April 2007 Archives

First Contact

Part 2

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The General looked inquisitively at his subordinates. They all shrugged. No one knew what to make of the initial statement given by the alien visitor. "Apprehend him!" the General said eventually.

"Open with a joke he said," the alien muttered. "They will be less inclined towards violence he said."

Several military men rushed to grab the multi-legged alien. However, an invisible field prevented them from getting too close. The soldiers fell back one by one from the three-legged space suit of the alien, each receiving a slight electrical shock.

"Perhaps I should have said Gort! Deklato Rosco!" continued the alien. "It might have been slightly more apropos, but that line is not nearly as memorable."

General Hever ordered his men to stand down. They were not going to be able to apprehend the alien physically in that manner. He told his men to ready their weapons.

"Maybe they have not seen The Day the Earth Stood Still," he said continuing his muttering internal dialog. "I should have stuck to the classics."

"Surround the alien, but hold your fire," ordered the General.

They had previously observed that their weapons had no effect upon the visitor from space. The bullets of the projectile weapons bounced off the alien's shielding. The energy from the energy weapons was simply absorbed by the shield making it even stronger.

"I just did not want to sound so clichéd," muttered the alien ignoring the actions going on around him.

"Prepare to move in!" ordered the General.

The soldiers did not fire or lower their weapons, but they continued to eye the alien with suspicion.

"I come in peace," stated the alien with a highly dejected tone. "Take me to your leader..."

"You speak English?" asked the General with some surprise.

"We have encountered your transmissions. When you beam signals into space, you should expect others to encounter them. Actually, we have been studying you for quite some time. I have spent the entire voyage studying your transmissions. I particularly like the Friday After Dark episodes on one of the channels. They are filled with your species copulating, and I find them most entertaining. Nonetheless, I am capable of speaking, with rudimentary fluency, several of your species' languages."

"Will -- you -- come -- with -- us -- peacefully?" asked the General in a slow broken tone.

"Do not patronize me!" insisted the alien. "Your weapons are useless against our technology. I could destroy everyone within several miles of here. However, I have not. I will follow you, if I am taken to someone of authority."

"We will take you to the aircraft carrier Richard B. Cheney," responded the General. "The President of the United States of America will meet you there."

"Lead on and I will follow," replied the alien. "I will be unable to ride in your vehicles, but I am capable of high speed travel."

"Very good," the General replied waving his arms to indicate to his men to stand down and fall back. "Soldiers -- to the George W. Bush Naval Facility."

The soldiers lowered their weapons and boarded the waiting vehicles. General Hever boarded the vehicle in the front of the convoy and led the soldiers towards the naval base.

The alien's spacesuit glowed for a few moments and then the alien was airborne. From a safe operating altitude, he followed the General and the convoy towards the ocean. He landed beside a large statue of the naval yard's namesake, George W. Bush. The statue had the inscription Always Remember.

He followed General Hever onboard the aircraft carrier. The General walked into a room, but the alien did not follow. "This way," insisted the military commander.

"I am sorry, but my suit will not allow me to enter," insisted the alien. "We will meet upon the deck."

The General re-entered the room, and after a few minutes, a tall stately gray-haired man emerged. The man was dressed in a dark blue suit with a red tie. He was wearing sunglasses and he said a few inaudible words to himself.

A few moments later, a tall stately gray-haired woman emerged. She was wearing a dark gray suit. "I am President Fogarty," the woman said.

"I must admit," started the alien, "that I am surprised."

"Surprised to see a female president?" she asked.

"Oh no!" replied the alien. "The fact that not only has your species survived, but your country is still democratic."

"Why does that surprise you?"

"I live very far from here, and your transmissions take a long time to reach us. When I left, a particular political party of yours had been rigging your political process. They took the voice of the people away from them. They abused every aspect of the political process."

"When was that?" asked the president.

"Time is a relative measure Madame President. Everyone has different measures and names for those measures. However, the president at that time was George W. Bush."

"Ah! Early in our 21st Century, that was about 100 years ago," replied the President. "I know it well."

"Every aspect had been played towards the advantage of that President's party. They had entire networks playing propaganda -- friendly to their point of view. They were highly critical of the opposition and friendly towards their political viewpoint. The general public was only getting half of the information required for a free and open society."

"Not only that," added the President. "They stifled science. They misrepresented scientific findings in many areas such as climate science. They impeded research in biology and many other areas."

"Further," insisted the alien. "The President had a belief in an End of Times scenario. Many people, who believed in him, blindly accepted his policy to bring about the end of the world. Our researchers were certain that they would succeed and end most life on Earth."

"Perhaps it was this belief or the greed of oil reserves," added President Fogarty, "that led this political party to get involved in wars in the Middle East. There seemed to be few countries with vast oil reserves that they did not covet."

"However, here I stand in a Naval Yard aboard a vessel dedicated to these very scoundrels," insisted the alien.

"Every man, woman, and child in the United States knows those stories," replied the President. "They are taught in every history class with great regularity. You see, it was because of those scoundrels as you call them, that the citizens of the United States of America learned several valuable lessons. Shortly after *all* of the scandals were revealed, the public rose up and demanded a fair system. They began to pay greater attention to the political process. No longer were they satisfied with the election process, and they clamored for change. If the electorate had not risen up against these political shenanigans, I do not doubt that we would have destroyed ourselves. That is why we dedicated these entities so that we Always Remember."

"I am most glad to learn this, and a little disappointed. You see, I was sent to prepare this planet for my people," replied the alien. "From your reports we did not think that you would be able to stand at the brink and not fall into the abyss. However, you managed to survive this crisis -- as you had so many others. I congratulate you on that. We will look elsewhere. I look forward to viewing the reports of this revelation as they reach our world. Perhaps our peoples will meet again."

Before President Fogarty could say anything, the alien had taken off and returned to the alien spacecraft. Moments later the space vessel was gone. Earth had fought off its first alien invasion simply by continuing to exist.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Six

By Dwayne MacInnes

After our evening meal, I went to check out my quarters. Fortunately, the guard's barracks are part of the castle. That would make inspecting the castle's interior easier after most of the residents had fallen asleep. My room in the barracks was on the wall opposite the door. Rows and rows of guardsmen's bunks lay between my room and the door. Just inside the doorway, there were some tables and benches where the guards could relax and/or eat.

The room I was staying in was very spartan. I had a small bed and a side table where a single candle flickered. At the foot of the bed, there was a chest to stow my gear. I did not have much gear so I hardly used it. On the wall opposite the door, was a single small window. The shutters were open, and I could see that it opened onto a narrow ledge. The ground was a good two stories down and that was actually a murky slimy moat that reflected the gray moonlight.

I sat in my bunk for a good hour. I could easily hear the guards entering or leaving the barracks most were entering and preparing for bed. I cracked my door and peered outside. There on the table next to the door leading to the castle's interior sat Reyn and two other guards. They were heavy into their drink and just conversing.

"Why do you think Brunis wants us to sit at this door all night?" the younger guardsmen asked.

"Easy, to guard her," Reyn replied nodding his head in my direction.

