March 2008 Archives

M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Ten

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The mob of teens and pre-teens slowly pressed in where Angus was standing. There was no escape for him, and there was nothing the other MOPS members could do to help.

Suddenly, the first screaming individual calmed down enough to hand Angus a piece of paper and a pen. He, she, or it shook terribly. It appeared that tears were welling up under his or hers or its eyes.

Angus scribbled something on the paper and handed it back to the individual who looked at it and fainted dead away. The rest of the crowd shrieked with glee and each pushed various merchandise at Angus for him to scribble something. Some just pawed at him to determine if he was real.

Slowly and methodically, Angus scribbled something on each of the things someone had given him and worked his way towards the mouth of the alley. When he passed the remaining MOPS members, they formed a line to protect Angus. The once shrieking mob had degenerated into a whimpering huddled mass. Each one of them was content with the scribbles on their objects.

Angus rushed out of the alley as the other MOPS members slowly backed out of the alley. In this way, they were assured that the mob would not regroup and attack Angus again.

Unfortunately, there was another mob outside the alley. They scooped Angus up and carried him off. There was nothing the others could do except follow. They chased after the shouting mob carrying their friend.

The group carried Angus past the café, past the bench, back to where Angus encountered the first mob. At the far end of this street, there was a large arena. The group carried Angus inside this structure with the MOPS members following.

At the far end of the arena sat a table. Four navy blue individuals stood guarding the table. Temporary barriers stood in various places to facilitate orderly lines. The lines of smallish individuals snaked around the inside of the arena and out into the street. There were thousands and thousands of them.

In the seats sat much larger versions of these individuals. The people in the seats spotted Angus first, and they roared to life when the small mob carried him in. They took him to his place at the table.

Several individuals in line fainted at the sight of him. The throngs around them held them up. The still conscious ones shrieked with excitement from a mere glance at him. Inside the arena, the sound was nearly unbearable. The shrill screams were probably driving the dogs on earth crazy. I am talking about the earth where the MOPS members lived. If there were dogs on this earth, they were probably howling as well.

One of the very blue, official-esque looking individuals yelled, "Gort deklato rosco!"18

The crowd quieted except for a few whimpers here and there. The first individual handed Angus a poster with his image upon it. Angus scribbled something and handed it back. Tears in the individual's eyes began to form. With shaky hands, he, she, or it grabbed the poster. No longer able to contain calmness, the individual let out a scream. Like a huge set of auditory dominoes, a chain reaction occurred and screams worked their way through the line.

Again, Gort deklato rosco was yelled and the crowd quieted.19 Each shaky teen and pre-teen had something with Angus's image on it. There were magazines, posters, romance novels, and even a few had handmade artworks featured the MOPS member.

Every time the other MOPS members attempted to get to Angus, either the throngs of people or the blue officials thwarted their effort. Thus, they decided to simply go to the end of the line and wait their turn. It was going to be a long wait, and they stood out from the local teen and pre-teen population.

Meanwhile, Angus was busily scribbling things on the vast array of memorabilia with his likeness upon it. He signed lunchboxes, action figures, backpacks and the gamut of items teens and pre-teens purchase.

After scribbling on an item, Angus looked at one of the guarding individuals and made a drinking-type motion.

"Gin and tonic -- okay?" asked the guard.

"Perfect!" replied Angus to the guards blank stare, so he added with a nod, "Okay."

"Gin and tonic!" the guard shouted.

"Gin and tonic!" the individuals in the stands shouted.

After a brief amount of time, a large, sweaty glass filled with a bubbly liquid was place upon the table near Angus. He scribbled on a few more things, and then took a sip from the glass. "Gin and tonic!" he shouted.

"Gin and tonic!" the individuals in the stands replied.

With a few more gestures, they brought him something that looked like a plate of doughnuts, a plate that looked like cookies, and a plate of something that looked like sandwiches. He washed down a bit of each with a sip of from his glass and a shout and reply of gin and tonic.

The line progressed with the occasional scream processional, and the regular fainting fits. With the progression of the line, the stands likewise slowly dwindled. Angus continued to scribble on things and nibble on the items provided. The remaining MOPS members got closer and closer to where he sat.

Hours passed by, and Angus continued his scribbling and nibbling. His friends gradually closed in on his position at the table, and the food goodies that he accumulated. They were 17 people from reaching the table when a blue official looking individual entered with all four of his arms in the air. An enormous wave of disappointment washed over the remaining individuals.

This navy blue individual said something and the disappointed crowd's collective shoulders hunched down. No one moved as the four individuals whisked Angus away. After several minutes, an announcement came over the loudspeaker that the MOPS members assumed was "Angus has left the building."20

The crowd slowly filed out, but the MOPS members worked their way to the table. They would find Angus later; right now, they wanted to get to his remaining goodies. It had been several hours since they had eaten, and they naturally had no qualms about devouring Angus's leftovers.

They were the last ones out of the building and Angus was nowhere to be found. They managed to return to the café, and he was not there. They could not imagine where he would be.

They were lost on a strange planet, and now one of their members was missing. It was now late in the evening and very dark. They had no place to spend the night. Further, they had no notion on where to begin looking for their missing friend.


NOTES:

18: Cultural Reference to a line in The Day the Earth Stood Still. It means something like, "Gort hold your fire." Clearly, it means something else here.

19: Ibid. The Day the Earth Stood Still (In case you didn't recognize it.)

20: A cultural reference to the end of Elvis Presley concerts. They would not let the crowd leave until Elvis himself had left.

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The Scout

Chapter 34

By Dwayne MacInnes

"I thought St Paul had fallen to the Anarchists or the very least the warlords," Scott stated to the newcomers.

Doug smiled, "No, after your visit, we went to work. You'd be surprised what had been laying around in some of those factories. I'm glad we found those cannons to mount on the Cougar -- she's a classic.

"Anyway, by the time the wasters brought their tanks to the Twin Cities we had Minneapolis in our hands and defenses laid out. They lost a couple of their precious tanks in their assault. That sent them packing.

