August 2010 Archives

Reunited...

Chapter Thirty-Six

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William rode into the Capitol without knowing where they were holding his father. In fact, he did not even know where to begin looking. Who was holding him would have also been helpful. It was one of those things, which he should have discovered before he left. He should have gotten that information from the individual he spoke to on the communication device. It was a little late for that. Now he needed to begin looking. Where to start?

The Prince spent some time in the taverns and boarding houses. These locations were usually good places to find information about strangers. Particularly in a main governmental city there should be lots of people coming and going. However, the patrons were very wary of speaking to him. He could not get anything from people who were usually quite talkative. At least, they were from where he hailed.

The servers and patrons were very quiet. They were friendly, but they only went so far. They did not talk about anything more than the weather and the like. It seemed like something had changed in their world that made them frightened. It was as if they would be in trouble for discussing things with foreigners. Was this what it was like living in mob-rule? Was some sort of increase in trouble occurring?

The Prince became very frustrated with his lack of progress. He did something that he never thought he would ever do. He went to the local law enforcement office. Perhaps a missing person report would be the solution to his trouble. After all, this is the type of thing, which they would handle regularly. At least, the Prince thought they would. In any event, he had no where else to turn.

"I would like to report a missing person," stated the Prince to the man at the desk.

"You must be Prince William Thorbjornson of Lakeland," replied the sergeant.

"Why -- yes. Yes, I am. How would you know that?"

"We have been expecting you."

"Why...?"

"Your father stated that you would be coming."

"You have seen my father?"

"Naturally. Where did you think he was?"

"I did not know."

"You did not know what he was planning?"

"No. I did not even know he was here until I made a phone call."

"So, you have no knowledge of his attempting to procure raiders for an illegal operation?"

"What? Raiders?"

"Yes, he was arrested. He was caught in one of our major sting operations."

"He -- is -- under arrest?"

"That is correct."

"I was not expecting that."

"What? Did you expect him to be kidnapped by Pirates?"

"Actually..."

"That is a myth. We are taking great strides in this area. Hence, your father was a victim of our increased enforcement."

"That explains the tensions in the taverns..."

"What?"

"Nothing. May I see my father?"

"Certainly. Officer McHever here will show you the way. "

A buzzer sounded and the police officer opened a door. She pointed down a long corridor. Warily, the Prince walked down the hall. She indicated a door, which she unlocked and opened.

The room was stark. It had a reinforced glass window running down the center. Up against the window were a set of tables and chairs. At each chair, there was a communication device. Prince William got his choice of chairs. He sat down and waited. After a long while, a door on the other side of the glass wall opened. In walked his father, King Thorbjorn.

The king's hands were cuffed, and his legs were shackled together. He was not dressed in his usual clothing, but he wore orange coveralls. He shuffled up to the table across from his son. He took a chair and picked up the device on his side.

"Hello son," the King said humbly.

"What have you done?" asked the Prince sternly.

"It is just a big misunderstanding."

"You tried to hire raiders to attack Princess Angelina's new kingdom!"

"I just wished to test her defenses."

"You are incredible!"

"This can all be straightened out. I just need you to bail me out."

"I do not know if I want to."

"Son please..."

"Do not give me that! I have known the Princess a long time. In fact, I know her better than I know you. If you get out, you are just going to find some way to get at her."

"That's not fair!" replied the King.

"Oh it is not eh! She said you would be here."

"What?"

"We had a wager. I said you would be home making arrangements for the transfer of power. She said you would be here."

"She knew?"

"She is incredibly wise for fourteen. She knows you better than I do."

"This is all just a big mix-up. I promise I will behave."

"I wish I could believe you."

"If you will not do it for me, do it for the others."

"You got your entire entourage arrested?"

"They came to my defense like they should have."

"Assault, conspiracy, and who knows what else... Anyway, they told me that you have some money stashed locally -- where is it?"

"It is in a hotel safe -- well several hotels..."

"Which ones?"

"All of them."

"You have money in each safe in each hotel?"

"You cannot be too careful."

"They certainly are not going to trust me. How do I get them to open the safes?"

"That McHever woman will give you my access information."

"You mean Police Officer McHever?"

"Whatever!"

"I still do not know if I should do this."

"Please... We have been here for several days. We are not used to this kind of treatment."

"You are not. That is for certain!"

"I do not know how much longer we can hold out."

"Do not give me that!"

"It is just a misunderstanding. I will make it right."

"If you get out of here..."

"Right -- son. Please."

"I will see what I can do."

Prince William waved, and Officer McHever opened the door to let him out. Another guard escorted the King back to his cell. The Prince had found his father, but now what was he going to do?

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 18

By Dwayne MacInnes

President Tucker listened to another fly buzzing in the window. He was half-tempted to open the window to let the pest fly off and explore Austin. However, the president was still waiting to hear the news about the raid on Littleton. If they were successful, there was a good chance the U.S. would sue for peace.

