September 2009 Archives

The God Wars

Chapter Twenty:

War Plans

By Dwayne MacInnes

Zeus had listened to the counsel of the assembled gods. Their number used to be twelve, but with the death of his brother, Poseidon, it was now eleven. Of those eleven, three wanted to make peace with the humans. These were Hera his wife and queen, Athena, and Artemis. Dionysus did not advise either way. He was more concerned with his drink than in the affairs of gods and men. Apollo only tentatively gave his support to Ares' campaign against the humans.

Only Ares, Zeus, Hephaestus, Hades, Hermes and Aphrodite gave full support to the campaign effort. Therefore, by the end of the gathered council the vote was three to seven with one abstaining. Zeus being father and king gave his blessings to the effort against the humans. The campaign would continue for the cost of letting the mortals alone was too high. Moreover, they had killed his brother and maimed his son. The humans must learn that there were consequences for their actions.

"I will not and cannot sit here while you plan the annihilation of a race we brought here in the first place," Hera hotly replied. "I strongly urge anyone who feels some pity for the poor mortals to leave these premises as long as the idea of destroying the humans continues to be bantered about."

The queen regally stood up from her throne and without glancing behind her, she marched out of the throne room. Athena glared hard at Ares before she turned and followed the queen. Artemis was quick to join ranks behind Athena. Only Dionysus tarried a bit longer before taking one last gulp of wine and staggered out of the throne room.

Athena

Zeus surveyed the remaining gods situated around the room. Zeus was pleased about their makeup. He was sure, with the help of those that advocated the destruction of the humans, that he could devise the perfect plan to defeat the Otherworlders and their technology.

It was just as well that the dissenters left the room. Zeus did not want any of them to interfere with their plans or even to try to help the mortals. This was a war for survival and it would come down to either the gods or the humans.

"Well, my son," Zeus said to Ares after the dissenters vacated the throne room. "What are your plans?"

Ares looked down at his new left hand. It was the serrated blade forged by Hephaestus. The wicked looking weapon left no doubt as to its ultimate purpose. "Father," the god of war finally began. "I will take an even larger army next time."

"Where are you going to get the men?" Hermes asked with a smirk. "You lost about 75% percent of your last army. Those that would even dare to answer your summon will only be a pittance of those who survived."

"I will have Hades' dead, Hephaestus' Talos soldiers and Hermes' dragons and griffins. These will overcome those Otherworlders and their technological horrors!" Ares yelled hotly.

"I do not have that many dead assembled yet," Hades broke in. "We all underestimated the capabilities of the Otherworlders. I will need more time to animate the dead for this deed," Hades responded. "However, the bodies from Ares last campaign will make finding suitable recruits much easier."

"I too need more time," Hephaestus added. "The bronze men I have constructed will not suffice against the might of the Otherworlders and their unholy weapons. Their skill in constructing such arms even outmatches mine."

Ares frowned as he glared at the gods around him. "What am I doing sitting with old women who fear ghosts! We need to hit them hard and fast!"

Hermes

"Calm yourself," Hermes said softly. "Even I will require time to assemble the Draco-Lords. You must admit that you like to take an opponent on head to head. You never did quite master strategy like Athena."

Ares gave Hermes a look of rage. His jaw clenched and his brows furrowed. "What would you have me do? Sit here and draw arrows on parchment?"

"Another direct attack will fail," Hermes replied. "However, we can possibly use a little deceit."

"I do not have time for your games," Ares roared at Hermes.

"I think you do. Because another failure like your last one may leave you missing more than just a hand," Hermes replied coolly.

The barb stung Ares as the god of war glanced at the evil looking blade replacing his left hand. He felt pain and shame remembering how the Otherworlders bested him. Even the Atlanteans had seen a god bleed. Once that happened, there was only one course left and that was annihilation.

"Well, good messenger," Zeus started. "What do you propose?"

"Give me two months time and I will scout out the enemy. When I return our forces should be assembled and we can then plan our attack," Hermes smiled through thin lips.

Ares grumbled lowly. He did not like to wait and he did not like to make plans. However, what he hated more than anything was having another god convince him that his own plans were flawed.

"Calm yourself, love," Aphrodite said as she slid her hands around Ares massive chest. Hephaestus glared at the two, even now with their fates so close at hand, his wife and her lover continued to rub his nose in their affair.

The crippled god stood up. "I have a lot of work to do at my anvil."

Zeus nodded his head. He knew that the god of smithing would work harder at the anvil thinking about his wife in the arms of another god. However, even Zeus, one himself not know for fidelity, felt Aphrodite and Ares were too blatant with their affair.

Hades next stood up. "My lord, I must start assembling my army as well. I will need the Necro-lords to help gather the right material."

Hermes smiled as he stood up next. "Oh, great king. I too have work to do. I must be off, for I myself, proposed the timetable that I am to work against."

"I wish you well in your endeavor, Hermes," Zeus replied. "Be careful around these Otherworlders. They may have a device that can sniff out gods from mortals and I cannot afford to lose the least of us."

Hermes bowed, "My king, I will prove that I am not the least. Mark my time; you will see me in two full phases of the moon."

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Exactly how I would sing it....

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Supervania

The Case of Errand Boy

Part Three

By Douglas E Gogerty

A group of superheroes gathered in the mayor's office for a brainstorming session. They came up with a solution to attract both the Feline Femme Fatale and the people attending the Brownie and Cookie Convention (BaCCon). However, there was a sticking point. How were they to get some milk to the Auditorium of Equitableness? They were thinking on this very topic when Dirk Justice slipped out.

Suddenly, the mayor's assistant, The Assistant, barges in and states, "There are reports of trouble in Farmer McGregor's catnip patch."