"Well, I don't suppose he could blame us if we had to partake of this good mead while we waited," laughed the second guard. "After all, this is thirsty work."

All three laughed at this and each took a long chug from their wooden mugs. Reyn wiped his mouth with the back of his hand as he sat the mug down onto the table. "You know I almost had the Thieves Guild revealed," Reyn started.

"Yeah, yeah, you told us before," the second guard replied in a bored voice.

"I would have had it too if I did not get this transfer," Reyn replied hotly.

"Well, you must have upset someone," the first guard supplied, "nobody gets assigned here if they did not make some enemies."

Reyn looked towards my room again, "You know I also know about her."

"I wouldn't mind getting to know her," said the first guard, definitely the youngest of the three.

"You have a thing for older women, eh?" the second guard jibed.

"Whadya mean? She can't over twenty."

"She's a hundred if she's a day," the older second guard responded. "She's an elf and they live ten times as long as men." They were both right -- in a way. I was of one hundred and twenty years. "Even if you two got married she'd still look the same by the time you are having someone chew your food for you."

"Not so bad by my reckoning," continued the first guard. Reyn just continued to drink and stare at my door.

"Are you kidding, she'd leave you and take everything you own by the time you started to lose the bloom of life. No, sir, stay with your own kind."

The first guard was about to respond when Reyn started up again. "Neither of you know what you are talking about. She's not the usual Imperial Inspector. I know what she did before. I know who she really is."

The two other guards looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. "I think you've been into your cups too long my friend," the second guard said putting a fatherly arm around Reyn's shoulders. "Now, take Jern here. He thinks he knows everything about using that toothpick he calls a sword…"

I closed the door tightly. I learned a few things. First, I was not going to get out the barracks door. Secondly, I had better keep a closer eye on Reyn. He obviously got a good enough look at me down at the gate.

I blew out the candle and approached the window. It was a small window as I stated before, but it was wide enough to allow me to squeeze my lithe frame through and onto the ledge. I pulled my shield and bow out after me. It was not easy equipping myself piecemeal while my toes were the only thing keeping me from landing into the manmade swamp below.

I was able to shimmy sideways along the ledge until I found another window. I took a quick glance inside. It led to a small utility closet. I reversed my equipping process by silently placing my bow and shield first into the small room. I then squeezed my way through the window. Fortunately, the door did not contain a lock so I did not have to waste time picking it.

I listened at the door for a while to ensure that there were not any guards nearby. I slowly opened it and found myself looking at the throne room. There were stairs around both sides of the room that led to the private quarters.

In a matter of a few seconds, I had gained entrance into the private quarters of the castle. Here I would have to use even more care, for sentries patrolled the upper areas. Fortunately, if one is patient enough and there are enough shadows to hide you, one is able to learn where the holes are in the patrol pattern. This I did.

I quietly crept along the carpeted hallway. I did not have any plans of the castle's interior so I did not know were Brunis's room would be. So, I just went from door to door and peered inside. Most of the doors were unlocked and those that were not proved easy to open. I was able to observe -- undetected -- many of the most notable of the castle's residents sleeping, reading, or otherwise occupied with each other.

I finally found the room I was looking for. I used extra caution because it is well know that wizards love to use magical traps on their doors. I guess Brunis did not feel that he needed any because there was none. The door itself proved easy enough to pick. I quickly glanced inside the darkened interior expecting to hear snoring or to find the minister either reading or maybe entertaining a chambermaid. However, the room was vacant.

I slipped inside and began a thorough search. I could find nothing just a book on his nightstand by the High Elf Elrond Hubbard Dire-netics: Controlling your Personal Demons. I guess Brunis's mother did not love him. That would explain many of his problems.

Still I was not happy with my results. There had to be something in this room other than a book. No mage stays in a room for long without storing away some magical do-dads. I studied the room again. This time I was looking for anything out of the ordinary and I soon found it. Against the far wall there were two posts rising towards the ceiling. Normally this would not mean anything, but in a wizard's bedroom, this could mean only one thing…secret door.

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Blog Against Theocracy Freedom First and others have initiated a "Blog Against Theocracy" event. I am participating by reposted a story I had written a while ago. It is very fitting for this weekend's event. For more information on other blogs participating click on the logo to the right. Thanks and enjoy! (As always, comments welcome!)






Land of the Zombies

By Douglas E. Gogerty

It had been a fairly uneventful weekend for Wesley Hever. He straightened up his apartment a bit, watched some television, got a little reading done, and picked some things up at the grocery store. With evening closing in, he was astonished at how quiet a weekend it had been. Perhaps, it was too quiet. He began to wonder if he had missed some event that was taking place. It was late summer, so it couldn't be the Super Bowl. It was too early to be the World Series. Why was it so quiet?

Suddenly a knock came at his door. He opened it up to reveal his good friend Wayne McGuiness. "Good! You're here." Wayne said.

"What's up?" asked Wesley.

"There is trouble brewing out there, big trouble!"

"Well come one in and tell me about it."

"There's no time! We need to get out of here. We need to get out of here fast! They're coming!"

"Settle down and tell me what is wrong."

"I just came here to get you and some supplies," Wayne stated coldly.

Wayne opened the refrigerator and began rummaging through it. He grabbed some water, some cans of refreshing beverages and stuffed them into his backpack. He closed the door and remarked, "Why is there fake leopard's skin fur on your fridge?"

"I saw it on some design show, and..."

"Never mind! Do you have any can goods? Do you have any rice and beans? You know - non-perishable goods."

"Are you going to tell me what is going on? Who are they?"

"Once we get going. Well..."

"I haven't unpacked them yet from the grocery store. You'll probably find some stuff in those sacks over there."

Wayne searched through the sacks and just grabbed them. "Good, they'll get us for sure if we went to a grocery store. OK, let's go!"

"Wait a minute! You just barge in here, grab some stuff and expect me to tag along without knowing what is going on? I have to work tomorrow! I'm not going anywhere until you tell me who they are and what the big emergency is."

"There's no time! I told you they'll be here any minute."

"I'm not going anywhere!" Wesley affirmed as he sat down and turned on the television.

"OK OK OK OK! They are taking over."

"Who is taking over?"

"A long time ago, there were this dozen or so people. They caused a bit of trouble and the authorities killed their leader. A couple of days later, they say this guy is walking around. He was dead! He goes to his group and soon there are bunches of them!"

"What are you talking about? Are you saying there are zombies out there?"

"They're coming to get us right now!" Wayne insisted and then returned to his story. "At first, various groups kept them in check, but not anymore. There are millions of them in the city by now! We have to get out of here!"

"Zombies? You have to be kidding! Do you expect me to believe that?"

"You're not listening. They are coming to get us. Do you remember Jackie Larson?"

"Of course, we dated for a little while. What does she have to do with it?"

"She's one of them! She has singled us out. Her and her group are coming to get us. They were just at my place, and I narrowly got out of there in time!"

"How do you know she's turned?"