"Our small force here was to make sure they did not come back. That's when we heard your message on the radio."

There was a loud explosion to the west. Scott watched as a huge fireball mushroomed into the sky. Pieces of debris rained down from above onto the small town below. Scott also saw the first of the fleeing civilians running through the town.

"They got the warehouse where you had the prisoners store the contents of the trailers," Julia's voice blared over the radio in the Charger.

"Can you spring the trap?" Scott asked. He had purposely let one of the prisoners escape before he had the contents of the warehouse moved into a bank a few blocks down.

"All the recoilless rifles are gone," Julia continued. "The Anarchists are flooding in too thick and are effectively covering the tanks."

Scott frowned, his plan had been to lead the tanks towards the warehouse and then take them out. The only weapon now that could possibly stand a chance of destroying the tanks was the 25 mm Bushmaster on the Armadillo.

Scott looked again at the Cougar; the M61 Vulcan originally came from a combat aircraft. It was also possible that the 20 mm rounds could take out the old tanks.

"Doug, we could sure use your help," Scott said.

"Okily dokily, what you need us to do?"

"Well, we'll need you to take out some tanks," Scott replied.

"No way!" Weston said from the car. "Our 20 mm guns were made to take out aircraft and lightly armored vehicles not a tank!"

"You are all I've got," Scott responded hotly.

"Maybe we can take out their road wheels, they are aluminum," Weston mused allowed. "That is if we can deflect the turret low enough. Then they would be stuck."

"That's better than nothing," Scott conceded. "We'll give you an escort if your comrades want to join us."

The Armadillo and the Cougar progressed forward surrounded by Scott's Charger and the remaining escort vehicles from Billings and St Paul. The firefight still raged on both sides. The tanks fired their main guns at any buildings that may be hiding a person armed with an antitank weapon. Meanwhile the APC fired suppression fire at the foxholes and trenches obstructing the wasters' progress.

Lighter Anarchist vehicles buzzed back and forth firing their weapons at the remaining trailers and the convoy ground forces. Fire from buildings and destroyed trailers and vehicles blazed madly covering the air with thick noxious smoke. Bullets whizzed back and forth.

The flotilla of escort vehicles threw themselves into the midst of the Anarchists. The lighter escorts fought it out with the lighter Anarchist vehicles, most of the buggies and motorbikes were long gone by now. The Cougar made short work of the remaining APC. The personnel carrier belched smoke and fire from its bullet riddled side.

The Armadillo moved onto the first Patton as the main gun turned to meet the big rigs assault. Julia at the last possible minute weaved the vehicle to the side of the tank as the big gun fired into the empty air the big rig used to occupy. A distant building exploded as the errant 105 mm shell slammed into it.

The gunner on the Armadillo fired the Bushmaster into tanks treads. The steel tracks buckled under the onslaught of the 25 mm rounds. The Patton pulled forward only to leave its tread behind it. The tank now disabled and incapable of moving still contained its deadly guns.

Doug wove the Cougar through the wasters. Weston fired the front and top guns into the opposing vehicles. The Anarchists cars, trucks, and vans would almost literally dissolve as the 20 mm rounds fired in burst tore into them. In air-to-air combat, the Vulcan could fire 6,000 rounds per minute. The minigun could fire between 2,000 to 4,000 rounds a minute depending on the gunner's selection. On ground, these left only carnage in their wake.

Doug tried to maneuver the Cougar so that they could line up a good shot on the remaining tank's drive wheels. However, the wasters had picked-up on the defenders tactic and the wasters guarded remaining tank at all costs.

The tanks, though one immobilized, had finished taking out the semi-trailers. The twisted burning hulks of metal lay useless where they smolder. The entrenched defenders started to pull back. All that remained between them and the Anarchists were the charging escort vehicles.

Scott drove his Charger in between the circling wasters. Sam repeatedly fired the M60 machinegun, while Scott added his own firepower of the two .30 and .50 guns mounted to the front of the black scout vehicle. They left in their wake a line of flaming wreckage.

By the time the sun started to descend into the west, the wasters' numbers were starting to tell. Overwhelmed, the escort vehicles started to fall one by one to the deadly horde. Until only the most heavily armed vehicles remained. That left one 1970 Dodge Charger, one 1976 Mercury Cougar, and one modified Mack truck.

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Commander Joe

Chapter Two

Part 1

If you have been negligent in your duties and not watched Commander Joe: Chapter One - The Mysterious Killer you may wish to rectify this first.

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Eleven

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The MOPS members minus Angus looked around the area of the arena for a while for their missing friend, but they were unable to locate him. With their lack of success, they decided to return to the nearby café.

They took a seat with a view of the street so they would be able to see Angus if he should happen by. After a few moments at the table, the waiter came by. He asked Victor if he wanted a nuthin form 'e', but wisely, Victor declined. Instead, he and Kelly had soda pops. Tommy had a gin and tonic, what else?

Half the night was gone, and the men sitting at the café table saw the individual from the day before who had the Hello Kitty™ t-shirt on. This evening, she was wearing a neon pink mini-skirt looking item plus something from the Cute Overload t-shirt collection.

Following close behind this individual was Angus looking a little bleary eyed. He was shaking his hand from the terrible pain that he was experiencing from scribbling for the past 6 hours or so.

The young individual who Angus was following passed by the MOPS members, and they watched he, she, or it pass. This individual was definitely not human, but the way he, she or it walked was mesmerizing. Several individuals were caught up in the spell she wove as she walked by, including the MOPS members.

What could be described as a smile and a wink, she gave those to the MOPS members sitting at the café table. Perhaps in keeping with the color changing abilities of the individuals on this planet, each of them shifted slightly redder.

"You won't believe this," started Angus.

"What?" the other MOPS members replied in unison.

"I was saving some cookies and sandwiches and doughnuts for you guys," Angus replied "but someone swiped them."