"That may be just the beginning of that female feline's plot," replied Mayorman. "Put up the Free Milk sign. We'll deal with the consequences..."

"If there isn't any milk," interrupted the Irascible Interrupter. "People will get mad. It is wrong to lie to people."

"We'll have milk..." asserted the mayor.

"But how? We haven't come up with a solution to that problem yet."

"Well, let's hear..."

"I have got nothing," interrupter stated interrupting the mayor.

"Mouseman..."

"Yeah you've been awfully quiet. What have you got to say?"

"Perhaps Farmer McGregor has..." squeaked Mouseman.

"Cows!" interjected the interrupter. "But how do we get them here?"

"If I were there..." began Teleportation Man.

"You could transport them here -- we know."

"Where is ..." began the mayor.

"Dirk Justice? He should be here helping us brainstorm."

"He must have..." continued the mayor.

"Been called away on some other emergency. That guy is in big demand I hear."

"I was hoping..." Mayorman began to say.

"That other superheroes would show up? I was hoping the same..."

"The Daring Duplicator is ready for..."

"Do not infringe on my territory superhero! I am the Irascible Interrupter -- not you!"

"Duplicator! Thank goodness you're here..." exclaimed the mayor.

"The situation is dire," interrupted the interrupter. "We need milk and fast. Can you help?"

"Why do..." asked The Daring Duplicator.

"Never mind that!" interrupted the interrupter. "Can you help us get some milk?"

"If you had some here I could..."

"Duplicate it! Drat a dead end again!"

After much discussion, and strong and loud objections from Mouseman, the sign was constructed. The assembled superheroes discussed the best way to get the word out on their milk give-away plan. The Daring Duplicator copied some flyers. Mouseman was given the task to spread the word, but he refused.

They still did not any milk, nor did they have any ideas on how to get some milk. Mouseman was going to stand up for his principles on this issue. A few more superheroes arrived on the scene, but none had any idea on how to get a couple of gallons of milk to the Auditorium of Equitableness. The mayor and his staff were beginning to think that they would have to do something politicians just did not do -- especially superhero politicians. They were going to be forced to lie. They would have to tell anyone who showed up that they just ran out. It was going to be difficult.

Mayorman and the assembled superheroes were still loudly discussing the matter -- Mouseman was particularly loud -- when a young man in ordinary civilian clothes entered the office. He was in jeans and a t-shirt, and his face was clear to see.

"Who are you?" asked the interrupter.

"I have four gallons..." replied the mysterious stranger.

"Of milk?" asked the Irascible Interrupter. "You have just saved the day!"

"That will be $18.48."

"Here is $20..." stated the mayor getting out some money.

"Keep the change," interrupted the interrupter. "Okay people, let's get cracking."

"Who was that unmasked man...?" asked the mayor quickly as the stranger slipped away.

"We didn't even get a chance to thank him," added the interrupter.

The Assistant got to work setting up a Free Milk Stand in front of the mayor's office building. The word spread quickly thanks to Mouseman. Soon the convention attendees came for some milk. The provided soy milk at BaCCon was simply not up to the desired task. However, those lactose intolerant superheroes had not minded the convention's change of beverage. Nonetheless, with everyone else leaving they followed even though they would not partake in the provided free beverage.

Milkman and the Duplicator used their superpowers to increase the amount of milk so everyone would have their fill. As everyone stood around and enjoyed their cold beverages, (except the lactose intolerant superheroes who tagged along) Dirk Justice appeared asking what had happened. The mayor told the story of an unmasked man arriving just in time with 4 gallons of milk. The man had used no superpowers whatsoever to accomplish the task. Also, the individual left before anyone could thank him or ask who he was.

Further, the Feline Femme Fatale also could not resist a glass of free milk. Hence she delayed her plans. This allowed Mayorman to get the Crusading Canine to take care of this evil ninja cyborg nemesis.

Soon, the story of Errand Boy spread throughout the city. The tale of some unmasked person doing good deeds and saving the day, and fighting for peace, justice and the American way was being told in barbershops and grocery stores citywide. This stranger came and all he asked for was money for the item. However, this person was doing these deeds without the use of any superpower. How could this happen? How could an individual live in Supervania without superpowers? Who was this unmasked stranger? Dirk Justice was not about to tell. That is the way it is in...

Super Supervania
Perhaps hidden identities can remain-ia
And the kids shout 'Come back Shane'-ia
It's Super Supervania.

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The God Wars

Chapter Twenty-one:

Merchant of Hellekos

By Dwayne MacInnes

The people of Zakrostas over the last several months had seen great changes. These Otherworlders with strange titles like American or British brought wonderful and new ideas and technologies. These technologies could defeat the cruel and uncaring gods that for millennia toyed with the mortals like their own personal playthings.

The Otherworlders had constructed a power plant outside the city's walls. It consumed coal and heated water that in turn powered generators that produced the strange energy called electricity. Now great parts of Zakrostas had long lines stretching from building to building that brought the electricity. Lamps that worked off the electricity would illuminate the darkness. Strange machines called radio would bring voices and music from miles away to home. Most wonderful of all was the theater that played fantastic images on a screen.

The citizens knew the Otherworlders were men just like them, but their knowledge of science rivaled even the gods. Not even Hephaestus ever created metal boats that floated on the ocean or iron birds that could fly in the sky. The huge iron chariots that could produce instant death from the long tubes in their turrets were also a marvel to behold.

However, just as strange as these technologies another thought was new to the citizens of Zakrostas, the idea of a republic. Sure, the Atlanteans were familiar with the democracy used by the Athenians back on their old world. But, the idea of freedom for all and a president, congress, and supreme court to balance each other was entirely new.

