October 2009 Archives

The God Wars

Chapter Twenty-five:

Information

By Dwayne MacInnes

The trip to Mount Olympus passed in a blur to Reno. His old friend Hyrtios -- he discovered -- was actually Hermes, messenger of the gods and god of thieves. The Olympian had no problem abducting the scientist and whisking him away to the jagged heights of Mount Olympus.

Hermes quickly tossed the poor mortal into a dark, hot, cavernous room. Sulfur and smoke filled the air. The only light came from the many red fires burning from the big pits scattered around the dark basalt floor.

Reno offered no resistance as Hermes shackled the scientist's hands and feet to a nearby rock wall. The god then stood back and stared at the poor man. Hermes smiled and crossed his arms.

"What are you going to do with me?" Reno asked for the hundredth time since his abduction.

"We are waiting for a friend," Hermes smiled.

Reno could tell from the sinister look on Hermes face that he did not want to meet this so-called friend. However, Reno did not have long to wait until a giant of a man walked into the cavern. His legs were in braces much like those Reno saw on kids who suffered the paralyzing effects of polio.

"Ah, Hephaestus," Hermes laughed. "I have a gift for you."

The god of the anvil stared at the shackled man. Hephaestus could see that this was no beefy hero or scrawny farmer. It could only be one of those Otherworlders. The god smiled.

"I need you to help Reno here, to remember some things," Hermes continued.

Reno watched in horror as Hephaestus wandered over to one of the flaming pits. He pulled out a long, red-hot iron and slowly approached the scientist. Reno's eyes focused on the smoking, yellow-white hot tip of the brand as it neared his flesh. The eyes of the gods sparkled malignantly on their smiling faces in the red light of the cavern.

Hephaestus

General Crist was in his office interviewing one of the local militia. It took some time searching but he was finally able to locate the only surviving militia member from Knopso other than Theena.

"Your name is Teukros?" General Crist asked the teenager.

"Yes sir," the youth replied. His English was actually pretty good. He could understand Crist with few explanations and Crist could understand him.

"You and Theena were the only survivors from the Knopso militia, is that correct?" Crist asked.

"No," Teukros replied to the utter shock of General Crist.

"I thought there weren't others. If there are please tell me," General Crist began.

"I'm sorry sir," Teukros corrected himself. "I meant to say that I am the only survivor from the Knopso militia."

General Crist was slightly confused and took a few seconds to ponder the puzzle before him before he asked his next question. "Are you saying Theena was not part of the militia?"

"I don't know, sir," Teukros said. "She may have been in a militia but she is not from Knopso."

"Please explain," Crist urged.

"There were several people fleeing south from the fringe villages. Theena arrived with some of them," Teukro began. "She instantly joined up and rallied the local farmers into the militia. We were armed with pitchforks, hunting bows, and rakes. Only a few actually had spears or swords.

"When Ares' horde attacked our village she fought hard and we were inspired by her gallantry. She said we had to slow them down to buy time for the villagers to flee south. We fought until there were only seven of us counting Theena.

"We fled southward as the army torched and plundered our village. I was sent to warn Thelos while Theena and my comrades remained to ambush Ares' scouts in the pass."

"So, before Ares raided your village you never saw Theena before?" Crist pressed.

"That is correct, sir," Teukros responded. "I figured she must have led another militia much like ours and was the sole survivor. She is a born leader."

General Crist smiled and nodded his head. "Thank you, son. You may return to duty."

The teenager stood up, saluted the general, and exited the room. General Crist walked over to his wooden chair behind his desk and sat down. He rubbed his temples in deep thought. The general did not like going behind Theena's back to gather information about her, but he found that it was as Reno stated, it would be difficult to vouch for the locals.

Before Crist could give further thought to the subject two military policemen burst into his office. Crist stood up quickly and glared at the men.

"Sorry sir," a sergeant said. "This is of dire importance. Reno has disappeared."

"What?" General Crist blurted.

"We looked all over," the private added. "But he has simply disappeared."

"Have you checked with the sentries at the gate?" Crist asked.

"Yes, sir," the sergeant continued. "They have not seen him. The night sentries have not seen him. In fact, the last people to see him say he entered his apartment last night and never left it."

General Crist frowned, this was not good, somehow Reno ran away or someone abducted him. There was always the possibility that he was murdered and his body hidden. Nevertheless, something told Crist that this was not the case.

