January 2008 Archives

The Scout

Chapter 25

By Dwayne MacInnes

The sergeant escorted Scott inside the chain-linked fence that marked the boundaries of Fort Billings. Scott noticed that the base was a hive of activity. Soldiers and vehicles were racing around the compound.

The sergeant pulled his humvee up to an administrative building. Scott and his escort exited the vehicle and two more soldiers joined the duo as they entered the building. The scout watched the occupants rushing around the interior. Something big was definitely going down.

Again, Scott found himself inside the office of General MacKenzie. Upon entering, the general offered Scott a chair on the other side of his desk. The general reclined in his leather executive chair.

"We have found a friend of yours," the general began as soon Scott seated himself.

The scout just looked at the soldier quizzically. The general barked an order to a sergeant standing near the door. The sergeant opened the door and a stocky man was ushered into the room by two soldiers.

Scott rose from the seat; there in General MacKenzie's office stood Wade Benson.

"Wade you old son of gun!" Scott exclaimed with a big smile on his face.

The general motioned for Scott to regain his seat. "I'm afraid Mr. Benson's visit is not a social call."

Wade shook his head and gave a muffled laugh, "Sorry about that Scout. It did take some convincing that I knew you. After all, the only name I had was a Scott Duncan. Fortunately, it must have been close enough that the soldiers let my party of refugees and me into the U.S. After the slave rebellion, which allowed you to escape, things got a little too hot in Sturgis.

"The revolt did not last longer than half an hour. However many slaves were able to escape, especially the children. I figured they stood a better chance in the Wastes than with the Anarchists."

General MacKenzie cleared his throat and Wade looked at him sheepishly.

"Right, the point of my being here is two fold. First of all, I decided to take you up on your offer. I figure a little stay on the coast will do me some good.

"Secondly, I received word just before I skedaddled that Moose had sent Taylor with some troops and equipment to unite the warlords and take over Minneapolis. If any man can unite them and possibly defeat Saint Paul, it is Moose Van Dyke.

"Moose has also gathered every Anarchist he could. He's planning something big."

"Sergeant," General MacKenzie ordered softly to the soldier standing at-ease by the door. "Please, escort Mr. Benson to his holding cell until we can organize some transportation for his group to the camps out west."

Wade quickly grasped Scott's hand in a warm handshake. "Until we meet again, bro."

Scott stood up and slapped Wade on the shoulder, "Your time will go by faster than you know. If you ever need a job, let me know. This time I'll give the references."

The sergeant led Wade out of the room and closed the door behind him; thus, leaving the general and the scout alone in silence.

Neither man looked at each other for a few seconds. The news Wade offered had both deep in thought. Finally, the general took the initiative.

"How are the preparations for the convoy coming along?"

"We are nearly complete. We were planning of leaving tonight, but in view of this new information I think it is important that we postpone it a bit and gather some more forces."

"Negative," the general sternly replied. "Our window of opportunity is now. We cannot wait too much longer. Though the weather is finally starting to normalize, the early winters will be setting in soon. Quite frankly, we have to have the route secured and outposts constructed as quickly as we can."

Scott hated being forced into no-win situations so he tried another option, "How about the possibility of an escort from some of your forces?"

The general shook his head, "Sorry, but I cannot spare anyone. The president and congress has denied your request for our help."

"What's going on general?" Scott asked. "Something is going on. This base has never been this active before."

General MacKenzie shifted himself uneasily in his chair, "Officially you saw nothing. But, between friends we are pulling out."

Scott looked at the general in shock, "You are pulling out of Fort Billings?"

The general meekly nodded his head, "I'm sorry, but you are on your own."

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"You could tell I was in a costume?" asked the octopod when the room stopped spinning.

"Of course," replied Kelly a little distracted as he searched nervously at the sudden change of scenery.

"I thought I did a good job looking like a human," mumbled the once booming voice.

"Ummmm -- what's going on?" asked Angus.

"None of the humans back there seemed to notice...," muttered the octopod.

"Ummmm -- yeah! What *is* going on?" insisted Tommy.

"I tried to warn you, but you would not listen to my booming scary disembodied voice," the octopod replied as the booming voice returned.

"Who or what are you?" asked Kelly.

"I am Gogle! I am the living record of all things on your planet."

"Our planet?" asked Victor. "Then where are we now?"

"You're on Earth," replied Gogle.

With a sigh of relief Victor asked, "Where on Earth?"

"Oh!" responded Gogle with a slight chuckle. "I probably should explain. First, about 80% of all inhabited planets in the galaxy are called Earth. It is one of those strange coincidences that make things a bit confusing. It is almost as universal as the word Okay."

"So where are we?" asked Victor with a bit of panic returning to his voice.

"According to your International Star Registry, this would be the fourth planet orbiting the star -- Ann L. Kitterman."

"Where?" begged Victor.

"Hey, I am not responsible for the naming of these things," Gogle said with a shrug. "Does (15M, 2.432963, 4.196733) in galactic standard spherical coordinates help any?"

"No," Victor replied curtly with a shake of his head.

"So, what is going on?" asked Kelly attempting to change the subject to something more concrete.

"This raucous party you see before you," responded Gogle as he waved one of his tentacles across the scene. "This event often becomes so out of control that it spills out over time and space."

"They look like intergalactic nerds, if you ask me," Tommy responded.

"Intra-galactic really," Gogle said reflexively. "I guess since you are here and are not going anywhere, I should let you in on the secret of this grand occasion."

"That would be grand," insisted Kelly.

"This is the 186th Annual Intra-Galactic Comic and Gaming Convention," mumbled Gogle.

"What!?!!" shouted the quartet in unison.

"It is the gathering of like-minded individuals where they exchange stories, information, and purchase collectibles," asserted Gogle. "I am dressed as a popular -- but mythical -- comic character called a -- human..."

"And how did we get here?" enquired Victor.

"Would you like the short version or the long?" replied Gogle.

"Short," replied everyone except Victor who asked for the long version.

"Let me see if I can explain it to you in your limited language," started Gogle. "What would you say if I told you that I traveled back in time and killed my grandfather before he conceived my father?"

