -- 153? Both are preposterous," interjected another citizen.

"The omen seems much more likely," included another.

"How do you know the number old timer?" inquired the storyteller.

"Let us just say that I am intimately familiar with the story and its subject."

"You were at Philippi?" asked one man.

"I did not know they let geezers into battle..." added another.

"They will let anyone willing to fight in the army," responded Pervalidus.

"The story is true!" a young man in the back of the room exclaimed. "My brother died at the hands of that freedman."

"So which is it citizen, 53 or 153?" asked the storyteller.

"The only number that matters to me is one," replied the man.

"I concede the point," responded Pervalidus. "I must prepare to continue my journey. Thank you all."

"Not so fast citizen," interrupted the young man. "What is your name?"

"My name is unimportant. I am here for a relaxing time -- not trouble."

"I say your name is Marius Batiatus Pervalidus!"

The group erupted with noise. "No he can't be," said one man.

"He would have to be bigger," stated another.

"He is way too old," added a third.

"Think about it kid," started the storyteller. "Caesar offered him a position in his newly created Praetorian Guards. Would he do that to an old man like this? I do not think he would."

"Listen to them citizen," added Pervalidus. "No one wants any trouble here."

"I know you're Pervalidus! My name is Tiberius Eprius Montanus, you killed my brother, prepare to die!"

"I am unarmed and naked Tiberius," replied Pervalidus. "Perhaps some other time..."

"You cannot stay in here forever -- Gaius," Tiberius said with hate. "We will meet outside whenever you are ready."

"Are you really Pervalidus?" asked one of the group.

"Were you really Validus Maxiums?" asked another.

"Is this true?" asked the storyteller.

"I suspect there is no reason to keep it hidden," responded a dejected Pervalidus. "It is true, I am the former gladiator known as Validus Maximus. My free name is Marius Batiatus Pervalidus. I did kill 53 men to give Caesar a chance to escape. One of them could have been a Montanus. Caesar offered me a position with the Praetorius, but I refused. I wish to live in peace with my wife and kids. I had hoped to be done fighting. I guess it is not to be the case."

"I thought he was taller," whispered one man.

"What are you going to do?" asked the storyteller.

"I will try to avoid the fight, but I will probably have to fight him."

"This I have to see!" exclaimed one man.

The room erupted in excitement and movement. The bath was quickly empty except for the former gladiator. Everyone at the bath rushed to gather his things and find a good spot to view the fight. Some even went to gather loved ones. The whole town was soon abuzz about the upcoming fight.

Pervalidus sat in the bath for a little while longer. Eventually, he gave a heavy sigh and went to gather his things. He slowly got dressed and reluctantly left the bath. A huge crowd had gathered and the young Tiberius was waiting. A huge roar erupted as the former gladiator entered the street.

The young Tiberius was wearing a helmet and was brandishing a sword. "Do you have a weapon old man?" he shouted to Pervalidus.

"My staff will serve me fine," responded Pervalidus. "We do not have to do this Tiberius."

"My name is Tiberius Eprius Montanus, you killed my brother, prepare to die!" he said as he slowly walked toward Pervalidus.

"I am sure your brother killed many friends of mine..." Pervalidus replied holding his ground.

"My name is Tiberius Eprius Montanus, you killed my brother, prepare to die!" he said as he continued to approach.

"Is there nothing that will prevent this?"

"It is what these people have gathered to see," he said looking around at the crowd.

The crowd cheered at the acknowledgement. The former gladiator stood there calmly with a frown on his face. Nothing he said was going to prevent the fight. He readied his staff and prepared for the fight.

Suddenly the young Tiberius gave a shout and charged Pervalidus. The young man rushed the waiting opponent and swung his sword as he neared. Pervalidus easily blocked the blow with his staff, and with a quick thrust from it, Tiberius was sprawled on the ground. The crowed roared at the first action.

Tiberius was stunned. His face was red. Perhaps it was because of embarrassment or perhaps it was because of fury. Once again he stated, "My name is Tiberius Eprius Montanus, you killed my brother, prepare to die."

"You are young and inexperienced young Montanus. It is not too late to stop this."

