February 2010 Archives

The God Wars

Chapter Forty:

Retreat

By Dwayne MacInnes

Charon released the three-headed dog, Cerberus. The giant canine ran towards the trenches and dove in. The ravenous dog started grabbing men by ones and twos, and tearing them apart. The bullets from the rifles did little to halt the dog's assault.

Ares was not far behind. The god in his bloodlust began ripping men apart with his left hand. He would drive the evil looking serrated blade deep into his adversary and then gut the poor victim. In his right hand, he wielded his red sword and hewed defenders right and left.

Thanatos, armed only with his scythe, slashed men down like one harvesting wheat. The skeletal embodiment of death kicked his horse urging it up and down the long trenches that were now embroiled in hand-to-hand combat.

Hades, still in his chariot, rode the vehicle back and forth in front of the trenches. Any soldier trying to escape through this route found it blocked by the god of death. Hades would strike down anyone with his cold-blue sword.

Hermes joined the fray as well. The god of thieves was well adept at hiding in shadows. The god would either stab a passing defender in the back or just cut his throat with his black dagger. As the defenders pulled back from the trenches to the city gates, the army of Ares pursued.

The Sherman tanks surged forward, their machineguns and the main cannons firing to halt or distract the advancing army. The giant bronze Talos again would try to overpower one of the tanks. For every tank a group of Talos turned over, the bronze giants would lose three to four of their numbers.

King Podaistas fired the cannons lining the city's walls into the approaching army of the dead. The iron balls would bounce across the ground rolling until it smashed into the onrushing dead. Body parts would fly in the air as the ball cleared a path through the ranks of undead. Again the dead did not take heed of the damage sustained in their ranks and marched ever onward. Any living mortal, who did not flee from the marching horde, the undead warriors put to the sword or spear that they wielded mechanically.

Cerberus

The organized retreat to the city soon became a rout as men ran for their lives. The one redeeming quality for many of them was that the undead were unable to run. The undead did not slow down either. Great numbers fell to bullets from rifle, aircraft, and machineguns or the blasts from the mortars, cannons, and howitzers. Nevertheless, there were always more undead to fill the ranks.

The M4 Shermans raced back and forth attacking Talos and running down undead. When the last defending foot soldier entered the city gates, the tanks rushed towards the entrance themselves. The M4s flew through the mighty oaken gates before the first advancing undead reached the walls.

The garrison of Atlantis slammed the great gates shut, bolted and barricaded them. The men on the walls opened up on Ares' army below them. The few soldiers with bazookas that still had ammo rushed up the steps to the walls.

Map of Atlantis

Ares was pleased; he had finally bested the mortals at their own game. They were now huddling behind their walls believing that they were safe. The god of war laughed at the fools who trapped themselves behind the stone walls of the city. He thought that soon the last resistance would be crushed.

"What do you find amusing Ares?" Hermes asked.

"We have them," the god laughed harder. "The fool mortals were so kind as to place all their remaining forces behind those walls. Those very walls I will soon have crashing down."

"There are still the forces in Zakrostas," Hades reminded Ares.

"Yes, I am aware of that. But, most of those Otherworlders' forces are now locked behind those walls. However, you are right in reminding me about them. Hades I want you and the Necro-lords to take one out of three of the warriors and head north. Zakrostas should fall easily now that we have the bulk of the Otherworlders penned in Atlantis."

Hades nodded his head and stepped into his chariot. He summoned Thanatos and Charon to his side. Cerberus obediently loped next to the god of the underworld's chartiot. One-third of the remaining undead started to trail Hades and his retinue north.

Ares did not watch Hades leave. Instead, once he gave his orders to the lord of death, Ares gave orders to the bronze giants. There were still a number of them left even though the defenders had greatly depleted their former numbers.

The army of the dead stopped yards outside of the city walls and parted to allow the 10-foot tall bronze Talos approach the gates. The defenders continued to fire their myriad of weapons. The bullets from the rifles would down a warrior but would bounce harmlessly off the metal skin of the giants. The arrows fired from the bows of the royal archers did nothing to either until they were set on fire. Then a few undead went up in flames.

Bazookas fired and destroyed several Talos, however, there were more giants than ammo for the bazookas. When the bronze giants approached the gates, the soldiers started dropping grenades on them. Most of the exploding grenades just cracked the skin allowing wisps of steam to rise into the air and thin trickles of ichor to flow to the earth.

The Talos continued to pound on the stout oaken gate with their heavy fists. The doors started to crack under the constant assault. It would not be long before the giants forced their way into the city.

General Crist ordered the defenders to retreat over the first canal to the first ring of the city. Tanks, men and horses rushed over the huge bridge spanning the wide canal. The Pima was on hand to offer any covering support.

As the last of the defenders crossed the bridge, the gates finally splintered inward with a shower of wood. The giants pushed their way into the city, followed by the undead. Ares and Hermes rushed into the city of Atlantis. The god of war ordered his warriors to capture the bridge.

