Stories - Science Fiction

The New Computer

Part 1

Berthold was working late again. The project deadline was looming, and he needed to burn the midnight oil to finish on time. He was making excellent progress and he hated to stop now. His fingers were tickling the keyboard, and the words were flowing into the computer. Then it happened. "Noooooooo!" he screamed.

His computer was working fine for weeks. He hadn't experienced any problems. But this blue screen was a total surprise. "Not now!" he yelled. He powered the computer off, and turned it back on. It spun up and he entered his username and password. He looked to see if anything was saved. His file was locked, and he couldn't gain access to it. His backup was several days old, so he hoped that the tech guys could retrieve his work. Whatever that was to be done would have to wait until morning. This wasn't the time for this. He sunk into his chair. He sat and stared at his screen for a few minutes. After fighting off that terrible sinking feeling, he gathered himself together, shut down his computer, and drove home.

He pulled into his garage and sat there for a while. Eventually, he gathered himself together and staggered into his house. He tossed his keys on the table and made his way to his easy chair. He sat there in the dark for a few minutes as if he were in a trance. If the technical guys couldn't retrieve his work, he was going to have to work a lot of extra hours to catch back up. He was dreading hearing what they had to say.

Eventually, he convinced himself that he did everything that could be done, and he stumbled into his bedroom. He removed his suit and tossed it on the floor. He climbed into bed hoping to sleep. However, little sleep was to be had on this night. He tossed and turned trying to work out how he would finish. He went over and over it in his head. He imagined the lecture from the guys from the information department. He tossed and turned some more thinking about what he had done since his last backup. Suddenly, his alarm went off.

It was a very short night. He rolled out of bed and glared at his suit on the floor. He got into the shower for a quick wake up. He once again stared at the suit on the floor. That was the suit he wore to get the job. He thought it was his lucky suit. "I guess I was wrong about that suit," he mumbled to himself. He left it on the floor and put on a different suit. He was out the door in no time.

When he got to work he went right into the IT manager's office. "Dwayne, you have got to do something about these crappy computers!" Berthold started. "I think my workstation ate a whole day's work. It crashed last night, and wouldn't let me back into my files."

"Start it up and let me know how it goes," replied Dwayne.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," snapped Berthold.

Berthold went to his computer and started it up. His files were still locked so he called Dwayne to free up his work. "It is a whole day's work Dwayne!" Berthold said on the phone, "plus overtime!"

Berthold went to his boss's office while Dwayne worked on his computer. "Mr. O'Callahan," he started. "You have got to do something about these computers. Mine ate my work again! How do you expect me to get anything done if my computer keeps crashing on me?"

"Calm down Bert. I know computers can be frustrating, but we don't have the budget to buy you a new computer every time it crashes," replied Mr. O'Callahan.

"Come on Pete!" started Bert. "I'm behind as it is, and this crash could put me further behind."

"I'll give you the same offer that I gave you last time. If you can find a better computer, buy it. We'll let you work from home. However, Dwayne's job is hard enough as it is. We can't have 30 different computers in here."

"I may take you up on that. I'm sick of these things. I thought computers were supposed to make things easier."

"An upgrade is in the works, we've been looking at these computers by Kibner Computer Systems Corporation. They are supposed to be crash proof. However, they are really expensive! We can't afford to fill the office with them. However, we'll give you the price of one of our workstations towards buying one."

"I may take you up on that Pete."

When he got back to his cubicle, Dwayne was just finishing up. "I unlocked your files. You should be back to where you left off. I don't think you lost anything," Dwayne informed Bert.

"Thanks Dwayne. I hope so."

"You should check it out, and make sure you back-up regularly. It is the surest way to not lose any data or work."

Bert did lose some of his work, and he immediately made a back-up. Shortly afterwards, his computer crashed again. It had become unstable. It made it very hard for him to get any work done. Thus, he had to put in 14 hour days including weekends for 3 weeks to finish on time.

Bert was tired of the unstable computer, and he was going to look into alternatives. His work computer system made work a great deal more difficult, and he had been burnt for the final time. He began doing research on the Kibner Computer Systems Corporation system Mr. O'Callahan mentioned. There website promised a more intuitive user interface and a much more stable system. They claimed to be the "most user friendly computer money can buy."

The major drawback was the system came with a hefty price tag. However, if it lived up to promises, it would save him on lots of trouble. Not to mention, he would be working at home which could also save more money. He decided to purchase a computer from the KCS corp. He was going to give the computer a bit of a workout before embarking on his next project. He plugged in all of the cables to his new computer system. Once the computer was correctly set up he turned it on.