Tiberius got up and charged again. Pervalidus easily parried the blow, and once again, the young fighter was sprawled on the ground. Another cheer from the crowd erupted.

"Your death will not bring back your brother, and neither will mine," Pervalidus explained calmly. "You have your whole life ahead of you."

"I do not need your lecture freedman," responded Tiberius. "I will kill you."

"I do not..." started Pervalidus when another person emerged from the crowd wielding a sword. The two men rushed the former gladiator at the same time. When the two men were close to him, he hooked the sword of Tiberius with the horse head on his staff, and steered it into the new man's chest. The sword found its mark and the falling man wretched the sword from the young Montanus's hand. With the sword still in his chest, the new combatant fell to the ground. With a hop and a sweep of the staff, it found its target at the back of Tiberius's head. The young man fell on top of his compatriot and breathed his last breath.

The crowd was silent. What had happened? It was over too quickly. The two young men were motionless in the street. The former gladiator shook his head and walked to the inn.

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Mac MacKinnon and the Race for El Dorado

Chapter 12: Major Roger White

By Dwayne MacInnes

Rebecca felt the hand of the falling German grabbing onto her arm. Rebecca lost her balance and started to fall through the open access panel as well. Desperately, she reached out towards her father who was rushing over to grab her. Their hands barely missed each other.

The German's grasp slipped off Rebecca's arm, and she thought she heard him scream as he fell. She could not be sure for she was screaming as well as she too plummeted towards the ground. The bottom of the zeppelin fell away as she plunged backwards.

Rebecca closed her eyes as she continued her downward descent. She continued to scream as the wind rushed past her ears. Suddenly, something grabbed her left ankle jarringly and painfully halting her fall. Rebecca opened her eyes to see that by some miracle the mooring line entangled her foot.

Rebecca hung upside down, for how long she did not know before someone began to pull her back up to the access panel of the zeppelin. After a few minutes, Rebecca found herself back inside the storage room. Johann von Hutten stood next to her father with his arms crossed. He did not appear pleased at all. The two crewmembers that had retrieved Rebecca stood back as another man approached from the back of the room. This man was obviously the zeppelin's captain. Neither she nor her father had seen the captain before as he was always on the flight deck. He was wearing a navy blue uniform and a matching officer's cap. On his jacket, braiding encircled his cuffs that matched the color of his gold buttons.

The captain walked up to Rebecca and Dr. Strong. The scowl on his face made Rebecca's blood run cold.

"Mr. von Hutten has been entirely too civil with you. I have already lost four men because of you, and I will not lose another. Is that clear?" the captain said in a stern voice with a near perfect North American accent. "If either of you cause me any further problems, I will have you eliminated."

The captain turned on his heels and marched out of the storage room.

"That was Captain Wolfgang. I am sorry, but I am afraid that your movements are now restricted. You shall be locked in your cabin until you are summoned for," Johann added before he motioned to the two crewmembers.

The German crewmembers were now shouldering rifles and led the Strongs back to their cabin. One of the Germans stood guard outside the room after he securely locked in the hostages.

Meanwhile, Mac and Dan managed to make it to British Honduras by fast train. They had also hired bush pilots to help them get through Central America. Mac reckoned that they could not be too far behind the zeppelins trail. He had a contact here and Mac hoped that he would be able to call in some markers to get a floatplane.

The two men walked into the dark cantina. The humid and dimly lit interior reeked of unwashed bodies mingled with the strong smell of alcohol. The smell brought Mac and Dan back to their days on the western front in France during the Great War.

Seeing Major Roger White sitting at a table with another man further reinforced the memory. It felt as if the two men had stepped back in time to four years earlier. Mac nudged Dan and both walked up to the table.

"Why if it isn't Captain MacKinnon and Sergeant Edwards," laughed retired British Major. Roger twisted the end of his mustache as he stood up and offered his right hand in greeting.

Both Mac and Dan accepted the handshake in turn before they sat down at the table next to the stranger who the major had been conversing with moments before.

Roger nodded towards the stranger as he resumed his seat. "Gentlemen, I would like you to meet a fellow countryman Dr. Frederick Mitchell-Hedges. He's an archaeologist here working on...what was it again?"