Hundreds of the undead soldiers of Ares were on the bridge and marching to the first ring when suddenly the bridge exploded and collapsed into the canal. General Crist had the bridge rigged for demolition and now ordered it destroyed. The undead toppled with the broken stones into the canal where the bloated bodies of dead griffins and dragons already bobbed. The Pima fired every weapon she had into the thousands of undead overwhelming the city.

Ares quickly sent his giants to the harbor entrance. The destroyers in the canals fired upon the bronze giants. The ships destroyed several of the giants with their big guns and the shattered fragments of bronze flew through the air. However, the remaining Talos were in sufficient numbers that they were able to carry out Ares bidding and topple the towers guarding the entrance into the canal blocking it so no ships could enter or leave the city.

It had cost the last of his bronze giants but Ares laughed. Ares had now trapped the remnants of the Otherworlders' army along with the bulk of King Podaistas forces. It was now only a matter of time before they were destroyed leaving the rest of the realm exposed to the genocide Ares had planned for all mortals.

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Reunited...

Chapter Sixteen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The guard with the drawn knife walked up to Prince William and grabbed him. The strong guard easily picked up the Prince and carried him across his shoulders. He walked the short distance from the suncar to a waiting security van. A second guard was there and put handcuffs on the Prince. Together they gently placed the twitching Prince inside the van. Once that was done, the two guards entered the van and sat next to the secured prince. A third, entered the front, started the van, and began to drive off.

"Wait!" cried the Princess. "He has the keys!"

After what seemed like hours, the driver cried out the window of the van, "They are still in the suncar!"

With that, they drove off. The Princess ran to the car and got in. Sure enough, the keys were there. Thus, she started the car and attempted to follow the van. However, the remaining guards barred her path.

"You are in enough trouble," stated the Princess sternly.

"As I have explained to your highness," replied the highest-ranking guard. "I am under strict orders from the King. We should not be in any trouble for obeying his orders."

"But..."

"You do not outrank your father."

"So why are you detaining me?"

"You are free to go at any time."

"Well..."

"That is, any time after the van is safely away."

"What is your name?"

"Captain Armstrong Romanov Miss."

"I will not forget this Captain, and if any harm comes to Prince William -- I will hold you personally responsible."

With those words, the Princess broke through the roadblock. The captain restrained any pursuit. He decided that pursuit of the Princess should not be necessary, as the van was well on its way. He believed that it would certainly make it to its objective before the Princess could do anything.

The Princess attempted to follow the van, but it was much faster than her suncar. She reasoned that it must use some other technology for propulsion. It certainly was not solar powered. This thought angered the Princess, but she was no longer surprised by the advanced technologies available to her father. He had kept a great deal from her and others.

Instead of attempting to keep up with the van, she decided to speed towards the castle. If she could reach her father in time, she could save Prince William's life. It puzzled her that the guards did not kill him at the roadblock. She could not figure that out. Perhaps her father had something besides death in mind for the Prince. She doubted it, but anything was possible.

It had been several days since she last drove this stretch. Hence, she was not certain how far she had to travel to make it to the castle. Moreover, she did not know when the van would reach its destination. Nevertheless, she drove as fast as she could. She was certain her father was keeping an eye on her with the tracking device; thus, he would know she was coming fast. She thought about how to use this in her favor. She wondered what she could do to get her father's attention and save the Prince. She puzzled on this for quite a long time. That is when she stopped. She did not stop thinking; she stopped the suncar.

She was still a great distance from the castle. Since she was not an experienced driver, a stop should mean something to her father. At least, that is what she hoped. Her father was not likely following her personally. However, his observer may report it to him and a specific conclusion could be made. She would be a long ways from any help if she had an accident. Her father would have to send help. The closest available help would be the van. This is why she stopped. She was sure that her father would conclude that the Princess crashed.

She sat there moving as little as possible. It was not long before the van pulled up.

"Are you all right?" asked the driver.

"I know you are in communication with my father," the Princess replied. "I demand to speak to him."

"I do not know of what you are speaking," replied the driver.

"The phone," demanded the Princess. "You must have some sort of portable telephone device. Give it to me."

"Your Highness?"

"Do not play with me!"

"The sat-phone is -- uh -- only a receiver."

"How were you to give my father information on what happened here?"

"Uuuummm -- wait a moment," replied the driver in a dejected tone.

The driver pressed some buttons on a small communications device. He waited for a few more moments until someone on the other end answered. They exchanged pleasantries and the driver then said into the phone, "She wishes to speak to you sire. Very good sir!"

He handed the phone to the Princess.

"Daddy?" the Princess asked.

"Yes dear," replied King Jonathan on the other side of the phone. "Are you all right?"

"Yes father, but you must not harm Prince William."

"What makes you think I was going to?" asked the King in his most innocent sounding voice.

"The things I know he knows you must also know."

"Run that by me one more time...."

"You and I both know that he knows too much."

"And you think that murdering him is the only way to keep him quiet?" asked the King.

"Not at all, I have several alternatives that I can give you."