Even now, an election was in progress to see who would be the new president of the Republic of Atlantis for the next four years. After that, they would hold another election to see if the current president should rule for another four years or a new one should take over. So far, the people of Zakrostas were firmly behind the idea of electing the Otherworlder called Roger Greer. His language schools proved immensely popular. Plus, the fact that he married a local girl called Mina helped endear him to the hearts of the locals.

General Crist sat behind his desk in the newly constructed military headquarters in Zakrostas. He rubbed his eyes as he placed the latest reports upon the desk next to the lamp.

The reports contained several pieces of good news and some bad. The field team discovered a petroleum field to the northeast near the Tekos Hills. Right now, they had drilled several wells and oil was stored in barrels. A small town grew up around the site now called Little Houston.

The engineers were proposing the construction of a railroad to the oil fields and back to Zakrostas. Steel production was up significantly and already steel girder manufacturing was considerable for the construction of the tall buildings popping up around Zakrostas.

Several of the surrounding towns as well as Zakrostas now boasted a radio station. Even the recently construction Fort Knopso, hundreds of miles to the north, could communicate with the capitol. Long strings of telephone lines connected key cities and villages. However, telephones and operator stations still were not a common occurrence.

Some scientists were successful in rediscovering synthetic rubber. Once cars and trucks became commonplace the rubber for tires, gaskets, hoses, etc. would prove extremely important.

However, the one thing that was bothering Crist the most right now was the lack of repairs on the machine on the Pima. Dr. Reno and his team worked feverishly to repair it. Yet, after all these months on the strange world, it still refused to work. Dr. Reno could not explain it. But, there was nothing he could do to get it to function.

General Crist slammed his fists down on the desk again in frustration. Already several men were experiencing deep depressions. The psych ward on the Respite could not handle all the cases. There was only one psychiatrist, and he was greatly overwhelmed. Fortunately, they had a good number of chaplains on hand to help him with his workload.

"Damn," Crist swore, he would love to have a cigarette. But, there was not any tobacco leaves found on this world yet and the last butt had been smoked months before. Fortunately, coffee, the general's next vice of choice was in ready supply. The beans grew in southern regions of the Kingdom of Atlantis.

"General?" a woman's voice with an accent spoke from the doorway. General Crist looked up to see the woman he had promoted to general of the local forces. It had totally slipped Crist's mind that he had invited her back to Zakrostas to meet with him.

General Crist stood up. "I'm sorry General Theena. I've been preoccupied. Please come in and have a seat."

General Theena also known as the Amazon of Knopso entered the office and sat in a wooden chair opposite the desk were Crist sat. She was wearing the new officer's uniform designed in much the same style as the Americans. Much like many of the local forces, she still carried a short sword belted around her waste. She wore the medals announcing the campaigns she fought in as well as her decorations of bravery on her chest.

"Your work on Fort Knopso and the recruitment of soldiers is astounding," Crist said looking at another set of reports. "I see Lieutenant Rogers is also impressed."

"Yes sir," Theena said. "I have followed your plans to the letter. I am very impressed with how you Otherworlders think out your battle plans so thoroughly. You anticipate the enemy's actions before they have even conceived of them."

"You can never prepare enough," Crist replied. "There is always a new plan that has never been thought of."

"That is true, sir," Theena said.

"Well, enough chit-chat," Crist said. "I had you summoned here so that I can instruct you in some of the more mundane tasks of being a general. For the next couple of months you will follow me around."

* * * * *

The sun was nearly down when the lone stranger approached the city gates. He led a donkey pulling a wooden cart behind him. He would make it inside the city just before the guards shut the gates for the night.

As the man approached the gate, a guard halted him. "What is your name and business?" the guard asked.

"I am Hyrtios of Hellekos, a simple merchant who thought he'd try his luck in the great city of Zakrostas."

"Very well you may enter," the guard waved the merchant through the gate.

It had only been two weeks since the conference on Mount Olympus and so far, Hermes' plan was working well. The god smiled to himself as he urged his donkey through the city gates. He had much work to do, and he needed to start as soon as possible.

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The Adventures of Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius

The Blacksmith Incident - Part I

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The stretch of the Appian Way that Gaius now traveled was near the coast and some of the views were spectacular. The warm salt air was enjoyable, but the regular combat, which seemed to follow Gaius everywhere, was exhausting. To make matters worse, he had to find someone to repair his scimitar. It had been badly damaged in his last encounter. He did have the spear from one of the men in his last fight and his dagger, but he felt vulnerable without his trusty sword.

While there were blacksmiths at every station he visited, most had no experience with the scimitar. Further, he was not sure he could trust them. With his cover as a blacksmith guild owner, he could not show any ignorance in the craft. He was going to have to be particular and careful with who could repair his sword.

The trip had been long and arduous, so Gaius was surprised by a day of incident-free travel. While he was no longer concerned about any type of schedule, he was pleased by the time he made that day. He rode into Sinuessa the next day. It was the last coastal town before the road turned inland. Gaius decided he was going to spend a day there. He would attempt to get his sword repaired in this town, but first some relaxing time. Sinuessa was widely known for the healing quality of its hot springs, and Gaius was ready for some of that.

After the baths, a good meal, and a restful night's sleep, Gaius began exploring the town. He was looking at some of the places looking for just the right smith. He was approaching one shop when someone approached him.

"Apollodoros?" came a whisper. "Is that really you?"

"Why Porcius as I live and breath!" replied Gaius.

"Why aren't you dead?" the men asked simultaneously.

"You first," insisted Gaius.

"Crassus needed a smith," replied Porcius.

"Why did you not end up in Rome with him then?"

"His love of money..."

"He sold you?"

"I am thankful for that. I smithed many nails that hung our comrades along the road. As we got closer to Rome, my usefulness was ending."