"I am working on the Mayan ruins in the city of Lubaantum," the archaeologist offered. "I'm spending some time here with my daughter Anna."

"Sounds remarkably familiar," Dan said off-handedly.

"Excuse me," Dr. Mitchell-Hedges replied. "I'm afraid I don't quite follow."

"It's nothing," Mac said. "I've looked up the major here to see if he could help us find some transportation on an expedition we are mounting."

"Well, it looks like you gentlemen have some business to attend to. I have to find a birthday gift for my daughter so I'll be leaving," Frederick said as he stood up and bowed towards the three men. "Cheers."

The major sat back and continued to play with his mustache until the archaeologist left the cantina. "I received your telegram two days ago. I have the plane ready down by the lake. All we need to do now is conclude the rather distasteful task of payment."

"Do you want that in dollars or pounds?" Mac asked.

"Pounds if you would be so kind."

Mac nodded over to Dan who in turn reached into one of his many pockets and produced a roll of British pounds. Dan tossed the wad of cash over to Roger. The major snatched the money out of midair and quickly secreted it away into his own pocket.

"I'll count it later. I'm sure you haven't shorted me. Now if you will follow me I'll show you the floatplane you requested," Roger said as he stood up and ushered the two men out of the cantina. "Do you need any other...um, provisions?"

Mac smiled, the major had not changed much after the war. Even then, Roger White ran a small black market. If you wanted it, he could get it. It was all just a matter of money. "No, we've brought our own," Mac replied.

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Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero

The Road Home

By Douglas E Gogerty

"Welcome home dear!" greeted Bella Pervalidia.

"It is good to be home again," replied the former gladiator.

"Rome's civil war is over, and you and Octavian won!"

"He has taken to calling himself Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus."

"That is quite a name!"

"History will probably shorten it to something like Caesar Augustus, or some such trifling."

"We cannot control how the people of the future will view our culture. Thus, it is silly to worry about such things."

"You are right, wife. It was a long journey, and I am glad to be home."

"How was your journey?"

"The usual."

"I heard about the young men..."

"It was a shame. For some, they will take dishonor with revenge. Having a cohort attack me from behind was inexcusable."

"You handled the situation as best you could, I am sure."

"I would have liked to not kill the young man. His family has lost another to my hands. How many more will there be?"

"Wars and death bring suffering to many families. Each must handle it in their own way. Some seek vengeance, while others forgive. It is the way of people."

"Once again, you soothe me with your wise words woman!"

"Were there any other incidents on the road that I have not heard of -- yet."

"Ummm..."

"From your hesitation, I know. There is no use hiding the truth from me."

"When I allied myself with Octavian -- Caesar Augustus -- I was hoping that the gods would finally let the fighting end. I thought that I would live in peace. It is not to be as I am convinced that Mars likes to see me fight."

"It is one of your great skills."

"I am getting up in years, and I can tell my skills are diminishing. I will make a mistake some day, and where would that leave you dear Bella?"

"Worrying about the future will just make that inevitable day come sooner."

"I thank the gods for smiling upon me so! Neptune and Mars, I am at your service until I die."

"Quit stalling Pervalidus, out with the story!"

"As you wish," sighed the aging fighter to his wife. He leaned back and began to tell his story.

* * * * *

With the war over, there are pockets of displaced soldiers here and there. Some of them fought for Caesar and some against, but they do not know what to do with themselves. Some have returned to their homes, yet some still gather and cause trouble for travelers. I came across one of these small groups.

I was delayed by some innocent incident, and I had not arrived in a town. While it would have been a joy to stay at an inn, it appeared that I would not make it to a lodging place until quite late. Even though it was still early evening, I decided that I would travel no further on that day. I made camp beside the road and began fixing myself a small meal.

Up the road came this band of armored soldiers. I greeted them and offered to share my food with them. However, the leader was quite belligerent and he informed me that I must move along.

I smiled and told him that I had traveled a long way, and I had a long way yet to go. I explained that I was just resting, and that I would continue on my way after my meal.

