March 2007 Archives

Montana MacInnes and the Reunion of Doom

Chapter 6: Est Ti Elundus Spheari Amundus

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Laurie Ball, H.K. Stein and zombie expert Montana MacInnes had gathered some needed supplies including a few animal specimens from Laurie's car. H.K. was driving Dr. Schneider's 70's classic car towards the place of their first zombie encounter -- the lemonade stand. Montana had the window open, and was holding his halberd along the side of the car.

"The zombies are going to be a bit more aggressive now," explained Montana.

"Why?" asked Laurie.

"Before," started Montana "they were in fairly passive. They were going about their business. However, an anti-undead spell has been used which has put them in survival mode."

"At the carwash," added H.K.

"Exactly," replied Montana. "I would have used a lesser incantation, but that fool Schneider took my supplies and washed that zombie fluid down the drain. I had to use a big one to hopefully get all the undead creatures."

"And prevent its spread," concluded H.K.

"Yes," Montana said. "Further, at the lemonade stand, I'm going to use another incantation. This will bring the creatures towards us. Thus, you should roll up the windows and stay in the car."

"Why does it have to be done at the lemonade stand?" asked Laurie.

"I need an undead corpse," explained Montana. "Preferably a first order one and we have that at the lemonade stand."

"Is this a good place to stop?" asked H.K. as he pulled the car up to the lemonade stand.

"I'll need you close, but that is too close," responded the zombie expert. "Pull into that driveway over there."

H.K. pulled the car into the driveway of a house two doors down from where the lemonade stand stood. Montana, with his halberd in hand, grabbed his bag of supplies from the back seat and walked over to the lemonade stand.

Montana picked up the container of lemonade and gave it a smell. He poured a small glass, gave it a taste and spit it out. He walked over to the car and asked if anyone had some lemonade.

"Not that I know of," lied H.K.

"Good," responded Montana as he went back to his business.

The zombie expert put the lemonade aside, grabbed the lifeless zombie head by the hair, and put it on the table. He was careful not to get any of the black fluid on him that was trickling from the neck of the severed head.

From his bag, he grabbed his propane stove that he used at the carwash. He pulled a large pot from the bag, and poured some red wine vinegar into it. He mumbled a few words, and poured the contents on the torso of the undead boy. Next, he poured some olive oil into the pot, mumbled some more words, and poured the contents upon the boy's torso.

Now that that part was finished, Montana put the pot upon the burner and filled it with the lemonade. He held the head above the pot and let some of the black fluid drain into the pot. He took out some vials and poured some of their contents into the pot. Finally, he removed a jar of salt. In it was a frog, which he collected from Laurie. He removed the specimen from the salt, and put it into the pot.

Montana grabbed his bag and walked over to the car. He opened the door and placed the bag into the back seat of the car. "Roll up the windows, and stay put," he told the occupants of the car.

H.K. and Laurie nodded and raised the windows of the car. They both watched intently as the zombie hunter lit the fire under the pot. Montana checked his halberd as he waited for the pot to boil. With the amount of liquid in the pot, it seemed like forever before it started boiling.

Laurie and H.K. were beginning to feel uncomfortable as the car temperature began to rise. Nevertheless, they did as the zombie expert instructed and kept the windows closed.

When the pot reached a full boil, Montana took the head from the table. By the hair, he began waving it over the torso of the child and chanting "Est ti elundus spheari amundus."

When he was satisfied, he placed the head upon the torso and grabbed the pot. He continued the chant as he swirled the pot above the torso.

H.K. felt the sweat pouring down his face. His insides felt as if someone were mixing them. He swayed in small circles with each movement of the pot. He struggled to keep his eyes from rolling into the back of his head.

Suddenly, Montana placed the pot back on the burner and ran over to the car. Laurie opened the passenger door and a blast of hot air escaped the car. The rush of cool air felt good to H.K.

"Holy crap!" shouted Montana as he got to the car. "I forgot the garlic!"

Montana grabbed his bag from the seat behind Laurie. After a brief search, Montana took the garlic from the bag and stripped a single clove from the head. He returned the rest to the bag and threw it into the back seat.

"Keep this door closed from here on out," he told Laurie before he ran back to the pot. Laurie closed the door as Montana threw the new ingredient into the pot. After a quick stir, the zombie expert returned to chanting "Est ti elundus spheari amundus."

Laurie screamed as she spotted the first zombie shambling towards the lemonade stand. Suddenly there was another and then another. Montana chanted louder and louder as he removed the pot from the fire and started to swirl the pot over the child's torso. H.K.'s head was spinning as he struggled to remain conscious.

Closer and closer the zombies ambled. The ghostly white creatures came from all directions. They emitted a guttural moan as the approached the lemonade stand. Their yellow eyes affixed upon the chanting Montana MacInnes.

The zombies were closing in on the zombie expert. They limped and shuffled nearer and nearer. Eventually, one reached the yard where the lemonade stand was set up, but she stumbled over the curb. She began crawling towards the chanting zombie slayer.

A second undead person and then a third reached the lemonade stand. Montana could wait no longer; he took the boiling hot potion and poured a small amount upon the torso. The remaining liquid he splashed upon as many zombies as he could reach.