"That's impossible," replied Victor.

"Exactly," continued Gogle. "It would create a great paradoxical field -- an impossibility bubble -- if you will. So, how would you describe traveling several thousand light years without a space ship?"

"That would also be impossible," replied Victor.

"Thus, mathematically, they would cancel each other out," responded Gogle. "And, Bob's your uncle, we are here."

"What!?!!" exclaimed Victor attempting to follow the logic.

"To be honest," Gogle continued, "Traveling here without a spaceship is only highly improbably -- a pseudo-impossibility -- if you will. By Murphy's Law, if anything can go wrong it will. Thus, it is actually much more improbable that we end up where we wish."

"Huh?" Victor said as if someone were actually listening to him.

"Therefore, since our getting here is only a pseudo-impossibility," continued Gogle completely ignoring Victor's protests. "We had to stack in a few more improbable events."

"Like the Cubs winning the World Series?" asked Tommy.

"Like soccer becoming popular in America?" asked Kelly.

"Like Victor getting some action?" joked Angus.

"Exactly," proclaimed Gogle. "With a collection of pseudo-impossibilities, we cancel out the impossibility of me killing my grandfather before my father is conceived."

"This is all twisted..." Victor said in exasperation.

"Exactly," Gogle said in congratulations to Victor. "Did you take Beginning Hyper-Dimensional Temporal Physics too?"

"What?" asked Victor.

"He just read Hyper-Dimensional Temporal Physics for Dummies," added Angus.

"I ask because the paradoxical field becomes more and more twisted," replied Gogle. "It will become so tight that in four days it will all unravel. Hence, we will all return to your planet, and granddad will be fine."

"That doesn't make any sense," Victor responded with a twisted look on his face.

"You wanted the short version," Gogle said with a shrug.

"So, is this planet your home?" asked Angus looking at all the similar octopod creatures.

"Great googly-moogly no!" exclaimed Gogle. "This is just where they hold this convention."

"So why is everyone -- like you?" asked Victor pointing to the others.

"My particular race happens to be the repository of collected information for many planets in the galaxy," Gogle replied proudly, but with a little hint of shame, he added, "And as I have previously stated, I have the collected knowledge of your race."

"So, what are all the repositories of knowledge doing here?" asked Victor.

"We are the primary vendors for the show, and this is the setup and pre-show party. Even us knowledge repositories have to make money somehow."

As they were talking, another octopod walked up in a more normal mode of locomotion for an eight-legged creature. He stuck out an appendage and said, "Greetings Humans!"

Before Gogle could say anything, Victor grabbed the appendage and replied, "Ouch!"

"A word of warning," Gogle finally said as Victor looked at his aching hand, "this is a party, and some of the males here will try to mate with anything. Therefore, if someone offers you a sperm packet, I suggest you refuse. Now if you excuse me, my favorite band Lizard Spit and the Bongs1 is just about to play."

Gogle, on his panted legs, walked clumsily over to where four individuals, apparently of his octopod race, were standing upon a stage. They began to play something similar to but completely different from human rock and roll music.

"What does he mean sperm packet?" asked Victor trying to quell some up and coming panic.

"I think you just grabbed that dude's penis," replied Tommy with a chuckle.

"You should make him buy you a drink," added Angus continuing the joke.

"Am I going to give birth to an alien-human space creature?" worried Victor.

"I doubt that our genetic make-ups are compatible -- ugh -- said Mr. Geneticist," responded Kelly disappointed in himself for not continuing the joke.

"I don't know if it is your normal paleness, or if you are extra pale right now," insisted Angus. "Perhaps you should sit down."

"Good idea," replied Victor as the group made their way towards a group of seats near the bar. "My hand feels just like a balloon."


NOTES:

1: All band names brought to you by Dave Barry

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The Scout

Chapter 26

By Dwayne MacInnes

The convoy and its escorts were in position to leave as the sun sank behind the mountains. Scott was to lead this motley crew of mish-mash vehicles across the Wastes, so he chose his escort deployment with care.

Two motorcycles and three buggies were to be on forward picket duty. Behind them and leading the pack would follow the Armadillo. The Wrecking Crew and their truck would follow the convoy. The heavier armored and armed vehicles flanked the convoy. Scott would ride herd and like the cowboys of old, he was determined to get this convoy to their destination regardless of the obstacles.

"Ok, folks this is the Dark One, let's get this party moving," Scott ordered over his CB radio.

"Roger that Dark One," a voice crackled over the radio in response.

Engines revved up and split the night air. Slowly the large convoy started to rumble forward into the night. Before long, the twenty convoy trucks and the forty-five escort vehicles were on the move.

Driving at night was a mixed bag. Although most of the vehicles lacked the low-light amplification gear the Charger had, they therefore had to use their headlights. The chance of encountering an ambush by the wasters was significantly lower.

Unfortunately, the convoy could only move as fast as its slowest vehicle so it would be sunrise before the party was half way through North Dakota. That would be the most dangerous time for the convoy, for the drivers and crews would be suffering from exhaustion and the wasters would be alert and ready.

The night driving went better than Scott anticipated. The battered roads offered few obstacles that required avoidance by the convoy. Only twice did the Armadillo need to pull a boulder out of the path of the vehicles. Even the weather held out.

As the morning sun rose over the desolate horizon, Scott could not but feel a sense of relief. Fighting a battle with the wasters at night would have been very difficult.

The further the convoy rolled down the old highway the better Scott felt. He knew they still had a long ways to go. But, maybe the Anarchists were too occupied to bother with his group.

The convoy had traveled for over three hours after sunrise before Scott noticed something behind them. Over the horizon, a telltale cloud of dirt rose into the air. From the size of it, Scott figure there were many vehicles heading their way.

Scott cursed mildly. He stole a glance over towards Sam sitting in the passenger seat. The boy held a joystick and studied a monitor that controlled the turret on the roof.

"Sam, you think you'll be ok using that thing. We won't be shooting at wooden targets."

Sam merely nodded. Scott could not see his face for the boy wore a crash helmet much like the one Scott wore. Both helmets hooked up to the radio to allow them to talk over the CB if they needed.