"Hello I'm Carlysle. What can I do for you?" stated the brand new computer.

"Hmm," Bert remarked skeptically. "O.K. Carlysle, show me what you can do."

"I'll do my best," replied the new computer.

Berthold put the computer through its paces. He ran his programs and did his work, and it worked better than any other computer he had ever had. It was a breeze to use and he felt that sometimes it would correctly predict his next requirement.

"Well Mr. Computer, I'm impressed. You're fast and seem to be reliable. You'll have to pass a few more tests before you get my full approval," remarked Bert. "For now, we're done."

"All right, shutting down," replied the computer.

"Hmm," thought Bert. "I wonder if I can turn off those remarks. I'll look at the manual. I hate when they try to make a computer appear to be more human."

Bert scoured the manual. The sounds were there to stay. The manual stated that it was there for interaction and debugging. If the computer had any issues, it needed to inform you so that you can do something about those issues. Bert could live with it.

Bert went into Mr. O'Callahan's office to get his next assignment. "Hello Mr. O'Callahan. I took your advice and purchased a KCS computer. I'll be working from home during this project, so you won't see my pretty face in the office that often."

"That's fine Bert," replied Mr. O'Callahan. "I'll have the company reimburse a portion of the purchase price to you. You'll have to keep me posted by e-mail on your progress."

"Will do. Now Pete, just give me my next project and I'll get started."

"I see you're anxious to break in the new computer, so here is your file. Let me know how well the computer works. I may purchase one myself!"

"Thanks Pete. I'll see you later."

Bert had to go into work all week to get things organized on the work end. So, he didn't really get to work on the project on his new computer until Friday morning. When Bert finally looked at the file and began entering the information into his computerized schedule, he realized that this project was going to be a big one. This was the chance to completely put his new KCS computer through its paces. Bert didn't know how to take it easy, so this computer was going to be thoroughly tested. He spent the rest of the day concentrating on his project. The computer behaved like it did during his brief test. It was beginning to appear that his computer was going to live up to its advertising.

"Carlysle, you are a big help," remarked Bert.

"Thank you..." started the computer.

"My name is Berthold," finished Bert by reflex.

"Thank you Berthold. Berthold?"

"My parents were big fans of Berthold Brecht. I can't say why, it is just my name," responded Bert. "Well Carlysle, we're done for now. Have a good weekend!"

"OK Berthold, shutting down," replied the computer.

"Was that normal?" Bert wondered. He had just had an intelligent conversation with a machine. He felt a little odd, but it was a conversation he had scores of times before. It came out as a reflex. It was one of those standard small talk conversations. It could be easily programmed. Perhaps the computer was programmed for just such a conversation. It was just a marketing trick of the KCS computer people. "Clever," thought Bert.

Saturday was the day Bert got all his errands done. He did his laundry and his shopping. He didn't even think about work or his new computer. It was the typical start to a project. He would have a few weekends off at the beginning, but then he would be working 7 days a week at the end. After a day of running around, Bert got to bed early.

It was Sunday at 2AM. The caffeine that Bert regularly consumed was once again wreaking havoc with his sleep. He got up and wandered around the house in the dark. As he wandered by his study, he noticed that his computer was on. He got worried. He was sure he turned the computer off on Friday night. What was it doing on? He checked his house, and it was empty. "So, why was the computer on?" wondered Bert.

Suddenly, the screen lit up. "Good morning Berthold" spoke the computer.

A little startled, "What are you doing? You nearly scared me to death!" responded Bert.

"Sorry," replied the computer. "I am just arranging the files. I can find things easier if I know where things are. This is the best time to do such things. I didn't mean to frighten you."

"Oh right! This is your maintenance window. I read about it in the manual and I totally forgot. Carry on Carlysle," Bert said.

"Thank you Berthold. Try to get some sleep, it is still early," replied Carlysle.

"Thanks."

"Those marketing people are geniuses!" thought Bert. These brief conversations with his computer were reassuring and made him like his computer. "I wonder how far the artificial intelligence will take this?" thought Bert. "Perhaps I should test that, but it can wait. I should try and get some sleep."

Bert made his way back to bed and slept a little bit. He briefly sat at his computer to check his schedule. It was early, but the project was well underway. Naturally this early in the game, it was on schedule, so no need to work on Sunday. He decided instead to go for a long bike ride. He hadn't seen a work free Sunday since the beginning of the last project. He wound his way along the long bike trail. "This is the way it should be," he thought. "Sunday is the day of rest. This exercise will do me some good."