Montana grabbed his weapon and ran. The agonizing screams of the zombies in the yard broke several windows in the area. Great clouds of gray-brown smoke began steaming from the splashed undead. The yellow eyes of the unaffected zombies in the area flashed with red. H.K. fell unconscious. Naturally, Laurie screamed.

Using his halberd, Montana decapitated several zombies that were not splashed with the potion. He was working his way back towards the screaming Laurie. Streams of smoke were filling the air, and bursts of black liquid were adding to the gruesome fireworks display.

The now aggressive zombies were no match for Montana and his zombie-slaying halberd. With each undead whose head was removed, a spray of black liquid erupted. Montana was covered in a viscous black fluid.

He noticed the pale H.K. unconscious in the driver's seat. He told Laurie to stay put as the black liquid dripped from his body. The panic in Laurie's eyes began to subside as the zombie slayer went after a few more zombies.

When Montana had finished off the last zombie in the area, he jumped into the center of the plume of gray-brown smoke. The cloud changed from a brownish color to the color of blood as the zombie hunter was engulfed.

Just then, a ghastly white figure sat up next to Laurie. His eyes were blood red and his tongue was black. Laurie tried to scream, but no sound came out. She thought about opening the door, but the words of the zombie hunter rang in her head. She was trapped, so she fainted.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Two

By Dwayne MacInnes

I walked over and took the worn chair that the Shadow Fox offered to me. I think the surprise was still on my face as I sat down because the Shadow Fox softly chuckled. I was about to ask him some questions when he held up a gloved hand to forestall me.

"First of all, yes I exist. Now, you are probably wondering why I summoned you," the Shadow Fox stated. I merely nodded my head. I seldom am at a loss for words; however, my tongue was tied in a knot that few sailors could match.

The Shadow Fox leaned back in his chair. The smile on his lips was his only facial feature, save his sad looking eyes, that the mask did not obscure. "I have been monitoring your advancement with some interest. You are the Black Arrow, and you are also an associate member in the Mages Guild."

"Yes," I said hoarsely, the knot was starting to untie.

"Good, good!" the Shadow Fox laughed as he slapped his thigh. "Few members have taken the initiative to better themselves. They tend to shy from other guilds and focus only on their tasks in the Thieves Guild.

"But you started out in the arena. Only after you became the Grand Champion did you focus most of you energies on the Thieves Guild. I feel that the skills you learned in the pit have helped you in your career with the guild. You also show that you research your job ahead of time. I'm sure you were able to use your associate membership in the Mages Guild to gain access to their libraries. Smart thinking."

I did not bother to correct the Shadow Fox that I had joined the Mages Guild primarily to find better and cheaper spells. I still needed to find something that worked better than my simple dark sight spell that only lasted a minute. Sure, I could find cheaper spells from some traveling thaumaturgy vender. However, they tended to be shady scam artists. I remember the time an associate thief was looking for a spell to cast a low light. He bought the "moon-shine" spell dirt-cheap, but the first time he used it in a dungeon he conjured up some jugs of powerful whiskey. Fortunately, the ogres took to the drink instead of him.

The fact, that I did use the Mages Guild's library was true. Many people believe that we Wood Elves are capricious and just flippantly fly off on some adventure. For the most part, they are correct. However, these same Wood Elves do not last long as thieves. I have stated in other publications that a thief's most important attribute is her intelligence.

"I am going to need these skills from you on your next assignment," the Shadow Fox continued. "This is a matter that is most delicate and I need someone that utilizes your care and has your resources to help me out.

"This is an imperial matter you may say. It goes straight to the top," the Shadow Fox leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest as it sunk in.

"You mean..." I started to say, my faculties were now awakening.

"Yes, the Emperor himself, Servanius Tiber," the Shadow Fox now leaned closer to me. "It appears that some letters belonging to his wife the Lady Tiber have been pilfered from her room. Now the only reason the Emperor doesn't suspect us is that the criminal here was indelicate enough to demand an extortion fee from the woman.

"I believe it is best that I start from the beginning. The Emperor noticed that the Lady Tiber has not been her gay self lately. She has been dispirited and she has been keeping to herself of late. The Emperor had some of his more trusted, tactful ministers investigate the matter, and it appears that her Ladyship has been secretly selling her jewelry.

"One of the ministers overheard a handmaiden mention something about some of her Ladyship's documents being stolen. On further examination, the handmaiden refused to mention anything more on the subject. Save that, her Ladyship does not want the Emperor to know and that she has to pay a ransom.

"The Emperor loves his wife very dearly and would never do anything to harm her. He knows that if her Ladyship does not want the Emperor to know the details of the letters, it is for a good reason. Nonetheless, the Emperor cannot be placed in a position where his family is at the mercy of some unknown malefactor. Therefore he has contracted the guild to solve this little mystery."

"Sounds like a real puzzler. I suppose you'll want me to start at the palace and see what I can find out," I offered.

"No, I want you to head for Giland," the Shadow Fox returned.

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Montana MacInnes and the Reunion of Doom

Chapter 7: The Gruesome Line-Up

By Douglas E. Gogerty

H.K.'s skin felt cold and clammy. His head was still swimming. The last thing he remembered thinking was that he must remain conscious. Nevertheless, he blacked out. He had a fuzzy dream of Laurie turning white with her mouth agape then she fell unconscious. In the dream, he struggled to see if he could help, but she seemed too far. "Did she turn into a zombie?" he thought before he blacked out again.