"Great, can you zero in with your gun camera on the dirt cloud behind us?" Scott asked.

On their monitor, the image of hundreds of motorcycles and buggies filled the horizon. The wasters were gaining on the convoy fast.

"Ok, everyone I guess it was too much to expect that the locals would allow us through their territory without bothering us. We have multiple bogies coming up from behind. Fireman, I need you to drop back here with me and help give these guys a warm reception."

"Roger that Dark One," a voice crackled over the radio.

1978 Ford Bronco

The Fireman drove a red 1978 Ford Bronco. The truck boasted an open mount that a gunner occupied. The gunner could turn 360 degrees to fire his flamethrower armed with napalm. Not many of the other escort vehicles wanted to be near the Fireman for obvious reasons.

The Bronco fell back next to the Charger. The two vehicles decreased their speed a little to allow the convoy to increase the gap between them and the wasters.

"Ok, let's let them get close enough that we can maximize our firepower, but far enough away that they won't overwhelm us," Scott said through his radio.

"Roger, that Dark One. The Fireman is ready."

"Sam, remember to fire in short bursts. We need to conserve our ammo."

Sam nodded his small hands tightened their grip on the joystick. The image of the Anarchists grew on the monitor as they rapidly closed ground.

Scott started to sweat. He had never encountered this many wasters before.

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Three

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Victor, with his hand beginning to swell, staggered over towards a seat near what appeared to be a bar. His three friends helped him stagger to this previously mentioned seat.

"Here take this," stated a stranger handing Victor a glass of liquid.

Victor took the glass and drank its contents before the stranger could stop him. "What was that," asked Victor with an unusually raspy voice.

"I meant for you to use it to prevent an infection in your wound," replied the stranger with a shrug. "It was 100% ethyl alcohol, and here is another. This time pour it on this bar rag and rap your hand up with it."

Victor did as he was instructed and shouted, "Aaaaaahhhhh!"

"Oh yeah, it might sting a bit," added the stranger.

"Thanks -- whoever you are," Kelly said as Victor collapsed into a chair.

"Sorry," begged the stranger. "I am Jeves. Feel free to ask me anything."

"Okay," started Tommy. "Why is it that everyone here speaks English?"

"That's easy," replied Jeves. "We are not actually speaking. We communicate via telepathy. Our anatomy would make communicating in any vocal form impossible."

"So, you do not need to know our language, you just read our thoughts?" asked Kelly.

"No. You still *think* in English," replied Jeves. "However, with the repository of all your knowledge here, we have access to your races entire knowledge base. She imparted all of your collected knowledge to everyone in the room."

"Gogle is a she?" asked Angus.

"Those tight pants were not enough of a clue for you?" responded Jeves to the query using a tentacle to point to Gogle. "Did you use the voice in your head to make a determination?"

"Ummmmm -- no of course not," Tommy lied.

"At an occasion such as this, if she did not offer you a sperm packet that is another good sign," included Jeves.

"So you're a female too," added Angus.

"You are catching on," replied Jeves with a lilt in her voice, which became perceivably higher to the MOPS members.

"You're beee - you - tee - ful! You know that don't you?" slurred Victor who had begun feeling the affects of the alcohol he just consumed.

"I wish I could say the same about you," muttered Jeves.

"I love you guys," Victor stammered.

"Jesus! He's drunk," exclaimed Angus.

"I'm a Kern," responded Kelly. "I'm dressed as a Sixteenth Century Irish foot soldier."

"Right," apologized Angus. "That is why you have that fake Irish accent."

"I could use a drink myself," interrupted Tommy. "Bartender, could I get a rum and coke?"

The bartender was a completely different race from Gogle, Jeves, and the rest. She did not offer anyone a sperm packet, so everyone decided that the bartender was female. She looked much less like a terrestrial octopus, which was what the others resembled. She was much more cuttlefish-like.

It appeared that she was lying on a backless chair, and would propel herself with two of her ten legs. She wore a black suit that was not totally unlike a tuxedo; except, of course, it had to fit a 10-legged creature.

After hearing Tommy's order, the bartender looked up at a 45-degree angle, which many beings in the universe believe to be the ideal angle in which to look when thinking. After a few moments pause, the bartender turned red and said, "sure" with only a slight amount of disgust in her voice.

The bartender pressed some buttons and turned a few dials on what looked like an espresso machine. Steam poured out of one of the nozzles, and a familiar smell wafted over the group. "Here is your espresso," she said as she passed a cup to Jeves.

"Thanks," replied Jeves as she took the cup.

The bartender then walked over to a computer terminal, and furiously hunted and pecked some things into the computer. She placed a glass into a slot, and it came out with a brown liquid. She returned to the keyboard and entered in some more information. She placed a mirror in the same slot, and pulled it out with two white powdery lines upon it.

The bartender grabbed the pair of things and passed them to Tommy with a straw. Tommy sniffed the rum suspiciously and sipped it. It was possibly the worst rum he had ever tasted. It was like the rum you could buy at a convenience store in a plastic bottle.

"No you misunderstood," explained Tommy. "I wanted rum and Coca-Cola, and if I could get better rum than this, it would be appreciated."

"The recipe for Coca-Cola is a highly guarded secret," snapped the bartender. "I would not want the Coca-Cola Bottling Corporation coming here and causing trouble. So, drink your rum and like it, and take your coke too."

The bartender pushed the mirror towards Tommy. Reluctantly he grabbed it and secretly dumped the contents onto the floor.

"Could I get some Scotch Whiskey and soda?" asked Angus.

"Sure..." the bartender turned a brighter shade of red and replied as if Angus had just asked her for a kidney.

After a similar set of machinations, the bartender set a glass containing a brownish liquid that was very similar to something that someone somewhere might consider scotch. In addition, she set down a glass full of sodium bicarbonate -- baking soda -- to go with the whiskey-like beverage.

Angus decided that a comment would get him nowhere. Thus, he took his "scotch and soda" and took a seat at the bar.

"Hello gorgeous," schmoozed Kelly.