Tucker shot up at his desk when he heard the knock on the door. "Enter," said the president with his excitement barely controlled. A young female aide walked in with a handful of papers.

"Any word about the raid yet?" Tucker asked anxiously.

"Not yet, sir," the woman said placing the papers on the desk before the president. "Here is some legislation before the congress you may want to look over."

Tucker looked over the papers. His face exhibiting disappointment that there still was no word about the raid. The look of disappointment turned to downright anger as the president reviewed one of the sheets of papers on the desk. He read and reread it twice before confronting his aide.

"Sue Ellen, what is this bill here?"

The woman walked over behind the desk, looked over Tucker's shoulder, and read Bill 187: Supreme Rights. She pulled herself up straight and answered in a neutral voice. "Sir, that is the bill being pushed by the Klan."

"I know that!" snapped Tucker. "I've told Congress we can't have this type of trash being debated in the congress."

"Sir, the white supremacists have a number of seats in the House and Senate."

Tucker knew that and it angered him. He wanted a new republic that was better than the United States. However, too many whites either feared or thought they were superior to minorities.

Bill 187 wanted to expel all Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, Catholics, and other undesirables from the Republic of New Texas. Tucker had seen several similar bills in the past month and a half. So far, none had passed congress. However, as the economy of the New Republic failed to really take hold, in large part thanks to the embargo and blockade being enforced by the United States, more people were looking for scapegoats to blame their problems on. It was a good chance this bill may pass this time.

"You tell them in Congress that if they pass this bill I will veto it," Tucker grumbled. The last thing he needed was to have the New Republic of Texas equated with Nazi Germany.

"Sir, there was another incident here in Austin," Sue Ellen stated.

Tucker knew what she meant. The attacks had been becoming more frequently across the country as time went on.

"What were they this time?" Tucker asked in a sullen voice.

"Six Hispanics, two Jews, a homosexual and a Catholic."

"No blacks this time?"

"Well, sir the homosexual was an African American."

"Great," grumbled Tucker. "I guess they figured it was two for one."

Before Tucker could say anything more on the topic, another aide walked into the office. "Sir," the excited man said as he placed his compu-phone on the desk atop the papers Sue Ellen brought in earlier. "We have finally received word on the raid."

"Well, it is official my friends," the voice of Flash Limbeck said from the compu-phone. Retrieving Limbeck proved to be a major coup, his broadcasts were still popular amongst his listeners in the States. In addition, it was a great embarrassment to the U.S. to have lost such a high-profile prisoner. Now in Austin, Flash continued to broadcast his show and Tucker made sure he embellished how great things were in the New Republic.

"Yes, it looks like 'Operation Snakehead' undertaken by Buck Dubois against our aggressors has been immensely successful. Although, our raiders were armed with old fighters and bombers, it looks like the United States was unable, with their superior forces, to stop Buck from carrying out his mission.

"What was that mission? You ask. Well, friends it was nothing short of destroying the Army Reserve Center in Littleton, New Mexico that General Powell Davis just recently occupied. It is uncertain if the General had been killed at this time, but at the very least, he would have been severely wounded. Therefore, the snake's head has been removed.

"Now, on a sad note, Buck Dubois and his brave raiders were all shot down. There has been no word if Buck survived. In any event, he will be remembered as a hero to Texas and her people. However, I want you to hear this from me first, the United States is claiming that Buck's raid bombed a school and destroyed several homes and business. I can assure you that this is just propaganda by the Ramirez administration to smear the New Republic of Texas and to make themselves look good.

Tucker looked at the aide who owned the compu-phone. "We bombed a school?"

"Ah, yes sir. In our haste to map out the raid on the Army Reserve Center no one noticed the school on the map across the street from the center."

President Tucker sat back in his chair and put his head in his hands. No matter how Flash spun it, the New Republic of Texas had just bombed a school and killed a number of children. The raiders could have done nothing more to ensure the wrath of the United States against the New Republic of Texas.

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Limerick Day

Limericks

By Douglas E. Gogerty

August 8th 2010 was proclaimed to be Limerick Day in Minneapolis. For such a momentous occasion a contest was held. As one who would not pass up such a thing, I sent in a number. I kept them local and I kept them clean. Despite this, two of them were chosen as finalists. Thus, in the place of my story, and to commemorate the day, I present the two finalist limericks.

* * * * *

There once was a man from Saint Paul
Who was as wide as he was tall.
Walking down the street
Really hurt his feet,
So instead, he rolled along like a ball.

* * * * *

A man climbing the IDS Tower
Walked up for more than an hour
He had to stop
well before the top
Because his legs lost all their power.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 19

By Dwayne MacInnes

Even after Texas had seceded from the United States, many areas remained under U.S. control. For example, all U.S. military bases remained under the control of the various U.S. armed forces. It was of utmost importance that none of these fell to rebel forces, especially those bases housing nuclear arms. This did not pose too much of a problem for the United States, for its military was by far better armed than those of the New Republic of Texas.