"That was us," responded Tommy. "Would you like something to drink, Mr. Teen Idol?"

"I hear they serve a killer nothing for me here," added Kelly.

"Could we get you some jellybeans?" asked Victor.

"Huh?" asked Angus with a very confused look upon his face.

"What are you talking about?" asked Tommy looking at Victor with his head slightly cocked.

"It was a joke," replied Victor.

"You misunderstand the term joke," chided Kelly. "People are supposed to laugh at humorous statements known as jokes. If you did not notice, none of us laughed."

"Where did that come from anyway?" asked Angus.

"People used to throw jellybeans at the Beatles," explained Victor.

"They did?" asked Tommy.

"And this is common knowledge?" asked Kelly.

"Well..." muttered Victor.

"You see," began Kelly "for something to be in consideration for a joke, everyone hearing the joke must understand the context. If no one understands the context, it just would not be funny."

"Take my wife, please," added Angus.21

"Now cut that out!" replied Kelly in his best Jack Benny voice.22

"Why don't you guys use references from this century?" asked Tommy. "What happened to Paul McCartney and the Beatles in the sixties is bad enough, but you guys are predating that!"

"You mean Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?" laughed Angus.23

"I heard that if you play Sergeant Pepper's backwards you'll hear We buried Paul," joked Kelly.

"So are you trying to tell me the Paul McCartney of Wings is not *the* Paul McCartney of The Beatles?" asked Angus.

"He is walking barefoot across the street on Abby Road," replied Kelly.

"Definitive proof!" exclaimed Angus. "You've convinced me!"

"Jesus! Would you two give it a rest?" asked Tommy.

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

"Right," responded Angus. "That is why he has that fake Irish accent."

"Ugh, I could use another drink," sighed Tommy.

"Make it two my good man," Angus replied with a wink and a slap on the shoulder.

"Then what'll you have?" asked Tommy.

"Ha!" replied Angus. "That's the spirit."

"Take my wife, please...," muttered Victor.

"Very funny," replied Kelly without the slightest smirk.

Angus and Tommy each ordered a gin and tonic and Kelly had another soda. Victor was going to say nothing for me, but caught himself. He then almost said I'm fine, but was worried about what ramifications that would have. Thus, he just put his hand over his glass and shook his head. He was still worried that that gesture might be misconstrued.

The reunited group sat and drank their drinks and watched the passersby. They saw their friend in the hot pink mini-skirt looking thing and waved. They decided to call her or him or it the Hello Kitty™ girl. Assuming that this individual was female made them more secure in their masculinity. They discussed following "her" but decided against it. They felt someone might deem it creepy -- especially the Hello Kitty™ girl.

They rested a while, and then Tommy said, "Where are we going to spend the night?"

"What is wrong with right here?" asked Angus still watching the Hello Kitty™ girl.

"We need to get back to the convention center," insisted Victor.

"There is plenty of time for that," insisted Angus still watching the Hello Kitty™ girl window shop.

"Tomorrow is the last full day," explained Victor. "The day after that, they pack their things and go."

"Where did you hear this?" asked Kelly.

"Someone told me," muttered Victor.

"Someone?" asked Tommy.

"I'm a little fuzzy on who... Or, is it whom?" mumbled Victor.

"Your make-out partner perhaps?" enquired Tommy.

"You were awfully drunk," insisted Angus.

"Never mind!" huffed Victor as he turned away from the group.

"No go on," insisted Kelly. "You were saying?"

"If they have a day for setup in which non-vendors are forbidden, perhaps it is the same for the tear down," reasoned Victor.

"So, what you're saying is," Angus began. "That we need to get into the convention tomorrow to make sure we catch our ride home."

"Yes," Victor said with a self-satisfied look upon his face.

"Seems reasonable," replied Angus. "I can lead us back there."

"Are you sure?" asked Kelly.

"Absolutely," asserted Angus.

Angus flagged down the waiter and handed him some paper. The waiter was surprised. He attempted to give some back, but Angus would not take any back. He then got up to leave.

"What was that about?" asked Kelly.

"I tipped our waiter," replied Angus.

"Tipped?" asked Tommy.

"You don't think I would work that arena thing for free do you?" replied Angus.

"Very good then," replied Kelly. "Lead on, McDuff!"24

"It's MacScot," retorted Angus.

"Just go!" insisted Tommy.

Angus led them to the restaurant where they had eaten the previous day. They were about to go in when someone grabbed Kelly and said, "Ich bin ein berliner!"25 Before anyone could do anything, a very blue individual had Kelly in shackles and led him away.


NOTES:

21: A cultural reference to a Henny Youngman joke. It is often used out of context, but people still sort of understand the joke.

22: A cultural reference to something comedian Jack Benny often said.

23: Sir Paul McCartney, for the youngsters, was in The Beatles and then Wings before performing under his own name.

24: A misuse of "lay on, McDuff" from Act V Scene 8 of William Shakespeare's play Macbeth.

25: A cultural reference to a speech by President John F. Kennedy. Translated it means I am a Berliner, but in this context, it probably means something else.

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The Scout

Chapter 35

By Dwayne MacInnes

The three remaining escort vehicles wove in and out of the wasters through the ruined streets and around broken down buildings. The Anarchists protected the tanks while they tried to herd the escort vehicles so that the tanks' heavier guns could fire at them. The occasional blast rocked the small party as a 105 mm shell exploded where the defending vehicles had been moments before.

Scott felt the rounds from the .50 M85 machineguns on one of the Pattons

Scrape over the roof of the Charger. The M60 machinegun turret tore off from the top and one round punctured the roof. This round only lost momentum after it smashed into the windshield. The thick glass cracked and obstructed Scott's view.

The Cougar continued to lay to waste every Anarchist it encountered. Nonetheless, it could not make a run on the remaining tank. Fortunately, its thick skin continued to protect the driver and gunner in the "sea island green" car.