He now found himself on the grass looking up at the sky. He did not remember getting out of the cougar, but he was out. His tongue hurt as if he had bitten it. He wiped his mouth and found blood. He indeed had bitten it at some point.

With his consciousness being slowly restored, he began to look around. Next to him, in a similar reclining position as himself, was Laurie. She was slightly pale, but she began to stir also. Clouds of a blood red mist were dissipating all around.

Montana was busy placing the heads of the corpses upon the former lemonade stand in some sort of gruesome line-up. "Ah," he spoke to H.K. "you're awake."

After the cobwebs cleared a bit more, H.K. replied, "Yes, I guess I am."

"How do you feel?"

"I don't know..."

"You drank the lemonade didn't you?"

"Uhhhhh -- yes," H.K. responded reluctantly.

"You must have good zombie resistance in your family," responded the zombie expert.

"Huh?"

"The incantation and the potion I created would have turned most people irrevocably into an undead creature. In all rights, you should be one of these heads."

"But, you drank more lemonade than I did," H.K. stated as his head became clearer.

"While that may be true, I inoculated myself with a little frog alcohol before hand."

"What brought me back?"

"Probably when I broke the spell, you were also released. I didn't need the spell any longer when I finished off the last zombie in the area, so I let it go."

"What is going on?" asked Laurie as she came to.

"Welcome back," replied Montana. "We are just having a chat now that we are temporarily out of danger."

"Temporarily?" asked Laurie.

"Thirteen corpses were brought back to life with the original spell. There may still be some of those originals out there, and there may be some residuals as well."

"Residuals?" Laurie and H.K. asked at the same time.

"Normal people, who for one reason or another, have turned. Like that Schneider fellow."

"What would cause them to -- er -- turn?" Laurie asked.

"Usually a bite," replied Montana. "However, any fluid exchange could also result in a transformation."

"Ewwwww! Zombie sex..." replied Laurie with a look of revulsion on her face.

"It doesn't have to be that -- um -- intimate," replied Montana.

"Like a kiss," added H.K.

"Exactly," continued Montana. "It could even happen if you shared some food with a zombie -- like a cookie or some lemonade."

"In Lowell's case, he got some zombie blood on him," H.K. included.

"Lowell was a zombie?" asked Montana. "Who's Lowell?"

"Mr. Schneider," replied H.K.

"Doctor," Laurie said jokingly rebuking H.K.

"Right!" laughed H.K.

A flash of guilt for making a joke on the newly departed went across both their faces. They were still suffering from the effects of the shocks they had encountered. At least, that is how they rationalized it in their heads.

"His first name was Lowell?" asked Montana. "Anyway, since you two are from these parts. I was hoping that you could put faces to names -- as it were."

"What?" the pair asked with a slight look of horror on their faces.

"I have a list of the original thirteen," replied the zombie expert patiently. "If we can determine who is still out there and where they may be, we can end this adventure."

With some hesitation, Laurie and H.K. began to examine the bodiless heads arranged in a row on the lemonade stand table. Montana instructed them to say something if the face looked familiar. He did not want to bias his results by giving them the names and have the pair put faces to this list of names.

Laurie recognized a man who was once in her herpetology club. She had remembered the news reports of another one's death. A third was her great aunt's next-door neighbor's second cousin once removed. It was a long story that she did not want to get into. She told Montana the names and he checked them off the list. She did not recognize any other faces.

"Mrs. Phipps," declared H.K. sadly. "She was a lunch-lady when I was in school. Old man Conifer -- a grumpy old man who used to chase us off the lake. Mr. D'Cheuer was a retired French teacher who used to substitute for our French teacher Mrs. Anderson. Mrs. D'Cheuer is here too."

H.K. had a strange sensation come over him. He was remembering happy times but the gruesome face of death kept disrupting those childhood memories. These people were old when he was a kid, it is no wonder they have passed on. That did not stop the fight between the happy memories and the grim reaper.

"Do you have any first names?" asked Montana.

"They were adults when I was a kid," replied H.K. "We didn't use their first names. It was always Mr. this -- Mrs. that.

"Do you know when they died? Or do you have any other identifying information?" enquired the zombie expert.

"I think Old Man Conifer died from a heart attack in -- uh -- 1983 -- I think. The others were alive when I left," replied H.K. "I don't know if it would help, but Mr. D'Cheuer got a nasty scar from when he fought in Korea."

"Korean War Vet..." replied Montana. "That does help. Weston and Linda -- got them. Harold Conifer is checked too. I think I can safely assume that is Doris Phipps."

"Doris! Yeah! I'm surprised Mrs. Conifer is not here," added H.K. "She must have not been buried next to her husband."

"Perhaps," replied Montana. "Anyone else look familiar?"

"This guy looks familiar, but I cannot place the name."

"Think," prodded Montana.

"He always wore tweed suits with the suede elbow patches. He had one of those scottie dogs. He always had a book on his pocket, but I am drawing a blank on his name."

"Anyone else look familiar?"

Laurie and H.K. both replied that they did not recognize anyone else. Thus, Montana let them look at the list. Laurie and H.K. began searching the list for familiar names.

"Claude Fogerty," declared H.K. "That is his name."

"Are you sure?" asked the zombie expert.

"Positive," responded H.K. as he looked over the list further.