The leader's eyes grew cold as I talked. He was not interested in my troubles and he explained to me that my words meant nothing to him. He stated quite clearly that if I did not pack up and leave immediately, there would be trouble.

Not wanting to cause problems, I complied with his words. Well -- I reluctantly complied -- and -- I may have grumbled a few words. I cannot recall what these words were.

The group's leader heard me grumble and asked me what I had said. I told him that I could not remember, but that it was not important. Then he said, "Do you know who I am?"

Naturally, I replied, "No."

"I am Marius Batiatus Pervalidus! I killed 173 men single handedly at the battle of Philippi."

In an effort to stifle my laughter, I let out some sort of sound that was my inept attempt to indicate surprise. After a long uncomfortable pause, I did something that I should not have. I said, "I thought you were taller."

He shot a look my way in an effort to intimidate me. I must have been more tired and irritable than I thought as I continued with, "Also, I heard it was only 53 men."

I barely was able to contain my chuckles. "This is a serious manner -- old man. I could kill you quickly without breaking a sweat," continued the leader of the group.

"Listen Citizen Pervalidus -- if that is your real name," I said with as much composure as I could muster. "You asked me to leave. I am going. You have no authority to make such demands, but I do not wish to make trouble. So, go on your way, and I will continue on my own."

"It is too late for that whoever you are! You will die now." he squeaked. I must have touched some nerve in him.

He drew his sword and waved his comrades away. As usual, I had my staff with me. The man charged and I placed the hook end of my staff on the edge of his blade just above the hand guard and stepped aside. With another quick step to the side and a jerk of the staff, I wretched the sword from his hand and it fell to the ground.

As he reached for it, I gave him a sharp smack on his back. He stood up sharply, and momentarily abandoned making an attempt to retrieve the weapon. His comrades were about to rush me, but he waved them off.

"I think I shall stay the night here after all," I taunted.

He asked for a weapon from another member of the group, and charged again. I used the same maneuver and disarmed him again.

"Just in case you were wondering," I stated confidently. "It was not a fluke that I easily disarmed you. However, this confrontation has made me weary. I may try something different next time."

He whispered some sort of instructions to his cohorts, and they encircled me. I managed to stay close to the swords as they made their way around. I thought they would certainly attempt to retrieve them.

Two men with swords drawn came from opposite ends and rushed at me. I quickly determined who the stronger fighter was, and concentrated on him and put my back to the unsure weaker fighter. I took one step towards the strong fighter, and put my staff on the bridge of his nose. I directed the force of this blow into the groin of the other fighter. The strong fighter lurched backward and the weak one bent forward.

I had clear access to the strong fighter's sword, so I hooked it, and took it away from him. It fell near the others as blood began to flow profusely from his nose. The doubled over fighter was still in his position when I pushed him backwards. In an effort to catch himself from falling, he waved his arms wildly, and forgot he was wielding a sword. I relieved him of the weapon easily enough.

I had enough fighting, and a deep seriousness fell upon me. I stood in my warrior stance and shouted. "I have had enough. I will take these swords, and you will leave me now. Or, I will be forced to dispatch all of you, for I am the real Marius Batiatus Pervalidus, Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero. Leave in peace, or become food for scavengers. It is your choice."

In the old days, that would have frightened half of them. However, when a man of my age uses such words, they have less impact. All eight of the men rushed me at once. Luckily, I had disarmed half of them and a few were somewhat hampered by afflictions.

I chose two men on opposite sides that both had swords. I used my old technique of steering one man's sword into the belly of another and giving a whack on the back of his head. The two men fell upon each other as I gave a poke with the bronzed tip to other attackers.

This gave me a chance to locate the armed men, and keep others from grabbing the abandoned swords. There were just two men with swords left. They were very tentative in their actions which gave me a big advantage.

I rushed one of the remaining armed men, swung wildly with the staff at his head, and gave a mighty roar. It was just a feint, and he reflectively tried to protect himself with his sword. I redirected the blow to hit his hand.

With all of the bones in his hand now broken, he could no longer hold onto the sword. The bloodied-nose man believing that I was vulnerable grabbed a sword from the ground and rushed me.