The Armadillo was struggling with a flat tire on the rear axle. The guns continued to unleash their deadly barrage. Another shot from the main gun of the immobile M60 tank fired. Its aim was off; however, it was close enough that when the ground exploded next to the Armadillo the blast lifted the big rig into the air.

As the truck slammed back to earth, the driver's side wheels landed on soft ground. The big rig slowly rolled over on its side like a dying prehistoric animal as it continued its forward momentum.

Dirt and debris piled up in front of the truck until it finally came to rest. The wheels in the air continued to spin as if of their own accord.

The guns on the Cougar were smoking but they had expended the last of their ammunition. Doug now started to ram any waster vehicle that got in his way.

More .50 rounds from the good Patton blasted into the Charger. Scott thanked the heavens that it was at an oblique angle and only managed destroy his rear camera and put a couple of holes into the trunk. The scout flipped a switch and the front camera came into play on the static filled monitor to help Scott navigate his way through the wasteland that once was the west side of Valley City.

It looked like everything was lost. The Cougar was out of ammo, the Armadillo was down, and the Charger had little left to give. To make things worse there was still one M60 Patton on the prowl and there were no weapons left to destroy it.

Scott noticed that they had taken their toll on the wasters as well. Almost all the buggies and motorcycles lay destroyed. All the APCs were now burning wreckage as well as a great number of Anarchist vehicles. Plus, only one tank remained with mobility.

Sadly, that did little to raise Scott's spirits. After the Anarchists won the battle, they would round up any surviving civilian and make them slaves. The wasters would outright execute any of the convoy crew they captured. Even though the Twin Cities became reunified and free of the warlords, the northern route, which the United States needed, would remain closed.

With the only vehicle with any offensive capabilities, Scott decided he could make one last run at the remaining tank. It might be possible he could take out the drive wheel with his .50 caliber machineguns. However, the back of his mind told him that it was highly unlikely.

Scott weaved the Charger in between two Anarchist vehicles that headed towards him. He clipped them both as he passed. The heavier inertia of the Charger propelled the two lighter vehicles out of control in opposite directions. One smashed into the burning debris of a convoy trailer. The car rapidly went up in flames before the occupants could evacuate. The second car ended up flipping upside down and coasted into the basement of a destroyed house.

Scott found his prey. The M60 had stopped a few yards before the Armadillo and the main gun was traversing to aim at the stricken truck. The scout was approaching at a right angle, he watched in horror as the gun swung towards the big rig.

"NO!" Scott yelled as he depressed the triggers to the four machineguns mounted on the Charger. The bullets pounded harmlessly into the body of the tank. Nonetheless, Scott continued to fire. The sun finally slipped behind the horizon and in the deepening blue of the impending night, an explosion rocked the night. The Charger hit by the concussion veered into the remains of a buggy coming to a dead stop.

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Commander Joe

Chapter Two

Part 2

Let us see what Joe and Barb are up to in our continuing story...

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Twelve

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Kelly had his two arms in a handcuff type apparatus with room for four. He and his MOPS friends still had their swords and other accoutrements including Victor's bucket. However, they had no idea what they had done wrong. Or for that matter, what Kelly had done wrong. After all, they had only shackled him.

With the remaining members following behind, the very navy blue individual dragged Kelly to a very square building. It was cube-ish actually. A square is only a two dimensional structure, but a cube is three-dimensional. So, this building was a very cube-ish building.

With the MOPS members watching, the official looking individual said a few words to another individual behind a desk-like structure. With the sound of a buzzer, the shackled Kelly was taken into a secure area.

The remaining MOPS members were not able to join their friend, so they took a look around the area. They came across a bulletin board, and there was a picture of Kelly upon it. They assumed that this was the area where they posted their most wanted notices. After all, Kelly O'Kern has been nothing but trouble his entire life.

With nothing better to do, they looked at a few other images. In particular, a very bulky and green individual looked particularly frightening. Victor commented that he would hate to meet up with this one in a dark alley.

When they had enough looking at the photos, they looked for a place to sit. However, they found themselves face to chest with a very bulky and green individual. Victor could not stifle his yell, but Angus and Tommy managed to squelch their surprise meeting this mountain of an individual.

In shackles, they led the wanted individual into the secure area much to the relief of the MOPS members. It looked as if the individual's incredible bulk would prevent the secure attachment of the shackles; however, he did go along peacefully.

After facing the mountain, the group turned around, found a place to sit down, and sat. They sat there in a daze for several minute, when Hello Kitty™ girl entered. She spied the MOPS members, and gave a little wave. She walked up to the man behind the desk and he buzzed her in.

As surprised as the other MOPS members, Kelly's eyes nearly leapt out of his skull as she walked into the interrogation room where he was currently incarcerated. To even more to his surprise, she said, "Hello, I'll be your interpreter today."

It took Kelly a moment to pick his jaw off the floor. Eventually, he gathered his senses together and said, "What is going on?"

"I am your interpreter, not your lawyer," she replied. "I am here just to facilitate communication."

"Um, how do you know English?" Kelly asked.

"Is it not obvious?" she replied.

"Perhaps to someone whose mind is clearer," admitted Kelly.

"I've been majoring in Human Studies at the University," she replied as if Kelly were a 6 year old.

"Oh, that is why..."

"I dress like a human?"

"Exactly!"

"I have a friend in Fashion and Design who custom made these items. Do you like them?"

"They are very reminiscent of Earth -- er -- a place I once visited back on my planet."

"Tokyo?"

"Uh -- yes actually."

"Good, that is for what I was striving. It has been a hit around town."

"I noticed."

"If you make it out of here, I would like to learn more about your little group."

"IF?" Kelly gasped. "Do you know why I'm here?"

"No, but we will find out soon enough," she returned as a very navy blue individual walked into the cell.

He said something, and the Hello Kitty™ girl said, "Please state your name."

"Kelly Patrick O'Kern," he replied -- except with his real name, which has been changed to protect the innocent.

She translated for the official and asked Kelly, "Do you know why you are here?"

"I haven't got a clue," he replied.