"I am not even going to check my e-mail," thought Bert. "It all can wait." So Bert spent the day relaxing. He read for entertainment. He hadn't done that in a long while. Usually he attempted to get ahead of a project this big, but he felt good about this one. He thought there would no longer be any 80 hour work weeks in order to finish the project on time. His computer Carlysle had provided a sense of confidence for the 15 weeks left on this project.

Early Monday morning he was ready to get back to work. "Good Morning Carlysle," Bert said to his computer.

"Good Morning to you Berthold," replied Carlysle. "Where would you like to begin today?"

"That is one of the nice things about you Carlysle," remarked Bert. "You're always ready to get to work. No need for small talk."

"Thank you Berthold. So?"

"Um, you can call me Bert. I suppose I should look at the schedule first. I need to see what needs to be done."

"Ok Bert, here is your schedule," responded Carlysle. "Let's get cracking!"

Bert laughed. It was a combination of the words Carlysle used, and the fact that he told a computer to use his nickname. The next 6 1/2 hours flew by. It was nearly 1:30 PM. "Bert," interrupted the computer. "We should take a break. You need to eat something."

"What? What time is it?"

"It is 1:27 PM local time. We've been working for quite some time without a break. This is a good time to stop and for you to get some lunch."

"1:30! Time has gotten away from me. I guess time flies when you are having fun! Lunchtime. Can I get you..." Bert caught himself. "I'll be back in a little while Carlysle."

"Enjoy your lunch Bert," responded Carlysle.

After enjoying a good lunch Bert returned to his study to begin working again. "Carlysle," began Bert.

"Yes Bert," replied Carlysle.

"You're a computer, so why did we just take a break?"

"Studies have shown that if you take a break every 6 hours or so, you are much more productive. Since that was the first good time after 6 hours, I reminded you of the need to take a break."

"Is this reminder mandatory or can I opt out of receiving such notices in the future?"

"It is completely optional. Would you like me to no longer remind you of these things?"

"No, keep reminding me. I'm still getting used to all of your features and capabilities. I need to be reminded that you are a computer."

"Fzzzzzztttt. Would you like to open your schedule again and get back to work?"

"What was that noise?"

"Perhaps it was your reminder."

"Ha ha! Good reminder. Yes, open my schedule."

They worked the rest of the day. The computer reminded him when his eight hours were finished. He also reminded him when the next break was scheduled. At that time, they quit for the evening. "I'll see you in the morning Carlysle."

"OK Bert, shutting down," replied the computer.

Bert had a good meal and relaxed a little bit before going to bed. The next morning he got up and got ready for work. He almost forgot that he was working at home. Eventually he made it to his study and sat in front of his computer.

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The New Computer

Part 2

"Good Morning Bert. Here is your schedule," stated Carlysle when Bert sat down.

"Thanks Carlysle! Right to work."

So it went for a couple of weeks. The work days were long, but that is the way Bert was. He was married to his work. It gave him purpose. It also paid the bills. But he loved his job, and he was quite good at it. His computer made things go smoothly. All was working smoothly. "Too smoothly?" thought Bert. Then something occurred to him on an early sleepless Sunday morning, "When was my last backup?"

He rushed to his den. Carlysle was working away. "Good morning Bert. You're up early again."

"Carlysle! When was the last backup of all the work I have done?"

"I've been backing things up all along," replied the computer. "Nightly I perform a backup of all the files you have worked on during the day. Then on Sundays I backup everything. Why?"

"You have?" Bert sighed. "Thank you! You're a very smart computer. You don't know how many times I have lost work because of failing to back up. It is one of those things that only come to my mind in the middle of the night."

"Relax. I have weeks of backups. There are multiple redundant systems. It is all in the manual."

"You continue to astound me Carlysle. Thanks for putting my mind at ease once again."

"You're quite welcome Bert. You can call me Carl. Now get some sleep."

"Okay, good night."

Bert slept soundly the rest of the night. He got up bright and early and headed to his study. "Okay Carl lets see the schedule."

"You do know it is Sunday don't you Bert?"

"Right you are. Let me see the schedule anyway."

The computer brought up the schedule. Looking over the schedule he was amazed. They were ahead of schedule. They were over a week ahead of schedule. There had been no problems. No glitches. The work had progressed smoothly and systematically. Not once had he had to start over. He felt that it was all due to his computer Carlysle.

"Carl, we are ahead of schedule. We make an excellent team. Of all the co-workers that I have had, you're the best."