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The Adventures of Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius

The Blacksmith Incident - Part IV

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The group of citizens discussed their plans for the evening. Their assault on the inn was not going to be easy. Thus, they had to determine who was going to do what. While the group they were going after was not large, they were in a good safe place.

On the other hand, Gaius was on his own with the magistrate. Thus, he did not stay around for their discussions. He knew what his part was. He wanted to look over the magistrates house. He wanted to learn more about the magistrate's security. He leaned against a tree looking at the house for quite a while. It was about an hour before dawn, when Gaius went into action.

The local magistrate awoke from his sound slumber when Gaius sat on his chest. The man struggled against Gaius's weight, but he was completely restrained. Gaius's dagger sat on the magistrate's chest and glimmered in the faint light. The magistrate saw it and struggled more furiously. However, Gaius had him fully under control. Further, Gaius had the magistrate's mouth covered with his hand, so he could not cry out.

"Some citizens of this town are rising up against its bad elements," Gaius whispered into the ear of the restrained magistrate.

The magistrate attempted to say something, but Gaius continued to cover his mouth.

"Apparently, there was a gang of thieves working out of the local inn, and a group of citizens are taking up arms against them. They had to take this action because the local magistrate took bribes rather than doing his job."

"Hmmmph hmmmph," replied the magistrate.

"They discussed what to do about the magistrate's fate, and I volunteered to speak with you about it."

"Mmm mmm," answered the restrained man.

"If you call out, it will immediately seal your fate -- not that it would do you any good. Do you understand?"

The magistrate nodded, so Gaius removed his hands from the mouth of his prisoner.

"I... I..." muttered the magistrate.

"Do you know why I am here?"

"You believe that I have not been doing my job," sobbed the magistrate.

"It has nothing to do with what I believe. You have not been doing your job. That has already been established. This is why these people are taking the law into their own hands."

"I can explain..."

"I am not here to hear your explanations. Some people are going to get hurt and some are probably going to die tonight. Do you want to try to explain that?"

"That was not my intent."

"Of course not. However, the results tonight are all your doing. You had a job to keep the peace and order. You did not do your job."

"But..."

"I have heard enough," stated Gaius as he picked up the dagger from the man's chest.

"Wait!" cried the magistrate.

"Say your piece," replied Gaius.

"I did not mean to hurt anyone."

"Travelers throughout the Republic came here and were robbed by a mountain of a man. You did nothing. How is that not hurting anyone?"

"No one was really hurt -- they just lost some property."

"So, you did not want anyone to be hurt physically, but they could be hurt financially. Is that it?"

"Well -- that is not what I meant...."

"Go on."

"The offenders made reparations to the government," the magistrate said with an excited glow.

"And the government helped the victims in what way?"

"By providing services!"

"Such as a magistrate that would punish bandits?"

"Exactly -- wait."

"You see the lack of law and order hurts everyone. The merchants lose patrons. The citizens may live in fear. Most of the town feels the effect of a crooked legal system."

"Others do it."

"The last argument of a guilty fool," laughed Gaius.

"But nobody complained."

"Does a slave complain as her master beats another slave?"

"It was all small stuff. If they moved onto bigger things I would have stepped in. I would have drawn the line."

"Now I have heard more than enough!"

"Wait! Please do not kill me! I have children to look after."

"No you do not."

"What?"

"You have no worries left in this life. Do you have any last words?"

"I -- I -- I do not. I am sorry, and now must face my punishment."

"Good words," replied Gaius as he covered up the magistrate's mouth before he could scream. "However, actions speak louder than words."

Gaius plunged his dagger into the again struggling man's throat. The magistrate continued to struggle until his life was gone. Gaius left him there on the bed and walked out into the house's atrium. He cleaned himself up in the impluvium. He stepped over a few dead guards on his way out of the house.

As he passed a couple more dead people in front of the house, Gaius turned back and looked at the house. A once lively household was not lifeless. Gaius felt a little sad that it had to turn out that way. However, Gaius believed that is what the fates wanted. Thus, it had to be done.

It all put Gaius in a reflective mood. He thought of all the people he killed on this trip. There was a trail of dead bodies all the way back to Rome. Death and destruction followed Gaius not matter where he went.

He had hoped to find somewhere where that did not happen. He had hoped that perhaps Sinuessa would be the place where it all ended. This could have been the place where he could have been at peace. However, he had to move on now. He would be blamed for all of the killing that night. That was fine with him, but it did not have to be that way.

Nonetheless, it was time to move on. Gaius went to the tree where his tunic hung, and walked to the stables. Gaius did not say goodbye to his old friend or to anyone. He just mounted his horse and rode away in the dawn's early light. He did not know where he was going, but sure as anything there would be trouble there.