H.K. saw Mr. Conifer's name. He read Mr. and Mrs. D'Cheuer's name. As he worked his way down the alphabetic list, he saw Mrs. Phipp's name. Then he saw it -- Mrs. Ruth Stein. There on the bottom of the list was his grandmother.

Frantically, he searched the faces. None of them belonged to her. His undead grandmother was still out there. They would have to go after her. The cold clammy feeling he had when he woke up returned, and he dropped to the ground with a thud.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Three

By Dwayne MacInnes

Again, the smile spread across his face. I must have shown my surprise once again. I could tell the Shadow Fox was enjoying our exchange.

"Countess of Giland, Lady Aversfield, has a minister named Brunis. It is he who has the letters."

I shook my head, "But how did you find that out?"

"I'm the Shadow Fox for a reason," the master thief laughed. "Plus, in my investigation Brunis was at the Imperial Palace recently and left shortly before her Ladyship started receiving her extortion demands.

"Furthermore, you really don't think you are my only thief do you? I have had the greater resources of the guild investigating all who have been at the palace recently. The only likely suspect is Brunis."

"In any event, you may have heard of Brunis. He is quite the accomplished wizard with the Mages Guild. He has a very important post as Lady Aversfield's most trusted advisor in Giland on the Imperial border with the Black Swamp."

"Yes, I have heard of him. I also know that there is a rumor that he doesn't like Lizard-men who live in Giland or in the neighboring Black Swamp. The rumors go on to tell of secret chambers underneath the castle where Brunis carries out his experiments on those unfortunate creatures," I added with some distaste.

"Giland is an important post and we cannot overtly insist that Lady Aversfield hand over one of her ministers. Due to the ticklish situation, I am removing the ‘blood-price' on this mission. You may use lethal force, but it is imperative that it does not happen in the castle. It is one thing if Brunis' body is found along a road, quite another if it is inside the castle."

"How do you want me to handle it? Break in and search? It'll be difficult with all the guards, but I think I can do it," I offered.

"I've got a letter from the Emperor stating that you are his personal inspector. This will allow you access to all the public areas on the castle grounds. You will have to sneak into the private areas if you need. If you are caught, I do not need to remind you that this conversation did not happen."

I nodded my head. The old cloak and dagger routine, in the event of your capture the Emperor will disavow any knowledge...etc, etc. Therefore, I was on my own on this one. That was good because I like to work alone.

I started to rise to leave when the Shadow Fox grabbed my arm. He pulled me close and sternly looked at me with those sad blue eyes.

"This is a very serious situation. You must not fail. A man like Brunis is a grave threat to us all. Especially, if he can control the Emperor."

* * * * *

The ride to Giland was uneventful. It was nice for a change not being attacked by a group of goblins or awakened in the night by a marauding pack of wolves. The Imperial Legions patrolled this stretch of road regularly. As was stated before, Giland was an important post on the border with the Black Swamp. Any brigand or highwayman would have to be suicidal to try to hold someone up on this length of the Imperial Highway.

Black Swamp, now there is a nasty sounding place and it lives up to it as well. Only the Lizard-folk would call it home. It is a rather muddy, marshy area with giant black mangrove trees thrusting upward in such thick quantities that the sunlight in most areas never reaches the ground.

No need to describe the various insects and diseases one can meet in such areas. Even though we Wood Elves have a high tolerance against disease, we do not like to remain in such areas for long. That is one reason why the Empire has never been able to conquer it and absorb it into the Empire like the surrounding areas.

The Lizard-men of the Black Swamp are tribal and their forces would never stand a chance against the Imperial Legions. It is only their kin, who were conquered in the surrounding areas hundred of years ago, that can be called "civilized". There exists to this day an uneasy truce between the tribes of the Black Swamp and the Tiberium Empire.

Now, unfortunately there is still a lot of prejudice against the Lizard-folk. Those who have been in the Empire for generations are full-fledged civilians and have the same rights as any citizen under the Empire. They are just as intelligent as any other race, but because they look the least ‘human', they are thought be a barbarous race.

I think there is also the primitive human fear of reptiles. Too bad, in the Great Forest, there are many kinds of reptiles and a lot of them make great pets. Nevertheless, humans mostly populate the Empire and in many of the more remote areas, human prejudices remain.

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Montana MacInnes and the Reunion of Doom

Chapter 8: My Grandma is a Zombie (The End)

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Montana MacInnes was collecting the heads of the unidentified zombies and placing them in a sack he had pulled out of his duffle bag. H.K. Stein had fainted and was lying on the ground. Laurie Ball was attending to him.

"Are you all right?" Laurie asked as H.K.'s eyes opened.

"Huh?" H.K. said trying to clear the cobwebs out of his head.

"You fainted," she replied with concern in her voice.

"Grandma Stein..." H.K. began.

"Is dead," interrupted Montana. "Her form has risen from her grave, and is a danger to the community."

"But..." complained H.K.

"No buts!" the zombie expert asserted. "If you know where she is, you must take me to her."

"I will," whimpered H.K. "It is just -- I don't think -- um -- I could take -- er -- seeing her decapitated and explode in front of me."

"I will take that into consideration," replied Montana.

"It'll be all right," assured Laurie. "Why do you suppose she did not come like the rest?"

"We live quite a way from here," answered H.K. "She probably is on her way or something."