After a bit of back and forth with the official, she turned back to Kelly and asked, "What?"

"No. I do not know why I am here."

The official looked at a clipboard, and read off the charges. Hello Kitty™ girl translated them as, "Breaking and entering, breach of promise, dangerous disposal of deadly chemicals, impersonating a deity, kidnapping, square dancing in a round house..."

"What?" exclaimed Kelly.

"Breaking and entering, breach of promise, dangerous disposal of deadly chemicals, impersonating a deity, kidnapping, and square dancing in a round house." Hello Kitty™ girl replied.

"I understand the charges," Kelly stated with a bit of exasperation.

"You admit them then?"

"Wha -- no! Emphatically no!"

"Do you deny that you were in the convention center before it was open to the public?"

"Huh?"

"Do you deny that you were at the Bistro De Burden26 where a nuthin form 'e' was poured into a fizzing bucket?"

"But..."

"Do you deny taking Carmalita Vahtoss27 dancing at the train station's roundhouse?"

"Well that one is a mystery to me..."

"Enough of your lies!" translated Hello Kitty™ girl. "Guards take him away!"

Four very navy blue individuals strode in with great confidence. They grabbed and dragged the still shackled Kelly into a secure barred room. One of the guards turned Kelly around and removed the alien handcuffs. One of them closed the barred cell-door and turned, looked over what could be described as sunglasses and said, "What we have here is a failure to communicate..."28

The cell was small 8x8 room with a barred door on one side. In the corner was a set of bunks. In the other was a hole with a small tree coming out. Next to that, was what appeared to be a sink. Kelly climbed to the upper bunk and rested.

Kelly closed his eyes for a moment, and he heard his cell door open. In walked an enormous bulky and green individual. He, she, or it took up most of the entire cell. As the individual turned, what could be described as shoulder jostled Kelly from his upper bunk.

Kelly decided to let this infraction stand unchallenged. However, the large green individual turned and bellowed, "Hulk smash!"29


NOTES:

26: A cultural reference to a restaurant in the cartoon series The Tick. by Ben Edlund. I made it more correct French language-wise.

27: Ibid "The Tick"

28: A cultural reference to a line in the movie Cool Hand Luke.

29: A cultural reference to something Marvel Comics' character The Incredible Hulk often says.

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The Scout

Chapter 36 (Final)

By Dwayne MacInnes

Scott lifted his head. He must have blacked out for a short while after his collision with the upturned buggy. First, Scott looked over to Sam. The boy sat hunched forward unmoving in his seat. Scott frantically shook the eleven-year-old boy.

Sam shook his head and removed his helmet. The boy looked over at Scott and smiled. Scott was relieved. Then the scout remembered the events that let up to his crash.

"Oh my God!" exclaimed the scout when his memory returned. Scott looked out his cracked windshield and saw the burning wreckage of a large vehicle. Smoke filled the air with its acrid tang.

"I can't believe you did that," Sam said staring out the windshield.

Scott felt like screaming at his son that he did not have anything to do with the death of the Armadillo. Then he saw it. The burning vehicle was not the Armadillo but the M60 Patton.

"That's not possible..." he started to say when another loud explosion rocked the town. Scott tried to reverse the Charger but it was stuck fast with the wreckage of the buggy.

"Stay here," Scott ordered Sam as he climbed out of the Charger. The burning of the tank, wrecked vehicles and the western part of Valley City illuminated the night sky. Scott peered around and to his surprised further down the road sat the burning carcass of the other M60 tank.

The Sea Island green Cougar pulled up to the Charger and stopped. Doug and Weston jumped out to stand next to Scott.

"Can you believe it?" Doug exclaimed. "It would have been nice to have some A-10 Warthogs, but three helicopters will suffice in a pinch."

Scott then realized that above the cries of the wounded and the crackling fires the thump-thump of chopper blades filled the night air. He looked up to see three silhouettes hovering above in the deep blue sky.

"Looks like a couple of Cobras and an Apache up there," Weston said, glaring into the sky.

"Boy, those wasters sure took off after their tank went up," Doug added.

Scott felt tired, very tired as the adrenaline of the day's fighting suddenly left him. The scout sat back down into his car leaving the door open.

"Do we know how many survivors?" Scott asked.

"Well, in case you are wondering, me and the girls are all right," the booming voice of Mad Momma McGee said as the large woman and her crew walked up.

The occasional rattling of machinegun fire continued off in the distant night air. More survivors started to approach the Charger. It looked like more people survived than Scott had figured. The battle was so long and terrible he was surprised anyone lived.

"The bank?" Scott feebly asked.

"Its fine," Julia replied. "Looks like your plan worked after all. The cargo is safe."

Scott weakly nodded and smiled.

"What are your orders?" Julia asked.

Scott ran his hand over his head. "Well, first we need to start gathering the wounded. We will also need to make sure these fires don't spread. Finally, we need to find as many surviving Anarchists before the civvies do. I'm afraid that they may feel compelled to exact their own justice."

"Why shouldn't we let them do that?" Julia asked with burning hatred.

"Because they are now part of the United States and they need to follow its laws," a man stepping out of the shadows said.

"Cut it a little fine didn't you, Mac," Scott said.

"Hey, I thought I heard the request for a cavalry over the radio and the cavalry always arrives in the final reel." The man said as he stepped further into the firelight.

"General MacKenzie!" Julia exclaimed. "We heard Fort Billings was abandoned."

"It was," the general explained. "We had top secret orders to capture Sturgis. I'm sorry Scott but we couldn't even let you know. If any of your convoy fell into the wrong hands before we were ready the game would be up.

"As it turned out Fort Meade and much of Sturgis was unoccupied by unfriendlies. I guess they were more interested in your little party.

"So after securing Sturgis I felt maybe we could lend a hand out here. Sorry, we couldn't get here sooner."

Scott laughed, "Better late than never."

Scott's expression finally turned serious, "What about Van Dyke and the missile he was excavating.