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Reunited...

Chapter One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

It was a dark and stormy night, and King Jonathan was pacing frantically in his bedchamber. He was waiting impatiently for the return of one of his most trusted subjects. He had been sending him around all day and it was getting quite late. With every passing minute, the king became more restless. He went to the window for another look. The king stifled a frustrated shout.

"Sire?" a voice inquired meekly.

"What news?" asked King Jonathan in a voice attempting to stifle his anxiousness.

"We have looked everywhere -- at least twice. She is no where to be found."

"The wedding is tomorrow!"

"So you have reminded us. However, she did state that should would never marry that man."

"So you think she ran away..."

"Her betrothed is three times her age."

"He is only forty-two. You make him sound ancient."

"You arranged to marry her off to someone who was 7 years older than you -- her father."

"I understand that a fourteen year old girl would be too young to understand the benefits of this union. However, someone was supposed to be watching her."

"Princess Angelina ordered to be left alone when she went to the bathroom. There are no exits, so we did not post double guards at the door. Perhaps that was an oversight on our behalf. She must have simply slipped past her guardian."

"You are being kind to the woman. Should we hire a great detective from England to deduce how she managed to get out of that locked room?"

"No sire. The guardian has been thoroughly interrogated. Bribery is apparent."

"But we do not know who or why?"

"That is correct. The tracks are well covered."

"And it is your contention to make me believe that a teenager of fourteen bribed her guardian to escape, snuck through this entire complex alone and undetected, made her way to the garage, stole a suncar, and just drove away."

"Well..."

"I am flattered that you think my little girl is so resourceful."

"She is very intelligent and wise for her age."

"You forgot headstrong."

"I would never..."

"Of course not. In any event, which suncar is gone?"

"Number 135 sire."

"The newest one. The one we had not put the tracker on yet. Whoever did this is quite smart indeed."

"As you will sire. What are your orders?"

"Have King Thorbjorn meet me in the reception room in half an hour, and have the trackers look for traces on which direction my daughter and her abductors have headed."

"Yes sire."

King Jonathan had spent the entire day in his bed clothes. He directed the search with his subordinates from the early hours of the day, but to no effect. His daughter was not going to be retrieved in time to be wed to King Thorbjorn of Lakeland. The agreement the two men had made would have to wait. Nevertheless, the groom must be informed of the situation. This could only be done by the king and face to face.

However, to meet with his fellow king, he would have to be made presentable. He put on a pair of charcoal-gray pinstriped pants and a dark purple shirt. Over the shirt, he put on a vest and jacket that matched his pants. Over the suit he put on a purple ermine cape. He topped off the ensemble with his jewel encrusted crown.

He went down the 17 floors of the living quarters tower. At the lowest floor, he walked the long and twisting hallways to the back of the reception room. King Thorbjorn was there waiting.

"I am sorry to keep you waiting King Thorbjorn," began King Jonathan with a warm handshake.

"It must be very important to arouse me at this hour," replied the other king.

"It is about my daughter."

"What?" asked King Thorbjorn. "Is everything all right?"

"I wish I could say that it was, but I cannot."

"What happened?"

"My daughter has disappeared."

"Disappeared?"

"We are not sure what happened, but we are looking into it."

"That is a convenient excuse to avoid this wedding ceremony."

"I assure you my good friend that this is no game and not an attempt at supplying an excuse for delay. She is gone. A suncar is missing, and we have made a thorough search of the grounds. She has not been found anywhere on the complex grounds."

"Perhaps the lovely thing does not wish to marry an old man like myself."

"There are many things that point to her being abducted rather than her just running away."

"Abducted? Have you received a ransom note?"

"We have not, but there are plenty of individuals who would be happy if this alliance falls through."

"That is certainly true."

"Never fear. We have trackers looking for clues to her whereabouts. This wedding will occur as soon as she is located."

"I am afraid that is not good enough," replied King Thorbjorn with a heavy sigh. "I went through a great deal of trouble to get here on this day, and I shall not wait around for you to track down the runaway bride. I have many things that need my attention."

"But..."

"I am afraid that my mind is made up in this matter. I will follow through with my original wedding plans."

"I am sorry to hear that."

"As am I. Your daughter is by far the most beautiful woman in the land. Needless to say, that is not enough of a reason for me to delay a moment longer. I must return home and attend to my affairs."

"Princess Olivia is a fair maiden in her own right."