"So, you do not think that I could also have alternatives?"

"What he knows can be used against you. Thus, you must keep him close -- or quiet."

"I will say that your views are well reasoned, but what makes you think that he can be trusted?"

"I do not, but I need him alive."

"How so?"

"I am not going to explain over this infernal thing..."

"Very well, I will allow you to bring him with you."

"Thank you daddy! I will see you soon."

The Princess handed the satphone over to the driver and said, "The king wishes to speak to you."

After a few yes sires, the driver exited the van and freed Prince William. He was still groggy from the rough treatment, but he was conscious. Princess Angelina helped him into the waiting suncar. She got into the drivers seat and drove off towards the castle.

The Prince was silent for most of the trip. His head was still swimming with what had happened. The Princess attempted to concentrate on the road and not worry about Prince William. She had not anticipated that roadblock, nor the blind obedience of the guards. Her anger towards Captain Romanov would occasionally boil to the surface. However, the Prince did not seem to notice.

After a few hours of driving, the Princess drove up to the castle compound's gate. Since her disappearance, her father had greatly tightened security. Perhaps it was just a show. In any event, she would not be able to slip out as she had before. She wondered if something else had happened while she was gone. She would find out soon enough.

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The God Wars

Chapter Forty-one:

Stalemate

By Dwayne MacInnes

The next day General Crist had the Respite dock near the inner-island of Atlantis. The hospital ship did not have any more room to take on patients. So, the abandoned and ancient temple of Poseidon acted as a makeshift hospital. The hospital staff ran out of sutures. Thus, to close the wounds on the soldiers, the doctors and nurses used any type of thread or even fishing line.

General Crist also had the artillery pieces positioned near the temple that sat upon a hill in the center of the island. A spotter on the roof of the temple would relay coordinates to the gun crews below and the crews would fire the occasional shot, which exploded on the outer parts of the city.

The Kiska, still positioned outside the city, continued to launch her remaining aircraft to run sorties against Ares forces inside Atlantis. The planes would drop bombs knocking over any structure and destroying more of Ares undead warriors. Whenever Ares forces exposed themselves to the cruiser and destroyers, the ships would fire their guns destroying more.

Many of the structures on the out edge of Atlantis were now burning or destroyed. Ares and Hermes made sure that they did not reveal themselves to the air or naval forces attacking the outer edge of the city. They remembered what these weapons did to Poseidon.

General Crist also made sure to conserve his ammunition. Only visual contact with the enemy warranted an attack. Although they rationed the ammunition, the defenders did not have to worry about food. There was plenty of livestock left behind by the fleeing villagers when they boarded the Olympus.

The general worried about the lack of communication from the Olympus. The ships in Atlantis could still use their radios but whenever they broadcasted a message to the Olympus they never got a response. Crist worried that Ares forces attacked the ship and sunk her leading to the death of thousands of civilians.

* * * * *

The moon was full in the clear night air. Only the flickering flames from some of the burning surrounding buildings gave off any competing light. The entire day Ares' forces weathered the assault of the combined arms of the defenders of Atlantis. Fortunately, Ares thought for the hundredth time, his forces were composed of dead warriors. They did not know fear nor did they have any sort of morale to keep up. If these forces were the mercenaries that Ares led against Zakrostas, he would have had to put down some rebellions.

"Well, Lord Ares," Hermes said breaking the silent night air. "You have them at last in your clutches. What do you propose to do now?"

"We wait," Ares responded. He knew Hermes was getting anxious hiding in the rubble of outer Atlantis.

"How long do we wait?" Hermes persisted. "We cannot cross the canal to get to them and they are well provisioned."

"Until they die!" Ares yelled losing his temper. The god of war paused and held up a hand. "Or at the very least until Hades and Zeus return. We may even get Hephaestus to come down and give us hand. But one thing I will tell you, we have them bottled up. I will not lose this opportunity. Once Hades has destroyed the mortals in the north, he will assist us here. Until then we wait."

Hermes smiled, "You know maybe we have all underestimated you after all. You seem to share some of the wisdom of your half-sister."

Ares snorted and smiled, "These damned Otherworlders have me thinking. I cannot wait until things get back to normal."

Hermes and Ares both laughed for a long time. Their voices echoed across the city to where even the defenders could hear. Podaistas and Crist did not know if the gods were laughing at them or not. Either way it did not sound encouraging.

* * * * *

With the rise of the sun, a few artillery shells slammed into the ground of outer Atlantis. The earth shook and great columns of smoke and debris filled the air. It was not the usual wake-up call Ares and Hermes awakened to but it worked just well as a cock's crow.

Hermes was tempted to fly back to Olympus and bring Hephaestus back to Atlantis. He also wanted to head north to see if Zeus was sitting on his throne. It was three days since anyone had seen the king of the gods.

However, Hermes resisted the desire. Firstly, because the Otherworlders' aircraft still buzzed overhead and he knew what they could do even to a god. Secondly, Hermes did not want to leave Ares alone. The two gods had become closer over the campaign; it was ironic that it had taken millennia for the two gods really to get to know each other.