"Like all of them, she's got that glassy-eyed look in her eyes, and she has that insipid smile on her face. Like that," Wayne explained while pointing at the television.

"Like what?"

"There on the TV. She has that look! That person is obviously one of them!"

"Who? The First Lady?"

"My goodness you're right! That is the First Lady and she is definitely one of them! We got to get going now!"

"Do you mean to tell me that the President's wife is a zombie?"

"Look! The President has that look too! We have got to get out of here before they get here. Can we go now?"

"Wait wait wait! Are you trying to tell me that the President and his wife are zombies and that Jackie Larson is on her way over here to..."

Before he can finish his question, someone knocks on the door.

"Oh man, they're here! We'll have to go out the window. I told you we needed to get going," explained Wayne.

"It is just a coincidence," responded Wes as he peaked through the spy hole. "Holy crap it's Jackie!"

"Why don't you ever listen to me? We need to get out of here! Does this window open?"

"There must be 2 dozen people out there and a couple of them are dressed like clowns," Wesley continued.

"Wesley darling," began a voice in the hall. "I know you're in there. Open the door; will you honey?"

"You're right! Jackie does have that look. I'll get the window, it is kind of tricky," Wes explained as he began working on the window. "Clowns?"

"You don't think they're picky do you? They are out to get everyone! What the heck is this?" Wayne asked holding some pamphlets he retrieved from one of the shopping bags.

"Those were out front when I got back from shopping. I must have put them in there to carry them in."

"Did you read these?" asked Wayne with alarm.

"I may have skimmed them, but I didn't read them."

"Did you read these?" asked Wayne more forcefully.

"I don't think so."

"I want you to be sure!" insisted Wayne.

"I'm pretty sure," Wesley asserted as he finally got the window open.

"I guess I'll have to risk it," Wayne said as he threw the pamphlets on the floor. "Let's get out of here."

"Come one Wes baby, open the door," the two men heard from the hall. "I can hear the TV going. I know you're in there. It is me Jackie. Jackie Larson. Can we talk?"

"That's quite a ways down," complained Wes. "So, why don't we just shoot our way out? They do it in the movies all the time."

"That's the movies man! This is real life. You can't go around shooting people for no good reason!"

"If they are threatening us..."

"Hey, do you still have that replica Colt 45 peacemaker? You might want to grab it just in case."

"Are you serious?"

"You're right; it'll probably get us into trouble. If the President is one of them, the courts might be too."

"What?"

"Never mind, let's get going."

"Where are we going?"

"I'll tell you once we're out of here!"

"He's not opening the door," a voice in the hall said. "Do you have a key Jackie?"

"I would never..." she insisted.

"That's a relief," another voice stated to Jackie. "Wesley, we aren't leaving. We can wait all night." The doorbell began to ring constantly.

"I'll jump first," started Wayne. "Then you drop down my pack and then the groceries. You can grab whatever you think you want or need and follow me down."

"Right," responded Wesley.

Wes stuffed some clothes of his own into a pack and he looked around a bit. Eventually, he decided he did not need anything and went to the window. With the continuous knocking on the apartment door and the bell ringing, he started to lower down the two packs and the groceries. With one last look around, Wesley jumped out of the second story window.

As he landed Wayne said, "Get down! There are more of them over there."

Wesley ducked into some shrubs to find Wayne crouched there. Wayne's truck was only about 100 feet away. Wayne had fastened a canoe tightly to a rack over the bed of the pickup. "Are we going canoeing?" Wesley whispered.

"With all of this going on, it might be best if we leave the country. We need to be ready for anything."

"Hey! There is my landlord with them."

"We have to move fast. He'll probably let them into your apartment. Keep your head down and follow me."

The two men crawled along the ground toward Wayne's truck. All the while, they kept their eyes on the group of people by the door of Wesley's apartment building. Quietly, Wayne put the supplies he gathered from Wesley's apartment into the back of the pickup. Under the canoe in its rack, there was a large backpack full of camping gear. Wayne unlocked the truck and the two men quietly entered and locked the doors. They sat there quietly for a few moments and then Wesley asked, "Are we headed north or south?"

"We'd be lucky to make it very far south. I've heard they have a group of 30,000 that gathers weekly in Houston."

"Is it some sort of Zombie Jamboree?"

"I have no idea what they do. The south is definitely crawling with them. Although there are probably more options for us down south, we're headed north. I figure we can get into Canada by way of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. If the borders are overrun, we should still be able to get through by canoe -- besides this is Minnesota!"

"Do you think it is that bad?"

"Minnesota? Nah, it's a nice enough place..."

"No! I mean all of this stuff," Wesley explained pointing to the crowd in front of his apartment building.

"I don't know what to think. I'm in total survival mode. They'll notice us when we start the truck, so be ready."

"Hey, they're in my apartment!" cried Wesley.

"It's go time," Wayne said as he started the truck and put it in gear and took off.

Out of Wesley's apartment window Jackie yelled, "There they go!" She pointed to the truck Wayne was driving. However, it was too late for that group to stop them. Out of the parking lot the two men sped.

It was now dark, and Wayne took back roads to the interstate. There was little traffic on the roads, and they did not run into any trouble. Trying not to drive conspicuously, Wayne made his way onto the interstate heading north.

"I could use a beer," Wesley stated after a bit of a drive.

"I'll pull over as soon as I feel safe, and you can dig one out of the back."

"You sure were prepared for this."

"I was a boy scout. This looks like a good spot," Wayne said as he pulled off the road under a bridge. Wes jumped out of the cab and began searching for Wayne's pack. "Grab me an ale would you?"

"Sure!" Wesley responded as he fetched two cans out of Wayne's backpack.

Wes jumped back into the cab of the truck and they began moving again. Before they went too far they saw flashing lights from behind. It was a police car. Wayne pulled the truck over and the police officer stopped behind them. The officer slowly and carefully walked up to Wayne's window. "Paper's please," he stated.

"Here are my driver's license and my proof of insurance," replied Wayne as he handed the officer his cards. "Is there anything wrong?"

"Have you boys been drinking?" the officer asked sternly.

"No sir," snapped Wayne.

"What are those?" the officer asked pointing his flashlight at the open cans in the cab.

"My friend is drinking root beer, and I'm having a ginger ale," replied Wayne as he showed the cans.

The officer went back into the waiting squad car and checked Wayne's records. After several minutes, the officer headed back to Wayne's truck. "I saw you pull off the road back there. What was that all about," the officer asked.

"My friend and I were thirsty. I had these cans in the back there. We pulled over to fetch them," responded Wayne.

"I see. Where are the rest of your papers?" asked the officer.

"Rest of my papers?" inquired Wayne.

"Everybody got some new papers that they were supposed to carry with them where ever they go. Some small pamphlets, where are they?"

"Those? Where did we put those? Are they in the pack Wes?" Wayne asked his passenger.

"Uh, I don't think..." Wes started.

"I don't think we forgot them either," interrupted Wayne. "I'm sure they're in the pack back there with our bible, do you want me to show you?"

Wayne started to open the door when the officer began, "Nah, that's all right. Where are you boys headed?"