"She will be a barer of children which is a fine thing, but the future queen cannot compare to the lovely Angelina. However, I will make an offer that you may find appealing."

"What is it?"

"I will grant the treaty lands, which were to be given to you, as a wedding gift to your daughter if she marries my son Prince William."

"That is a very generous offer."

"I have an ulterior motive. There is a prophesy in my kingdom that claims a young prince who rescues the fairest maiden in the land will unite the kingdoms of Morica. I must let William determine if this is his destiny."

"If the four kingdoms of Morica were united, they would be a very powerful force indeed. I am not sure how I feel about such an outcome."

"Nevertheless, my son will be tasked with finding the princess. It will happen with or without your permission."

"We will do what we can to aid Prince William in his quest."

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The God Wars

Chapter Twenty-six:

Harsh Interrogations

By Dwayne MacInnes

Zeus could see that Hermes was very pleased with himself. The god of thieves not only returned with information, but with one of the men responsible for the creation of the machines the Otherworlders loved. Hephaestus was interrogating him now.

"So these iron chariots are called tanks?" Zeus asked.

"Yes," Hermes replied, "and their metal birds they call aircraft, or airplanes, or just planes for short."

"That is all well and good," Ares replied hotly. "But how does this help us out except to put proper names to the vehicles destroying us?"

"Calm, Ares," Hermes said. "These vehicles have limitations."

Zeus, Ares, Aphrodite and Hades all leaned closer to Hermes. Apollo and Hephaestus were busy with the prisoner. Just in case Hephaestus became too zealous, Apollo was on hand to heal any mortal wound Reno received.

"Ha!" laughed Hermes. "I thought that would gain your attention."

"Don't toy with us!" exclaimed Ares. "What are these limitations?"

"It appears that you, oh king are the key," Hermes replied.

"Enough with your games, Hermes," Zeus said with a thunderous voice.

"It has to do with the weather," Hermes smiled. "Their planes cannot operate in bad storms and deep mud will mire down their tanks."

"That is good, brother," Hades replied excitedly. "You can summon a storm the likes never seen and use it to our advantage."

"How will that help out," growled Ares. "Any troops I put in the field will also be adversely affected by such a storm."

"That is true," Hermes admitted. "However, what if we only hoped to keep those machines where they are?"

Zeus leaned even closer and glared at Hermes with a cunning look. "What do you propose?"

"We have attacked Zakrostas twice now with disastrous results," Hermes lectured. "So, if we can't get Zakrostas why not attack the next best target."

"What target would that be?" Hades asked.

"How about a target that does not benefit from all the gifts the Otherworlders brought," Hermes smiled. "What about attacking the city of Atlantis itself?"

Ares roared with laughter, "That will be a surprise! Those Otherworlders would be stuck in Zakrostas while we raze Atlantis. The Atlanteans would see that the Otherworlders cannot protect everyone at once and would begin to turn on them."

"Even if they did come out to attack," Zeus added, "their forces would be thinned out allowing us the choice of when and where to give battle."

The gods began to laugh.

"One question," Aphrodite interrupted the gods who had at this point forgotten that she was in the room. "Why did you not abduct their leader?"

The gods abruptly stopped laughing and stared at Hermes for an answer.

"My plans were not in readiness when the Otherworlders ejected me from Zakrostas," Hermes explained. "I did not even have a chance to meet their famed General Crist. However, I think I did quite well in nabbing the next best thing."

Hermes

Reno never felt such agony in his life. Not even the electrical jolt he received from the machine compared to the torture the capable hands of Hephaestus administered. The god of the anvil knew his business with hot iron and steely blade.

Twice Reno felt his soul begin to slip away as inky darkness started to envelop him. However, each time the healing touch of Apollo revived him. Unlike Hephaestus, the god of poetry looked with pity upon the tortured man.

"Tell me how you construct your vehicle called tanks!" Hephaestus roared.

"That is not my field of expertise," Reno began to protest before a hot brand again seared itself into Reno's exposed chest. The black smoke curled up and found its way into the nostrils of Reno who struggled briefly between screaming in agony and retching from the overwhelming stench of the sickly sweet smell of his own scorched flesh. The scientist's cries died as he lost consciousness again.

"Don't you think you have learned all you are going to learn?" Apollo asked Hephaestus.

"No, I think I can still persuade him to remember a few more things," Hephaestus grinned evilly.