"The pull from 'home and usual life' and the 'group zombie' are usually the only forces that affect a voodoo zombie," Montana began. "Someone who lives a long way from their grave usually do not feel the pull from home."

"I thought I saw her when I got to town," admitted H.K. "I wasn't sure it was her."

"Sometimes one blue haired lady looks like all the rest," added Laurie.

"True," replied H.K.

"There must be an inordinately strong pull from your home," added Montana. "Do you have any idea why?"

"We were having a family reunion," answered H.K. "Lots of relatives being there perhaps..."

"Perhaps," Montana responded. "Could you open the trunk?"

H.K. got off the ground and dusted himself off. He stretched and checked to see if he was hurt. He landed in the grass so his faint did not cause him much physical damage. He walked over to the waiting cougar and opened the trunk.

Montana put the sack of heads into the trunk and pushed it closed. He opened the passenger door and threw his bag into the back seat. He motioned towards Laurie to get in and he grabbed his halberd. He rolled down the window as H.K. got in and started the car.

As usual, Montana held the halberd out of the window along the car as H.K. pulled the car out of the driveway. H.K. drove slowly. He did this partly to allow Montana to see anything moving, but he also was not looking forward to seeing his grandmother decapitated and stuffed into a sack.

The trip was uneventful. The trio was quiet and somber on the drive across town. Laurie smiled at H.K. in an attempt to assure him it was all right. H.K. politely smiled back, but his eyes betrayed his true feelings. He was dreading what was going to happen.

Eventually, the classic, 'sea island green' car pulled into the driveway. H.K. had traveled down that road many times, but never before had he dreaded the sight of his parents' house. Montana grabbed his bag from the back seat, but H.K. just sat behind the wheel. Laurie patted him on the thigh, and sat beside him.

"I could use something to drink," Laurie said eventually.

"Okay," responded H.K. with a polite smile.

The pair went into the house as Montana was once again making some concoction in a pot. They walked through the house and into the kitchen. H.K. walked straight to the refrigerator and opened it up.

"What would you like?" he asked.

"What do you have?" she replied.

"Let's see... There is water of course. There is some sort of lemon-ish-flavored drink, but no lemons were harmed in the making of it."

"Isn't there a family reunion going on here?" she asked.

"They're not big drinkers," responded H.K. "But there is some 'Cold Duck' and here is some of my Uncle Frank's homemade wine."

"Is the wine any good?"

"There is one way to find out..."

Just then, Laurie screamed "Zombie!"

H.K. turned with a start. His heart had jumped into his throat.

"Who is your friend?" asked Uncle Ben in his usual monotone.

"Uncle Ben," H.K. said with some relief. "Uncle Ben this is Laurie Ball."

"Nice to meet you," Laurie said with some embarrassment.

"I get that zombie comment a lot," replied Uncle Ben with his obnoxious laugh. "Who is your friend in the driveway?"

"That is Montana MacInnes, famous..." started H.K.

"No!" yelled Uncle Ben with more emotion than H.K. had ever heard.

As Uncle Ben rushed towards the front door, Laurie asked, "What is with him?"

"I have no idea," replied H.K. as he walked towards a window facing the driveway.

Uncle Ben knocked over the pot before the zombie expert could restrain him. Montana easily wrestled the old man to the ground and pinned him to the grass. Once again, Laurie screamed as two ghostly pale women shambled down the stairs and walked out the front door. H.K. was on the two women's heels and Laurie followed shortly afterwards.

Montana let Ben go and grabbed his halberd.

"Wait!" shouted H.K. "Aunt Beulah isn't a zombie she has just been fighting a long illness!"

"She's a zombie all right," returned Montana.

"Please -- no!" sobbed Uncle Ben. "They won't harm anyone..."

Confusion caused everyone to pause for a moment, but then Montana stated, "There is only one way to be sure of that."

"Stop!" shouted H.K. as he rushed to get between the zombie killer and his aunt and grandmother.

"Please -- listen," begged Uncle Ben. "Look at their necklaces."

H.K. was still confused, but it stopped the zombie expert in his tracks. They looked like ordinary pearl necklaces to H.K. Montana turned to look at Uncle Ben and asked, "Are those what I think?"

"PN-3000's from your own catalogue," replied Uncle Ben.

"So you have successfully..." started Montana.

"Yes," responded Uncle Ben with clear relief in his voice.

"What the hell is going on?" asked Laurie and H.K. in unison.

"Ruth! Beulah! Inside!" commanded Uncle Ben.

The two women turned and shambled past Laurie and entered the house. In amazement, H.K. watched the two do as his uncle commanded. Montana nodded his head, put his halberd down and said, "Very well."

"Please sit," Uncle Ben told Laurie and H.K.

The pair did as requested and sat on the front porch. Montana gathered his things together and put them in his bag. Uncle Ben paced back and forth a few times thinking of what to say.

"Butch," Uncle Ben started in his normal monotonous tone. "Beulah had Alzheimer's, and there was supposed to be this miracle drug. However, this drug had not received FDA approval and was thus, not available. However, I used some contacts to obtain it. Needless to say, the drug didn't work exactly as promised. In fact, it killed my wife."

"How long has Aunt Beulah been -- you know -- undead?" asked H.K.

"A couple years," responded Ben. "I found that I had an ability to control her to some degree."

"A zombie whisperer?" asked Laurie.