"We're going up north for a little fishing trip," Wayne lied. "We've been planning this for months. I hope we have everything."

"Well, good luck to you boys," replied the officer. "Have a good night and drive safely."

"Thanks officer! We will," called Wayne as the officer walked back to the squad car.

"What was that bible crack about?" asked Wes as the officer pulled out.

"Later..."

Wayne put the truck in gear and pulled out behind the officer. After several hours driving in silence along the north bound interstate, Wesley could no longer keep quiet. "Are you going to tell me what is going on here?"

"With what happened back there with the police officer, I feel better about you now. I know you didn't read those pamphlets. You know, we're supposed to carry them wherever we go."

"What?" asked Wesley. "Now I'm really confused."

"You should watch the news more."

"You know I haven't watched the news since that whole OJ Simpson fiasco. They sensationalize everything now. What does the news have to do with it?"

"We're far enough from anyplace, I think we're pretty safe now. We probably won't run into any trouble since we're far enough from any population centers. If you had been watching the news, you would know that things have changed. They have changed dramatically."

"I know, zombies are a big change!"

"Sorry about that, it isn't exactly that bad. It is just that we now live in a theocracy."

"A theocracy? That's impossible!"

"I wish it were. That scene back at your place was about conversion. Jackie and her group are Evangelicals. They were there to convert you to Christianity. Well, their idea of Christianity anyway."

"They weren't zombies?"

"Well, there is little difference. They don't pay attention to anything going on around them either, and they don't stop until everyone is one of them."

"You have a point."

"They recently passed a law that says you need to carry those religious pamphlets wherever you go and show them upon request."

"What does that show?"

"Supposedly it shows that you've taken Jesus Christ as your personal savior. It shows that you're practicing the official religion of the US.

"And the first amendment...?"

"Edited for your protection. The Supreme Court has totally overhauled the establishment clause."

"So everyone has to be a Christian?"

"Either that, or have your civil rights curtailed. That is why we're going to Canada. It'll be crowded at the boarder. They'll probably send lots of people back, so we can paddle in. We are almost to our entry point."

"So, let me get this straight. The Evangelical Christians have finally gotten it their way?"

"Religious freedom, one of the foremost important things that some of our founding fathers so strongly believed, has gone by the way side. You know, one of those sniggling details that they wanted to make sure that majority did not rule on..."

"Have they forgotten about the Puritan's leaving England to escape religious persecution?" asked Wesley.

"Yes, totally forgotten. The oppressed are now the oppressors."

"Okay, Canada. You talked me into it!"

Wesley and Wayne abandoned the pickup truck at a Boundary Waters entry point and headed farther north. They hated to use an entry point illegally, but they felt they had no choice. After entering Canadian territory, no one knows what became of the two men. The President has disavowed any knowledge of the two men. Some say they returned to Minnesota under different names, and accepted the fate of their country. Still others say they have been fighting to return the US to sanity. No one knows for certain what became of them, but we hope they're safe.

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Tiberium Letters

Part Seven

By Dwayne MacInnes

It took me but a moment to find the hidden catch behind one of the posts. Before I triggered it, I listened to the door closely. It would be greatly embarrassing to open the hidden door just to find an enraged mage behind it. Only silence greeted my sensitive ears.

I released the catch and the wall between the posts slid silently upwards to reveal a small room inside. I quickly dashed inside and shut the secret door. I muttered my spell for dark sight and the interior revealed itself to me. At least, for the next minute until I had to mutter the spell again. I really prayed that I would soon find a longer lasting spell.

A quick survey did produce a few objects of worth. First, I found about one hundred Silver Crowns. I am sure that Brunis did not obtain them lawfully so it was my imperial duty to confiscate them. I also found a magical wand. It was made of gnarled black wood.

Anyone can use a magical wand if she knows the correct triggering word. The Mages Guild keeps this a secret because they make a lot of money charging farmers to enchant their fields against pests. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if a farmer just bought a wand for a few tens of Silver Crowns and did the same thing year after year.

Most mages just use the default setting on the wands and depending on the manufacturer; it can be as simple as ‘abra cadabra’ or ‘klaatu barada nikto’. However, Brunis was smarter than that. He had had it reprogrammed. Thankfully, he was not too smart because I found the command written on a piece of paper next to it. It said simply, “to operate fireball wand say ‘domo arigato mister roboto’?.

However, the next two objects were of more significance. The first was a book about the tragic murder of Lady Tiber’s father. It is a well-known tale of how when Lady Tiber or Lady Rhem as she would have been then, was a young lass of twelve when she was playing with the scullery girl of the same age in the throne room. They were behind the large tapestries when an assassin attacked and killed widower Baron Rhem while he was on the throne. One of the girls let out a shriek when she witnessed it. The scullery girl ran for a nearby balcony and the young Lady Rhem ran for the stairs. The assassin would have killed both girls if he was not surprised and the girls did not run in two different directions. At the very least, he would have killed Lady Rhem, but he could not tell the difference between the two girls for they were of similar appearance.

The scullery girl tripped and fell over the edge of the balcony and plummeted into the lake that lay below her body disappearing beneath the lake’s surface forever. A month after the tragedy some fishermen found a tattered and soggy dress snared in some snags on the lake’s shore. The Lady Rhem ran upstairs and hid inside one of the closets. Only after the guards captured the assassin did they find the girl. By this time, she had lost her memory and only a slow convalescence at a local temple restored her to her right mind. However, she never remembered anything before that horrible day.

The sad conclusion is that after interrogating the assassin it was learned who had hired him. It was the Baron’s own brother. It is the same old story of the younger sibling craving the power of the elder.

The last object or actually objects were the millet seeds found on the ground. There are only two places I could think of where Brunis could encounter millet seeds. One was the kitchen, but Kreel practically lives there and she would have gladly told me if she had seen the minister skulking about there. So, that left the storage cellars where the foodstuff was stored in large quantities.

I pocketed my findings and made my way out of the private quarters. Getting to the cellars was no problem at all. Other than the sentries at the front door to the castle, the only other guards on patrol in the castle were in the private quarters. I should let the Countess know that she may want to beef up her security.

In any case, I found myself deep inside the dank cellar. There were huge casks of wine and other alcoholic beverages against one wall. There were crates, barrels, and bags of foodstuff against another. A single torch sat in its sconce and burned away illuminating the cool and musty interior.

A search of the ground revealed that a sack of millet had a tear. Most likely, with the help of the ubiquitous rodents that one can find in such dwellings. A closer scrutiny produced faint footprints that I followed to a wall. I quickly discerned the faint outline of a hidden door. I just now needed to find the trigger to open it.

Secret or hidden doors always have some kind of panel or lever to open it. It is common for them to look like common objects. It could be a torch on the wall, a book in a bookcase, or a stone panel in the wall. However, it was none of these, particularly not a book due to the lack of bookcases in the cellar.

I studied the wall carefully again. I know it had to be something obvious I was missing. Then it hit me. One of the barrels of foodstuff was not with the others. I opened the top and found it contained wheat. I felt around in the wheat but I could not find any lever. I was about to give up in frustration when my foot kicked the bottom of the barrel. It made a hollow noise. That was odd for a barrel brimming with wheat.