Little did he know that I had hooked the armor of the newly disarmed comrade with my staff. When he attempted his blow, I fell back. His comrade also tried to avoid the blow, but could not because I had him in my control. The sword lodged in the man's neck. While unhooking from the man's armor, I caught the man again in the nose. This prevented him from jumping on me as I fell back. With a quick roll, I swept at his legs and over he fell. With the brass end of my staff, I impaled him.

The man I hit in the groin was still useless in the fight. He barely moved the entire time. However, the other three had managed to re-arm themselves. However, they were clearly afraid now.

In fact, one started to run. With a few strides, I hooked him in the arm, and directed him to run into a tree. It is then that I noticed he had a knife. I stood there puzzled for a few seconds. "Why didn't they use their knives?" I asked myself.

I shrugged at the thought, and I grabbed the man's knife. With a quick flip, I hit the other combatant in the neck. By the look in his eyes, he was quite surprised by this turn of events.

The man I directed into the tree was lying on his back, and I grabbed his sword. I looked at the leader of the group. His friend was lying there unconscious at my feet. I looked him in the eye, as I drove the sword into the man's chest.

Now, the only men left in the fight were the leader, who said he was me, and the doubled over soldier. I rushed the soldier who could not stand, and hit him with an uppercut with my staff. He did a flip and landed on his face. Again, I looked the leader in the eye as I gave his comrade's head a twist. The leader began to weep.

"You are responsible for the deaths of these men," I said calmly. "You could have let a tired old man rest beside the road, but you did not. You could have shared in my food, but you did not. There were many paths you could have chosen, but you chose death for your comrades."

The man dropped his sword and put his head in his hands. He began crying uncontrollably now.

"You are lucky," I started.

"Lucky?" he sobbed with his head still in his hands.

"Yes, you will not have to suffer your guilt for long!" I replied as I took one of the swords and lopped off the man's head.

The man who claimed to me was the 1000th man I killed in my lifetime, so I gave an extra special sacrifice to Mars when I gave thanks to the gods and Neptune. It was dark when I had finished everything, and I was quite tired. I was worried about scavengers during the night, and I slept uneasily.

I was up early, and made it to the next town by midmorning. I rested peacefully, and had no other troubles on the road. Thank the gods!

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Mac MacKinnon and the Race for El Dorado

Chapter 13: The Key

By Dwayne MacInnes

Mac flew the floatplane over the Amazon jungle. Dan sat in the front seat of the biplane checking the weapons they had packed. Mac brought along his newly purchased Thompson submachine gun, and Dan brought his old Lee-Enfield rifle. This would augment their sidearms that they always carried.

Thompson Sub-Machine Gun

Mac was half searching for the zeppelin as well as looking for a reasonable landing place near where he believed the entrance to El Dorado lay. The professor’s journal was very explicit as to where he believed El Dorado could be located. So far, all Mac could see was dense jungle below.

Mac dropped the floatplane lower to the jungle canopy. The thick foliage hid everything inside its interior. Mac circled a few times and then started to bring the plane in for a landing on the wide Amazon River.

The plane landed smoothly on the river’s surface. Mac pulled the aircraft up to the riverbank before he cut the engine. Dan did not waste a moment jumping onto the wing and grabbing the mooring line. He walked the wings length and landed on the solid riverbank where he secured the plane to a nearby tree.

Mac was not far behind unloading their equipment. Dan grabbed a backpack and his rifle while he helped Mac to the ground.

Lee-Enfield Rifle

"How far do you think the Temple is?" Dan asked.

"I don’t know, but if Dr. Strong’s journal is correct it can’t be too far," Mac replied. "The temple may easily have become overgrown over the last few hundred years, but according to the journal it is the entrance to El Dorado. If we can locate it before the Germans we may be able to enter after they use the key."

"Which way do we go?" Dan asked as he shouldered his pack and loaded his Lee-Enfield.

Mac put on his own pack and loaded the fifty-round drum. "It should be northwest of here. With a little luck, it should reveal itself once we enter the interior. The foliage is always thickest by the riverbanks. Things will tend to thin out once we get inside."