"And you ended up here -- that is nice."

"In a round-about way."

"What do you mean?"

"I have had a couple of different guild masters."

"You have been sold a few times?"

"I was purchased from Crassus by none other than the family of Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix."

"The dictator?"

"The same. Oddly, I ended up in the employ of the family of Sulla's rival Gaius Marius."

"If I remember hearing correctly, he hid out just north of here."

"That is right. He hid in Minturnae, and the family that survived Sulla's proscriptions, stayed in this area. In hiding -- of course."

"Do you not miss those days of freedom?"

"Some days I do -- but I am a smith. It is what the fates had intended for me to do all my days. I am happy with that."

"The fates have been kind to me on this day," asserted Gaius.

"Why is that?" asked Porcius.

"I am in need of a skillful smith that I can trust."

"I am sorry to hear that."

"What?"

"I am afraid I cannot help."

"Sorry?"

"Relax! I am joking my brother."

"You should not joke with a person who has killed as many men as I have."

"Nobody has killed as many men as you."

"You may be right, so you should not joke with such a person."

"My shop is just down there. Meet me there after the midday meal, and I will see what we can do. I also look forward to hearing your story."

"Call me Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius. Apollodoros is no more."

"That explains a few things... In any event, I must be going. I will speak to you later."

Gaius's friend rushed off. Gaius was happy that there was a likely solution to his problem with his sword. His friend had been a trusty smith for Spartacus's army. He knew how to handle weaponry.

However, Gaius still had to find something to do with the remainder of his morning. Hopefully, trouble was not going to follow him for a while. After all, he went an entire day without killing someone. He hoped he could do that for two consecutive days.

Gaius walked to an inn along the Appian Way to see about getting some food. He was almost to the building when a gruff and gravelly voice spoke to him from around the corner.

"Give me your money," growled the voice.

"What?" sighed Gaius.

"You heard me. Give me your money," repeated the voice.

"You have got to be kidding," Gaius moaned.

"Do not make this hard on yourself."

"It is the middle of the day," complained Gaius.

"I mean business!" growled the voice.

"You do not have to do this."

"I am armed."

"And..." sighed Gaius.

"I know how to use it."

"I doubt that," grumbled Gaius as he slowly unsheathed his dagger.

"What?"

"Nothing..."

"Quit stalling."

"It is not too late for you to forget this."

"That is some tough talk," said a very large man as he stepped out of the shadows.

"That may be, but it is true."

"I have heard enough! Now give me your money."

Before the man could blink, he found Gaius's dagger in his throat. The man blindly swung his weapon at Gaius who easily side stepped the thrust. The man attempted to roar at Gaius, but it came out as a sickly gurgle. He attempted to stay conscious, but was stumbling around. He swung wildly a few more times. Eventually, he put his hand upon the building to steady himself. Gaius considered taking another blow, but he simply pushed on the man who fell to the ground.

Gaius walked into the inn and notified the people there as to what had happened. However, this was going to be trouble for Gaius. The innkeeper was related to the dead man. So much for the trouble-free day for which he had hoped.

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The God Wars

Chapter Twenty-two:

Trinkets

By Dwayne MacInnes

Hermes was surprised how fast the Otherworlders were transforming the world. He saw devices that even his fellow gods never imagined. A thing called a projector could flash moving images with sound onto a screen. He found these extremely entertaining. It was a shame all the mortals would have to die.

It was also a shame Ares had sulked for months after his defeat. If he had admitted the nature and extremity of his defeat immediately, the gods could have moved faster. As it were, the Otherworlders had already swelled their ranks with local Atlanteans. They had even shared the knowledge of the use and construction of their weapons with the locals. It would now be extremely difficult and deadly to destroy the mortals.

Hermes had set up shop outside one of the larger building in Zakrostas. It was only ten stories tall yet it was taller than anything ever seen on this world. Even Hermes was astounded as he craned his neck to look up towards the long spire than transfixed the apex of the building.

Dr. Reno walked past the merchant selling trinkets outside the military building. He could make out the ancient script on the side of the man's cart proclaiming he was Hyrtios of Hellekos. A few people stopped to see the merchant's wares and a few more even purchased the odd trinket the salesman offered.

Reno paid him little notice. He had to see the general and he dreaded it. The anxiety of explaining that he could not get the machine to work was giving the scientist an ulcer. Sometimes the pain in his gut rivaled the old wound on his chest.

Part of the problem was that they still had not perfected some of the parts needed to repair the machine. Another was that he had not constructed the machine alone. The only scientists present that help build it were himself and Dr. Berger.

Reno briskly walked up the steps and entered the building. The guards were used to seeing Reno and let him pass without giving him much scrutiny. The scientist then entered the elevator that took him to the floor where General Crist's office resided.

Reno approached the wooden door with a frosted glass window that had the words ‘Gen. Crist' painted on it in bold black letters. He shortly halted and took a deep breath before he knocked.

"Enter," a voice said from inside the office.

Reno opened the door and entered the office. General Crist looked up from his daily paperwork and motioned for the scientist to have a chair.

"Good day," Reno said as he sat down.

"Good morning," Crist replied pushing a cup of hot coffee towards the scientist. "I'm hoping you have made some progress on the machine."

Reno sadly shook his head, "I'm sorry general. But, we still do not have some of the parts down right. Also, when we built the infernal device we had blueprints, but because of security we do not have those. Dr. Berger and I are working hard to rebuild it, but you have to remember we are only two of the hundreds of scientist who built it."

General Crist frowned; he did not actually expect an affirmative answer. Yet he still hoped there would be one. The worn and aged look on Reno's face told the general that the scientist had been working hard to fix the problems with the damaged machine. The general felt guilty for pushing the frail man hard, but he needed results and he needed them fast. Many of the stranded men's hope resided in the fact that they would return home.