A quick search produced a loose panel. Inside the panel was a lever. Soon I had the hidden door open. A long dark tunnel wound its way down on the other side of the door.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

With the end of the great adventure of taking the giant monster Iapetus to New York to save Manhattan from the ultra-yeti, Dr. John Maland returned to his normal life in academia in Florida. He resumed his classes, lectures, and research.

He won much acclaim for his book on the island people and the Iapetus legend. Perhaps some of that acclaim came from the saving of a major metropolitan area. Nevertheless, the book read like a classic adventure tale. The Iapetian legend had a foundation in a large monster, and this monster prevented the destruction of New York City. It made for a great story. Thus, the accolades poured onto Dr. Maland.

For centuries, this giant creature had protected the inhabitants of this island in the Bermuda Triangle from external forces. It fought pirates, naval vessels, and every kind of interloper. The island was completely untouched by external influence.

However, they allowed Dr. Maland to come and study them. They suddenly embraced the external world. Further, at Dr. Maland's request, they allowed their protector to save an external people.

The giant creature was known the world over, and tourists flocked to the island to get a peek at the enormous beast, and the people that befriended him. The island was constantly visited by naval traffic. Gone were the days when Dr. Maland could sail his tiny sailboat to the beach of the island. The tiny island had become a major tourist spot.

While the Iapetians' lives had become quite hectic, Dr. Maland's life quieted down into normalcy. John had difficulty believing that it had been almost two years since his spring break trip to their island.

The damage the ultra-yeti inflicted upon upstate New York was nearly repaired. Memories of that adventure had faded from the conscious of most of the world. They had gone on to other things. Other worries and disasters struck as they always do. Thus, life for Dr. Maland had returned to a degree of normalcy.

Spring break was once again upon the horizon and Dr. Maland was considering what he would do with that week off. As always, he wanted to get away from Florida and the hordes of college students that would soon invade the area.

He was dreaming of his time with the Iapetians when a knock came upon his door. He opened the door and let a dark skinned man in a three-piece suit carrying a briefcase into his office. He had seen his face before, but he was having difficulty placing it.

"Have a seat," insisted Dr. Maland as he pointed to one of his overstuffed chairs. "What can I do for you?"

The man sat cross-legged in the chair in front of Dr. Maland's desk. He held the briefcase close. In an accent Dr. Maland had heard before the man said, "From the look on your face, you do not recognize me."

"Your face is familiar," confessed Dr. Maland "however; I am having difficulty determining where I have seen it."

"Perhaps this suit is confusing you. My people had never worn such things."

"Wait! You’re an Iapetian," John stated with surprise.

"Yes," responded the man politely.

"You're the storyteller!" Dr. Maland replied with much excitement as he got up and shook the man's hand.

"It has been a while," replied the storyteller with a smile.

"And that suit!"

"With the traffic coming to our island, there has been a need to be much more entrepreneurial. Thus, reluctantly, I have become a businessman. I do not feel quite at home in this, but it is necessary."

"You have done us a great service. I hope it has not ruined your way."

"Not at all," replied the Iapetian. "It is us that initiated the contact. It is what we wanted."

"Still... I hope the island and its inhabitants are not adversely affected."

"Your worries are unfounded. We can establish the isolation with a request from the great Iapetus."

"I suppose you are right at that!"

"There are reasons we ended our isolation, and that is what I have come to see you about."

"What can I do?"

"Over the last few years, we have amassed a large amount of wealth. This wealth was gathered for a specific purpose in mind."

"What?"

"You see, the mighty Iapetus leaves our waters to make brief visits to the cold icy lake where he was spawned. These visits can be 20 or 30 years apart, and some have been even longer. No matter the interval, a population of his kind is born."

"There are more?"

"Do you know nothing of animal reproduction?"

"Pardon me for my outburst, I just find it shocking that there are more of his kind out there."

"The female of his species is quite numerous; however, they are considerably smaller. Further, they are fully aquatic. They do not have the structures that allow our protector to leave the ocean environment. Thus, only the males can be our protectors, and there is only one."

"I see," replied Dr. Maland.

"As an individual, our protector has had several broods, but has not produced an heir. When he is of an age, he will spend weeks or months in this deep, dark, forbidding lake and spawn with many females. In fact, he will mate with every female of his species. If he does not produce a male during this time, the species will end. Unfortunately, that time is approaching. He is ancient, and he cannot live forever."

"What can I do to help?"

"Our people need a protector, and we have been working on the problem of extinction for a very long time. While we are certain that he will produce an heir and our protection will continue, the mighty beast will leave us for a very long time. We have determined a strategy that will ensure our long-term survival and protection. Further, it will help ease our protector's mind to know that he can leave for a long stretch of time to complete his most necessary task."

The storyteller opened his briefcase and placed a large document on Dr. Maland's desk.

"What is this?" ask Dr. Maland.

"With the funds that we have gathered, and these plans, our protection is ensured."

Dr. Maland began reading the document given to him. The plans were full of schematics and blue prints that Dr. Maland could not decipher. The technical document was well beyond his comprehension.

"What do you need me for?" Dr. Maland asked after scanning the document.

"We have contracted with a local business here in town, and we are in need of a liaison between us and this company. We want you to oversee its construction. None of our people have experience in these types of things and I cannot be spared."

"Why me?"

"We have provided you personally and your country a great service, you are indebted to us."

"But -- I have no experience in these types of things," complained Dr. Maland.

"You are savvy enough for our purposes. We just need you to check with this company periodically and keep us informed of the progress."

"Who is this company? I cannot even decipher this plan. What are they building?"

"While I appreciate your concern, we are certain you can handle this minor responsibility. The company is AOENC Engineering and they are located here in town; however, the actual manufacturing will occur in Niceville Florida."

"Niceville?" replied Dr. Maland. "I guess I should not argue with you. You have provided us with a great service. If you have faith in me, it is the least I can do. I will do my best, but I still do not know what they are building."

"They are building..." replied the Iapetian storyteller "...a Cyber-Iapetus!"

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Tiberium Letters

Part Eight

By Dwayne MacInnes

I entered the tunnel and shut the door behind me. A lever on the wall opened and closed the hidden door. Fortunately, I would not have to rely on my dark vision spell in this tunnel because someone had been kind enough to leave an occasional lighted torch on the wall.

I silently crept down the stone corridor, there was nothing interesting to note. The path was long and winding, but there were no divergences so I did not have to make any big decisions like should I go right or left. I just went forward.

After about half an hour, the tunnel led me to a set of stairs. I looked up and the stone steps ascended upwards for what looked like eternity. There was no other way, so I began my ascent. Even here, there was the occasional torch burning away in a metal sconce.

I would really hate to be the one to make sure those torches were lit and replaced once they burnt down to nothing. I could not tell you how many torches I had already passed, and I cannot imagine that even these torches would burn indefinitely. Nonetheless, I proceeded with the utmost caution. After all, I could unexpectedly meet the caretaker of those torches.