Hermes instead decided to climb the city wall. It still stood and many of the towers were undamaged. The god of thieves ascended the stone stairs and reached the top of the wall. Through the early morning mist that swirled upon the ground outside the city, Hermes could see the bodies of the two forces littering the sodden field. Broken bronze men lay amongst the wreckage of crumpled aircraft. The decaying bodies of dragons and griffins were scattered amongst the gaping holes in the earth.

There was also the smell. The scent of decay mixed with blood and sewage wafted up from the ground. There was also the strange smell of cordite and newly upturned earth mingled with burning wood -- and flesh.

This scent was like ambrosia to Ares. He drank it in deeply as one would a good wine. However, Hermes found it repulsive and tried his best to keep it from his mind.

Disrupting Hermes mental musings was the sound of thundering hooves emanating from the north. The god of the thieves looked towards the sounds recognized Hades' chariot racing towards the city's gate.

"Ares!" Hermes called over the city. "Come quick. Hades returns."

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I haven't posted a Friday Fun video for a while, so I'll put up this one:

The lead singer is Wakko Warner (aka Jess Harnell) and that was Rock Sugar

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Reunited...

Chapter Seventeen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William's head was spinning around. He was not sure what had happened. The last thing he remembered was telling Princess Angelina that he would handle the situation. The next thing he remembered clearly was being in the suncar and watching the Princess drive. Everything in between, he was fuzzy on what happened.

He was still attempting to shake off the effects of the taser when they neared the castle. He took a deep breath, but volunteered nothing.

"This time," the Princess stated as they pulled in front of the guard house. "Let me handle this."

"You will get no argument from me," replied the Prince.

"How do you feel?" she asked.

"My head is spinning a little bit, but I think I am fine."

"Sorry! I did not anticipate the roadblock. Damn tracking device!"

"I should have realized that they meant business. It is just as much my fault."

"True...."

"Hey!"

"Oh, you caught that."

"You do not get off the hook that easy."

"I will prove my worth now."

"I hope so! I do not think I could take another shock like that."

"Hah! I think you could...."

"Very funny."

The Princess stopped the car where she could easily walk to the guard who was in charge of the gate. Warily, she got out of the suncar. Looking around, she walked up to the guard.

"Open the gate please," she said politely.

"Can I see your authorization?" replied the guard.

"Author...? Do you know who I am?"

"I have my orders. No one in or out without authorization."

"What is your name?"

"My name is none of your concern."

"Very well. My name is Angelina, Princess of Calmondak, Heiress to the Queen Marcellina. I have had it up to here with the disrespect I have been receiving, and I assure you that you will be flogged!"

The guard got a worried look upon his face. He was not sure what to do. He looked left and right at nothing in particular. He was trying to think.

"Flogged!" repeated the Princess. "Now if you would like to survive the day -- open - the - gate."

Without waiting for a reply, the Princess did an about face. Steadily she marched back to the suncar. She entered in a very deliberate fashion. She pulled up to the gate, and the guard did as the Princess requested. The gate opened, and the Princess drove the suncar to the building where her living quarters resided.

The Prince exited the car, but his legs were a bit shaky. Nonetheless, he managed to walk to the door unaided. At first, he was not sure he could. However, he gained strength with every step. In any event, he was exhausted from the 12 or so steps he took, but he made it. There were a few chairs in the entryway. He found one to his liking and sat in it.

Prince William watched as the Princess walked further into the hall. There she met the King and he greeted her warmly. The pair walked off into a nearby meeting room. The Prince at first got up to follow, but he quickly gave up that idea. The Princess said she would handle this, and he would just let her get on with it. His curiosity did strike him a few times, but the walk to the room was simply too daunting. He was content just resting in his comfortable chair.

Occasionally he would hear the King roar something at his daughter. He did not hear Princess Angelina scream anything back. He was hoping this was evidence that she could indeed handle her father. It was times like this that the Prince would attempt to rise only to collapse back down.

The Prince sat for quite a long time as the King and Princess worked out whatever was going to happen. The Prince hoped that it would not result in his death. He hated that his fate was being argued over without him being present, but he did not wish to complicate matters for the Princess. Not to mention that twenty feet was daunting. He had spent quite a bit of time with her, and she was quite capable for a fourteen year old. So, he let her take care of things.

After what seemed like ages, the Princess exited the room with a satisfied smile on her face. Prince William sighed, and arose out of his seat.

"One down," stated the Princess confidently. "One to go."

"You mean?"

"That is right. We will be back on the road tomorrow."

"You said we -- I get to live?"

"For now..."

"Now you have to talk to my father and convince him."

"I hope he will be easier to convince than my dad."

"I hate to say it, but I doubt that he will."

"Anyway, I do not know about you, but I could use a long hot bath!"

"That sounds like it would require moving from this spot. I think I will stay here."

"I will have someone lead you to your quarters when you are ready."