The general smiled, "We have both in custody. By the carnage out there I think we don't have to worry too much about the wasters in this neck of the woods."

The occasional shot still echoed in the distant night. "My boys are still mopping up after your operation. The corpsmen are already going amongst the wounded," the general added.

"You didn't happen to find Taylor did you?" Scott asked.

"If you want to search the many corpses out there be my guess; however, we did not capture anyone yet claiming to be him. I have a feeling he was in one of those tanks." The general paused for a minute and looked towards the growing crowd of people.

"Once again, welcome back to the United States of America," General MacKenzie said.

Doug, Weston, and the citizens of Valley City all rent the air with their loud rejoicing. The convoy personnel all joined in on the back slapping and laughing. Shortly afterwards, it started with one person, and then another, which grew until everyone was singing the 'Star Spangle Banner'.

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Commander Joe

Chapter Two

Part 3

Is this Commander Joe's Nemesis? Perhaps we'll find out what he is up to.

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Blog Against Theocracy Logo Freedom First and others have initiated the second annual "Blog Against Theocracy" event. I am interrupting MOPS in Space this week to participate in this blogswarm. I hope the story I wrote is very fitting for this weekend's event. I think too many people do not think completely through things before giving support, and this story is what could result in short sighted thinking. For more information on other blogs participating click on the logo to the right. Thanks and enjoy! (As always, comments welcome!)






The Theocracy

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Diogo Fihlo de Paulo sat in isolation. He had paced himself out. He had lost track of how long he had been there. Finally, he heard a voice emanate from one of the speakers.

"Diogo," it said. "This is Marie Filles D'Angela. Do you know why you're here?"

"I want to see my lawyer," Diogo insisted.

"You are not under arrest," replied Marie.

"Then why cannot I leave? Why cannot I see anyone? I have been here for hours! I have been away from my school work for a couple of days now. I have missed an important Biology midterm and several of my classes. Also, I have not been able to do any work. I have to make a living."

"You should have thought of those things before you broke the rules."

"I thought know one would know. Flying around the restricted zone adds a couple hours to the flight. I thought if I could make it, I could earn some extra cash for school."

"But you did not make it, did you?"

"The missiles came hard and heavy as soon as I crossed the barrier wall. There had not been any contact with those people for a long time, so it came as a real shock to me."

"You crashed into a major metropolitan area," indicated Marie.

"You would have never known it," replied Diogo. "I was there for several hours, and I only came in contact with one person. Once I finished putting the ion-plasma engine from my aircraft in a broken down vehicle I found, I raced away and did not see another person until I got here."

"Did you notice anything unusual about that one person?"

"To be honest, I do not know much about the people that live in The Theocracy. So, everything about that young man was unusual."

"Let me be more direct. Was he sickly? Did he appear to have any lesions or did he cough regularly?"

"On the contrary, he looked quite healthy. Well, he was a bit thin, but that is not unusual for a teenager."

"Do you know for a fact that he was a teenager?"

"Well no -- I just assumed... We could not really communicate because of the language barrier."

"So, he could have been a stunted adult."

"I guess so. What is this about?"

"You were in a restricted area," Marie stated with a strong emphasis.

"However, you said I was not under arrest."

"Do you know why it is restricted?"

"Well, The Theocracy built those walls and developed a sophisticated antiaircraft system. Thus, I always thought it was because they did not want any interference from the outside world."

"In the beginning, that was true..."

"Aye carumba!" Diogo exclaimed as a realization came to him. "What have I been exposed to?"

"Do not panic. We will have it isolated and have a cure shortly."

"Do not panic she says!"

"Please. If it helps I will give you a little background."

"Okay," replied Diogo attempting not to hyperventilate.

"Before it became The Theocracy they were a country like so many others. In fact, they were quite advanced. However, some of their people were tired of what they saw as to much secularism. Because their governmental principles forbade them to favor one religion over another, a secular government was inevitable.

"This group of religious people wanted to bring prayer in the classrooms, and wanted religious morality taught to every school age child. In order to accomplish this, they had to reform their government. Hence, when their government became a theocracy, there were certain eventual outcomes. One was the outlawing of teaching the Theory of Evolution."

"How can you outlaw the teaching of a basic and very important scientific principle?"

"You see, it interfered with some very powerful individual's view of the world. Thus, they required the teaching of their view of creation. Any deviation from this was punished severely."

"People were actually punished for doing good science?"

"As you can imagine, this had a radical impact upon all of their sciences. Most of their top scientist fled. More importantly, with the drain of good scientist and the public schools not producing any new ones, this had a catastrophic impact upon the biological sciences and naturally medicine."

"Why would anyone want to turn their back on modern medicine?"

"That is a difficult question, but I think it was more like they did not know what they were getting themselves into. They were led to believe that the new government was based on some sort of religious moral values."

"But what does this have to do with the biological sciences?"

"Several 'religious leaders' and, quite frankly, other propagandists linked evolution -- or what they called Darwinism -- to the moral decline of their society."

"So, they turned away from one of the most important concepts in all of science on a basic misconception?"

"That pretty much sums it up. More importantly, they completely abolished the study of important fields that stem from evolution."

"So, evidence that support the theory of evolution was completely ignored?"

"Exactly," replied Marie. "No one could study genetics or the genome. No one could study bacterial resistance or viral mutation. No one could study..."

"I cannot even imagine what kind of super-bugs might emerge -- Oh no!"

"You will be fine," insisted Marie. "You were immunized against a relative of this virus. Not to mention, we got to you early enough it the virus's life cycle. Unfortunately, from what we heard from you, their population was not so lucky. They must have died by the millions."

"It was really creepy driving through all of their once thriving cities. Now, they are nearly void of human life and for what -- prayer in public school?"

"I do not think anyone thought through the consequences of their actions. A few individuals found a way to tap in a great spring of power. In their thirst for power, they brought down a once powerful society."

"So how does a society that rejects science, build a missile defense system?"

"That is a good question."