The climb up the stairs was just as uneventful and monotonous as the trek down the tunnel. Eventually I reached the top to find the tunnel resumed its twisting path forward. I was about to take a quick breather after the long climb when I heard a blood-curdling scream.

My instincts told me that something was not quite right down the tunnel. Actually, you do not need instincts to tell you something bad is down the road when you hear a blood-curdling scream like that. In fact, you should probably consider one of two options. The first is to run away from the source of the scream. The second is to proceed forward with the utmost care and caution. Therefore, I split the difference. I ran forward with some care and caution.

Though the hallway was more or less straight and narrow for most of the way, I drew my short sword. The tunnel was winding enough that it did not favor the use of my bow. I did not know if the next boogeyman was literally around the next bend. Furthermore, trying to ready a bow on the run does not facilitate a good shot, not even for an elf. In addition, on my climb to Grand Champion of the Imperial Arena, I had become more proficient with the blade.

I heard the scream again. The hairs on the back of neck began to rise. I am sure that if anyone saw me from behind, he would have thought I had a frightened black cat on my head. For, the fears that rain through my body would have made my trademark ponytail shoot straight up behind my helmet.

Nonetheless, I continued my journey down the tunnel. I soon found a wooden door on my left hand side. The smell emanating from it was almost overpowering. Blood and decaying flesh were behind that door. The next scream told me, so was the person who was either in agony, fear, or both.

I checked the handle on the door. It was unlocked so I slowly opened it up. I poked my head around the door to see the prostrate form of a Lizard-man strapped down on a table. Between him and me, there was a short hunched figure in dark robes. The figure was obviously torturing the poor Lizard-man. I could see blood funneling off the table into several buckets on the ground around it. The hunched figure had already plucked out the left eye and chopped off the corresponding hand. The scales on the Lizard-man's upper torso had been flayed back to expose the still functioning organs to the air.

The poor creature panted in pain. I witnessed the rapidly beating heart and inflating lungs under the exposed ribs. The torturer was a professional to keep one still alive and conscious under such treatment. I am sure some form of magic was involved.

I cannot ever remember seeing such a gruesome and malevolent sight before. I knew that if I did not act soon the Lizard-man would die. He did not have much longer to live. I was also on the verge of becoming violently ill.

As the dark figure raised the dagger in his right hand in the air for another chop, slice, or plunge into the helpless victim I instinctively yell, "STOP!"

The figure jerked his head around and glared at me maliciously. I was staring eyeball to eyeball with a goblin. His beady black eyes stared at me from his mottled green face. A wicked grin revealed his yellow sharp teeth underneath his long hooked nose.

I turned and fled. I know what you are saying, "The Grand Champion ran from a goblin?" Yes, I ran. However, I did not run in fear. I ran to draw the nasty creature away from the Lizard-man. Even the Grand Champion can accidentally miss her target and hit an innocent bystander. Notwithstanding that, the sadistic beast could kill the victim in an act of spite.

I paced myself to keep the goblin just a few feet behind me. I was tantalizing close but still out of reach of his dagger. I am sure if he wanted, he could have thrown the little blade. However, I am sure he realized that even if he hit, it would more than likely bounce off my armor.

As we approached the stairs, I suddenly fell to the ground and pulled my legs in close to my torso. The goblin, caught off guard, tripped over my balled-up body before he could slow down. He sailed over me and proceeded to bounce down the stairs at full speed.

After the first few bounces, he stopped screaming. I could have made my way back down the stairs to ensure that the goblin was indeed dead. But, I had to return to the torture chamber immediately if I had any hope of saving the Lizard-man's life. In addition, I did not relish the idea of climbing back up those stairs.

As I ran into the torture room, I had thumbed the cork off a healing potion I pulled from my haversack. I was relieved to see that he still lived. I poured a little of the draughts down his gullet, enough to give him some strength. I then started to repack and replace his cut muscles and organs inside his chest. I am not a physician so I am not an expert on anatomy, but I made my best guess. I poured a little of the healing potion over the muscles to help them knit. Then I pulled the skin back together and doused it with the remaining healing draught.

I watched as the skin magically reunited. A raw pink scar ran the length of his brown torso. The Lizard-man started to relax. I could see that he was still in a lot of pain and very weak. So, pulled out another healing potion and made him drink it all. The gaping wound of his bloody eye socket and his severed left wrist instantly healed up. I would have tried to reattach his hand and/or eye but I could not find them. Moreover, the Lizard-man did not have the luxury of waiting while I searched the blood-filled buckets for them.

After the Lizard-man regained his strength and seemed to be out of pain, I cut his bonds. He sat up and looked me over with his good eye.

"I am Sleestak and I thank you," he said as he sat up and rubbed his stump.

"Gwendolyn, at your service," I bowed, "what is going on here?"

"Look friend Gwendolyn," Sleestak motioned for me to look around the room with his right hand.

I turned around and realized I was not so much in a torture chamber as much as a butchers shop.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"A Cyber-Iapetus?" asked Dr. John Maland.

"A mechanical protector appears to be the ideal solution. It would work both for a temporary interval, and long term if necessary."

"But how?"

"For centuries, when a ship would come to our island we would examine it closely," explained the Iapetian storyteller. "Thus, we have gathered much technology over the years."

"You have been collecting technology?"

"Certainly! In addition, with all of our needs being met by our island and the mighty protector, we have managed to synthesize the collected technology and add some of our own to this project."

"So, why didn't you build this cyber-Iapetus yourselves?"

"We lack the natural resources; also, we do not have the large spaces required to construct such a thing. No, the only course we could take was to look outside our island."

"Did you have me in mind for this task the entire time?"

"When you came upon our island, we thought you might be able to help. However, that business you had up north did change the equation slightly. We had planned to build it ourselves by renting a space and purchasing the necessary equipment. That adventure of yours brought us an unexpected windfall, and we could afford to hire experienced workers to manufacture our mechanical protector."

"And you want *me* to supervise the construction?" inquired Dr. Maland.

"We only need you to give us a regular status report. You do not have to inspect the process regularly. I believe we can trust the CEO of AOENC business group, a Mr. L. Edward Roy. We ask that you just ask him periodically on the progress. Further, if they have questions, we ask you to be the go-between. You can bring the questions to us. Finally, perhaps once or twice a year, we would like you to check on the construction itself. We will pay the expenses of course."

"Twice a year?"

"We expect the construction to take several years. It is quite a complicated build. Some of the technology is very innovative, and may take months to test. The power system is entirely of our design, and has been patented. I am sure they will want to fully test it before implementing it."

"I guess it is the least I could do for you."

"Thank you sir," responded the storyteller giving Dr. Maland a card. "Here is L. Edward Roy's card. Please contact him and set up an appointment at your earliest convenience."

"I will," John replied as he took the card.

The storyteller arose from his chair and shook Dr. Maland's hand. He gave a slight bow and left the office with his briefcase.