Princess Angelina left the Prince to sit in his chair as she went to her quarters. A hot shower did sound inviting, but the chair was comfortable. Further, they would not leave until the morning. There was plenty of time to freshen up later. He wanted to get his strength back.

After sitting in the chair for a while, Prince William began to feel that he was being scrutinized. Several eyes were upon him. It was not unusual, but it made him feel uneasy. He looked around with a growing discomfort.

He jumped out of the chair just as someone attempted to grab him. The individual that tried to grab him ran out of the front door, so he could not get a look at him or her. He took a few steps towards the door when the rush reached his head. His vision turned into a tunnel, and then it all went black. He fell to the ground with a thud.

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The God Wars

Chapter Forty-two:

In the Vice

By Dwayne MacInnes

When Hermes called his name Ares became instantly alert. The god of war ran towards the city's gates. By the time Ares arrived Hermes was already there awaiting the racing chariot of Hades.

"It must have been a great victory," Hermes said. "He did not even bring his army with him. They must be coming behind him."

Ares frowned; he did not like the look of one chariot racing towards the city. Ares also noticed that Hades was not steady inside the rocking vehicle.

"This is not good," Ares said under his breath.

"What was that?" Hermes asked looking at the god of war.

"Look," Ares pointed towards the chariot now almost at the city's broken gate.

Hades pulled his black chariot up to the two gods. He strained to rein in the horses to a halt and nearly fell into Ares arms once the chariot stopped.

Hermes and Ares both noticed a javelin sticking out of the god of the underworlds shoulder. With a great wrench, Ares pulled it free and blood shot into the air as Hades screamed out in pain.

Hermes quickly started to bind Hades' wound with a dirty cloth. Hades stood up unsteadily on his feet. The god then walked over to the steps of the nearby tower and seated himself upon the stone steps.

"It was horrible," Hades gasped.

"Wine, quick," Ares ordered Hermes. The god of thieves quickly ran towards their supplies and retrieved a leather flask full of wine. He returned to Hades and thrust the bottle between the stricken god's lips. Hades took a few long pulls before finally pushing the flask away.

"What happened?" Ares asked once Hades seemed to strengthen.

"We were ambushed," Hades choked. "My forces were utterly destroyed. I think the Necro-lords escaped, but I cannot be sure. My warriors were felled to a man."

"Damn," Ares cursed.

"It's worse," Hades continued. "They are marching towards Atlantis in great numbers. You cannot hope to fight both forces once they are here."

"Maybe we can return to Olympus and you and Hephaestus could raise an even larger army," Hermes offered lamely.

Hades laughed weakly. "You do not understand. I am close to dying and once I expire my forces will cease to exist."

"How is that?" Ares pressed.

"Hephaestus was able to give his creation true life through his art with the hammer and anvil. He used his sacred steam and gave the Talos the life giving ichor that acts as blood does in a mortal.

"My creations cannot live and therefore can only be reanimated as long as I live. For they borrow life from me"

"Perhaps you are mistaken," Hermes said hopefully. "You may recover."

"No, my friend," Hades said calmly. "None knows death and dying as intimately as I do. I know that I have only a few hours left. You best make the most of it."

Ares slammed his fist into the stone tower knocking huge chips off the side. Ares calmed himself down and looked over to Hermes. The god to the thieves was deep in thought.

"Do you have a plan?" Ares asked.

"Perhaps it would be wise to call a truce," Hermes smiled.

"What?" Ares said. "You must be jesting. I will never surrender!"

Hades coughed up blood as the two gods looked at each other. Hermes sported a smirk and Ares frowned even deeper than before.

"Sometimes," Hermes explained. "You need to entice the snake out of the rock pile before you can cut its head off."

* * * * *

General Crist did not know what to make of Hermes on the far side of the canal. The god stripped of all arms held his hands aloft in surrender. He walked cautiously towards the canal.

"It appears that you have us beaten," Hermes called across the canal.

"How is that?" Crist asked. He knew that Theena was bringing the remainder of the Republic's forces southward. He still had radio contact with Zakrostas and already knew of Hades defeat. After all it was Crist who had warned President Greer that he noticed Hades marching north with a third of Ares' army.

"Please do not play me for a fool, general," Hermes replied. "You must know that your army marches south and will be here within the day."

"If we parley how do we know that you will entreat us honorably?" Crist asked.

"Even we gods have some notion of honor," Hermes replied. "It would be better for both of us if we established borders and respected each other's sovereignty. As proof of our good intentions we will withdraw from the city. We will establish a tent in the field where you and King Podaistas can speak with Ares, Hades, and me. We will give you three hours to consider this. I urge you to not waste this opportunity for another war may lead to mutual destruction."

Hermes retreated slowly by walking backwards. He never took his eyes off Crist as the god of thieves disappeared amongst the stone ruins of the outer city.

"What do you make of it, sir?" a soldier asked.

"I don't know," Crist responded. "There is only one way to find out. I will confer with King Podaistas, and if he agrees, we will meet with the gods to establish a truce."