The bartender's angry red colored eased to a more blushing red. "Hello -- er -- um -- handsome," she lied. "What can I get you?"

"What's your name beautiful?" he asked.

"As you can see from my nametag," she said pointing at a badge on what could be described by some as her chest. "My name is Iiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeyaaaaaaah."

"What a -- lovely -- a -- name," stumbled Kelly. "May I call you Ieya?"

"No," the bartender replied kurtly.

"Okay then," Kelly replied from his rebuke.

He gathered his composure and continued "Apparently, I am the designated driver; thus, I need something half as intoxicating as your beauty."

The bartender's color turned from red to something that could be described as a nauseous orange.

"Such as what?" she enquired.

"What would you recommend?"

"How does some weak carbonic acid with a splash of citric acid and laden with sucrose sound to you?"

"That sounds as lovely as your name."

The bartender smiled a big smile. Some people do not think that octopods or cuttlefish-like creatures are capable of smiling. However, if you would have been there, you would now know how wrong some people are. In any event, she placed a glass on the bar and pulled out a nozzle. She pushed a button and filled the glass with a clear bubbly liquid. Kelly gave it a taste, and smiled.

"Thanks sweetheart," Kelly told the bartender with a wink.

"Does your friend with that cougar want another drink?"

"Cougar?" the trio asked the bartender.

"You know," replied the bartender "a cougar -- an older woman who frequents clubs, like this one, in order to -- be intimate -- with a younger man."

The three men looked quizzically at the bartender trying to discern her euphemisms. Finally, the group looked over to Victor, but had a difficult time recognizing him because he had an octopod sitting on him obscuring his face.

"Aahhh! an octopod is sitting on Victor obscuring his face!" shouted Angus.

"She is a hottie though," replied the bartender.

"A face hugger is trying to implant him," added Tommy. "Boy, eighteen years of nothing and then twice in one day!"2


NOTES:

2: Cultural reference to (a line) in the movie Heavy Metal -- not to mention the whole Alien thing.

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The Scout

Chapter 27

By Dwayne MacInnes

"NOW!" Scott ordered as the first wave of buggies and motorbikes approached the black Charger and the red Bronco.

Sam fired the M60 in bursts as he had learned over the last month. The .30 machinegun chewed up a couple of buggies and scattered many of the motorcycles. However, the vast majority of the Anarchists continued unabated.

The red Bronco fell further behind the Charger and as the wasters drew even closer, the gunner onboard the truck finally opened up with the flamethrower. Unlike, with the machinegun, the wasters could not avoid the fiery death that spewed out of the nozzle of the flamethrower. The napalm engulfed the exposed occupants of the buggies and motorcycles.

The highway behind the fleeing convoy was a landscape of fire and smoke. The burning vehicles in the wake of the Fireman's outburst spun off the road. Many of the wrecked vehicles collided with the reckless souls that drove through the burning napalm that covered the highway.

"Yeah!" screamed the Fireman. "Looks like we really piled them up there."

Scott surveyed the carnage behind them. It only took a few moments before the Anarchists resumed their pursuit. Again, they approached the two vehicles even if it was at a greater distance.

The crack of small arms from the motorcycles as well as the occasional tattoo of the machineguns on the buggies split the air. Every now and then, the ting or ping of a bullet would glance off the armor of the Charger. From the range the pursuers were firing, it was highly unlikely they could do any serious damage.

Though the Anarchists stayed out of range of the flamethrower, they were still within the range of the M60. Sam would let go burst after burst. Most of the time he would hit a buggy or a motorcycle, nonetheless they kept coming on.

"Ok, Fireman, see if you can get them with a lake of fire," Scott said.

"Roger," the Fireman responded.

The flamethrower opened up again. This time the gunner laid out a long line of napalm working the nozzle back and forth until a thick wall of fire consumed the highway. The Anarchists initially thought it was another burst like the previous one. Their mistake was that they tried to drive quickly through the flames. Unfortunately, the fire did not end soon enough for most to make it to the other side. Flaming vehicles with burning occupants burst out the other side of the flames only to spin off the highway or to tumble down the old road.

The Anarchists broke into two formations and went over the open country bypassing the flames altogether. Fortunately, this slowed down the pursuers. In order for them to close in on the convoy, they would have to regain the highway.

The wasters were learning. They would move close enough for the Fireman to release a stream of napalm then they would drop back out of range and drive around the pool of fire. Sam was having better luck with the M60. His small bursts were quick and deadly. Many an Anarchist and their vehicle littered the highway riddled with .30 bullet holes.

A strange and familiar noise reached Scott's ear. It took only a fraction of a second for the scout to remember the noise of a police siren. A glance at his monitor showing the highway behind the muscle car showed a dirty white police cruiser speeding towards them. The light bar flashed and the siren wailed.

Scott would have laughed if the situation were not so serious. Did the wasters really expect him to pull over or were they just trying to gain his attention? Regardless the police cruiser sped down the road in pursuit.

Another glance at the monitor brought Scott back to the present. The windshield of the cruiser was missing and on the passenger side, a grenade launcher was mounted. The gunner was taking careful aim at the Charger.

Sam had been sighting up the cruiser and just before the M60 fired, Scott drove the Charger in an erratic back and forth zigzag down the highway. Seconds later the ground exploded just behind the Charger. Concrete and shrapnel plastered the rear armor of the Charger. The muscle car's rear end was momentarily lifted off the ground and as it slammed back to earth, Sam fired the machinegun.

The burst fired high and only managed to shoot out the red light and the siren on the cruiser. The gunner in the cruiser worked frantically to reload the grenade launcher as Sam quickly tried to regain his aim on the police car.

The Fireman pulled in behind Scott putting itself between the cruiser and the Charger.

"Don't worry buddy. We'll get these jokers," the Fireman reported over the radio. "We'll give them a first class ticket to hell..."

The Fireman never finished his statement as the grenade launcher fired again. This time it hit behind the Bronco. But it was much closer than the near miss on the Charger. The end result was that the Bronco flipped into the air. As it tumbled back onto the highway on its top, sparks and road debris flew around the truck. The Bronco slid for a few yards before coming to a complete stop. Flames began to lick the sides of the vehicle.