John looked at the plans again, but they did not mean anything to him. However, he got an idea on what to do during spring break. He would visit the manufacture facility in Niceville, Florida.

It was still early afternoon, so John called the number on the card. He spoke to the receptionist. He told her who he was and what he wanted. She told him that she would leave a note for Mr. Roy and he would be in contact.

Later that day, Mr. Roy called him and it was arranged. John would arrive on the Monday of his spring break, and spend a week touring the facilities in Niceville. It was not going to be as exciting or interesting as some of his spring break adventures, but it was something to do. It would definitely be different.

He thought about how he would travel the 650 miles to Niceville. He could fly and rent a car, but with the nice weather they were having, he decided he would put the top down and drive the 10 hours. Driving up the coast was always nice, and there were plenty of places to stop and rest.

When his class dismissed on the Friday before spring break, he went home and packed. He planned on leaving early in the on Saturday and drive all day. That would give him Sunday to look around the area and unwind before he began touring the manufacturing plant.

The weather was beautiful and the drive up the coast was just as he remembered. However, he did feel like a salmon swimming upstream as the college kids jammed the southbound traffic as he headed north.

He drove into Jacksonville around noon, and he was already tired. He knew of a hole-in-the-wall pizza place he had always visited when in the area. He ordered a small classic veggie to go and made his way to memorial park. It was a small park on the St. Johns River. He stretched, walked, and ate pizza there.

When he washed down the last piece he was going to eat, he walked the path around the park. He sat and watched the things happening on and around the river for a while. He felt rejuvenated and returned to his car. He debated on whether he would eat another slice of pizza, but he decided against it.

He made his way to a gas station, filled his car, used the facilities, and got an iced tea for the road. He still had quite a way to travel as Jacksonville was about the halfway point. He hoped to make it to his hotel in Niceville before dark, but it looked as if that was not going to happen. He had loitered too long in Jacksonville.

This stretch of the trip had more stops and more frequent rests than the first leg of the journey. Nevertheless, he made it to his hotel by 9pm. He was regretting the fast food Chinese he found for dinner, but he had finally made it to his destination.

He put his cold pizza in the room's refrigerator and debated on looking around town. However, the long drive had taken too much out of him and he decided to stay in his room. He reclined on his bed and turned on the TV, but he was asleep by 9:45.

He awoke with a start around midnight, stripped off his clothes, and officially went to bed. Naturally, he was up very early the next day. Dr. Maland had the cold pizza for breakfast, and planned to spend a lazy Sunday exploring the area. He drove around and found the factory. It was an enormous building and it would easily accommodate the construction of the mechanical Iapetus.

There were several beaches and golf courses around town. He spent most of his time looking for a good place to go sailing. It just would not be a spring break if he did not go sailing at least once.

After the uneventful Sunday, John got up early on Monday. He put on his suit, and drove to the factory. He entered the reception area. He found the receptionist and said, "I have an appointment with L. Edward Roy."

"What?" asked the receptionist.

"My name is Dr. John Maland, and I have arranged to visit this facility."

"Oh! Welcome Dr. Maland we have been expecting you. Please, have a seat and Ms. Linda Higher will be with you in a moment."

"Mr. Roy will not be showing me around?"

"Oh no, Dr. Roy is a very busy person. He could never spare the time."

After a brief wait, Ms. Higher ushered Dr. Maland into a room, and offered him a seat. A slightly mechanical voice on the speakerphone said, "Welcome to our Niceville Florida plant Dr. Maland. I apologize for not being there in person, but I was detained in our Tokyo office. I will be in Amsterdam on Friday, and I just could not make it in person."

"Dr. Roy I assume?"

"Oh yes, where are my manners? I assume you have exchanged pleasantries with our very capable Ms. Higher."

"I have."

"She will take very good care of you. I must be going now sir. Enjoy your stay, and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask."

"Thank you Dr. Roy."

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Tiberium Letters

Part Nine

By Dwayne MacInnes

The bodies of Lizard-folk and, by the looks of it, a couple of humans, hung from the ceiling like the carcasses of cows and pigs one sees in a butcher shop. The bodies were skinned and in various states of decomposition. Goblins love their meat a little rancid.

I turned back to Sleestak, "I think you better get out of here and alert the city guard."

"No!" he shouted with fear. "It was Captain Morgan who brought us here. He works for Brunis. They are building an army of goblins."

I began to search the room as I lost myself in thought. So, Brunis is looking for more than extortion and maybe running the Empire from behind the scenes. It looks like he wants to establish his own empire and Giland was as good a place as any other city.

I did not know how many of the city guards were involved with this. I had to proceed with even more care than usual. Even if I defeat Brunis and retrieve the letters Captain Morgan and some of the local guardsmen, may try to settle accounts with me.

I found some dirty clothes that I tossed over to Sleestak. "Here wear these."

"Why are you here?" the Lizard-man asked as he dressed.

"I'm on a top secret mission. I cannot say more. But, I need you to get out of here and tell no one about my presence here."

Sleestak found a rather long and nasty blade (obviously some torture implement) that he tucked into his belt. "How do I explain my escape?"

"Just tell them you broke free and overpowered the goblin," I offered. I was about to leave the room when a thought struck me.

"Are there others I should free?"

"No, I was the last. Morgan and his men rounded up many people from my village and they sent us here. I watched my people be tortured before they were butchered. Their blood collected in buckets for goblin stew," Sleestak spat.

"Do you know where Morgan and Brunis are?" I enquired.

"Yes, this tunnel leads to an old ruined fort. Fort Abysmal, there you will find them. But, I caution you. There are more than goblins in this tunnel. I have heard...strange noises. I am sorry that is the best I can do. If you want, Sleestak will fight with you."

I shook my head, "No, you must escape, go down the stairs and the tunnel there is a lever that'll lead you to the basement of the castle. You will be able to find help from Kreel the cook. I am sure she'll find a way to get you out of the castle without the guards knowing."

I resumed my travel up the tunnel after Sleestak descended the stairs. I grasped my sword even harder now. No sound escaped my acute hearing -- not the skittering of rats scurrying out of my way, nor the plunk of water dripping into a shallow pool somewhere into the distant.

Thankfully, I wore gauntlets for my sweaty palms would have lost their grip on my blade. I did not relish the idea of taking on an army of goblins in addition to whatever else there may be down here, plus the original task of Brunis and now Captain Morgan thrown in. All I know is that there had better be a rather hefty reward after I was done.

The passage began to slope upwards. There were no stairs just a ramping floor that continued to climb steadily upwards. After awhile it finally ended at another wooden door.

I pressed my ear against it. There were not any sounds. There were also no traps of either mechanical or magical nature. However, there was a lock, which proved easy to pick.

I slowly opened the door and peered around it. All I saw was just more tunnel and more torches. However, the passage was now level.

I continued to creep down the tunnel when I suddenly came upon two goblins on sentry. I did not hear either of them for they had been sleeping in the passage and they did not hear me as I stole upon them. I left them to their dreams...permanently. I slit their throats so silently and efficiently that neither one awoke. I placed their bodies back in their sleeping repose and continued on. I am sure if anyone came upon them that at a distance they would look like they were asleep. However, closer examination would reveal a large puddle of blood on the ground.