"Sir, don't you think it could be a trap?"

"That is a risk," the general conceded. "But if it is not we could be squandering a great opportunity if we refuse. If it is a trap the gods better beware, for nothing motivates us humans than a couple of good martyrs."

The soldier nodded, "Or better yet, a sneak attack. I suppose these guys never heard of Pearl Harbor."

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Reunited...

Chapter Eighteen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The Princess soaked in her tub for quite a long time. In her experience, there was nothing like it in the Forbidden Zone city. There, she had to settle for less water consuming cleaning methods. However, in Calmondak the water issues were not as severe. Thus, she could afford this luxury. It was soothing on many levels. Thus, she just sat there without a care in the world.

Further, since she was royalty, no one bothered her with anything while she was bathing. Not even a female servant would disturb her in the bath. She was assured some time alone. These moments were often difficult to come by in her position. Hence, she savored them.

It was early evening when her ritual was finished. She dressed for dinner, and headed to eat with her family. She had been away for a while and it would be an excellent occasion to catch up. She noticed that Prince William was absent; however, that would not be unusual. Many times, the dinner was reserved for family only. In this way, they could speak of any family business without restriction. Thus, at this dinner, there was only the immediate family.

As the meal went on, she realized how much she missed her brother. The pair talked at great length. Prince James felt the same way about his sister, and he wanted to hear all about her adventures. They talked and laughed well into the evening. It was quite late when she took her leave. She had a long trip in the morning. She hoped all would go well, and she would see them again soon.

The Princess peeked into Prince Williams's room to find that he was not there. Since he had nearly free access to the castle complex, it was not strange for him not to be in his room. The Princess did not give it a second thought. She was tired, and she would track him down in the morning.

The Princess readied herself for bed. She asked one of her attendants to have her awakened early in the morning. In addition, she asked about the Prince, but no one had seen him. With a shrug, she dismissed her staff. Without another thought of the Prince, the Princess climbed into her bed.

Her bed was as soft as she remembered. The comfort she experienced was without match. The bath, the bed, the time with family was such a comfort to her. However, what she was embarking upon could end it all. She could lead a life of pampered comfort, or she could jump into the great unknown.

Nonetheless, if she continued to stay in the comfort, she could be married off to some stranger. Her father could need some support somewhere, and he could use her to create an alliance. This chosen mate could be an awful person. Perhaps even King Thorbjorn would need another wife. With the path of uncertainty, away from comfort, came freedom. She would be able to decide her fate. She would be in charge. Thus, she came up against the great conundrum. Would she be led around in a life of comfort, or would she take charge and go off into the unknown.

She tossed and turned with these thoughts going around in her head. What she hoped would be a restful sleep was anything but. It was a big step for her. She felt that she was still a kid. After all, she was only fourteen years old. When her attendant entered to arouse her from her bed, she did not want to leave its warm comfort.

Reluctantly, she did get out of her bed and dressed for the trip to the Lakeland Castle. There, she was would have to face the man she abandoned. It was this old man, who she was to wed, that she insulted by running away. She would now need to negotiate with him. He would have to agree to the terms she set. It was going to be a tough negotiation. She hoped that he would see the benefits of her proposal. After all, it was just business.

When she was completely dressed and packed, she walked to Prince William's quarters. However, he was not to be found there. She asked around, but no one had seen him. In fact, no one had spoken to the Prince since he had left for the Forbidden Zone. For all they knew, he had not returned with the Princess.

She checked with the guard who was supposed to help him to his room. However, that guard claimed that there was no one in the chair in which she directed him. This guard claimed that he asked around, and no one had observed the Prince. Thus, he thought the Princess played a joke upon him.

The Princess asked more people, but no one knew anything about the Prince. No one had spoken to him or seen him at all. They behaved as if she made the entire thing up. It was as if he did not get past the roadblock. The Princess began to get upset.

My father lied to me! thought the Princess.

She rushed to her father's study. He was not there. She checked his bedroom. She checked the meeting rooms. She checked the observation lounge. The more she searched for her father; the more she was convinced that he was hiding the Prince from her.

He was probably interrogating him right now, she thought angrily.

Finally, she found her father in the dining hall. The thoughts of the King torturing the Prince vanished as he sat there eating his breakfast. Nonetheless, she was still angry.

"Where is he?" asked the Princess.

"Where is who?" replied the King innocently.

"Do not treat me like a child father," responded the Princess with a sharp tone. "Where is Prince William?"

"I do not have any idea. Did you check his room?"

"Father! Of course, I checked his room. Now where did you take him?"

"I do not have any idea what you are talking about."

"I spoke to the Prince after speaking with you. I left him for the evening, and now he is nowhere to be found."

"Did you speak with your staff?"

"FATHER! You are the final stop in looking for the Prince. Now tell me where you took him!"

"Why do you think I took him?"

"You are the most exasperating man! Now, tell me where he is or so help me..."

"Can I finish my meal?"

"No!"