The general stood up from behind his desk and walked around it so he could be closer to Reno. The general then sat on the corner of the desk pushing several piles of papers out of his way.

"Okay, I know I have been pushing you hard. But, we need to get that machine working. Everyday another of my men becomes depressed and despondent. We have already sent nearly a hundred people to the mental hospital built here in the city. I have even been given numbers showing that suicides are rising.

"Dr. Reno, I am becoming a desperate man. I really need you to get that damned," Crist slapped his hand on his desk, "machine working.

"Tell me what you need and I will get it for you."

Reno shook his head, "General, we need better vacuum tubes. The ones we are producing are fine for light bulbs but as a tube, they are not sufficient.

"I am trying to reverse engineer the machine so that I can understand the intricacies of its functions, but that is tedious work and will take time."

Crist nodded his head. "Fine, I understand what you are saying. Give me a timetable on the reverse engineering."

Reno thought for a few minutes, "I figure it could take a year maybe two."

That answer did not sit well with Crist, he frowned and stomped across the room to a window overlooking the city below.

"No, that will not do," the general flatly stated. "I will give you six months."

Dr. Reno stared at the general's back with his mouth wide open. The general did not understand that these things take time and that rushing them could prove disastrous.

"But...but..." stammered Reno.

"You are dismissed," Crist said still looking out the window. He knew he was pushing the scientist hard. But, he had to give his men hope and he needed it fast.

Hermes

Hermes watched as the man in a white long coat descended the steps from the building. The god had seen this man enter and leave the building several times. He knew from the discrete questions he asked the locals that his name was Reno, and he was a very important man. He was one of the ones responsible for the creation of the machines that threatened the gods.

"Pardon me sir," Hermes asked Reno in thick accented English, "would you care to see my wares?"

Reno started to push his way past the vendor when the man stuck a small trinket in his hand.

"Look at its craftsmanship," Hermes pressed.

Reno threw the trinket on the man's cart and stormed off. The scientist was in no mood for an annoying peddler. What he needed was a good stiff drink and he knew of a bar that served whiskey, another gift the Americans brought to this world.

As the scientist stomped down the road, Hermes quickly locked up his cart. He would return for it later. Right now, he did not want to lose sight of Reno. The messenger god, also the god of thieves rapidly wove his way through the crowded streets to follow the scientist.

Hermes observed Reno enter a local tavern. Hermes slipped inside and took a seat at a booth where he could observe the scientist sitting on a stool near the bar. When a woman approached to take his order, Hermes just asked for wine. He noticed that Reno was drinking something much harder and drinking it much faster.

Hermes smiled to himself. This would prove easier than he thought.

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The Adventures of Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius

The Blacksmith Incident - Part II

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Gaius went quietly as the local magistrate took him into custody. While he considered fighting, he would likely have to fight the entire town. Without his scimitar in working order, he just did not think that would be the best course of action. Thus, he handed over his things and went peacefully. After all, it was not the first time he was in trouble with the authorities.

He was also hoping that his old friend Porcius would be able to help him out with his weaponry. Porcius was skilled at sword repair when the two of them were on the run with Spartacus. He was the primary smith for weapons, and highly respected. However, that had been quite a while ago but he was still a blacksmith. Thus, Gaius hoped that Porcius would not be too rusty. Nevertheless, Gaius felt he could trust him.

However, first he was going to have to clear up the trouble in town. If the innkeeper was powerful and no one had trouble with the -- now dead -- robber, then he could be in for quite a long stay. Certainly someone had trouble with this enormous man. You do not go around threatening people for money just on a whim.

"Why did you kill him?" asked the magistrate.

"I have said this numerous times before," sighed Gaius. "He threatened me with his sword and asked for money. I was defending myself."

"This man has never caused any problems before..."

"I highly doubt that," responded Gaius. "I gave him every opportunity to move along. He refused."

"He would not get out of your way, so you stabbed him."

"He had a sword and he came at me. It was either him or me, and I was quicker."

"The innkeeper wants to see you dead."

"I do not doubt that, but I was defending myself against that big brute. It was either him or me."

"Do you have any character witnesses?"

"I have not been in town long, but I would guess there are plenty of people glad to see that man dead."

"So you killed him as part of some vendetta..."

"If that were true, I would likely have killed the innkeeper as well. Rather, I explained what had happened to that man, and he summoned you."

"You think you are pretty smart don't you!"

"Hardly. I just have been in a few scrapes. That is all."

"Just how many people have you killed between here and Rome?"

"It has been a fairly quiet trip," Gaius replied.

"You lie!" shouted the magistrate. "You have left a string of corpses all along the Appian Way."

"Does my reputation proceed me?"

"A man was through here speaking of someone leaving dead bodies all along the road."

"You mean a liar or a coward was passing through town."

"What do you mean?"

"If someone left bodies all along the road, and there was someone bragging about it, that person obviously ran away from a fight or is making the entire thing up."

"I never thought of it that way."

"After all, why would this dangerous man let anyone live?"

"You have a point there."

"Thus, either this man is telling stories, or he deserted his friends as they fought for their lives."

"You talk a good game there stranger."

"As I said, I have been in a few scrapes."

"To be honest, I am glad that brute is dead."

"What?"

"I was just making sure you were telling the truth earlier."

"I see...."

"However, I thought you may have been some hired thug from out of town."

"I am an ordinary guild owner. I am simply on my way to Campania to obtain a few slaves to work in my trade."

"There was a man passing through telling stories of an incredible fighter leaving bodies all along the road. Have you seen or heard anything?" asked the magistrate in a confidential tone.