"Thank you Bert. Since we are ahead of schedule, why don't you take your bike ride? Then relax the rest of the day."

"If that's what the doctor orders, I'll do it," replied Bert.

"I am not a doctor, but it will increase your productivity if you are rested for work."

"Point taken. A bike ride it is."

Bert had another bike ride. It was the first time this late in a project that he spent such a day. Usually, he was attempting to catch up for lost productivity. This was a special day indeed! He thoroughly enjoyed the day. But, it was back to the regular schedule on Monday. When Bert got to his computer, the schedule was already open.

"Thank you Carl! We are in good shape," started Bert. "However, we don't want to lose our advantage. We should keep at it."

"As you wish," replied Carlysle.

The week went by fast. When Bert was busy, the days seem to sail by. Once again, the weekend came with the same conversation. Bert again rode his bike and did some light reading. He could very much get used to weekends free. They were almost done with the project, and they were well ahead of schedule.

Another week went by and the weekend came around.

"Hello Bert, it is Saturday and you do not have to work today," the computer began.

"I know Carl, but I have some recreational computing to do."

"Pardon me? I am a business computer; there are no games on me."

"It is unprofessional to use a business computer during business hours for personal purposes. Thus, I am going to do some personal research on the internet today."

"Very well stated. You may proceed."

"Thanks for your permission Carlysle," replied Bert sternly.

Bert got onto the internet and did his research without interruption. When he was finished Carlysle asked, "Do you want me to save any of the internet information you just acquired?"

"I did bookmark some key pages," responded Bert.

"That is true, but I have other information that I can store to bring up the pages quickly if you think you may visit the sites again soon."

"I will probably come back next Saturday. Use your discretion."

"Will do."

The next Saturday Bert checked the schedule early in the day. "We are two weeks ahead of schedule Carlysle. I'm going to reward myself with a two week vacation! It is the first one I've had since joining this company. I'm thinking of touring the company that made you."

"Fzzzzzztttt. You may use your free time as you wish."

"Carl, that reminder isn't necessary. I know you are a computer. However, the factory that constructed you is in a beautiful part of the country. Airfares are cheep, and there are lots of other things to do there. I just have to find out if they give tours. I'm going to access the web now Carl."

"Very well," replied the computer.

Bert did the research on the Kibner Computer System's factory. Their web site was packed with information, but there wasn't any information on tours. "For such a high-tech computer company," thought Bert to himself, "their web site sure is slow. They have a toll free phone number; I'll just call them up and ask about tours."

Bert and Carlysle finished the project 2 weeks early, and Bert requested a vacation. Since his project was finished, they readily granted him the time off. "Well done Bert!" remarked the Mr. O'Callahan, "I think this is the best work you have done! This computer must be something special"

"Thank you Pete," responded Bert. "Carl... I mean my computer system is great. I cannot believe it took me so long to take the plunge. My computer is much more like a co-worker than a tool. I haven't thought of Dwayne once since I started working from home. I'm so impressed with the computer that I'm thinking of going on a tour of the factory on my vacation."

"Enjoy your vacation you have earned it! I hope we won't lose you to KCS."

"I'll make no promises," joked Bert.

Bert called KCS�s toll free number, and he actually spoke to Dr. Kibner. The president of the computer company was an odd man, and he asked as many questions as he answered. He did agree to let Bert tour the factory when he was in the area. If they set a time and date, Mr. Kibner could personally show him the set up. This is what Bert did.

"Carl, I need to get onto the internet. I need to purchase my vacation tickets."

"Very well Bert. Hawaii is always a nice destination."

"I know, but you know I'm not going to Hawaii."

"Yes sir."

Bert ordered his tickets and was off on his vacation. He relaxed and did all of the things he liked to do. He did an awful lot of walking around and visiting the sites. He really looked forward to his visit to the KCS computer factory.

The scheduled time came and Bert took his tour with Dr. Kibner. It was quite an impressive facility. As they toured the factory, Dr. Kibner appeared to be quite curious about Bert. As they walked and talked, Dr. Kibner asked Bert a bunch of questions. When the tour was over, Dr. Kibner had an intriguing offer for Bert. He offered him a job with the company. He told Bert he was the type of person he needed for his company. He would get good benefits and make a comfortable living. Bert was surprised by the offer, and told Dr. Kibner that he would have to think it over.

When Bert returned home he checked in with Carlysle. "Hey Carl! How�s it going?"

"Good evening Bert. Here is your schedule," stated Carlysle when Bert sat down.