"I can only follow the same steps which you did."

"I know about the tracking device."

"Tracking device?"

"Yes. So, if you did not take him," she stated attempting to control her temper. "You can ask your staff where he is."

"I am sure I have no clue about a tracking device, but I will ask my staff if they know where he is."

"Now!"

"Yes dear."

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The God Wars

Chapter Forty-three:

The New Arrivals

By Dwayne MacInnes

With the assistance from the ships, the forces of Atlantis again possessed the outer city. Soldiers lined the wall and overlooked the broken battlefield that they had crossed just days before. Several hundred yards away stood a large tent.

A small squad of soldiers escorted King Podaistas and General Crist halfway towards the tent. The king agreed with Crist about the benefits outweighing the risks. He also agreed that if the gods tried something underhanded, they did not truly understand the mortals.

King Podaistas and General Crist finally left the escort behind. They would cross the rest of the way alone across the devastated land. The men sometimes had to cover their noses due to the stench of rotting corpses. Crist noted that they would have to do something soon about the dead or there could be an outbreak of disease amongst the soldiers.

"You say my people are safe?" Podaistas asked as the two men continued towards the tent.

"Yes, Olympus made port in Zakrostas this morning," Crist replied. "They had a fight with Zeus in which they killed the god, and in the exchange, his lightning bolts fried their radio. But no one was harmed."

The king smiled, "It looks like the prophecy was correct. If we can negotiate a treaty with the gods we may truly be free."

General Crist nodded solemnly, "The gods are only one problem. But, from where I come from sometimes humans can be worse. I'll have to tell you about this guy called Hitler sometime."

The men neared the tent. They pulled back the flaps to see Ares and Hermes sitting at a table. Hades with his mortal wound lay further inside the tent on a cot. He did not even raise his head when the two men entered. Hades just lay there staring at the ceiling oblivious to all around him.

"Gentlemen, welcome," Hermes greeted. "I am sorry, but Hades is grievously wounded. You will forgive him if he does not rise."

Both King Podaistas and General Crist nodded their assent. Ares rose and pointed at two chairs opposite him at the table with his bladed left hand. The two men seated themselves as Hermes and Ares retook their chairs.

"Well, shall we begin?" Hermes asked.

* * * * *

Theena and her army marched to Atlantis. The Amazon of Knopso noticed that the fighting had been fierce. The bodies of men, Ares warriors, Talos, griffins, dragons, and horses littered the broken ground around the city. The city itself did not look much better. Smoke still rose from many places to fill the cloud-laden sky.

The general had brought with her every available soldier and militia member as well as the remaining tanks, trucks and jeeps. A long train of horses followed bringing much needed supplies. Overhead, the seven new Hercules fighters circled, joining the remaining Hellcats and Avengers.

General Theena marched up to the city wall. "Where are the general and King Podaistas?"

A soldier on the wall shouted down, "They are negotiating with the gods in yonder tent."

Theena followed the soldier's finger to the large tent hundreds of yards off. The Amazon of Knopso felt a gnawing distrust in her stomach. Without further word, she took off towards the tent at a run. Without even thinking, she grabbed the sword at her waist.

* * * * *

Ares smiled as the two men seated themselves at the table. Hermes shuffled some parchments and was about to place them on the table when without notice Ares flung the table at the men.

King Podaistas rolled out of the way of the table and drew his sword. General Crist was just a fraction of a second slower in dodging to one side drawing his Colt .45 automatic pistol. The table broke in several large pieces as it crashed into the ground.

Tossing the table was just the diversion Ares needed. Utilizing the surprise Ares drew his own sword and leaped towards the two men. Even though they were now on opposite sides of the tent, the god wasted no time.

Before the king could swing his sword, Ares lashed out with his bladed hand. He slashed Podaistas across the stomach giving the monarch a mortal wound. Podaistas fell backwards holding his stomach, blood seeped between his fingers as he landed on the ground.

Crist emptied his .45 into the god as he turned towards the general. Ares smiled noticing the bullets merely stung him but nothing more. With his sword, Ares plunged his tip deep into Crist's body.

* * * * *

The soldiers around Atlantis were surprised to hear the repeated report of a pistol firing from inside the tent. As they watched, they could see General Theena disappear inside the tent. Off in the distance also approaching were two people in a bright gold chariot pulled by two blindingly white horses. The driver was a man and alongside him was a woman whose head a deep green cloak covered.

Most of the men stood stunned in silence not truly understanding what was going on. However, a few started to sprint across the broken ground towards the tent. These few men spurred the rest into action. Soon the entire armies of Atlantis and Zakrostas were running towards the tent.

* * * * *

Crist fell into a seated position on the ground as Ares pulled the blade from his gut. A great bout of blood flew into the air. Ares smiled as he raised the sword for the finishing stroke.

However, before the killing stroke fell another blade blocked it. Ares turned to see his new assailant. Hermes who up to now kept to the back of the tent gave off a stifled yelp. There standing before the gods stood a woman wearing the traditional armor of the Greeks. Her face was in a frown and a deep rage burned in her blue eyes beneath her helmet.