"I try to avoid trouble as much as possible; however, some days you just cannot side step it."

"I hear you there," said the magistrate in an exasperated voice.

"The man pulled his sword and demanded money. There was nothing I could do. Is it my fault I was faster?"

"No. I understand your situation. However, I am still going to have to hold you for a while."

"When will the trial happen?"

"I am the magistrate, so it will happen when I say."

"I just have some minor business to take care in town."

"You cannot rush justice."

"I do not intend to, but my business may take a couple of days. I would rather not have to stay where I am not wanted for those days."

"What is it? Perhaps I could help."

"A family heirloom has been damaged in my travels. I was hoping to have a smith look at it."

"What kind of heirloom."

"As you are probably aware, I am not a born Roman. This item may not sit well with you as a natural born Roman."

"Say no more."

"I had arranged to meet with a smith this afternoon. However, this detainment has prevented me from making that meeting.

"I cannot just let you go," explained the magistrate.

"You have my horse and I swear by the gods and on my honor that I will return."

"You will have to do better than that. You have to make sure no one sees you."

"I could travel after sundown."

"Very well, but I will be forced to punish I hear any reports of you."

"Fair enough."

Thus, after the sun had gone down, Gaius made his way to Porcius's shop. He went as stealthily as he could. He was somewhat practiced as this type of thing, but he wanted to be extra cautious. He finally made it to the shop, and crept inside. However, Porcius was not there.

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The God Wars

Chapter Twenty-three:

Of Whiskey and Spies

By Dwayne MacInnes

"I betcha dind't know that yer -- your planet has a .01% weaker gravity than ours," Reno said drunkenly to his friend Hyrtios. The two have been hitting the same bar every night for two weeks now. Usually it ended with Reno staggering home drunk with Hyrtios holding one arm to steady the inebriated scientist.

"It...it doesn't mean too much for weight, but it is impertinent -- um --important rather -- to long range ballistics," Reno continued to lecture his Atlantean friend. "Also your magnetic pole is in the south unlike ours in the north. Luckillily, we can just read our compasses upside-down now. You know, just read the white part instead of the red so it still points north to us."

Hermes in his disguise as Hyrtios a merchant from Hellekos had patiently listened to Reno's ramblings for a fortnight now. Some information was proving to be useful; most of it just sailed right over his head.

"Plus, did ya know that your days are .001 a second longer than ours?" the drunken scientist stated splashing some whiskey out of his glass and onto his friend. "Sho shorry," Reno apologized.

"Don't worry about it," Hyrtios said dabbing at his wet tunic with a cloth.

"We've been trying for months to get the Cloaking Device to work and it won't work," Reno said suddenly changing the subject, a subject that Reno brings up at least once a night. It was the same problem and Hermes knew it by heart, if even he did not understand it. "It is called the Rainbow Project by the bigwigs in Washington, we call it the Cloaking Device, and most of the uneducated call it ‘The Machine', including Gen'ral Crist."

"That is remarkable," Hyrtios comforted. "I am amazed by how many machines you build."

"Yesh, we can build a lot of different macheens," slurred Reno.

"How many of those iron chariots do you have?" Hyrtios/Hermes asked.

"Wha...wha are you talking about?" Reno said with an exaggerated puzzled expression on his face. "Oh, I know what you mean," the scientist smiled wagging an unsteady finger. "Tanks, we call ‘em tanks. The were first introduced in World War I and were shipped over to the continent in boxes marked ‘tanks' like in water tanks. Get it?"

Hermes did not get it other than the correct name. He decided to press the issue with the drunken man. "Okay, tanks. How many do you think you have?"

Reno motioned Hyrtios closer as if to divulge a secret. Hermes leaned in close to the inebriated scientist with his breath full of the stench of whiskey. Hermes promised to bring some back to Olympus for Dionysus to sample.

"You know what?" Reno looked at Hyrtios with bleary eyes. "I don't know."

* * * * *

Theena stood in Crist's office again. She usually arrived before the sunrise and left after it set. The two generals were becoming very close friends. General Crist was amazed to find a person so readily adaptable to the concept of modern warfare on this primitive world. He loved the fact that Theena drank it in and could sometimes offer her own insightful suggestions. Her enthusiasm and ability to soak in new material utterly astonished Crist.

Even though the Amazon of Knopso appeared to be in her late twenties and thirty years younger, Crist could not help starting to have feelings for the woman. It was obviously a mutual feeling. Theena found the man's ability to organize an entire primitive society and bring it millennia into the future simply amazing. His mind could quickly switch gears. He could go from planning the latest advancements in agriculture, such as steel plows or crop rotation, to strategizing a war. A campaign like the one he organized months before at the Battle of the Trenches

"We have currently constructed five Hercules fighters," Crist stated to Theena. "They are almost exact replicas of a fighter we have on earth that we called the Hawker Hurricane."

Theena smiled. These Otherworlders called it Hercules after the mortal son sired by Zeus thousands of years before on their world. His actual name was Heracles, the poor king of the gods thought he could diminish Hera's wrath for his infidelity if he named his son after her. According to legend, it did not work.

"I plan to add an airfield to Fort Knopso and when we have enough fighters and pilots available we'll ship them up there," Crist continued.

Theena nodded her head. It would help a lot to have an advanced airfield in order to keep a closer eye on Mount Olympus. General Crist sheepishly looked at Theena and cleared his throat. The woman knew that the general, a man always in control was nervous about something.

"I know this may not be proper, but maybe we could catch a movie sometime," Crist asked slightly turning red in the face. Theena smiled, a man who could strategize and organize entire armies, conduct wars, and fight pitched battles was ill at ease courting a woman.