"I suppose you could say that," responded Ben. "Some zombies are naturally drawn to me."

"His pull likely amplified the normal home pull and drew your grandma so far from the cemetery," added Montana.

"The call went out to evacuate, and I knew I couldn't get Beulah past the roadblock, so I stayed behind," continued Uncle Ben. "I was shocked to find Mom here and baking cookies."

"Why didn't you tell me any of this?" asked H.K.

"I thought you knew," replied Ben. "Since you made it past the roadblock, I thought you were here to help."

"That idiot mayor," replied Montana. "He let anyone pass the roadblock after our plane landed. He was unlucky enough to get through during that window."

"So, what they say about when you 'assume' is true," replied Ben with his jarring laugh.

"What is the deal with those pearl-like necklaces?" asked Laurie.

"They are the PN-3000s," replied Montana proudly.

"They are necklaces that will decapitate a zombie by remote," added Ben. "They also have a 'dead man's switch.' So, if I do not press the button every 12 hours, they automatically -- um -- er -- de-zombify. In case anything happens to me."

"What about bites and such?" asked H.K.

"In the beginning," replied Uncle Ben. "Beulah nipped at me. However, I have some sort of natural ability to fight off the zombie effect. So, I fought it off."

"You showed that ability as well," added Montana. "I am also mostly immune -- save a zombie opening up my skull and chomping directly upon my brain."

Uncle Ben laughed heartily at the joke and continued, "So you see, everything is under control here... as much as possible anyway."

"Can you really take care of two zombies?" asked Laurie.

"Sure," replied Ben. "They do not need to eat anything; they just need a place to stay out of trouble."

"It sounds like there is no danger here," stated Montana boldly.

"That may be all of the zombies," added Laurie.

"They did cause me a few problems with whatever you did in town," replied Uncle Ben. "But, they are much calmer now. Now if you excuse me, I should attend to Mom before she starts baking more of her awful cookies."

H.K. and Laurie were satisfied with the story and followed him inside. They opened the bottle of wine and toasted to a fine adventure. It was awful, so they decided to drive Montana to the roadblock. The cab driver was there talking to the authorities still trying to get through. The final heads were identified and therefore Montana declared that the case was closed. Or was it?

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Tiberium Letters

Part Four

By Dwayne MacInnes

I entered the city of Giland with no problems, and I quickly found my way to the castle. Castles in cities are not hard to miss, just look for the largest structure made of stone, boasting many towers, and you have found the residence of the local count, duke, or lord.

If all went right, a post-rider was supposed to deliver an announcement of the Imperial Inspector to her Ladyship Countess Aversfield. That of course, would be me. I wore my usual light elven armor and my heavy shield. The shield, repainted to look imperial, was going to be of utmost importance in this mission if I were to have a showdown with Brunis.

I have stated previously in other publications about the nature of my shield. By some powerful magic, the shield absorbs all aggressive spells cast against its possessor. I learned through some research at the Mages Guild that this shield is actually a holy relic from the earliest days of the Empire named, The Spell-eater. As much as I would love to boast publicly about my shield's ability and fame, such an action would be stupid.

A thief, who advertises, tends to lose many things. Sometimes she is lucky and it is only her possessions, sometimes it is her freedom, but most of the time it is her life. So the less a thief says the better off she is.

I approached the castle gate. The guards were on sentry and alert. Now, the thing about a border town, like Giland, is that in addition to the Imperial Garrison outside of town at Fort Bleakwater, the town itself boasts of a sizeable number of city guards.

I steered my black mare up to the closest sentry and halted as he grabbed the reigns. "What's the nature of your visit?" he demanded.

I reached into my pouch and produced my official document with the Imperial seal. "I am the Imperial Inspector, and I have an appointment with the Countess."

The guard holding my horse looked over the papers. I noticed out of the corner of my eye the other guard studying me. I looked over at him and recognized him as a former member of the Imperial City guard. His name is Reyn Braxis and he is a very astute investigator.

Reyn was getting very close to uncovering the Thieves Guild. It is highly doubtful that anyone in the government, no matter what services we had rendered in the past, would come to our defense once Reyn blew our cover. So, we had to take measures in our own hands. In this case, I personally had to get documents transferring Reyn Braxis to a remote area where he would not be of any trouble to the guild. That would be here in Giland.

We never found out how much Reyn knew or just suspected about the guild. Some believe he knew about certain members and had them under his surveillance. I do not know if I was one of them or not, but I could not afford to take any chances when I was involved in such an important case. Before he could get a good look at me, I quickly turned back to the first guard.

"Everything looks to be in order. Hand your horse over to the livery boy and he'll take care of it. The Countess is expecting you in the audience chamber."

I nodded my thanks and followed the guard's instruction.

* * * * *

I made way into the audience chamber before the throne of her Ladyship the Countess Aversfield. Much like the surrounding countryside, Countess Aversfield's face was a somber affair. Rumor has it that she never smiled after the mysterious and tragic death of her husband over fifteen years ago. Next to her sat the empty throne the Count would have occupied.

I glanced quickly around the chamber and took in the decor. Many black shrouds hung everywhere and a portrait sat on the wall behind Countess Aversfield. It was of a hound-dog faced man who must have been Count Aversfield. The man's drooping sad looking expression fit in well with the dreary castle's interior.