"Science is a method to discover our world. It must at times shake things up because a piece of evidence contradicts a former theory. However, how do you say that the evidence is wrong in one science and say it is fine in another?"

"Without interacting with them, we cannot find answers to those questions. In any event, I have been informed that you are no longer a danger. Our medicine has cured you. However, our intelligence service would like to have a few words with you. Constables, you may enter."

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Fire, Iron, and Wood

July 17, 1812

By Dwayne MacInnes

"In the handling of those trans-Atlantic ships there is a nucleus
of trouble for the Navy of Great Britain."
-Lord Horatio Nelson on observing Constitution and her crew


Authors note: The events and characters involved are historical -- any discrepancies in actual dialogue and actions are due to the author’s imagination.


July 17, 1812
Captain Isaac Hull

Captain Isaac Hull cursed to himself as he looked out upon the five British warships. He had encountered them the previous night just as night fell and assumed they belonged to Commodore John Rodgers' squadron. Unfortunately, the darkness hid the fact that they were actually British. Daylight revealed to both the British and Hull who each other were.

The cannons from both sides fired at each other. However, the two sides were out of range and most of the iron balls fell harmlessly into the Atlantic Ocean. To make matters worse, the slight breeze was too light for steerage. This left the combatants becalmed upon the glassy surface of the ocean.

Hull had no doubt that if there was a decent wind, the 52-gun USS Constitution would out pace the British squadron. A few years previously, before the second war with Britain broke out, Commodore Silas Talbot had accepted a bet with British Captain Parker of the frigate Santa Margaretta who boasted that his ship could out sail the new American frigate. The British held the fledgling American navy in contempt. The proud British seamen believed that no sea-going nation could ever best the Royal Navy.

U.S.S. Constitution

Isaac Hull had the honor of handling the Constitution that day in 1798 and as the sun rose, the race began. Both ships headed directly windward (the same direction in which the wind was blowing). Hull proved his ship handling skills that day and the American crew proved equal to the task ahead of them as they beat to windward. As the sun dipped into the sea ending the race Santa Margaretta was far astern of the Constitution. True to his word, Captain Parker presented Commodore Talbot with a cask of Madeira.

"Captain," Lt. Morris interrupted his captain's musings bringing Hull back to the present. "It looks like we've wandered into Commodore Broke's squadron. That'd be the ship of the line Africa with 64 guns." Morris pointed toward the largest vessel astern.

"That means those will be both the 38-gun frigates Shannon and Belvidera. There's the 32-gun Aeolus and -- ah, there she is -- the 38-gun Guerriere, whose captain is James Dacres. I remember the wager we made before the war if our two ships should ever meet in combat."

"Begging your pardon sir, what was the wager?" the lieutenant asked.

"A hat," replied Hull. "Well, then let us get to work. Keep those chasers firing and wet the sails." The captain ordered and the sailors snapped to work. Hull wanted to catch every available breath of wind so that was why sailors were now in the masts pouring buckets of water on the sails.

"Mr. Morris, it looks like we'll need to supply the 'white ash breeze'."

"Aye sir!" Morris saluted before he started yelling for the crew to lower away the boats so that they could pull 2,200-ton ship away from their adversaries.

The British seamen were quick to follow Hull's example and soon every ship had their boats propelling their ships in a slow race as their men strained at the oars. The Constitution had one slight advantage. Every time she fired her chasers, the blasts eased some of the burden from the sailors straining at the sweeps.

Much to Hull's chagrin the British were gaining upon the lone American vessel and had put themselves between the Constitution and Little Egg Harbor on the New Jersey shore. Captain Hull was a man of action as he had proven in the Quasi-war against France and against the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean. Now he was going to show it to the British. The British did not think much of the U.S. navy, but in the very least, Hull felt he could teach them that Americans could fight.

"Lieutenant Morris!" Hull called.

"Aye sir!" Morris saluted.

In a calm voice, Hull told Morris, "Let's lay broadside to him, Mr. Morris, and fight the whole! If they sink us, we'll go down like men!"

The gunners and marines nodded in grim agreement. They would fight to the last if need be. The odds were against any of them coming away alive. Nevertheless, they would show their worth to the British.

"There is one thing, sir, I think we'd better try," Morris spoke up.

"What's that?" replied the captain.

"Try to kedge her off."

Hull broke into a smile, "Mr. Morris you've earned your pay!"

Constitution's Modern Crew in 1813 Uniforms

The officers gave the orders and soon the sailors attached one of the ship's anchors to every available length of cordage. A crew rowed the light kedge anchor as far out in front of the Constitution as they could and then they heaved the anchor overboard.

The remaining crew began the backbreaking labor of working the anchor's capstan; this in turn brought the ship to the kedge anchor. The process repeated itself and the Constitution began to make headway. However, the British did not stand idly by, they too adopted this tactic and soon the race renewed itself.

The two sides continued this grueling procedure for two days in the oppressive July heat. Men, desperate men, continued to work despite sore and complaining muscles. Not a seaman upon the American frigate uttered a complaint despite the fact they had little food or respite during the chase. They knew what the results would be if they failed. As dawn of the third morning of the chase broke upon the combatants, it found the Constitution still out of range of the British guns.

On the horizon, Hull recognized the telltale clouds of a rainsquall. Hull knew that his pursuers would have noticed it as well. He had one last trick to play and as the storm approached the Constitution, Hull ordered the sails taken in. The British in alarm followed suit. As he did years before against Santa Margaretta, Captain Hull proved his superior ship handling. As soon as the storm enveloped the frigate, he immediately ordered all the sails reset.

It all paid off shortly when wind filled the wet sails of the American frigate and the Constitution soon left her opponents to leeward. Hull thought better of heading towards New York where there was a good chance of running into a blockading force, so he headed towards Boston. After twenty-two days at sea, two of them filled with fear and excitement Hull brought his ship safely into Boston harbor.

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Commander Joe

Chapter Two

Part 4

Barb and Joe return to the lab. Do they get what they came for?