The temperature was only in the high seventies but the humidity made it seem much worse. The heavy rainfall did little to cool either man down as they marched into the jungle’s interior. To add to their discomfort, swarms of biting insects found their flesh and blood tasty.

The sound of monkeys and birds incessantly echoed throughout the jungle. Once they heard a jaguar cry out. Dan readied his rifle after the jungle cat’s roar subsided. Mac continued to slash his way through the jungle with his machete.

"How much further do you figure?" Dan asked for about the hundredth time.

Mac stopped his march and leaned against a tree. He lifted his canteen to his lips and swallowed heavily. After wiping his mouth Mac turned towards Dan, "I’m afraid I don’t know. I was hoping to see something by now. What I would do for some divine intervention right now."

Dan looked up at Mac and smile weakly. Just then, a rifle shot cracked through the jungle. Both men looked up in surprise. Dan smiled more strongly in mirth, "Ask and ye shall receive."

Crystal Skull Key

The Germans landed the zeppelin on a lake inside the jungle’s interior. A boat transported the Strongs across the lake and to the jungle accompanied by Johann von Hutten, Captain Wolfgang and a dozen crewmembers.

They had many miles to march and only a few hours in which to do it if they wanted to get the key inserted in time. Professor Strong pointed out the route they would need to follow. By a quick glance at the mountains and a map drawn from the ancient stone map, the archaeologist was able to gain his bearings.

The outskirts of the jungle were thick with underbrush and foliage. As the party continued into the interior, the passage became easier. Sunlight filtered through the heavy foliage in the treetops in small patches. Because of the tall trees cutting out much of the sun light, a lot of the plant life grew high above the ground in the trees. Therefore, there were few plants growing on the ground, however the various plants high above left long sinewy vines leading from the treetops back down to earth.

The Germans hacked their way through the tough vines. As one man’s arm grew tired, another would take over. Thusly, with the professor’s guidance and the Germans’ doggedness, the party made good time. They found the temple quicker and easier than any of them anticipated.

Under the green canopy, a step-pyramid much like those constructed by the Mayans sat covered in vines. The grotesque faces of ancient gods glared at the party as they climbed the steps to the top of the pyramid. The top of the pyramid presented a flat platform on which sat a pedestal with a grooved indentation. Sunlight blazed down on the exposed top.

The party stopped to rest and to have a quick lunch. Everyone sat in silence as the awe of the spectacle that they were experiencing consumed them. The jungle sounds were the only noise the party experienced. The calls of monkeys and the chitterings of other animals floated through the air. The sudden cry of jaguar sitting nearby startled the party. A sentry quickly fired his rifle into the jungle. As the report echoed through the jungle, the party could hear the crashing of the jaguar beating a hasty retreat.

Johann looked at his pocket watch and looked up at the sky. "Dr. Strong, I believe the time approaches."

Dr. Strong nodded his head and slowly pulled the crystal skull out of his satchel. The sunlight sparkled of the natural glass surface. The empty eye sockets flared with brilliance. The archaeologist turned the skull in the sun admiring its beauty.

Johann cleared his voice bringing the professor back to his senses. Dr. Strong then gingerly placed the skull onto the pedestal. The crystal skull fit perfectly inside the groove.

The sun appeared high in the sky as it slowly continued on its trek across the globe. When the sun was straight above its rays beat straight down upon the skull. The light flared more brightly inside the skull. A low hum resonated from the skull and began to grow to a higher pitch. The sound grew to a piercing scream causing the party to cover their ears. Far below at the base of the pyramid a grinding noise of stone grating on stone made its way to everyone’s pounding ears.

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Recent Comments

  • Douglas Gogerty: Thanks for the kind words Kerry. I too am very read more
  • Douglas Gogerty: Thanks Christian! I too had a DOS computer. read more
  • Christian: A great story, i remember my first computer with DOS read more
  • Kerry Glasscock: Good story. I love that Dwayne. nice work! read more
  • Douglas Gogerty: Thanks Susanne. You are correct, the OS of computers has read more
  • Susanne: Nice read, shame computers havent improved several years later (mainly read more
  • Douglas Gogerty: Hey Rushan! Sadly no, I do not have one. Thanks read more
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