The man off to the Countess's left could only be Brunis. He wore a black velvet outfit trimmed in gold. He held a gnarled wooden staff in his right hand. The staff did not fool me; I knew it was not a symbol of his office, or a crutch to help him walk. That was a mages staff, and I really did not want to find out what spells it could unleash. I am sure it would be nasty.

As I approached the Countess, Brunis walked down and bowed. "You must be the Imperial Inspector."

I smiled and presented Brunis the same official documents I had shown the guard. "Yes" I said, "I believe I have an audience with the Countess."

Brunis only bowed again. A little wicked smile played on his face. "Of course, the public grounds are available for your perusal."

I did not need any special hearing to notice the emphasis on the word ‘public'.

I continued my approach and as I neared the base of the raised throne, I knelt before the Countess. "I am Gwendolyn; the Emperor has assigned me to inspect the castle's public areas."

"Yes, I have been expecting you. I have a room in the guard's barracks prepared for your stay. I pray that you will have time to dine with us tonight. I would love to hear news from the Imperial City."

"It would indeed be an honor my Lady, thanks for your hospitality," I looked over at Brunis. The minister gave me a hard calculating look. I did not need to have any special sight to know that Brunis suspected I was not just here just for some random inspection. The games were about to begin.

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First Contact

Part 1

By Douglas E. Gogerty

It was 9:06 AM GMT on 25th of March 2108. The Hubble Space Telescope II was taking images of star HD179949b. While processing a series of images, an astronomy intern at the University of California at Berkeley first spotted a small anomaly. It was incredibly bright, but it was very small, distant, and brief. It could have been anything, but it incited some astronomer's interest. However, they did not have enough data to make a determination of what caused the brief, bright flash. Nevertheless, they kept a close watch on that small section of space.

A few days later, an astronomer using the ancient VLT array in Chile also detected something. A similar flash of light that was very close. It was much closer than the previous anomaly. In fact, from the information that was gathered, they theorized that it was just outside Earth's solar system. Whatever it was, it was now close. Was it the same phenomena or was it different? Speculation went on among astronomers for weeks.

About a month after the first flash, the asteroid detection system flashed orange. A miniscule object was on a Near-Earth course. Because of its small size, it posed little danger to the earth. However, this object grabbed the attention of the debating scientists. They used the resources available for tracking dangerous asteroids to track this relatively insignificant object.

The tiny metallic object was smooth and regular. It was not like the other asteroids of that size. Further, it was decelerating. How could that be? The gravity of our sun and our planet should cause the object to accelerate. What was slowing the object down?

For two weeks, astronomers tracked the object. Eventually, it was too close to earth to track any longer. They now had enough data to plot a trajectory. It appeared as if the object would enter a low earth orbit. It was not going to crash into the earth at all.

Ground based detectors spotted the metallic object and tracked it as it made orbit after orbit just outside the Earth's atmosphere. With each orbit, it had a slight change in longitude. Its first orbit took it from the North Pole to the South Pole, but after a week, it was orbiting around the equator.

Another flash and it was gone. However, it did not fly away. It was picked up on RADAR at Dulles International Airport. It had entered the Earth's atmosphere. The military sent some fighter jets to intercept the unidentified flying object.

All attempts to communicate with the UFO were unsuccessful. Further, the military aircraft were unable to force it to change its trajectory. They could not lock their heat-seeking missiles onto the strange craft. All of their weapons were ineffective against the alien spacecraft as it was now called.

Eventually, it landed on the edge of a runway at Dulles. Immediately, military vehicles and personnel surrounded it. Authorities notified the airlines, and they closed the airport. All air traffic moved to other locations.

The classic saucer shaped craft sat on its three legs at the end of the runway steaming, but not from heat. It was ice cold and warmed in the springtime air. The varying temperatures caused the condensation on the craft, which froze and then steamed off.

The black saucer glistened in the sun, but it just sat. For days, it just sat there. It had no windows, so there was no way to detect if or what was inside. Detectors of every type were set up around the craft. If it emitted any type of signal, an alarm would sound.

Curious crowds came from all over to attempt to get a peek at the alien spacecraft. However, the military kept the area well guarded. Only authorized people were able to see the visiting craft.

After days of no activity, a small shaft appeared out of the bottom of the saucer. The military units went on full alert. Weapons were made ready to fire. Just as suddenly as it appeared, the shaft disappeared into the spacecraft. However, it deposited an object on the ground.

The small object had six wheels and rolled from out beneath the craft. It was some sort of vehicle. However, it was only one meter long and about half as wide. It rolled off the tarmac and onto a surrounding patch of ground. General D.C. Hever gave the order for Sergeant Christian Dwaystal to approach the vehicle.

"We mean you no harm," insisted Sergeant Dwaystal.

The space object did not respond to the words of the sergeant, but a long arm unfolded and scratched at the dirt.

"What do you want?" asked the Sergeant.

The object's arm began drilling into the soil. Another segment of the arm penetrated the hole that was a few inches deep.

"What should I say?" Sergeant Dwaystal asked the General.

General Hever just shrugged as a small tube arose from the object. The vehicle began to buzz and hum.

"Usted habla Espanola?" asked Sergeant Dwaystal. "Parlez-vous Francais?"