The cruiser no longer paying any heed to the demolished Bronco pulled around the derelict and resumed its pursuit of the Charger. Scott watched as the gunner aimed the loaded the grenade launcher at the Charger. Sam frantically tried to aim the turret towards the police car. However, Scott knew that Sam would not be in time and that he would not be able to dodge the impending shot.

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Four

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Jesus! Do something!" exclaimed Angus.

"I'm a Kern," responded Kelly. "I'm dressed as a Sixteenth Century Irish foot soldier."

"Right," apologized Angus. "That is why you have that fake Irish accent."

"Would you two knock it off?" yelled Tommy. "Victor is being implanted with some sort of space seed and you two are making jokes!"

"Sorry," replied Kelly.

"That was a good episode of Star Trek," muttered Angus.

"Space Seed?" whispered Kelly. "It was the basis of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."

"A fine movie," continued Angus. "Ricardo Montalban was sure buff in that movie."

"Do you think his chest was real?" asked Kelly. "Or, do you think he was wearing a prosthetic?"

"I said knock it off you two!" insisted Tommy. "What are we going to do for Victor?"

"It is looking like he is doing fine by himself," replied Angus.

"She *is* a hottie," added the bartender.

"What do you want us to do?" asked Kelly.

"We have weapons," replied Tommy.

"But they are zip-tied to our sheaths," Angus added. "We cannot remove them, hence the term -- peace-knot."

"I have a pocket knife," Tommy said. "I can cut those cable-ties in a few seconds. I could have my swords out in a no time."

"What's stopping you Conan?" asked Angus.

"I have an idea," interrupted Kelly.

"What?" asked Tommy and Angus simultaneously.

Kelly walked over and tapped the octopod female on one of her eight shoulders. "Excuse me Miss," he said.

With the distraction, the woman removed herself from Victor's face. If you have never seen a middle-aged space octopus with too much make-up on, then you do not know how difficult it was for the MOPS members to squelch their cries of disgust. In actuality, it was too difficult for Tommy who let out a "how gross" before he could stop himself.

"What is it boys?" the female formerly occupying their friend's face asked.

"It is -- just -- that," stumbled Kelly. "We would like to include our friend in our conversation."

"Your conversation about old Star Trek movies?" she asked.

"Well -- er -- ah -- that," stammered Kelly. "And, conversation topics in general."

"It is okay," she purred. "Gogle informed me that you humans have genitalia proportional to the size of your hands and feet. With this guy's giant hand, I was expecting -- a bit more."

"Holy crap!" exclaimed Angus. "Look at his hand!"

The sperm packet that Victor had taken earlier was now a raging infection in his hand. It had expanded to 3 times its normal size. Jeves, who had been sitting nearby but not participating in the various conversations, jumped up and rushed over.

"We had better take care of that," she said.

"Are you a doctor?" asked Tommy.

"I am the knowledge repository for the medical planet Earth, but otherwise known as Generalis Hospitalicus. In addition, I have access to Gogle's knowledge," Jeves Replied. "I should be well suited for the job. I will need a few things."

She walked over to Iiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeyaaaaaaah, the bartender, and asked for some supplies. With her ten legs moving quickly, the bartender supplied Jeves with her every request, which included another espresso.

Jeves walked over to where Victor was lounging.

"Where is my sexy octopod girlfriend?" Victor slurred.

"She *is* a hottie," added the bartender.

"Thanks dollface," replied the female who tried to be intimate with Victor.

"Here drink this," insisted Jeves handing Victor the cup of espresso.

"Okay"

"Just a little pinprick," Jeves stated as she poked the finger of his ballooning hand. "There'll be no more..."

"Aaaaaahhhhh!" screamed Victor

"But you may feel a little sick," included Jeves

"Can you stand up?" asked Angus

"I do believe its working," stated Jeves confidently.

"Good," replied Angus.

"That'll keep you going for the show," sang Kelly.

"Come on its time to go," Tommy added.

"How do you feel?" Angus asked Victor.

"I -- I -- I have become -- terribly nauseous," Victor proclaimed as he heaved the entire contents of his stomach into the bucket that Jeves was holding.3

As Victor continued to make-out with the bucket like he did with the female octopod, the remaining three MOPS members settled back into their seats at the bar.

Tommy turned to the bartender and said, "You know that alcohol you poured for Jeves earlier? Well, could I have a dash of that with some of that carbonic acid stuff you gave Kelly, but without the sugar -- er -- sucrose?"

"One gin and tonic coming up," replied the bartender.4

"Make that two!" added Angus pouring the baking soda and the remainder of his scotch-esque beverage into Victor's bucket.

"Jesus, do you want anything?"

"I am a Kern," started Kelly but was interrupted by wails of laughter coming from Angus. "I'm good," he finished with quite a dejected look upon his face.

"I heard that Ricardo Montalban was a workout nut, and that was his real chest," Tommy proclaimed out of nowhere.

"No way!" exclaimed Angus. "He had to be in his sixties when the movie came out..."

"Excuse me gentleman," interrupted a large, blue-green, two-legged, four-armed stranger.

"Yes?" the three non-puking MOPS members replied.

"Are those weapons you are carrying?" he asked.

"No!" they replied except Tommy who said yes.

"Can I see?" he continued.

"They are attached to our sheaths," insisted Angus. "We cannot remove them."

"I can take care of that," added the stranger as he pulled out some wire cutters and cut each zip-tie.

"This is a replica of the sword Henry the fifth carried," explained Tommy proudly.

"Who?" asked the stranger.

"He was the fifth King of England named Henry," answered Tommy with some pride of his knowledge. "He ruled briefly in the fourteenth century."

"England?" the stranger replied. "I have never heard of such a planet."

"It is not a planet -- sir," replied Tommy. "It is a country on Earth."

"I am from here on Earth, and we have no such country."

"I see what Gogle means by it being confusing -- no -- our earth."

"Oh, I see...," replied the stranger. "So how does this weapon work? Does it emit some sort of high energy sound wave when you swing it?"