Apollo again placed his hand upon the still smoldering wound on Reno's chest. Under his touch, the charred flesh disappeared replaced by whole and healthy skin. Reno shortly revived. The scientist could still remember the agony he felt just a moment ago. He did not have to look to see that Apollo had removed all traces of the hot brand's handiwork.

"I think it is time for the blade again," Hephaestus said to Reno when his eyes focused on the blacksmith. The god had several mean looking blades laid out on an anvil next to the scientist. Reno begged again for the gods to spare him when he witnessed the particular vile blade that Hephaestus enjoyed using to flay away the skin of his victims.

"You better start remembering some things," Hephaestus taunted. "Or you may find yourself skinned like a rabbit.

Apollo's stomach for the cruel treatment was full. He only tentatively agreed to the war out of survival. He also refused to believe that the gods should show respect to the mortals. However, after witnessing the endless torturing of a poor soul for what had to be days on end without stop was sickening him. Apollo was beginning to believe that maybe the mortals would be better off without the gods.

Reno cried out in pain as the god of the anvil sliced a huge swath of skin above his stomach. The god tossed it aside where a growing mound of rotting flesh was accumulating. The open wound with the muscle laid bare burned in the open air. Hephaestus laughed in glee as Reno cried again in agony. Reno's blood flowed over the open wound painting his lower body red.

Hephaestus grabbed a goatskin flask at his waist and raised it to his lips. Before he began to take a long pull at the liquid inside, he smiled down at Reno.

"This is such thirsty work, is it not?" the god taunted before he began to drink lustfully from the bottle. Before he swallowed the last of the fluid in his mouth, he spat it over Reno's exposed stomach. A sensation of fire now competed with pain as the alcohol burned the exposed nerve endings.

Apollo turned his eyes away. He could not stand to watch this endless and needless display any further.

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Reunited...

Chapter Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The monarchs of Lakeland had always been an ambitious bunch. King Thorbjorn's reign had been no exception. He was always looking at ways to increase the size of his kingdom. In fact, in the early part of his reign, he was at war with one of his neighbors. This seemed to be the way it was for them and they thought of no other way to expand their territory.

Lakeland had once been a smallish kingdom with lakes abound. It had a very large lake at its eastern border, and thousands of small lakes throughout the territory. Freshwater fish was an excellent moneymaker for them.

They also had some agricultural trade. However, being a northern territory, their growing season was very short. The farmers had to grow things that would produce quickly or they would not get anything. Needless to say, winters were harsh.

The first of King Thorbjorn's line was bent on expanding the territory. The kingdoms to the south were way too powerful for the small kingdom; thus, they warred with their northern neighbors.

Soon, they conquered all the lands to the northwest that did not belong to the Calmondak kingdom. This gave them access to saltwater fish as they gained access to the western ocean. Lakeland grew even more wealthy on the fish trade.

However, it was not enough. Thus, the kings began gradually pushing southward. They eventually expanded down to the southern gulf. There was lots of rich farmland in this region. Not to mention, there was access to more fishing.

During King Thorbjorn's reign, he attempted to push farther east. However, most of his borders were either lakes or rivers. Thus, there were some natural protections for his neighbors.

Nonetheless, King Thorbjorn was determined to expand his realm. However, he did not wish to upset his neighbor to the west. Thus, to assure King Jonathan that he was not interested in his lands, King Thorbjorn sent his son Prince William to stay in Calmondak. Hence, Prince William and Princess Angelina had played together in their youth.

King Thorbjorn attacked his neighbor in the gap between the great river and one of the large lakes. At first, he had some success. His plan caught his neighbor completely off guard. The army advanced to a river the southern border river of that kingdom.

However, he was in a difficult position, as he could advance no further. He attempted to negotiate a peace, but was unsuccessful. Eventually the easterners rallied and pushed him back. His five years of war came to nothing except strained relations.

Prince William was recalled, and the warring king considered attacking King Jonathan when his army had regained its strength. This would have been foolish with the eastern neighbors looking for a weakness. Hence, King Thorbjorn was forced to strengthen his ties with the west.

When King Thorbjorn's wife died, a new queen was needed. At first, he looked to the east. It would appease his eastern neighbors to wed one of their daughters, but he saw the beauty of Princess Angelina. Therefore, the succession of land idea was declared. This would cement the alliance of Lakeland and Calmondak, and King Thorbjorn could cast his eyes eastward without worry.

With the postponement of the wedding, the Lakeland King would wed a daughter of the east. This would force the king to set his sites elsewhere for land acquisition. It was not an ideal situation, but the king would cope. However, he still wished for a secure western border. Thus, granting Princess Angelina and his son the land was a strategic move.