Other areas that remained under U.S. control were the oilfields and refineries belonging to those companies that were cooperative and remained loyal to the U.S.. Even President Tucker forbade attacks on any of these areas. Mainly because he felt that once the 60 days allowed Ramirez under the War Powers Act were up, the U.S. would finally recognize Texas as a new nation and would have to turn over all her territory. However, there were a few skirmishes between the rebels and the U.S. military.

West Texas quickly removed itself from the New Republic of Texas and became a new state within the United States. The U.S. government was quick to move in large numbers of military forces to help protect the new state's borders. Clashes between the U.S. and New Republican forces were frequent but hardly drawn-out affairs.

Finally, some of the larger coastal cities, especially those with ports like Galveston and Houston remained under U.S. control. Local partisans would attack the occasional occupation force, but these too were infrequent for neither side wanted to harm the local citizenry.

T.J. thought about all this and more as he waited in a dark corner of a local parking garage in Houston. He knew his father would be here for business, and T.J. wanted to speak to him without anyone else present. The younger Murdock had not spoken with his father since the beginning of the secession.

It was common that the two would not see each other for long lengths of times. George Murdock would sometimes use his son to set up and manage business meetings. It was mainly as a test as well as training to prepare T.J. for taking over the company someday. However, since the war broke out, business meetings for the oil companies in Texas were few and George had little time to worry about his son.

After waiting for what felt like an eternity, T.J. heard the footsteps of a man walking down the concrete ramp. T.J. pulled himself back into the shadows lest he reveal his presence to the wrong person. The younger Murdock smiled as he recognized his father walking alone and tapping the keypad on his car to unlock the door.

"Father," T.J. said as he approached behind the older man.

George stood up straight and slowly turned around. "I wondered when I would hear from you," George stated flatly. "You miss your allowance?"

"We need to talk."

"Indeed we do," the elder Murdock replied as he motioned for T.J. to enter the passenger side of the vehicle.

T.J. quickly glanced around the garage before he entered the vehicle. George seated himself in the driver's side and spoke to the car's computer, "Ignition."

The electric motor hummed to life. Almost every car made in the world today was either electric or a hybrid. George Murdock preferred the hybrid models.

"Well, what is it you want?" George asked as he pulled out of the garage and onto the city street.

"Why did you cut off my access to our money?"

"I guess that is just it. It is not 'our' money, but mine."

"Father, be reasonable. It will be mine someday and I was trying to set up a deal that would secure our company's future."

George arched an eyebrow as he stole a glance towards his son's face. "Really? I'm interested in hearing the details. If you can convince me it is a good plan, you will have access to all the funds you need."

"We are in a unique position," T.J. started. "We can use this war to our advantage."

"How so?"

"If we can successfully win our independence from the United States and if we help back the cause, we could end up with a number of new oilfields within the New Republic of Texas." T.J. noticed the scowl on his father's face and quickly started to lay out his case before his father could interrupt him.

"Think about it. The oil companies that stay with the United States are going to lose their lands and facilities once the Republic wins its independence. Those new properties will be redistributed amongst those companies that were loyal to the cause, especially to those that helped win the war."

T.J. noticed that his father's knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel so hard, as his face turned deep red. T.J. knew he had failed in convincing his father and now he would have to endure the inevitable tirade that was about to ensue.

"You stupid halfwit!" George yelled. "Did you think about what would happen to our assets outside of Texas? If we back Texas and win this little war as you claim and we do pickup some new properties, it would hardly cover those lost to us in California, Alaska, Louisiana and others scattered across the globe! Do you think the United States is going to sit idly by as we pour money into this stupid cause of yours and then let us keep all our fields and refineries within their borders?"

"But father…"

"No, you listen to me," George said forcefully. "You quit yourself of any notion of helping out the rebels in this war. It will bring us all down."

"Father it is too late. I have made a large order with an arms dealer and I need $700 million or else," T.J. blurted out frantically trying to move his father toward compassion.

George pulled the car over to the sidewalk and slammed on the brakes. As the car squealed to a stop, the elder Murdock stared into the eyes of the younger. "You will get nothing," George said in a cold voice. "I am being watched by the U.S. government and I will not have you ruin my company. I do not agree with this independence nonsense and you are a fool to think Texas will win this war."

"All we have to do is wait for Ramirez's 60 days to expire and we will be free. It is just another few days."

George pushed the button to unlock T.J's door. "You obviously did not hear what happened earlier this morning. After what went down in Littleton there will be an official Congressional backed declaration of war and your little political enterprise will be dead. Much like you now are to me. I am going to report you and your actions to the United States. You may get out."

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Reunited...

Chapter Thirty-Seven

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Princess Angelina sat in a large conference room in the main government building of the State Capitol. The people there treated her very well. They attended to her every want. However, the thing she wanted the most; they were reluctant to provide. She simply wanted a non-aggression treaty with them. This was the one thing that the leadership did not wish to provide. She was waiting on the one person who could submit the request to the proper people. It seemed to be quite a complicated process.