"No sir," replied Tommy with a more and more respectful tone. "It is an old fashioned weapon that must make contact with the target."

"Actual physical contact?" the stranger enquired.

"Yes," replied Tommy. "They are very short ranged weapons that do slashing, piercing or blugeoning damage depending upon how it is used."

"Cool!" proclaimed the stranger excitedly. "And these artifacts come from your planet?"

"They do," Tommy said with some hesitation. He added quickly, "But, these are replicas of old weapons. We have much more advanced weapons than this."

"I would like to know more about what some guy called a president calls nuke-you-lerr weapons, but if this is all you have," the stranger said. "How much are you selling these for?"

"Oh they're not for sale!" Tommy replied excitedly.

"What?" ask the stranger. "You vendors cannot make any money if you do not sell your goods."

"Oh," sighed Tommy with some relief. "We're not vendors."

"What?" asked the stranger as he straightened up and turned less blue-green and more blue.

"Funny story," Tommy chuckled nervously. "We sort of got caught up in Gogle's pseudo-impossibility bubble thingy -- ha ha."

"This party is by invitation only," stated the stranger who was now very blue -- a navy blue. He looked very official.

"Um...," stammered Tommy. "But we..."

"As chief security agent here," proclaimed the chief security agent (IE the stranger). "I demand to see your invitations."

"Ha ha," laughed Tommy nervously. "I must have left my invitation in my other pants."

"You're not wearing pants," Angus whispered to Tommy. "You just have leggings and greaves."

"Shut up!" whispered Tommy back to Angus.

"Do any of you have invitations?" asked the security chief.

"Well," they all began.

"Then out you go," replied the chief grabbing each MOPS member by the forearm with one of his four arms. Actually, he grabbed them by the forearm with a hand that was on the end of one of his four arm's forearms.

"But we...," whimpered Victor.

"And another thing, I do not know who told you my name was Butwe, but you should be calling me Chief Security Agent Butwe at the very least!"

"Ummm," Victor mumbled with a blush.

After Chief Security Agent Butwe pushed the four men out into the street of the strange alien world, he pointed to a sign with what appeared to be random marks on it. The only thing the MOPS members could make any sense out of was the letters OK in the middle.

"It clearly says," started Chief Security Agent Butwe, "that it is not OK for non-vendors to enter. Come back tomorrow when the convention officially opens to the public."

A few natives -- two-legged, four-armed creatures -- rushed by staring and whispering to each other. They all hurried away from these strangely dressed and strange looking creatures. It is exactly how people on earth behave towards people dressed in such costumes outside of Renaissance Faires and comic book conventions.

With that, the door was closed and the four MOPS members were locked out of the only place on this planet that they had ever known. Victor still had his bucket which contained mostly of the contents of his stomach, but it did not smell too bad thanks to the baking soda Angus added. However, it was fizzing a bit.


NOTES:

3: Hello? Lyrics to the Pink Floyd Song Comfortably Numb...

4: Douglas Adams. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. New York, NY: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1980. pp. 182-183.

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The Scout

Chapter 28

By Dwayne MacInnes

Time seemed to slow down as Scott stared at his monitor. The police cruiser had just pulled in front of the burning Bronco. The gunner was taking careful aim with the grenade launcher. Behind the cruiser, the Anarchist buggies and bikes filled the horizons still in hot pursuit of the convoy.

Scott out of his periphery noticed Sam fighting the joystick to bring the M60 machinegun to bear on the cruiser and its one flashing blue light. Scott also noticed that on Sam's monitor the gun's aim was too high. It appeared that the M60 took forever to respond to the boy's control.

All this only took a fraction of a second. It would only be another fraction of a second before the grenade launcher fired again and its projectile found its mark. There was no way the cruiser could miss.

However, before the gunner could squeeze the trigger a terrible explosion ripped the horizon behind the cruiser. The fire engulfing the wrecked Bronco finally found the tanks of napalm. The virulent liquid spewed across the landscape encapsulating the police cruiser. The concussion from the blast propelled the Charger even further ahead down the road as chunks of steel and concrete rained down from the sky.

The police cruiser itself exploded as the fire ignited the grenade rounds inside it. The burning vehicle still sped down the highway. Its roof was a tattered and torn hunk of metal. Fire burned over every square inch of its surface. The cruiser then began to tumble as the tires exploded from the intense heat from the napalm.

It took half a minute before Scott could recover from the shock of his near miss. A glance at the monitor revealed a scene from hell. Fire shot high into the air as the thick black smoke curled into the sky. The blackened hull of the police cruiser finally came to rest in the barrow pit fire still raging over its surface.

Then like demons from hell itself, the figures of men in buggies and on motorcycles rode through the inferno again trying to catch the convoy. Scott had to give them a nod for determination. They had been bloodied and smelled blood. This only made them more aggressive.

Without the Fireman, only Scott stood between the Anarchists and the convoy.

"OK, we were only able to stall them for a while," Scott squawked over the radio. "Everyone needs to be in full defensive positions."

Several trucks and cars fell back from the convoy to join Scott. The buggies and motorcycles of the escorts flanked the convoy trucks and would occasionally weave in between the semis. The specialty vehicles, like the former Fireman, remained in the center of the convoy.

It was only a couple of minutes before the first wave of wasters broke over the rear defenses. The cars and trucks of the escorts fired their myriad of weapons at the Anarchists. Many of the wasters ignored the escort vehicles to take aim at the convoy trucks. The wasters fell by great numbers, either due to the escort vehicles or to the heavy machineguns on the trailers of the big rigs.

The radio chatter was relentless as the escorts and convoys communicated to each other. Some were making suggestions, others were asking for assistance, and occasionally a scream presaging death broke over the airwaves.

The battle reminded Scott of combat footage he had seen of bombers and their escorts during raids in World War II. The "little friends" escort planes would try to engage the enemy before they reached the bombers. The enemy fighters would try to burst through the ranks of the defending aircraft to attack the bombers. Even then, the bombers were not without their defenses, as they would fire their machineguns into the oncoming fighters.