"Yes, I would actually like that," Theena replied. She laughed to see the obvious relief on the general's face. "However, I would not think too much about what others may say. You are the general after all."

"Good perhaps tonight?"

"Yes, that would be nice."

Theena walked over to the large window overlooking the city. The building was ten stories tall and Crist's office was on the top floor. Looking down on the city below was a breathtaking experience.

Theena peered down onto the streets below the window and could see people walking up and down the steps to the building as well as the sidewalk. She could see that a vendor had parked his cart next to the steps and was hawking his wares.

"General," Theena said. "Do you have your field glasses?"

"Yes," the general said with a slightly puzzled frown on his face.

"May I borrow them," Theena said holding out her hand while never breaking her gaze below.

Crist slapped the binoculars into Theena's hand. The young general put them to her eyes and focused them. She studied the scene for a few seconds. She saw that most people walked by the merchant; however, the scientist called Reno stopped and exchanged words with the vendor.

"What is it?" Crist asked walking up next to the woman.

Theena handed the glasses to Crist and pointed down to the street. "Do you see that merchant there?"

"Yes," Crist said.

"Have you noticed that Reno appears to be on friendly terms with him?"

"Yes," Crist acknowledged.

"If you were a spy, where would you put your base of operation?" Theena asked.

Crist quickly looked up at Theena. He never thought about the gods having spies in his city. Mortals universally feared and loathed the gods. Even the mercenaries only served out of fear and when given an opportunity they would defect to the Atlanteans. He also never thought that King Podaistas would need spies. After all, he was sharing most of the technological advances with the Kingdom of Atlantis.

"My God!" Crist replied. "It never occurred to me."

In a flash, the general was at his desk screaming into his phone.

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The Adventures of Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius

The Blacksmith Incident - Part III

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Discovering that Porcius was not in the blacksmith shop after sunset was not particular surprise to Gaius. Most towns restricted business traffic during daylight hours. Thus, shops in those towns had to obtain their supplies at night. Thus, Gaius would have to wait in the shop; however, he did not want to be seen there. Therefore, he sat in a dark corner of the shop.

Gaius sat there for quite a while. It was sometimes a struggle for him to not fall asleep. However, after some time had passed, a group of a dozen men entered the shop. Gaius froze. He could not tell if his old friend was among the men. He just sat there in his dark corner and hoped no one would notice him.

"Part of our job has been done for us," said one of the men after they all entered the shop.

"What do you mean?" asked another.

"Have you not heard?" replied a third

"Yeah! That thieving beast tackled with the wrong man. He was killed this afternoon."

"Really?"

"I saw the body myself."

"Apollodorus," Gaius heard a familiar voice mutter.

"What?" asked another man.

"Nothing," was the reply.

"We should move quickly on the rest of them."

"Agreed," most of them replied.

"What will we do about the magistrate?"

"If we work quickly and quietly, he would not need to be involved at all."

"Should we not have a bribe ready?"

"If we come across their ill gotten booty, we will use that to ensure justice is served."

"Are we going to move tonight?"

"The blame may fall on our benefactor if we do."

"All the more reason..."

"He helped us greatly in our plan," came the same familiar voice. "It would be wrong to saddle him with the blame for our deeds."

"You are right. He did take care of the worst of them for us."

"That beast could have taken two or three of us down," explained one of the men. "This man must be a formidable fighter."

"We do not want to get on that person's wrong side," added another.

"However, he was taken into custody. Therefore, he should be in the clear as far as blame goes."

"There are still going to be questions."

"They may think our man was hired to take care of the monster, so we could take care of the rest."

"Everyone in the area knows that these people were preying upon travelers."

"Yeah! They should be happy that they are gone."

"The magistrate is not going to be happy."

"He has been paid well to look the other way on their activities."

"He is going to lose a good source of income."

"Do not worry about the magistrate," came a voice in the darkness.

"Who said that?"

"Is there someone one in here?"

"I will take care of the magistrate," replied Gaius.

"Who are you?" asked one man.

"Apollodorus," Porcius responded.

"I am Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius," corrected Gaius. "If you take care of the rest of the bad elements in town, I will take care of the magistrate."

"How do we know we can trust you?"

"I killed your so-called beast. Thus, the blame will fall on me anyhow."

"How did you escape from the magistrate?"

"We came to an understanding."

"But, what are you doing hiding in here?"

"I need Porcius to fix my weapon. The magistrate let me out to take care of this business. However, I was given the strict order to not be seen."

"Is this true Porcius?"

"We made some arrangements to meet today," replied Porcius. "I did not expect it to be this late."

"I ran into some trouble," explained Gaius with a understanding nod.

"No more than usual," replied Porcius.

"Most importantly," added another conspirator. "Can we trust him?"

"We fought in the Servile War together," replied Porcius. "I trust him completely."

"You will handle the magistrate?"

"I will," replied Gaius. "But you must promise to keep this town clean. You must fight corruption because I will not be here to fight it for you."

"Agreed!" the group replied.

"What about my shamshir?" asked Gaius.

"Are you going to need it tonight?" asked Porcius.

"It would be nice," replied Gaius. "I feel slightly vulnerable without it."

"Vulnerable? You?"

"Perhaps that is the wrong word. It is just that it has become a part of me. I just feel strange without it."

"It has been a while since I worked in the dark, but I could still repair the damage for you tonight."

Porcius stoked his forge and added some more fuel. When it got to working temperature, he took the sword from Gaius. Under the light of the glowing embers, Porcius looked at the damaged scimitar. He observed the huge nicks in the once sharp blade.

"What were you fighting -- a stone giant?" asked Porcius.

"A person along the road got a hold of it and was striking it upon the stones in the road."

"I assume he will never do that again."