Just then, the detectors screamed as the vehicle emitted some sort of signal. In a panic, the vehicle was destroyed in a barrage of weapon fire. Sergeant Dwaystal was barely able to get out of the way before the craft crumbled into a pile of rubble.

More detectors sounded as the craft began emitting signals of various frequencies and amplitudes. General Hever ordered everyone to stow his or her weapon and fall back. The military crowd moved back as ordered.

After a few tense minutes, the detectors quieted. A few moments later, the shaft beneath the craft emerged. Slowly, the shaft reached the ground. Just as slowly, the shaft retreated into the craft revealing a three-legged object.

Inside the tripod sat a multi-limbed creature. It looked something like a terrestrial octopus. Three of its legs fit into the three legs giving it support. Two other arms were in appendages for reaching and grasping. The remaining appendages were inside for working various controls. It was an alien creature in a space suit.

It took a few steps towards the crowd. Nervously, a few soldiers discharged their weapons.

"Cease Fire!" shouted General Hever.

The weapons had no effect upon the alien. The suit was more durable than the initial vehicle. The alien headed directly towards the General. A few soldiers stepped between the approaching alien and the General. However, General Hever ordered them aside.

The two stood face to face. The General remained silent. After a few tense seconds, an electrical voice made a few sounds. It then said, "Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!"

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Tiberium Letters

Part Five

By Dwayne MacInnes

"It'ss a sshame what happened to the Count," Kreel, the Lizard-folk cook said as I pretended to be inspecting the contents of the kitchen's larder. Her face was greenish brown with a nice coloration of blue around her gold eyes. Her forked tongue would often flick out between the hisses in her conversation. "He wass ssuch a good man."

"Hmm hmm," I said as I continued to search the bags of millet. "What exactly happened to him?"

"It iss ssaid he wass invesstigating ssome rumorss about sstrange thingss happening in the ssurrounding villagess," Kreel said as she continued to prepare tonight's dinner.

"Interesting, what exactly was it he was investigating," I tried to sound halfway bored and interested. I wanted to hear the rumors Kreel would divulge but I did not want overplay my hand by being too interested. Therefore, I continued my inventory and writing miscellaneous and useless data into my logbook.

"It iss no ssecret that many do not like my kind here in Giland. However, the Count and Countesss they are fair. They treat all their ssubjectss well. The taless of my folkss dissappearing in the nearby villagess prompted Count Averssfield to invesstigate. It iss ssaid he wass ambusshed by banditss, and hizs body thrown into the sswampss."

"Certainly you do not believe this," I acted surprised.

"Of coursse, I believe it. My peopless are sstill dissappearing! I would leave here if I could, but I have to ssupport five hatchlingss. The Countesss payss well," Kreel hissed in agitation as she slammed a pot onto the counter top.

"Sorry, I meant you do not believe Count Aversfield was actually ambushed by bandits and his body thrown into the swamp," I corrected.

"No, that iss a ssilly tale. With all the guardss and ssoldierss, there are no banditss. But there are taless about him," Kreel said her eyes darting around the room to make sure we were alone.

"I'm sorry," I said acting somewhat confused.

"The minisster," Kreel literally hissed in my ear. "Rumorss ssayss he hass a ssecret chamber where he torturess and killss my peopless."

"Hmmm, interesting. I may have to investigate this," I nodded. "Any ideas where I should begin?"

Kreel looked again over her shoulder, "Hizs room."

* * * * *

Dinner was a nice affair. Many of the well-to-do attended. If I did not have an urgent mission to accomplish, I would have loved to help myself to some souvenirs. Alas, duty calls. Countess Aversfield still somber and wearing her usual black mourning gown sat at the head of the table. Brunis, as always, was sitting at her side. Captain Morgan of the city guard stood at attention behind the Countess.

Fortunately, Giland is far enough away from the pomp and circumstances of the more urbanized settlings. The occasional elbow on the table or the napkin tucked into the shirt collar could be seen around the table. I knew enough courtly etiquette to hold my own without looking too much like a country bumpkin.

The food was magnificent. The servants placed large platters of mutton and beef on the table. Salads of fruits and vegetables abounded. I did have to pretend that eating the meat from a goat's head was against the Wood Elf religion. I find it ironic that humans accuse the Lizard-folk of being barbaric when they themselves find eating an animal's head a delicacy. Nonetheless, I did not go hungry that night.

The drink, too, was exceptionally fine. The vintage of the wine passed around was a very good year. I had to remind myself that I had work to do. Although, it takes a lot to make an elf drunk; it is wise not to dull the senses too much. Especially, when there was a viper like Brunis around.

I was listening to a boring dissertation from Lord Calvert about the futility of civilizing the Lizard-folk when Brunis spoke up. "Miss Gwendolyn, I hope you have been finding the contents of our larder within the Emperor's expectation."

It was a taunt and many around the table chuckled. "You would be surprised what I can find in just a bag of millet. Why I would love to discuss all that I found missing."

I looked at the minister with a cunning glare. His icy stare probably could have frozen the fiery pits of the nether-realms.

"Missing?" the Countess chimed up. "Why what has turned up missing?"

"Oh, your Ladyship. Nothing in the castle yet, but I have learned of things in the surrounding villages. I will give you a full report when I am done."

"Please, don't overstay, "Brunis said with his jaw clenched. "We don't want the Emperor to pay for more than he needs."

"That, my dear minister, is exactly why I am here."

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