The worse part of this was apparently Brunis did not pay his goblins very well. I only found three Silver Crowns between them. Their rusty blades were not even worth the effort to cart out and try to sell to some vendor.

Onward and forward, the tunnel wound. I did not happen upon any more goblins when I came upon another door in the right hand tunnel wall. Again, I listened and searched for traps -- again nothing on all counts. This time the lock was of good construction. It took me about thirty seconds for me to pick it.

The door swung open on its own and revealed a dark room. The little light that shone in the room revealed little except a stone floor. I stepped in and the door slammed shut behind me. I instantly felt my hackles rise as they did when I heard Sleestak's screams.

I silently uttered my dark sight spell and there at the end of the long room sneaking towards me as silent as a cat was a demon.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Three

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Shall we take the tour?" Ms. Linda Higher asked.

"By all means," replied Dr. Maland.

Dr. Maland followed Ms. Higher through a number of cubicle offices. Eventually, they came to an enormous room. She explained that this room the final assembly would take place. "The room's ceiling is 100 meters high and it is 500 meters long," Ms. Higher explained. "This should be sufficient to assemble the project. Currently, we have some areas designated for assembly of some of the components. In fact, in the far northwest corner, the power-plant is being worked on now."

Ms. Higher took Dr. Maland to observe the work being undertaken on the power system of the Cyber-Iapetus.

"What is it going to use for power generation?" asked Dr. Maland.

"Excellent question, it is one of the most complicated aspects of this build. Our project engineers are working on deciphering the provided plans. They have yet to determine exactly how it is to work, but from what I understand, it is using nuclear fusion technology. It is quite advanced."

"That should make it very self sufficient."

"Indeed, and because of its complexity, we began it first."

Dr. Maland met with a few of the engineers and discussed the building plan. He felt the 5-year timetable was quite optimistic. However, the team assured him that they would complete the project on time and under budget.

Dr. Maland spent the week sitting in on meetings and watching the workers at AOENC Engineering going about their jobs. He observed some of the early construction processes. He was very interested in how the power generation system would work. However, most of the engineers were skeptical that it would actually operate.

After 4 days of looking around the facilities, and finding everything in order, Dr. Maland bid farewell to the people he met at the Niceville facility. He had wanted to meet Dr. L. Edward Roy, but the CEO could not make it to the Florida plant during his visit there. He did not get as much sailing done as he had hoped. Thus, he left on the long drive back on the final Friday of his spring break.

He arrived in Jacksonville early, in an effort to take advantage of a few of his favorite sailing venues in and around town. He managed to get some afternoon sailing done and was on the water early on Saturday morning. He was driving back towards home before midday.

Traffic was heavy when he neared his home. The second wave of spring break revelers were arriving. He would be back at work on Monday, so he would be able to cope with the hordes.

* * * * *

The build process continued and Dr. Maland had several phone conversations with Dr. L. Edward Roy. He relayed the information on to the inhabitants of the Iapetian Island. He got as detailed reports as he could obtain.

He relayed the successful tests of the power generation system. The system would take in water, and separate the hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen would be fed into the fusion chamber. These hydrogen atoms would be accelerated and would be smashed together in a small but powerful magnetic field. The fusion process would continue until the results were oxygen atoms. This oxygen with the oxygen removed from the water was the only waste and was released into the air. Further, with proper tuning, the system could have any of the first eight elements as waste, excluding hydrogen. Thus, helium or carbon could be obtained if desired.

The reaction would generate the needed power for the separation of hydrogen and oxygen as well as enough power to run an entire household. It would be sufficient for the needs of the enormous island protector. Further, the system was relatively compact for such a high yield system.

In addition, the water did not have to be pure. It could use seawater, which was convenient for the islanders. The Iapetian engineers thought about most of the needs for this power system when they designed it.

AOENC Engineers were so impressed with the system, that they implemented it throughout the Niceville plant with plans to implement it company wide. They handsomely compensated the Iapetian people for the use of the technology. Thus, the money allocated for paying for some of the completion of the mechanical protector could be used for other purposes.

Gradually, more systems were completed. The power train, the hydraulic systems, and the computerized regulation systems were gradually added to the list of completed items. With each completion came a call from Dr. Roy and a report to the Iapetians.

Dr. Maland spent his next four spring breaks watching the manufacture of the Cyber-Iapetus and sailing where he could find a good spot. The giant project was beginning to look like Iapetus on his last visit. The workers constructed the structure around each of the various components on the huge factory floor.

John could make out arms, legs, and tail of the mechanical monster on his last spring break visit. The engineers were correct; the project would finish on time and under budget. It was going to be a very impressive device.

It would be able to travel on land or by sea. While in the water, it would propel itself with its large tail, and the arms would fold under its torso to improve its aqua-dynamics and to act as dive planes. On land, it would walk upright on its two powerful hydraulic legs.

The heavy power plant was located just above the legs to provide a low center of gravity. A series of tubes in the tail sucked in seawater to feed the fusion reaction.

Just above the fusion reactor were a series of batteries for emergency power storage. This would allow the machine to spend longer intervals on land.

The machine had multiple and redundant computer systems. It had an autonomic like system to run and maintain the power system. Its responsibility was to feed the system with water and take care of any wastes. To make them redundant, they put one system in the root of the tail, and another above the batteries.

They designed a small balance and guidance system in each leg, with redundant systems next to the other emergency backup systems. The balance system took inputs from sensors on the bottom of the feet and several gyroscopes. The system could make minute adjustments to keep the device upright.

Finally, there was a triple-redundant master control system protected in a "rib cage" of titanium with the other emergency backup systems. If desired, a pilot and copilot could sit within this protective shell in the chest of the mechanical beast.

These occupants can view the surroundings via a few small carbon nanotube windows. To protect these windows, an operator can close a series of blast shields. In which case, a number of exterior cameras provide vision. Further, these cameras could transmit images to a central control station for remote control or observation. In addition, these cameras give input to the central computer to assist in locomotion and other activities.

Several ballast tanks run the length of the torso. This would allow for various attitudes while operating at sea. These tanks could be filled with the waste gasses from the energy production system or external air.

Once all of the systems were in their proper places, flexible foam insulation would cover these essential parts. Finally, a non-corrosive carbon fiber and Kevlar skin would make the entire device completely waterproof.

After Dr. Maland's final spring break trip, he decided he would watch the final construction of the Cyber-Iapetus. He would leave on this trip when his classes were through. He felt at home at the plant; thus, he decided to make this trip a surprise inspection.

This time, Dr. Maland flew into the Okaloosa Regional Airport and rented a car. He drove directly to the plant, and walked in as the workers were installing rocket-launching hands. A fire breathing mechanism and a couple of mini-guns in the chest had already been installed.

Before Dr. Maland could protest about the deviation from the original plans, a security guard grabbed him and escorted him away. They tossed him into a secure room with no windows and a thick locked door. He would not be able to report his findings to anyone.

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