Once Scott passed, a convoy truck jackknifed in the middle of the highway. The truck itself belched out smoke from where the wasters had riddled it with bullets. The trailer though was still sound and the gun crews kept firing like mad at the onslaught of wasters. One of the gunners on the front turret waved for Scott to drive passed.

As the Charger, shot past Scott noticed that the pursuing Anarchists seemed to forget about the convoy and converged on the lone stricken truck. Many a waster paid for underestimating the strength and determination of the gun crews on the trailer. Buggies, bikes, and a couple of cars lay demolished around the trailer.

The sacrifice of the stricken convoy truck allowed the escorts to finish off the initial wave of Anarchists amongst the trucks. Soon the depleted convoy was speeding down the highway unmolested.

Everyone was beginning to run low on ammunition. The convoy would need to stop somewhere and set up static defenses if it was going to withstand another onslaught like the last one. So far, the convoy was lucky it had only lost one truck. The escort vehicles however were not so well off. They had lost seventeen leaving only twenty-eight escort vehicles and some of these needed repairs.

The Wrecking Crew was able to board, reload, refuel, and rearm the buggies and motorcycles on the road. However the cars and trucks of the escort force would have to make due until they could find a place to stop for the night.

Night, Scott could not believe that it was now getting close to sundown. They fought throughout most of the day and the lack of sleep and exhaustion on the crew was beginning to take effect. Occasionally a vehicle would start to weave when the driver dozed off.

"There should be a town up ahead," Scott said over the CB. "I believe the name is Valley City. Everyone head north on 8th Avenue Southwest just off the interstate exit and cross the Sheyenne River we can set up a good defensive line there.

"Mad Momma, have the pickets continue past the town for a few miles and then have them report back."

"Roger," Julia responded from the Armadillo.

The lead vehicles of the convoy were beginning to enter Valley City when an urgent cry went out over the radio.

"This is Picket One, my God! There are tanks heading our way. We need..." the radio message suddenly went dead with static as a loud boom punctuated the twilight.

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Five

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"I don't know what is sadder," bemoaned Tommy. "Us camping overnight in line in order to enter a comic book convention...."

"Or?" asked Victor fighting a mighty headache.

"Or," continued Tommy "the fact that we're 27th in line."

"We're on a planet far from home where they don't understand anything that we say, and we don't understand anything in their language," complained Victor. "Further, our only way home is inside that building. What would you have us do?"

"I'm hungry," replied Tommy. "We could go find something to eat."

"I could use a bite too," added Kelly. "Besides, it is not like being 35th or even 79th in line is going to prevent us from getting in."

"We just have to keep track of which way we head in order to find our way back," insisted Angus.

"But, we do not know what we can eat and what we cannot." complained Victor. "Further, we would not even know how to order anything if we found a restaurant."

"I could order another gin and tonic," retorted Tommy.

At the mention of the phrase gin and tonic, a mumble went through the crowd. It rolled towards the front of the line and return in a giant roaring wave. Soon, the entire line was shouting gin and tonic and drinking from a single large plastic container.

Eventually, the container made its way to the members of MOPS. The individual in front of them said, "Gin and tonic -- Okay?"

Tommy took the container and replied, "Okay" and took a drink. "Gin and tonic!" he added as he passed the container to Angus.

The crowd replied, "Gin and tonic!"

Angus took a long draw from it, passed it to Kelly, and shouted, "Gin and tonic!"

The crowd replied, "Gin and tonic!"

Kelly put it to his lips but did not drink, passed it to Victor, and shouted, "Gin and tonic!"

The crowd replied, "Gin and tonic!"

Victor took a look at the bottle and made a face. "I'm not drinking from that!"

"Just pretend then," whispered Kelly.

"No," insisted Victor as he passed the bottle back to Tommy.

Tommy took another drink, passed it to the person who had passed him the bottle, and shouted, "Gin and tonic!"

The crowd did not respond. They stood and stared at Victor.

"Gin and tonic -- okay," insisted the man with the bottle as he offered it to Victor.

Victor refused to take the bottle. The once friendly roar of gin and tonic became a mumble of disappointment. At least, that is what it sounded like to the MOPS members. In fact, the quartet began to feel uncomfortable with the stares and mumbles. It seemed as if there was a growing resentment from the crowd.

"Gin and tonic," shouted Tommy but his enthusiasm faded as he finished.

Kelly pointed to the once fizzing bucket in Victor's hands. "He's had too much to drink already," he explained, but the crowd became more restless. "Cannot hold his liquor..."

"Let's get out of here," whispered Tommy.

"Agreed," added Angus as they slipped from the line.

Soon they found themselves running. They do not know what they were running from, but they thought it would be a prudent thing to do. They did not run far because of the items that they were carrying were quite a burden.

They turned onto a street and went a short way up the corner. They stood there and rested a bit.

"Would it have killed you to just play along?" asked Tommy.

Before Victor could reply, Kelly shouted, "Look!"

Kelly was pointing to a very unexpected sight. There was a small group of Japanese tourists walking away from them farther up the street. There was a statue of some important citizen of this world. It had its three of its four arms spread wide. The fourth arm bended and a hand-like appendage touched something that might be considered a chin. It was a very thoughtful pose.

All but one stood in front of a statue. The final member of the tourist party took the photo. "Cheese," they said.

The MOPS members stood their dumbfounded for a moment. They all looked at each other with the "what was that?" look on their faces. After a few more moments, it dawned on them that they might be able to communicate with them. They looked back at the statue, but they were gone.

Kelly, the only one with any energy left after the last run, dashed after them. The rest took a few steps, but running was not a possibility. In a few moments, Kelly reached the statue. He continued running up the road to the next corner. He spotted the group turning another corner further up.

Kelly had a choice, continue to chase after the group of tourists and lose his friends, or wait for his friends to catch up. He thought he would wait for his group to catch up and hope for the best.

The pace of the remaining MOPS members was somewhere between a mosey and a stroll. Clearly, the Japanese tourists were not a priority for them at this point. Thus, Kelly examined the statue more closely. He noted that it was the lower right arm that was touching the bottom part of the individual's face. There was a smugly satisfied expression on the portion of him that was above the hand-like appendage attached to the bent arm.