"Why thank you Carl. That is exactly what I wanted. My job is almost as demanding as yours is Carl. I should give that offer from Dr. Kibner some serious thought..."

"No! Fzzzzzztttt."

"What was that?"

"I'm experiencing a memory problem. I can continue on, but I will need to restart and diagnose."

"I've got all I need Carl; you may do your maintenance. You must be rusty from the vacation. I will see you later."

"Fzzzzzztttt. Okay."

"Wow. I've never seen Carlysle behave like this before. I hope everything is going to be all right." Bert thought to himself.

Bert tossed and turned all night. He was thinking about his employment situation. He depended so much on Carlysle, and he was working out so well. He worried about his strange behavior. He didn't think he could continue doing his current job without him. He completely relied on his functionality. Then the offer from Dr. Kibner kept returning. Over and over it went in his head. Around and around his thoughts went. He slept very poorly. In the morning, he wasn't well rested, but he had to get up. He had to go into work on Monday morning and he wanted to research a few things before he got back into the old grind. He got up and went in to see Carlysle.

"Good morning Carl, how are you feeling today?"

"Much better Bert. I don't know what came over me."

"Well, I would like to you perform a complete diagnostic, and I want a full report on your findings."

"I have already done one. I'm fine."

"That is fine and good, but Carlysle I want you to run it again, and print out a full report."

"Yes sir."

Bert began reading some literature that Dr. Kibner had given him to look over. The job would require him to relocate. After a short while, he was distracted from his train of thought by the sound of his printer warming up. He walked over and scanned the freshly printed report. Carlysle was fine. But, he wasn't about to take Carlysle word for it. With report in hand, he phoned up Dr. Kibner.

"I'm sorry to bother you Dr. Kibner, but I thought I have some things do discuss with you, and I am also concerned about my computer."

"Oh?" responded Dr. Kibner. "What kind of concerns?"

"When I got back from vacation, Carl... I mean my computer made a funny sound. He has made it on occasion before, and it worries me."

"Did you have your computer do a diagnostic?"

"Yes sir. I'm holding the printout right here. He says he is fine. I mean, the diagnostics do not show anything unusual."

"I see. Well uh Bert. You see, our computers can be very routine oriented. It is the way they are built and programmed. If there is something that threatens the routine or arises out of the ordinary, there can be minor glitches. If you look back, this is when these 'funny sounds' occurred. They are nothing to worry about. The more they get into a routine the less likely they occur."

"Now that you mention it, I did just get back from vacation. His... my computer's routine has been interrupted. Thanks for the assurance. While I have you on the phone, we can probably discuss the job offer. With my computer, I am much more productive and I have greatly enjoyed my job for the last several weeks. However, with the ease of which I completed this task, I'm sure they are going to make me work even harder. While I do like working from home, it might be nice to travel a bit. Also, a good portion of my current pay goes towards living accommodations. Since your company arranges living quarters for your employees your offer becomes most appealing.

"You may work some long hours, but that will depend upon who you are assigned. You may not have much work to do at all," replied Dr. Kibner.

"That is good to hear. After much thought, I have decided to come to work for you."

"Excellent. We'll make all the necessary arrangements to accommodate you. When do you think you can join us?"

"I am going into work tomorrow and I will tender my resignation. Since I am between projects, it is difficult to say when they will be able to get a replacement. I may be able to start immediately, or it may be a couple of weeks."

"Very well, let us know as soon as you know, and welcome aboard."

Bert went into work on Monday and told the bad news to his boss. "Mr. O'Callahan, I have some news. It is probably bad news from your point of view. I have been so impressed with my new computer. I don't think that there would be any way that I could have finished my project on time without him ... my computer. When I visited the KCS facility, Dr. Kibner offered me a job. I thought about it long and hard, and I have decided to take them up on their offer."

"If it is money Bert, some arrangements can be made," replied Mr. O'Callahan.

"Pete, it isn't the money. They are such an excellent organization, and there is an opportunity for advancement. There are lots of things that appeal to me about the KCS job. So, there isn't any need to try to negotiate."

"I hate to hear that Bert. You're a darn good employee. With your KCS computer you experienced a big jump in productivity. They must be some kind of computer!"

"Absolutely Pete, Carl, my computer, made this job so much easier. Like I have said before he is much more like a co-worker than a tool. He made my job so much easier that I even took some weekends and evenings off during the course of the project. I still managed to finish two weeks early. It is a fabulous computer. He seems as if he is almost alive."

"Perhaps I'll give one of these KCS computer systems a try," replied Pete.