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Thirteen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Apparently, hulk smash translated from the native local language means -- top bunk. It was clear that this large green individual was much too large to cram into the more restricted lower bunk. Once again, Kelly decided not to challenge this request and let the bulky alien climb up to the upper bunk.

The enormous alien grunted some thanks and cried him, her, or itself to sleep. The weeping that eventually turned to snoring kept Kelly awake for a while, but he eventually managed to get to sleep. After all, it was late, and it had been a long day.

The remaining MOPS members stretched out on the benches in the waiting room. However, before they nodded off to dream world, Hello Kitty™ girl left the secure area and walked over to them.

"Hello boys," she said softly to the MOPS members.

Angus suppressed a Hello Nurse!!!30 and replied, "Hi."

The Tommy and Victor also greeted the English-speaking alien.

"Do you guys have somewhere to sleep?" she asked.

"We were just going to sleep here," admitted Tommy.

"That will not do," Hello Kitty™ girl replied. "I have plenty of room at my apartment. You can sleep there."

"Great!" replied Angus quickly.

The group gathered their things and followed Hello Kitty™ girl to her place. For a college student it was a quite spacious one-bedroom apartment. She decorated it in a style similar to 20th Century modern that some humans like so well. It was neat and uncluttered with a distinct lack of ornamentation and with straight clean-cut lines.

Tommy claimed a daybed for his resting spot. Angus found a chair to his liking and declared it his for the night.

"I guess that means you get to sleep with me," Hello Kitty™ girl said to Victor.

Tommy and Angus gaped at the suggestion, and with a little bit of envy. Victor turned 17 shades of red. He pointed to a rug with a colorful geometric pattern and stuttered that it would be fine.

"Suit yourself," she replied as she took off the shirt she was wearing. Tommy and Angus joined Victor in various shades of red.

Despite their varying degrees of comfort, all of the MOPS members slept well that night. However, early in the morning, a guard awakened Kelly and his roommate. Some words were exchanged which Kelly could not understand. The incredible hulk of an individual hugged Kelly firmly and left the cell.

To Kelly, it seemed that his released cellmate hummed "Old Man River" as he left.31 The guard closed the door, and Kelly sank back to his lower bunk. He tried to go back to sleep, but the now silent room was too eerie to allow him to relax. Kelly just rested there waiting for the next thing to happen.

The other MOPS members got to sleep later, but eventually Hello Kitty™ girl awoke them. She disappeared into a room, and they heard water running. She immerged wearing a neon-lime-green mini-esque skirt and a white t-shirt with some sort of strange but very cute cartoon animal on it.

"You guys can get cleaned up in there," she said as she walked into the room where the men were sleeping. "I will see what I can do about some food."

The MOPS members had spent the last several days in the same clothes. Thus, there was only so much they could do to clean up.

Each member took their time in the small room with the tree immerging from a hole in the corner. When Tommy exited the room, he proclaimed, "No one will want to go in there for a while."

"Oh man," cried Angus. "I sure hope we don't get into trouble for illegal dumping of toxic waste!"

"They'll probably tack that on to Kelly's sentence," Victor joked but no one laughed.

"It isn't that bad," proclaimed Tommy.

"I sure hope she doesn't have a toxic gas detector in here, or we're done for," rebuked Angus. "I swear that tree just grew 3 feet and changed colors 5 times."

"Someone call a tree surgeon," Victor joked and still no one laughed.

"I am sorry," interrupted Hello Kitty™ girl. "I do not have much human food. I do have some leftover -- what you call pizza -- if you like."

"That would be perfect," Tommy insisted.

However, it was nothing that the MOPS members would recognize as pizza. There was some sort of language problem as what she brought was more like tater-tot casserole. The men were going to be good guests and not going to say anything, but that would be not like Victor.

"Ew!" he cried. "That's not pizza -- that is a Minnesota hotdish. Do you have anything else?"

"I am going to have something similar to Kyuri To Wakame No Sunomono," she replied. "I do not know what it is called in your particular human language."

"I guess I'm not hungry," replied Victor.

"I'll try some," injected Tommy.

Out of a device that was probably equivalent to a refrigerator, she pulled out what looked like a cucumber and seaweed salad. She made two plates and Tommy graciously ate the salad as a side dish for the casserole. Angus had enough hotdish to be satisfied as well. Victor -- went hungry.

Once the dishes were cleaned, the quartet headed to the courthouse. The MOPS members waited in the now familiar waiting room. Hello Kitty™ girl entered the secure area and was ushered into a room where Kelly and the prosecutor were waiting.

The prosecutor said some things to the translator, and the interrogation continued. Hello Kitty™ girl re-translated the charges, but the square dancing in a roundhouse was not there. Apparently, in this charge they used a few euphemisms. These did not translate well. Thus, the new charge was translated to hunting a cougar on public land. She also mentioned something about a small caliber rifle, which did not help any and still did not make any sense.

"I did not do any of those things," insisted Kelly.

"We have witnesses that place you at the scene of each of these events," translated Hello Kitty™ girl. "It is of no use denying it."

"While I may have been at the scene," replied Kelly. "I was not responsible for these acts."

"Are you saying that someone else perpetrated these crimes?"

"Someone else had to."

"So are you admitting you were there?"

"What? -- no!"

"Do you deny that you were the ringleader of a gang that inflicted the public with these crimes?"

"Huh? Gang? What?"

"We will get to the bottom of this when we collect the rest of your gang who goes around calling themselves the Mystic Order of Pumpkin Slayers."

"They are probably in the waiting..." Kelly began before catching himself.

"What? That is quite bold of them hiding here in plain sight -- guard!"

Some words were exchanged between the guard that entered and the prosecutor. Soon, the guard returned bringing the shackled remaining MOPS members into the interview room.


NOTES:

30: A cultural reference to something Yakko and Wackko Warner of the Animaniacs would say when faced with a beautiful woman.

31: The words go "Tote that barge, and lift that bale -- get a little drunk and you land in jail."

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