There is also the prophecy to consider. The Lakeland's residents have always been one for prophecy. There had been a long standing one where a prince would rescue and princess and unite all of Morica. With this, the idea of the treaty lands was even more logical in the mind of the king. It would give an incentive to Prince William and allow King Jonathan to go along. However, the king should not have mentioned the prophecy to his fellow king, but what was done was done.

Map of Calmondak and Lakeland

Early the next morning, Prince William met with King Jonathan's trackers. He looked at the signs the sun car left. It was obvious that the car went west.

"We think they are going northwest into the lands of Princess Angelina's mother," stated one of the trackers.

"Is there any reason to think she was taken by her kinsmen?" asked Prince William.

"The forbidden lands are very dangerous," replied the tracker. "Thus, it seems to reason that they would not head there. Thus, perhaps her kin are involved."

"Are the forbidden lands that treacherous?"

"No one has come back from an exploration of the forbidden lands. That is good enough for me."

"Would that not make an excellent place to hide?"

"Being killed is no way to hide."

"How bad can it be?"

"First off, there is no water to be found there. The fugitives did not steal any water from our stores, nor did they take any water storage vessels. Furthermore, there are the most poisonous insects and snakes living there. It is an awful place."

"If no one has survived a trip there, then how do you know this?"

"I know from the old time reports before the water wars. Do not treat me like some ignorant kid young man. I have been around."

"I was just asking..."

"It looks like they took the ancient trail west," stated the tracker. "We would have to follow the trail to know exactly where they went. Nevertheless, that would be an arduous task. Thus, we have scouts looking out for them in the northwest. We expect to find her soon."

"I think I am going to follow her trail," replied Prince William.

"Good luck," replied the tracker. "It will be a long and hard trail to follow. We'll probably have her before you reach the trail split."

Prince William did not know if the tracker was telling the truth, or trying to lead him astray. It did make sense that whoever took the princess would avoid the Forbidden Zone, but it also made sense to hide there. What dangers did this place have? Was it just a legend to scare away strangers? What secrets did it hide? There were enough questions to keep him going. Besides, being king over all of Morica was very tempting situation.

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The God Wars

Chapter Twenty-seven:

Feint

By Dwayne MacInnes

Lt. Rogers marched down the corridor towards General Theena’s office. Fort Knopso was complete and fully manned. There were soldiers from the United States Army as well as from the new Republic of Atlantis.

Things were finally looking like they should. After months of waiting for production to begin the fort was finally beginning to get some newly manufactured M1 Garands, artillery and ammunition. It appeared that the production plants around Zakrostas were finally working.

The muzzle-loading rifles once used to train the recruits were now part of the Kingdom of Atlantis’s arsenal. The new president Greer was sharing some vital secrets to their southern neighbors so that they could defend themselves. However, he was cautious never to give them the top of the line goods, just in case the kingdom wanted its lands back.

Rogers knocked on the general’s door. The comely woman inside promptly bid the lieutenant to enter. Rogers started to hand Theena some of the latest reports when a great thunderous boom exploded over the fort.

Greer instinctively reached for his sidearm before realizing it was only a thunderclap followed by the relentless torrent of a cloudburst.

"The weather certainly changes around here pretty quickly," Rogers observed.

However, Theena had jumped from her desk and was running towards the door. "Sound the alarm!" she ordered to the stunned officer. "We are under attack!"

* * * * *

Corporal Daniels was in the one of the concrete pillboxes lining the fort’s wall. The rain reminded the corporal of being under a waterfall by the sheer volume falling from the heavens. It would not be long before the parade ground was flooded and the soil turned to the clinging clay-like mud that tended to steal your boots when walked through.

"Hey, corporal?" a private sharing the defensive redoubt asked. "Do you see what I see?"

Daniels looked out through the embrasure to see dark silhouettes moving through the watery veil. He quickly grabbed a pair of nearby field glasses and put them to his eyes. After a couple of seconds of focusing, Daniels could make out an army of beasts marching towards the fort.

"Private!" Daniels ordered. "Alert the fort we are under attack!"

However, before the private could reach the phone to call headquarters, the alarms around the fort started to blare into the soggy air.

* * * * *

Weeks had passed and still there was no sign of Reno. No one had seen the scientist leave the city and many speculated that he either was at the bottom of the harbor or abducted by one of the gods. The mere thought that a god could walk into the city and collect a person without being notice bothered Crist very much.