"Miss, I am Governor Campbell."

"I am Angelina..." began the Princess. "Angelina Dakota -- sovereign of the newly formed kingdom of..."

"I know who you are," interrupted Governor Campbell. "We can dispense with all of this formality and get down to business."

"My request is quite simple. I wish to establish relations with the officials of the Pirate Penninsula."

"Excuse me. We prefer the Sunshine State."

"I beg your pardon. In establishing this non-aggression pact, both parties will benefit greatly."

"That is not how we see it, and past history will fall on my side."

"How so?"

"In the past, any excuse seemed to be a good excuse to break any treaty we established with a kingdom."

"I would never..."

"The people of our state have a great deal of freedom. They are responsible for their own actions. Hence, if a -- pirate for the lack of a better term -- were to attack your kingdom, they would be completely culpable for their actions."

"That is fair."

"If you caught the individual, we would want full responsibility for the punishment of the perpetrator. After all, they are our citizens. However, if you are not satisfied with the action against the individual, how would your respond? Further, would you hold the entire state responsible for that single action -- whatever it is?"

"I see what you mean."

"In your world, you are responsible for the actions of your citizens. If someone disobeys your commands, it is punishable by death or any severe punishment you can consider. I -- and the rest of the government officials here -- do not wield such power. We have a system that takes into account many variables. We punish based upon our principles. Death is mostly not an option. Further, we have rules against cruel punishments."

"This is how you get a reputation as a haven for pirates and raiders."

"We are working on that reputation. Our freedoms are hard won. When the rest of Morica was falling into warring kingdoms, we remained free. Every person has a voice in the policies of our state. We take these freedoms quite seriously."

"How do the ignorant masses know enough to make the difficult state decisions?"

"We educate everyone. We have the most comprehensive school system anywhere. Further, we distribute vast amounts of information to each citizen over the internet. It helps them be informed about the decisions we make. When everyone was warring around us, it was quite difficult to maintain our system. There were obstructions and obstructionists who would look out for their sole interests and not the interests of everyone. Most of those issues have been ironed out."

"I do not see how this system would work. Is there not a constant power struggle between various factions?"

"Our system is built upon compromise. We attempt to keep everyone's interest in mind. Sometimes a group of people will get the short end, but we try to minimize the impact in those instances. Further, we attempt to spread those instances around."

"But," replied the Princess. "Each decision seems to take a very long time. Is there not anyone who can make quick decisions? What happens in a time of emergency?"

"As the executive, I have certain powers to make certain decisions. For instance, I can begin the process to establish a treaty with you. However, there is a long process to make it official."

"I just do not see how you can get anything done."

"At one time, all of Morica was like us. It became the most powerful country in the world."

"Then it all fell into chaos, so whose system is better?"

"Kingdoms will only prosper with the proper sovereign in place. The kingdom you are starting has risen and fell many times. It will continue to do so well after you are gone."

"Things will be different with me..."

"The problem is not you, but your successor. How can you make an unbiased choice that is beneficial to your people? You cannot. Kings and queens have always chosen their relatives for succession. These relatives are not always the most fit to rule. That is how our system is better. We handle succession better."

"You have had some poorly chosen leaders -- in my lifetime."

"While that is true, their limited power lessens the damage that they can do."

"...and this reputation as the Pirate Peninsula came from nowhere?"

"We have begun a systematic crackdown on the problem element. In fact, one of those kings you are so fond of was caught in one of our 'sting' operations."

"I know of whom you speak, and I would not say that I am particularly fond of King Thorbjorn. After all, it was I that he wanted to force out of power."

"We will not put up with that kind of activity any longer. The piracy and raiding businesses are almost all gone. Thus, you need not worry about that."

"I would still feel a great deal better with a treaty in writing, but I understand your crazy system better now."

"Governments go in cycles. Your kingdoms will breakdown, and it will lead to this crazy system as you call it."

"Be that as it may, I appreciate you attempting to alleviate the raids. If that is all I can count on, I guess it will have to do. Thank you for your time."

"You're welcome."

The Princess left the Capitol building without her treaty, but she was hopeful that there would be no trouble coming from this place. She was confident that would be true as long as Governor Campbell was in charge. Someone else might not work out as well. She was going to have to watch this place closely.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 20

By Dwayne MacInnes

T.J. walked up to the entrance of the Texas Hold 'Em. Billy Jones, one of the establishment's largest bouncers stood at the darkened glass doors with his arms folded over his western shirt. Now that the Gentleman's Club was also a brothel, the club tightened security.

"Howdy," Jones said tipping his cowboy hat towards T.J. "What's your order of business?"

"Come on Billy, I set this meeting up with Dave Richter your boss days ago."

"That may be true. But you still need to pay to get inside," Billy replied holding out a beefy hand.

T.J. sighed and reached into his back pocket for his wallet. As he retrieved it, he flipped it open and began to count out some bills.