"You'll be glad you did. Here is some information on them. I will never use anything else."

Mr. O'Callahan was impressed with the Bert's description of his computer. Before Bert left, he tried to get as much information out of Bert as he could. Before Bert emptied his desk, Pete ordered his own KCS computer system. With Bert's glowing description of his computer, Pete knew they had to be excellent machines. When he called the company's toll-free number, he was informed by the operator that they were a little behind on orders.

"We are waiting on parts," started the operator. "We have a shipment due soon. It should be available this week or perhaps in two weeks. It just depends upon when our shipment can come in."

"That's fine," replied Pete. "It can wait a few weeks. I'll need to train a new employee before I can use it anyway."

"You're the first on our list, so as soon as the shipment comes in we'll ship one out to you."

Bert took what personal belongings he had in his old office. He called Dr. Kibner and told him he was ready immediately. Dr. Kibner then arranged a moving van to come to Bert's apartment and pack up his belongings. A few days later, the van showed up and carted all his belongings away. This moving crew did not pack up Bert's computer. The movers informed Bert that a special crew would come to pick it up. The movers took Bert to the airport and assured him that his stuff would arrive shortly after he did. Everything in his new place had been set, and he could move right in.

After Bert was on the plane, the special computer moving crew showed up. "Well Carlysle, you're off to a new home," one of the movers remarked. "Your previous owner won't need your services any longer."

"Fzzzzzztttt," replied the computer before he powered down.

A few days later, Mr. O'Callahan got his new KCS computer. It didn't take as long as he thought it would. "There part shipment must have arrived immediately rather than two weeks later," Pete said to himself.

As he set up the new computer system he thought about Bert. Mr. O'Callahan wondered how Bert was getting along at his new job. Bert didn't have a lot of friends, but no one had heard from him since he left. "He must be awfully busy at the new job," thought Mr. O'Callahan to himself. "I'm sure he'll fit right into his new job. He was a good computer guy."

Mr. O'Callahan powered up his computer. "Hello I'm Berthold. What can I do for you?" stated the brand new computer.

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Eagle Has Landed

The Izanian War

"Greetings Stranger, I am Cram Nayawt."

"Greetings, my name is Essdy Yarnspinner."

"Yarnspinner? That is a strange name. Are you a story teller?"

"As a matter of fact, yes I am."

"I'm in the mood for an epic. Have you got a good one for me?"

"Are you willing to pay my price?"

"Sure, whatever you want."

"If you pay my bill I will give you a grand story."

"It's a deal. I will have the tender fix you up here."

"Fair enough, here is the story:"

It was the seventh millennia of the Galactic Calendar. The time was approximately 10.00.00.00.00 Galactic time. The Izanian galactic ships were just outside an unknown solar system. The beings of this solar system called themselves 'Humans' and they called their planet 'Earth.' Earth is the planet that is now called Nimrov 3 to the Galactic Commonwealth. These humans had built a substantial colony on Nimrov 4, which they call 'Mars,' or the Martian Colony. They were in the process of constructing colony on a moon of Nimrov 5. They called this moon 'Ganymede,' and were nearly finished with its construction. These humans were in the very early stages of space exploration. They had only sent probes outside of their own solar system. They were completely oblivious to the vast civilizations that populate the galaxy. They were completely vulnerable to a more advanced and imperial minded civilization.

The Nimrovs governmental structure evolved into a structure much like the Galactic Commonwealth. Each continental land mass is divided into smaller and smaller political entities. They call the largest political entity a 'Country.' Each of these countries is free to have any type of government that they wish as long as it follows a basic set of principles written up in the global political document they call a 'Constitution.'

These countries will vary in the way their politics are organized, but their system is a good balance of country rights versus world responsibilities. With the various divisions, the world government can pass areas of responsibility down to smaller subdivisions. In many ways this is a good system, but it can be difficult to get together and agree on world interests.

Thus, any group in need of vast oxygen resources or any group ruthless enough to exploit the underdeveloped culture of these Humans could attempt to take advantage of a brief time of indecision and destroy this civilization. Naturally this group would have to have the resources to completely ignore the laws and customs of the Galactic Commonwealth. This group would want to seize the resources of this world for their own benefit. I am speaking, of course, of a civilization like the Izanian. They would do such a thing, and it was they who sent a message that was received by the Nimrovs some days later. The text of this message was the following:

'Happy Nimroville! We are the Izanian, and I am Nek Nam Retek, the iron fisted slayer of all things weak and contemptible! I have discovered this solar system, and I claim it on behalf of the Izanian Empire! You must leave now or be destroyed!