The general watched as the rain poured heavily down around the city. Lightning danced across the skies and thunder boomed in the air. He was grateful he had the foresight of having the carrier planes returned to the Kiska.

The seven new Hercules fighters should be enough to protect the city from any invaders. Moreover, if they could not the Kiska was at anchor in the harbor. All it had to do was build up steam and turn into the wind to launch the carrier planes.

Before Crist could muse much further on this, his phone started to ring. Crist walked over to his desk and picked up the black telephone.

"This is General Crist," the general said in an official voice.

"Sir!" the anxious voice of a soldier quivered on the other end. By the sound of the accent, Crist could tell it was an Atlantean. "Fort Knopso is under attack!"

"Damn," Crist burst out. He had hoped that after his latest victory Ares and the other gods would leave them alone. "How bad is it?"

"Reports say it may be those minotaurs and the cyclopes again. There is also a report that there are some men mixed in," the youth reported.

"How is the fort holding out?" the general pressed.

"They are doing well so far," agitated young man reported. "However, reports state that they are outnumbered."

Crist cursed mildly to himself before hanging up. The only roads outside the city so far were only dirt and that meant mud right now. The railroad had just laid some tracks but they did not extend very far. Therefore, he would not be able to send any tanks to support nor could he send up his planes.

Crist quickly dialed some numbers and started to give orders, "Send the Kiska out to sea and get ten tanks loaded on the LST immediately!"

* * * * *

Brian Mills was at the top the latest rig constructed on the oilfields outside Little Houston. The sun blazed down on the oilman born in the real Houston back on earth. He could see a great dark cloud on the western horizon. It stretched hundreds of miles across and would occasionally light up in bright flashes.

"Hell of a storm," Mills said to himself. "A little rain would be welcomed right now."

Mills looked towards the east. He could see the dark and forbidding Dragonspine Mountains forming the backdrop. In front of the jagged slopes another cloud was rising. However, this one originated from the ground up.

Brian Mills quickly scrambled down the oilrig and ran to the wooden shack. Several of his fellow oilmen watched in amazement as Mills ran passed them and rushed into the shack.

Jeb Korsky the foreman stared in dumb silence as Mills grabbed the phone off his desk and started to dial. Before he could ask Mills what he was doing, he heard the oilman yell, "Alamo! There is an army on the move to your east!"

Jeb’s jaw fell open in surprise. If there were an enemy force out there, the incomplete fort they called the Alamo would not be able to withstand it.

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Twilight Zone

A Halloween Story

By Dwayne MacInnes

The moon hung high in the night sky its soft glow competing with the various city lights reflecting off the wet slick concrete of the city below. Tall buildings thrust proudly into the night air with their multitude of lights dampening out the low flicker of the stars above. The sounds of traffic and sirens floated through the atmosphere. It was just another night in New York City.

Maciste slunk down a dark lonely alley. Mist and trash obscured the rough surface of the dead-end that housed overflowing dumpsters filled with the every day debris a city like this discards. The lithe man pulled the hood of his black hoodie jacket over his pale bald head.

A casual observer would notice that Maciste was very slim, maybe even claim he was emaciated. His eyes were like dead pools of darkness, reflecting no life set in a cadaver gray face. His nose was long and hooked much like his fingers that ended in long stiletto-like nails. Even his ears were long and pointed, as one would expect to see on some fairytale elf.

Maciste, however would never lower himself to help some cobbler. No, Maciste was a vampire. A damned soul doomed to roam earth eternally hungry for blood. Most people in the 21st century did not believe in vampires. Movies and books distorted and romanticized what for thousands of years even an uneducated peasant would know and could take the proper precautions.

Maciste stooped down and picked up a scrap of the front page of a local newspaper. Its black and white headline emblazoned the words: Twilight Killer Strikes Again. The nosferatu chuckled to himself. The police were helpless in their pursuit of the "Twilight Killer" as the newspapers had dubbed Maciste. They did not know they were up against a vampire.

Nicodemus, an old friend, had bestowed this gift upon Maciste some time past. Nicodemus claimed that the famous Mordecai (at least famous in the vampire circle) in turn transformed him. The rumor ran that Mordecai was careful in his selections only choosing those that would be cautious. For another rumor stated that there were still a dedicated few mortals out there that acted as vampire hunters.

However, Maciste and Nicodemus were friends when they were still mortal. Both were outcasts even amongst the fringe groups of young adults. They used to challenge each other on vampire lore and fiction. They both started to adopt vampire customs like the drinking of blood.