"You assume correctly."

"It is damaged pretty badly, but I think it is not damaged beyond repair."

"That is good to hear."

"If I had time, I would forge you an entirely new one."

"You cannot replace an old friend like that."

"I understand," replied Porcius as he stuck the sword into the forge. "I will handle it with care."

When the sword blade was red hot, Porcius pounded upon it on his anvil. The blade went back and forth between the forge and the anvil. Occasionally Porcius would inspect it closely by glow of the forge.

Gaius felt nervous as he watched the smith pound on his sword. He almost could not watch as Porcius went back and forth with his prized weapon. Eventually, Gaius's faithful friend was plunged into a bucket and the water roared.

"Once it has cooled a bit more, I will take a stone to it to sharpen it. It should be serviceable again."

"I do not know how difficult it will to be to finish my part of this bargain, but it will be nice to have my trusty shamshir should I need it."

"I do not know how you are going to manage it. His place is pretty well fortified."

"We will find out when the time comes."

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The God Wars

Chapter Twenty-four:

Thief

By Dwayne MacInnes

After two grueling days of interrogation, the military allowed Hyrtios to leave the city. Hermes smiled inwardly, they were not able to ascertain if he was indeed a spy or not. However, they still had doubts, and the military told him to leave and never return. It was sooner than he expected, but he believed he had some useful information to share with the other Olympians.

Nonetheless, Hermes still had one job to do. If he accomplished it, he could very well swing the balance of power overwhelmingly back towards the gods. He just needed to wait until nightfall then he could follow his plan.

* * * * *

Dr. Reno sat in General Crist's office. If he thought his previous visits were uncomfortable, it was nothing compared to today. The general was visibly angry and barely controlled his rage.

"Who was this man you've been seen with?" General Crist growled.

"His name is Hyrtios, he's a merchant from Hellekos," Reno replied.

"How do you know he is who he claims to be?" Crist countered.

"He said so, just as I believe that you are General Crist," Reno said getting a little hot.

"Don't give me any smart answers," yelled Crist. "You may be in a lot of hot water mister."

"I'm sorry I did not know I had to clear all my acquaintances with you first. How much time did you take in checking out your General Theena?" Reno fired back

General Crist calmed himself down before he continued. It is true he never did tell any of the men to do a clearance check on their Atlantean friends. Even if he did what could they do, other than ask other Atlanteans to vouch for them.

Reno also had a point about Theena. Although, the two had been dating for some days now, Crist had to ask himself how much did he know about her? He had seen her in combat, but other than that, he did not have anything concrete.

The general rubbed his temple. "Okay, fine," Crist acknowledged. "But you are a highly valuable person. You know things and you may say things."

Reno relaxed a bit. It appeared that he had scored against the general. A thing few could boast. Yet, the general did not stop pacing back and forth in front of the scientist.

"I also have it on good authority that you have been getting drunk lately," the general stated.

"I've been under a lot of stress. I like to unwind after a hard days work," Reno said, his face turning slightly red. He was not a drinking man and to have the general insinuate he was a drunkard, embarrassed the scientist.

"I also know that you have been drinking with your new friend, Hyrtios," the general continued. "In fact, I know that he tends to buy the drinks and you do the lion's share of drinking."

Reno could not deny it. It was true even though he never really realized it until now. Dr. Reno started to have his own doubts about the merchant. All Hyrtios ever drank was a glass of wine while he downed shot after shot of whiskey.

The scientist nodded his head in affirmation while he kept his eyes on the floor in shame.

"In addition, I have heard that you like to talk when you are drunk," the general further added. "What do you talk about?"

Reno shot his head up and stared at the grim looking general. Crist's face was stern and his eyes still flashed in rage.

"I...I don't remember everything," Reno started. "Maybe stuff about the machine."

The general's eyes narrowed in a tight slit as he approached the scientist in the chair. Crist lowered his face until he was just inches away from Reno's face.

"You are telling me that you shared classified information with a local?" the general said in a tight cold voice barely above a whisper. A chill ran down Reno's spine, there was no denying he messed up big time.

"Y...yeah," Reno stammered.

"I should have you shot," Crist continued in the same cold whisper. Cold sweat broke out on Reno's face. The general straightened his back and walked to the window overlooking the city. He stared out on the darkening city; many of the electric lights were beginning to shine.

"Relax," Crist finally said, "this is as much my fault as yours. I have been putting a lot of stress on you, and I did not issue any orders about fraternizing with the locals."

General Crist turned back towards Reno. He could see that he had put the fear of God into the scientist. That was good; it would be a long time before he accepted drinks from a stranger again.

"I tell you what," General Crist finally said in a friendly voice. "Take some time off. See a movie or a play. The locals have done well adapting Shakespeare into Minoan."

"But sir," Reno protested. "The work...your timetable. I can't just stop."

"Sure you can," Crist replied. "In fact, this is an order. You are to take two weeks off. You can go anywhere in the city, but you are not to discuss any of your work with the locals."

* * * * *

Reno returned home to his apartment. He unlocked the door and stepped into the black interior. He instinctively flicked the light switch but nothing happened.

"Damn, electricity is out again," Reno cursed. There were still some problems with the power grid. However, a quick glance out his window told him that from the lights in the neighboring buildings that it was not the electricity.

"Hello old friend," said a familiar voice in the darkness.

"Is that you Hyrtios?" Reno inquired. "I thought you were kicked out of the city."

"What are city walls," Hyritos said bringing his face into the ambient light emanating from outside. His face was familiar to Reno, but there were subtle changes, "to Hermes, the god of thieves?"

"What do you mean?" Reno began. "Are you here to rob me?"

"Not exactly," Hermes laughed, "I am here to rob you...."

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