"Wait, none of those useless 'slickbucks'," Billy cautioned. The New Republic of Texas had issued its own currency called Oil Dollars or OD for short. However, they proved as useless within the country as they did outside of it. Gold, silver, and the good old U.S. dollar were the only forms of currency recognized by anyone in the New Republic.

T.J. scowled and pulled out a couple of hundred U.S. dollars with the face of Benjamin Franklin and shoved them into Billy's greedy hand. Then T.J. shoved the hundred oil dollar bills with Sam Houston's face back into his wallet.

"Welcome to the Texas Hold 'Em," Billy said holding the door open for T.J. to enter.

T.J. entered the dark smoke filled foyer. He noticed many new faces inside the establishment. Some were servers, others were prostitutes, and others were patrons. With the country's economy in shambles the only means of employment for many women was in the sex trade. In fact, the only businesses that were really making any money were the ones in the sex trade, even here in the U.S. controlled Houston.

T.J. noticed many minorities amongst the scantily clad women bustling around the room. It had to be especially hard on them considering the restrictions and threats issued by the white supremacists that were growing in number inside Texas.

"Can I help you relax, sir?" a young Asian woman said rubbing her small body against T.J.

T.J. pulled back and shook his head.

"Lula, you leave T.J. to me," a brunette said as she walked up and took T.J's arm.

"Hello, Sally," T.J. smiled finding someone he recognized. Sally smiled in returned.

"Say, Sugar, we have the boardroom prepared as usual," Sally said leading T.J. to the boardroom.

T.J. took the opportunity to have a few drinks before Mr. Vargas arrived. Murdock could not help staring at the two brief cases before him on the table. He only hoped it would be enough to satisfy Mr. Vargas.

The room was set up the same as their previous meeting. A half dozen nude woman waited in the room patiently for their clients to make demands. So far, the only demands made were for the woman behind the bar to make T.J. another Scotch.

T.J. did not have to wait too long before Mr. Vargas accompanied by two large men stepped into the room. Mr. Vargas smiled when he saw T.J. sitting at the table and pulled up a chair across from the oilman.

The two men stood behind Mr. Vargas their eyes hidden behind their dark sunglasses. Their faces bore no expression and they made no noise.

"Good to see you again, Mr. Murdock," Vargas said smiling when he noticed the briefcases in front of T.J. "I take it you and your government were happy with your shipment."

T.J. smiled, "Yes, they were most pleased."

"Ah, good. It always makes me happy when we can please our customers," Vargas smiled. Mr. Vargas then snapped his fingers and the two men behind him started to move. "Ladies, we won't need you tonight. Thank you."

The women began to leave the room. However, before they reached the door one of the two men would give each hostess a U.S. $500 bill. The women smiled and then left the four men alone in the room.

Once they were alone Vargas spoke again still with a friendly smile on his face. "I think this time we should conduct business alone."

T.J. took another sip of his Scotch. The liquid warmed his insides, but it did not fill him with the strength he needed.

"Now, as agreed you will provide me the money for this shipment and we can discuss another order, no?"

T.J. frowned and Vargas noticed it. "Mr. Murdock what is the problem?"

"I don't have all the money. But I can get it if you give me more time," T.J. babbled quickly.

"How much do you have?"

T.J. pushed the briefcases towards Vargas. Vargas motioned for one of his bodyguards to open the cases. One case held U.S. currency all bound up neatly. The other held Texan oil dollars also neatly bound.

"There is about $40 million U.S. and another 300 in oil dollars. I can get the rest from the government in a few days…"

Vargas frowned deeply and held up a hand to forestall T.J's constant babbling. "Look here Mr. Murdock," Vargas said in a bloodless tone. "I will take the U.S. money and consider it a down payment for services rendered. However, your oil dollars are useless to us.

"I don't care how you get the rest, but it must be in U.S. dollars, gold, diamonds or the like," Mr. Vargas said snapping shut the briefcase with the U.S. currency. "Your government's money is not even worth anything in your country. So ask your father, your politicians for the rest of the money. I will give you twenty-four hours, or…well, you really do not want to find out," Vargas concluded with an evil smile before leaving Murdock alone in the room.

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I would watch "Blackstar Warrior" in the theater! Hat tip to io9 and Dwayne.

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Reunited...

Chapter Thirty-Eight

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"I am sorry Mr. -- uh -- Mr. Lakeland -- but we cannot allow you to leave," explained a clerk.

"I am King Thorbjorn of Lakeland!" replied the King in a rage. "You will respect me!"

"I beg your pardon -- er -- sire."

"That is a little better," responded the King with a little less ire. "Now I have paid my ransom, I wish to leave."

"Um ... sire. It was bail."

"Whatever, it has been paid!"

"However, there is a large crowd outside."

"What are you talking about?"

"The people of this state have found out about your arrest. They have been protesting outside for weeks, and the crowds continue to grow."