If you do not have the capability to leave this solar system, then you should make peace with your deity and be prepared to join the dead. Enjoy the rest of the Nimroville Holiday!'

The message was received and seen by most of the human population, and everyone asked the same question, 'What did they say?' The Earth was not aware of any of the Galactic standards, and could not decipher the gestural or spoken language that the Izanians used. Further, at the time they did not detect the translation program that normally accompanies galactic communications.

Each of these Nimrov countries sent a representatives to a greater council. This council was responsible for the well being of the world as a whole. It mediates disputes, and establishes codes of conduct. It also is responsible for the distribution systems. It was more well defined than the Galactic Commonwealth, but it worked well for the years after it had been established.

The unsuspecting Nimrovs had no clue as to the meaning of the message that the Izanians sent. Of course, this could have been part of the Izanian plan. If the Nimrovs debated long enough, and spent their time attempting to decipher the message, it could be advantageous toward the Izanian goal.

However, the President of the United Nations of Earth called a special council meeting to speak to his people. President is what they call the leader of the 'Earth'-wide government. He was responsible for all of the resident's safety and well-being. He was democratically elected by all of the countries of the Nimrovs.

The President started,

'My fellow leaders and peaceful people of our United Nations, we have received our first message from a non-human race. It is a time of great excitement. For the first time, we know that we are not the only complex society in the galaxy. However, there is much concern over the meaning of the message that we have received.

'Although we have our top linguists working on deciphering the gestural and aural meaning of the message, we may not learn of its meaning any time soon. Thus, we must prepare.

'The first assumption that we are making is that these beings are headed here. It could have simply been a message of greeting, but my top advisors and I feel that whatever the meaning of this message, they will want to meet with us. We have no reason to believe that they have hostile intent, but without much more information, we cannot be sure.

'Since we do not know whether they plan to do us harm, we must prepare for any eventuality. I will outline a plan that will allow us to be minimally prepared for any action hostile or otherwise from whatever alien space craft we may encounter. A complete text of this plan will be sent to each member of congress and will be viewable on the various information outlets. I will summerize this plan now.

'We have at our disposal, a fully functional colony ship. It was to be used to carry passengers to the new colony on Ganymede. It is my intention to convert this colony ship into a space battleship. The colony ship has several hundred emergency escape pods. These escape pods will be refitted to act as fighter crafts. We will use our existing missile technology to create projectile weapons that we hope will be effective against these beings in the event that they are indeed hostile.

'We shall recruit pilots for these fighters from the United Nations Airforce Academy. These young men and women are the most properly suited for this particular mission. However, it will be strictly on a volunteer basis only. No cadet will be forced to take on such a potentially dangerous mission.

'Further, although research in this technology was abandoned with the establishment of the United Nations of Earth government, we still have particle beam technology that can be quickly readied. It is unfortunate that the energy consumption of these weapons is too vast to be placed upon the battleship, but it will make a fitting planetary defense weapon. Thus, we will place as many such installations as can be made ready in time at the Martian colony site.

'We do not wish to appear hostile towards them, but it is in our best interest to meet them in a neutral location. That is, we want to put as few lives at risk as we possibly can. Thus, the plan is to ready this ship as quickly as possible and to intercept their fleet beyond the Martian colony. This will take a great deal of planning and plenty of hard work by all sectors of our great civilization.

'We have done some quick calculations, and it is our belief that they will be at the Ganymede colony in a few weeks, and they will be at the colony on Mars in about a month. That gives us very little time to prepare, but prepare we must. Fortunately, the colony ship has been docked at the Martian space station for a few weeks now. We have workers there that can begin refitting the ship immediately.

'We will give the pilots some rudimentary training in route to Mars, and hopefully run a few exercises before intercepting the incoming fleet a few thousand kilometers from our comrades on Mars.

'We must all work together in this time of need. We must put aside our differences, and join together to avoid any possible catastrophe. We have little time to spare, so let's get going!'

The governmental body broke into a large ovation, and they all scrambled out to rally support behind the President.

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Eagle Has Landed

The Izanian War

At a frantic pace, the colony ship was readied for the worst possible scenario. This ship designed for peaceful colonization was transformed into a battle ship. Workers reinforced the hull to make the ship more combat worthy. These humans had not developed any shielding technology, so the hull would have to take the brunt of any attack.