"I figured you snakes would try something like this!" the woman spat.

Ares jumped back to give himself room to fight. He smiled a malicious grin as he glared at the woman, "Well, sister it looks like we will now see who is truly the better warrior. Prepare to die Athena!"

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Now get me my TRON helmet!

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Reunited...

Chapter Nineteen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William opened his eyes, and the blackness eventually gave way to white. His head hurt. Even moving it hurt, so he dared not touch it. It even hurt when he looked around. He felt glad that nothing else hurt.

He found himself in a sterile white room. The bed he was on was covered with white sheets. The walls were white. The bright white light reflected off every surface. Wherever he was, it was very bright (and white).

He did not know how long he had been unconscious, but it felt like several hours. There were no windows in his room, so he could not tell if it were night or day. The Prince had gone through a rough stretch, and he was enjoying the warm and comfortable bed. However, he knew the Princess would be looking for him. Thus, he decided to get up.

That is when he noticed that he was strapped to the bed. He was not going anywhere. He shrugged. There was nothing he could do; thus, he relaxed. The fact that he was still alive made him hopeful. He believed that the Princess would be along soon enough. Thus, he did the only thing he could do; he hoped for the best.

He almost slipped back into unconsciousness when a nurse came by to check on him.

"Is there a reason I am strapped to this bed," Prince William asked the nurse to his surprise.

"You had a fall," the nurse replied. "It was a precaution to prevent you from falling out of the bed."

"Can you free me?"

"Without doctors orders -- no."

"So, I am a prisoner here?"

"Do not be silly. You had a nasty fall, and you would not get far. You probably cannot even stand. Since the doctor does not want you to injure yourself further, you are fastened to the bed."

"So, I am a prisoner here..."

"If you insist on thinking that way, go ahead. I will tell the doctor you are awake and anxious to leave."

"I would appreciate that! By the way, what time is it?"

"7:30," he replied.

"AM or PM," inquired Prince William.

"You did have a nasty fall."

"My head thanks you for the obvious diagnosis."

"It is morning," responded the nurse curtly.

Prince William struggled against his restraints, but his head complained. The nurse was right; he probably could not stand. The exertion against the restraints nearly knocked him out. Even if he were free, he would not be able to get to the Princess.

Once again, he was nearly asleep when someone arrived. This time it was the doctor.

"How do you feel?" the doctor asked.

"Like a twelve gallon head in a ten gallon hat," replied the Prince.

"That is to be expected."

"How did I get here?"

"My nurse found you on the floor in the lobby. He brought you here."

"Where is here?"

"You are in the infirmary -- in Calmondak Castle."

"What happened?"

"You fainted and hit your head on the floor. It was a fairly hard blow. As I said, my nurse found you on the floor and brought you here."

"You treated me?"

"Yes, and I recommend you stay where you are. You will not be stable on your feet for a few days."

"I was to travel to Lakeland today."

"I strongly recommend you delay your trip."

"It really is not up to me."

"The trip should wait until your wounds heal. I cannot be any more plain than that. I am sure your traveling companion would understand."

"You do not know the Princess very well..."

"You should rest. Let the Princess worry about her travel plans."

The doctor checked the straps, and gave a reassuring look to Prince William. The Prince did not feel reassured, but he was still strapped to the bed. Clearly, nothing he could say or do would change the minds of the infirmary staff. He was staying put for the time being.

With a shrug, the Prince closed his eyes. His head was throbbing, and he wished it would stop. He drifted off to sleep. His mind raced around his condition. He dreamed that a mad scientist was tinkering in his brain. He tried to struggle, but was strapped to the bed. His dream continued as the scientist poked, prodded, and gave him different thoughts. Pain turned to colors. The colors began to twirl.

The colors turned to bright white as he opened his eyes. It seemed like a short nap, but another nurse came to check in with him. William tried to speak, but he was lost for words. He noticed that he had some sort of IV drip. He wondered if he had that when he woke up the first time. He wondered if they were actually experimenting with his brain. He drifted back into the strange dreamland he had previously emerged.

Perhaps this is what the King had in mind all along -- to use him in brain experiments. Who was that man that tried to grab him? Was he drugged? Perhaps that is why he blacked out. Maybe this all was a ruse. Perhaps the deal Princess Angelina made with King Jonathan was not what he thought.

In and out of the dream and semi-dream state, Prince William drifted. His mind ran from one subject to another. He went from serene to panic to wonder to any other emotion. He tried to concentrate but was unable to grab onto anything. It was as if he did not have control over his own thoughts. The drugs! he briefly thought before his mind wondered onto the next subject.

His mind kept returning to the Princess. It was in her that he could concentrate for longer stretches. His uncertainty about her began to drift away. His suspicions slowly faded. His pleasant thoughts prevented him from going into the darkness. His curiosity about his current situation kept his thoughts from swirling around. Finally, he drifted off into a more restful sleep.

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