The engraved plaque at the bottom was completely unintelligible. Kelly had plenty of time to contemplate who he was before the three caught up to him. When they finally reached him, Kelly said, "This way" and he ran to the corner where he had last witnessed the tourists.

Kelly stood there and gaped as the quiet side streets that they had been on erupted into a wellspring of life. He could see individuals rushing hither and yon. There were lights, signs, and a general roar of activity. The Las Vegas strip would be jealous of the hustle and bustle that occurred on the street he had just reached.

He was still standing there agape when the rest caught up. They too marveled at the spectacle that was before them. Slowly, they walked forward. It was as if the scene before them was slowly reeling them in.

Suddenly, not only the sights grabbed them but the smells did as well. Following Tommy's hunger, they found themselves outside of some place. To them, it was clearly an eating establishment of some sort. Warily they entered and the wonderful smell of food enveloped them.

A light-skinned being with very dark clothes approached them. At least, they assumed it was clothes. The MOPS members assumed that this individual was the maître-d'. "Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah," he or she or it stated plainly.5

"Ummm -- excuse me Holmes," Angus began. "But we're from out of town and we're lost."

"Noash ett," replied the maître-d'. 6

"We don't have any money and we don't speak your language," added Kelly.

"Okay," the maître-d' replied with a disgusted and haughty look upon his, her, or its face.

The maître-d' directed them to a booth near the kitchen. The four anxiously took their seats and waited. After a long wait, someone placed a few dishes upon their table. As a group, they avoided the ones that smelled funky, but devoured the rest. Each had their fill.

After waiting a while, Kelly walked up to the maître-d' and asked, "Okay?"

"Okay," replied the maître-d' in resignation.

He waved to the rest and left the establishment. Upon leaving the place, Kelly headed off. "Where are you going?" asked the rest.

"The way back is this way," Kelly replied.

"No," they all replied. "It is this way."

The three of them pointed in three different directions.

"It's just around the corner," stated Victor as he pointed in the direction he thought it was.

"No, it's this way," insisted Tommy.

"I would hate to be lost in the woods with you guys," retorted Angus. "It is clearly this way."

"You are all wrong," said Kelly. "I'm sure it is this way."

The four had eaten, but now they were hopelessly lost. They did not know which direction their only hope of getting home was located. They were in serious trouble. Good thing Victor still had his bucket because he threw up in it.


NOTES:

5: In Jetson's alien language it means "I love you" but clearly it means something else in this situation.

6: Cultural reference to a line in the movie National Lampoon's Vacation

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The Scout

Chapter 29

By Dwayne MacInnes

"This is Mad Momma," Julia said over the radio in a worried voice. "My dorsal gunner is reporting five tanks heading towards us. We are covering the exits to Valley City. We are going to need help to slow them down if we are to get everyone into town."

"Bumblebee and Wrangler we are going to need you up front," Scott ordered.

Bumblebee and Wrangler were both specialty vehicles and had so far been out of the thick of combat. Now it was time for them to earn their pay.

Bumblebee was a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle. Solid black paint covered the rear and as the eye swept forward towards the front, it would notice that the solid black would break into bands of vertical black stripes over a yellow body and then return to a solid black on the trunk in front. The face of a bee in grim determination covered the front of the Bug.

To further the illusion of the flying insect the barrel of a 90 mm recoilless rifle protruded out from the trunk resembling a stinger or proboscis. On the roof were mounted four loudspeakers two on the driver's side and two on the passenger's side resembling small wings.

Bumble Bee VW Bug

Wrangler on the other hand was an old Brinks armored truck painted in a Holstein pattern. A set of Texas longhorn horns mounted on the hood added to the cow theme. The armor truck did not boast any visible weapons because it had none. Its sole purpose was to carry and lay landmines in the event when the convoy needed to go to static defense.

"This is Bumblebee, Roger!" the voice on the radio replied in excitement. The two men who drove and operated the Bug had a reputation of being thrill seekers. Sometimes they had a tendency to push the envelope too far. However, they always accomplished their tasks.

As usual as the bee painted VW shot off down the highway towards combat, the jazzy version of 'The Flight of the Bumblebee' used as the Green Hornet theme song blared over the loudspeakers. The music lifted everyone's spirits as it sped by. Many trucks honked and everyone yelled encouragement as the Bug drove past.

"This is Wrangler, good buddy, I'm on my way," the voice of the Wrangler said in his thick Texas draw. "Yee-haw!"

The heavy armored truck followed the Bug towards the front of the pack.

Bumblebee flew past the Armadillo in the orange twilight towards the tanks. The Armadillo started to open up its 25 mm cannon giving the small VW some cover.

With the sun setting to the west behind the convoy, the tanks were at a disadvantage for firing at their targets. The glare from the sunlight blinded the gunners.

The VW approached the first tank an M60 and fired its 90 mm recoilless rifle. The shot hit home and a muffled explosion filled the air as thick smoke poured of the tank's turret. The other tanks, all Pattons as well, tried to return fire. The big guns could not turn to meet the little bee painted car in time. However, the machineguns on the tanks did give adequate cover. Bumblebee had to swerve and dodge the incoming shots. Even though armor covered the body, its skin was not as thick as Scott's Charger.

The 25 mm shells from the Bushmaster on the Armadillo destroyed the turret on a second tank. The music continued to blare over the loudspeakers as Bumblebee readied itself for another shot. The VW fired its projectile simultaneously as the M60 it was targeting fired its main gun, both vehicles exploded in a fiery flash.

Mad Momma watched in sadness as the daring little car disintegrated before her eyes. Three tanks lay smoking on the old highway the other two started to pull back as some M113 APCs pulled up. The Bushmaster was able to take out two before Scott ordered the Armadillo to pull back into town.

The Wrangler had been racing up and down and back and forth in front of the Armadillo delivering its deadly payload. The highway now suitably covered in mines would stop the tanks for the night, as they would need to clear the obstacles before they could enter the town.

"The field is now covered in cow pies." Wrangler drawled. "I'm sorry those fellas didn't make it. I liked their style."

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