"How did this sort of information leak out?"

"Well -- um -- well -- we have freedom of the press."

"Which means?"

"It is just that -- our press is free to report what it wishes. Your attempt to hire raiders has been well reported in the news outlets."

"And I have to pay the price for this free press..."

"I guess in this instance -- yes."

"I am leaving!"

"Sire," interrupted one of the King's aides. "I am afraid he is right. We should not leave the safety of this building."

The King turned and glared at the member of his entourage. In an attempt to stifle his anger he asked, "You want to stay here?"

"No sire," replied the aide with a bow. "We should call for a full entourage to escort you out of here -- to be safe."

"That could take weeks!" exclaimed the King.

"It is best to be safe," added the aide.

"You expect me to willingly stay here for a few more weeks?" asked the King.

"Sire, it is the safest call," replied the aide.

"He is right," added the clerk.

"Ugh!" was all the King said as he walked away.

The King returned to his cell. He wished he had not dismissed his son William so quickly after paying the bail. He could now use the council of a member of his family. He had no one here that could understand his position.

His entourage came in to provide advice, but he ordered them to leave him alone. He wanted to think about his situation. He sat on his bunk quietly and attempted to think logically. He was not sure what to do, so he just sat and listened for a while. As he sat quietly, he heard the crowd outside the jail. He could not quite make out what they were saying, but he imagined he heard them call his name.

The King was getting stir crazy in his cell. He really wanted to get out of the jail.. He really wanted to see the sky again. In fact, there were lots of things he would like to do again. His people wanted him to sit and wait. Could he do that?

He has faced angry crowds in the past. After all, he was a king. Facing angry crowds was a part of every king's experience. Further, he was a king of one of the most powerful kingdoms in Morica. What kind of example was he setting for his people? What kind of king shrinks from a little danger? In his youth, King Thorbjorn would not have avoided such a fight.

The only problem was that he would have to face the mob unarmed. The officials made it quite clear that he would not be allowed to have his weapons within the states boundaries. They would make arrangements to have a courier bring his implements to his castle -- at his expense. However, the government would not knowingly arm the King within its boarders.

King Thorbjorn wondered why he ever came to such a barbaric land. They did not treat him with the respect he had earned as the sovereign of Lakeland. Since his arrest, they gave him a cell like all the others. He afforded no special treatment. He was thrown in with the common people and common crooks.

Furthermore, his advisors were asking him to spend more time in this land. They wanted him to stay put for his own safety. He did not know if he could wait any longer. He believed he had spent enough time in this place. He wanted out, and he wanted out now.

After sitting quietly for several minutes, the King began to pace in his cell.

Who do these people think they are dealing with? the King thought to himself. I am King Thorbjorn of Lakeland!

The King began to pace more rigorously. He looked and felt like a caged lion.

I do not wish to spend any more time in this -- prison, the King continued with his thoughts. I have rights -- even in this place! I should not be forced to stay here against my will!

The King was resolute and gathered his people.

"I am King Thorbjorn of Lakeland," he addressed his people. "Lakeland is a strong and powerful nation. We grew to prominence by our actions. We did not became such a powerful kingdom by playing it safe. When we wanted something, we went out and grabbed it. Further, my family and I would not allow a small group of peasants stand in our way. We would not let others restrict our freedom. We would not let others keep us from what we desired."

His small entourage nodded in agreement.

"Thus, prepare yourselves. We are leaving this place now. I will not spend another night in this god forsaken place. I cannot sit here and be rescued by some group from Lakeland. Whatever we face, I am confident we can prevail. After all, we have each other, and we have faced tougher foes than these people. The odds may be against us, but we will not allow these people to stand in our way of freedom. No one -- no one -- in my family has shrunk from a little danger, and I am not about to start."

The King's people cheered. They readied themselves to leave. They all gathered at the exit gate.

"Let my people go!" roared the King.

"Um -- er -- uh," stammered the clerk. "Was I not clear? You cannot leave."

"I will not let a little danger stand in my way of freedom!"

"Yes -- but..."

"Why are you sitting there! Open this gate!"

"I am sorry -- sir --er -- sire, but I cannot do that."

"And why not?"

"I -- uh -- I do not have authorization."

"Your authorization be damned!"

"Also, we are keeping you here -- not for your safety -- but for theirs..."

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 21

By Dwayne MacInnes

Colonel Malloy looked around the cockpit of his B-52 bomber. The huge plane still constituted a significant portion of the U.S. Air Force's bombing force, even though the giant bomber was nearly one hundred years old.

His copilot smiled back and gave him a thumbs-up. The venerable bomber was now only crewed by two, the pilot and copilot. The rest of the crew duties the computer situated behind the two men would run.

Malloy was flying mostly by instruments because of the nature of the night mission over the panhandle of Texas. Their bombing group consisted of twenty B-52s escorted by a variety of fighters. Some were flying on the deck as Wild Weasel, which meant they were flying very low to the ground and jamming all radar and radio signals coming from ground installation.