Suddenly one day Nicodemus vanished. His house was vacant. His few friends knew nothing of his disappearance. Even his blog had shutdown. Of course, there was the standard police search but after awhile they gave up filing Nicodemus's vanishing to the cold case unit.

It was shortly after all the excitement finally died down that Maciste awoke one dark night to see a slim bald man sitting at the foot of his bed. The smell of decay and freshly turned earth hung on the apparition's breath. Before Maciste could scream, a slender boney hand shot out and covered Maciste's mouth.

"Quiet," the man said in a familiar voice, "it is I, Nicodemus and I have finally become what we have always desired."

Maciste's eyes opened wide in recognition of Nicodemus's voice. Even though he wanted to, Maciste could not respond through the strong fingers squeezing his mouth.

"I have chosen you to enjoy this gift if you desire," the vampire said hoarsely. "However, you will find it does not bring the benefits we thought."

Maciste struggled to speak, but was only finally able to nod his head. His pleading eyes were enough to convince Nicodemus to release his grip.

"Good," Nicodemus smiled exposing his sharp and deadly teeth that glittered in the moonlight filtering through the bedroom's window.

Nosferatu

The two had roamed the country together for some time. However, they soon parted ways. Maciste figured he could do better in a large city like New York. Nicodemus did not share his companion's enthusiasm.

Maciste's plan was simple. He used to be quite an avid blogger himself before the transformation. He also, like many mortals, believed more in the modern rendition of vampires than the old folklores. He soon learned that the reverse was true. So using these pieces of knowledge Maciste would charm and lure unsuspecting teens, mostly girls, to their doom.

It was too easy. Especially, with vampires being such a romantic figure to young teenage girls. The books and movies always got it wrong. Vampires could not expose themselves to sunlight. They did not merely "sparkle" in the sun's rays but would actually burn down to a fine ash to be scattered by any passing breeze. Nor did they desire the affections of a mortal. The mortal's blood was the only thing a vampire desired. However, the wooden stake in the heart would kill a vampire, which most books and movies kept in their stories unaltered.

Maciste in his hoodie disguise could enter any cybercafé and correspond to some mortal online. The building's cameras could never capture Maciste's image. This was one of the gifts of being undead. In addition, a slim man witnesses describe wearing a black hoodie nearly matched the description of about a few thousand users in a cybercafé late at night.

* * * * *

Maciste now awaited his latest victim. They were always so eager to meet with him. Even if that meeting was to take place late at night in some secluded area in New York City! One would think the headlines warning of a killer using the trend of teenage romantic vampire literature as a lure would alert people. Well, teenagers rarely paid attention to the news.

The soft click of woman's heels echoed from the sidewalk leading to the alley. Maciste pulled himself back further into the shadows. Shortly a small woman cautiously entered the alley.

"Hello?" a timid voice said softly. "Is there anyone down here?"

"Yes," Maciste stepped out into the dim light.

"Are you.the..." the girl stammered.

"Vampire?" Maciste smiled, his teeth reflecting the pale light. "Yes, it is I."

"Are you going to make me...you know?" the girl stammered some more.

Yes," Maciste replied stepping closer to his victim. It was all too easy he thought to himself.

As the vampire's arms reached out towards the girl, a hiss punctuated the night from behind the vampire. Maciste's sensitive ears picked up the new sound and as he spun to see the source of the noise, a fiery pain shot through his chest. A wooden arrow protruded from his torso. Maciste looked up in time to see the silhouette of a figure on the fire escape of a nearby building armed with a bow before the second arrow penetrated his lifeless heart.

Before Maciste could react, he fell forward onto the ground dead, truly dead.

* * * * *

The man jumped down from the fire escape and stood over the body of the vampire. The shy girl cautiously walked forward.

"Did you get him?" she said her voice no longer timid but now strong.

"Yeah, sorry about that, Cathy," the man said as he rummaged through a satchel slung over his shoulder. "I couldn't see too well and barely missed his heart with the first shot."

"Thank God you got him with the second, Father Theo," the girl replied as she pulled a vial out of her purse. "Let me do the honors."

She uncorked the small crystal bottle and started to sprinkle some water onto the vampire's body. Wherever the drops landed on the vampire a small fire started, soon a conflagration consumed the whole body in flames that burned high for a second before it finally died down revealing only a fine pile of ash.

"Holy water," Father Theo smiled as he pulled his vial from the satchel. "Never leave home without it."

"At least if you are a vampire hunter," Cathy laughed.

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