Colonel Malloy was also flying his bomb group a lot lower than he would have liked. However, the mission called for them to put the fear of God into the people of Texas below them. A score of huge bombers screaming through the night would do that to anyone.

Further south in the interior of Texas other bomber groups were doing the same. However, over Austin a group of B-2 Stealth bombers were carrying-out a similar mission, but without the noise.

"Okay, Mike," Malloy said to his copilot over their headset. "Get the computer set on my mark."

"Roger," Mike replied.

"Three…two…one, mark," Malloy counted down.

"Mark," Mike replied. "Computer bombardier is set. We will release in precisely ten minutes."

Boeing B-52 Stratofortress

T.J. finally exited the Texas Hold 'Em a few hours after Vargas left that afternoon. Murdock was in a serious funk and did not know how he would get out of it. He had scraped together all the money he had access to in order to help pay for the arms Vargas had already delivered. President Tucker was kind enough to grant T.J. a loan of oil dollars. However, he would not relinquish any actual useful funds.

The real kicker and yet the worse blows for T.J. were his father disowning him, removing him from the company, and turning him over to the U.S. authorities. T.J. hoped that his father would regain his senses in the morning and reinstate T.J. into the company -- and family -- as well as forget about turning him into the authorities.

T.J. had spent the remainder of the night getting seriously drunk. He still had a few thousand dollars left and he intended to use a little of it to help forget his troubles. The problem is that it did not work. Even with several women asking if they could help him out of his mood, T.J. had to decline.

T.J. climbed into his Corvette and started the engine. It was an old internal combustion vehicle from the previous century. The engine purred as T.J. pulled the Corvette onto the main street as he headed for Austin. He hoped that maybe he could convince President Tucker to help him secure real funds to pay off Vargas.

It was well past 2 O'clock in the morning when T.J. entered the outskirts of Austin. He noticed some colorful objects slowly descending from the sky. The objects coasted down into the street and would occasionally bounce off his vehicle.

There were few cars on the road at this time so T.J. pulled the Corvette over to the side of the street and stopped. T.J. then opened the door and reached down to retrieve one of the mysterious objects that were still raining down from heaven.

The object was nothing more than a plastic Easter egg with a small parachute attached. The falling objects were mainly in bright primary and pastel colors. With the door still slightly ajar to allow the interior dome light to remain on T.J. cracked the blue egg open. Inside, he found a slip of paper.

T.J. unfolded the paper and squinted to make out the words typed on it. It took several seconds for his inebriated eyes to decipher the message. As the blurry letters finally came into focus, T.J. was able to read, 'Next time it will not be Easter eggs!'

The drunken oilman did not think things could get any worse, but that was until he read that ominous message. T.J. crumpled the paper into a small ball and tossed it out the still open door. He then slammed the car's door shut before he spun the wheels in an effort to return to Houston and get to the Texicorp corporate headquarters. He hoped that maybe he could hide out there until things blew over

T.J. pulled onto the highway just as the emergency sirens started to wail across Austin. A few sporadic shots of antiaircraft fire also climbed into the air. However, it was just for show. The bombers were now long gone and the New Republic had very little ammo for the limited numbers of antiaircraft guns it could boast.

* * * * *

Military officers from all the branches sat in anticipation in the old high school auditorium. There was a low murmur as the crowd conversed with each other. It was in the middle of the night and there were still recovery missions going on around the bombed town of Littleton.

Finally, a sharp voice cried out, "Atten-shun!" All the men and women in the room instantly snapped to attention as General Davis walked on to the stage. His right arm was in a sling and two aides closely followed him.

"You may be seated," Davis instructed the crowd and instantly every officer proceeded to take his or her seat.

"There are not as many of you here as I would like," stated Davis in a grave tone. "Yesterday's bombing mission was meant to take out me and any officers who would have been at the Army Reserve Center. I am sorry that, although I was missed, there have been no survivors found yet at the Reserve Center. Fortunately for you people, you were scheduled for a later briefing." General Davis pushed a button on the metal podium before him and a holographic map of Texas instantly displayed itself behind him.

"As of this minute we are beginning our invasion of Texas. This will be called Operation Texas Wildfire. In three days, we will begin our land advance beginning in the panhandle and swing south toward Austin."

As the general continued to lay out his plans for Operation Texas Wildfire in the last row of the auditorium, an officer in the back of the room was taking extra special notes. He furiously wrote down every word General Davis spoke despite having one arm in a sling. When the briefing was over the officer slipped out of the crowded auditorium and exited the old high school.

General Davis watched the crowded auditorium empty itself after he finished the briefing. He noted many smiles on the faces of the officers as news reached them that they were finally going to move into and retake Texas.

An aide walked over to the general and spoke softly in his ear, "The weasel is away." Davis broke into a rare smile, "Good. Good, give him two hours and then reassemble everyone for another briefing."

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In Soviet Russia the blocks fall from the sky! (Hat tip to Dwayne)

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Reunited...

Chapter Thirty-Nine

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William left the prison, where they held his father, and noticed the protesters outside. They carried signs and shouted slogans. The Prince noted that they were against the violence inherent in kingdoms. They shouted against the tyranny that his father represented. They also were displeased with how the area kingdoms used their citizens for mercenaries.

The Prince wanted to disagree with them, but he believed they had a point. His father was attempting to hire citizens of the Pirate Peninsula to raid another kingdom. This type of thing was common for his father, and he thought that other kings could easily behave in a similar manner. Thus, he felt for the protesters. They had a reason to be upset at his father.

Soon after that, it hit him. He had just posted his father's bail. His father would have to face this crowd. That could turn ugly. In fact, the citizens were so upset that this crowd could turn into a mob. Further, the slightest incident could result in a riot. Therefore, it was likely that the authorities would not release his father immediately.

Hence, the Prince wanted to do something. Perhaps he could calm the crowd. However, he was a part of the problem. He was a member of a royal house. To a degree, they were not only protesting his father, but protesting him and his way of life. The only way of life he knew.

The Prince did not know if he could survive without the royal support. While he had experienced some hard times, he never really had to work. His experiences were for sport and recreation and not for living. For instance, he never killed an animal for survival. He did it just for sport. He supposed that the support he got was the point of the protesters. There were plenty of citizens of Lakeland, and other kingdoms, who had to work hard for everything they had, and they still did not have much.

His life of privilege allowed him to travel for numerous days without worry. He never worked. Everything he needed was provided for him. Although, that could all change. He was a very minor member of the royal family. Because he was a son of the reigning king, the court protected him. However, if anything happened to King Thorbjorn all that could change.

If a civil war broke out in Lakeland, that could spell trouble for his family. Moreover, it could make life difficult for him. While the King had named his successor, there were no guarantees that the King's wishes would be honored. Furthermore, the new king may not wish to have any rivals to the throne. He could call for the head of the minor heirs. That could only mean one thing -- war. It also meant death to many.

Further, there were people in the crowd here who wished the King harm. Now, there were also people in Lakeland who wanted to see King Thorbjorn dead, but they were not of an immediate concern. These protesters could end the Prince's life of privilege quickly. He just hoped they would never storm the jail. He was hoping for law and order in what he believed was a lawless state.

The possibilities of the situation swirled in the Prince's head. The thoughts of life after King Thorbjorn overwhelmed him. He became dizzy, and he had to sit. A friendly face noticed him and asked if he was all right. He smiled meekly and claimed it was just the heat. She gave him some water and left. The Prince smiled and took the water graciously. If she knew who he was, would she treat him the same the Prince wondered.

What was he going to do? His way of life balanced upon the return of the King to Lakeland. There were many dangers between where the King was and the relatively safe confines of Lakeland Castle. Further, if the citizens of the peninsula knew the King was here, so did all of the other kingdoms. His enemies were certainly plotting against the King at this very moment. How was the King going to get home?

While an entourage was likely departing, it would be weeks before it got here. This made Lakeland vulnerable. The leader of the land was away. Thus, a powerful nearby kingdom could take advantage of the situation. The decisive king was not in charge. How would the Lakeland military handle a sudden attack? Who would give the commands to the military?

The more the Prince thought about the situation, the more upset he became. His mind raced with all of the possibilities. He thought that perhaps one of his prominent brothers or half-brothers could sabotage the entourage as a power grab. Thus, when the showed up, they could assassinate the King and blame it on someone else. There were many possible outcomes of the situation. However, the Prince could think of few that would be beneficial to him. They seemed to all end poorly.

A few short weeks ago, he dreamt of having his own kingdom. Now, that seemed like a distant dream -- an impossible dream. It now seemed that his entire world came crashing down upon him. He attempted to get up, but he felt weaker than ever. Did the woman know who he was? Did she drug him?

A wave of paranoia overcame him. He suspected everyone. A few moments ago, he had sympathized with the crowd. Now he thought they were all against him. They were the ones stirring up the chaos in his life. Thus everyone was suspect. They became agents for his father's enemies. They were now his enemies and he had to get out of there. However, he could not even stand up.

I must get up, he told himself. Everything depends upon it.

He gathered his strength and managed to get to his feet.

"Are you sure you are all right?" asked the woman with the friendly face.

"What did you do to me?" he asked in an angry voice.

"What?" she asked with a puzzled look upon her face.

"Just leave me alone!" the Prince barked as he wobbled away.

The Prince found a tree and leaned against it. It was an odd tree. It was nothing like the hardwood trees the Prince was accustomed to in Lakeland. He felt that everything was odd about this place. Everything there seemed "wrong" to him. Everything about the place was strange and different. It was not like the places he frequented.

He decided that he needed to get out of there. However, he could not leave his father behind. He had to do something. For the first time in his life, he would have to do something heroic. Otherwise, the life he knew would be over.

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