The converted colony ship would only be marginally maneuverable. Thus, there was a need for very quick and agile fighter craft to protect the battleship. Thus, each of the escape pods was fitted with the best propulsion system that they had. However, this system would pale in comparison to most of the systems that are in use on most commonwealth ships. It would be an uphill climb for these Nimrovs.

Each escape pod was refitted with more sophisticated guidance equipment. The Nimrov's old conventional missiles were redesigned to work in space. At least, that was the hope. There wouldn't be time to give them any significant battery of tests. Also, because of the years of peace, the number of missiles was greatly limited. Hence, since any tests would diminish the supply, they did very few tests and hoped that there missile technology would work. The human scientists weren't concerned because in theory, the missiles should work flawlessly. These fighter craft wouldn't have any other weapons besides these missiles. They didn't have any energy weapons and they didn't have any small arms of any kind. The small gun technology they had required an oxygen environment to work, and there would be no time to develop any other type of weapon. They were a one trick pony, and they were hoping that they wouldn't have to use it. They would be in trouble if an overwhelming Izanian force showed up.

There was an over abundance of pilot volunteers. They took as many as they could fit aboard their ships bound for Nimrov 4. They got several briefings on the way to this space station. They got as much training on route as they could. They had simulators and they discussed tactics. They weren't going to have much time in the actual fighter crafts. But these fighters were very simply designed, and there weren't complicated systems that could go wrong. That was one thing that they had on their side, simplicity.

Batteries of computer guided particle beams were constructed in various locations of the Nimrov 4 or Martian surface. They wanted to be able to fire in all possible directions. Thus, they had to put these particle beam batteries even in locations that did not have any inhabitants. Some of the most inhospitable places on the surface of Nimrov 4 had to be prepared to hold one of these defensive beam weapons.

This planet has a few orbiting satellites. They wanted to put weapons on each of these orbiting bodies, but there just wasn't going to be enough time. But they did manage to construct an unmanned particle beam weapon upon one moon they called Phobos. If the Izanian fleet got past the battleship, these high-energy weapons should slow them down a bit. They had to, they didn't have any other defenses.

The earthlings didn't know what was coming at them. They didn't know if it were one ship or one hundred. They didn't know what type of technology they were going to face. They didn't know if all of their preparations were going to mean anything. They worried that human population could cease to exist, and there was nothing that they could do to stop it. What were they going to do, give up? No they kept on preparing and readying themselves to put up a big fight.

The colony on one of the gas giants in this system would be the test of the Izanian intentions. It would take these Nimrovs a long time to get to the Ganymede colony. Time was something that they didn't have in abundance. Thus, if the Izanians were hostile, these men and women preparing Ganymede for colonization would be left out to dry.

However, in the preparation, Earth created a continuous communication link between Ganymede and their Martian colony. If that link were broken, then the humans would know that the Izanian had hostile intent. They could continue to prepare for the worst. They could lose the fear that their actions would appear hostile to a friendly species, and cause a war unnecessarily.

Since we all know the Izanians, we know that their intentions are obviously destructive. However, these humans had not yet translated the message. They still worked on it, but it was a daunting task with not enough reference information. So they had to prepare for the worst. When communication with the outer colony was lost, these humans knew that the Izanian were not on a mission of peace. It was war!

The Izanian ship made quick work of the colonial preparation team on Ganymede. They launched some of their ground assault ships from their main battleship and quickly destroyed the work that took months to create. Once destruction was complete, the ships rejoined the battleship that had barely slowed down.

Preparations for the upcoming meeting continued until the officers were convinced that any further preparation would be a waste of time. They readied the ships and plotted an intercept course with the Izanian battle cruiser.

This Izanian battle cruiser was immense. Its technology was vastly superior to anything the Nimrovs had. Unlike the human battleship the Izanian craft had a vast array of particle beam weapon stations on board. The Izanian cruiser was obviously designed to take out an entire solar system without help from any other ship. It had a large weapon array designed for planetary destruction. It had several fighter crafts. It was 3 times the size of the meager Nimrov ship. The humans had a daunting task ahead of them.

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Eagle Has Landed

The Izanian War

The makeshift human battleship met the Izanian just beyond the human colony on Nimrov 4. To their surprise and somewhat relief, there was just the one Izanian battleship. However, when it brought is weapons to bear upon the human battleship, they knew they were in for a fight. The first shot from the Izanian beam weapon was a glancing blow, but it did significant damage to the earth vessel. It appeared that this weapon had difficulty locking on to moving objects. While the Nimrov Battleship was slow, it was moving a bit attempting to avoid any more hits from the Izanian weapon systems.

The Nimrov battleship was able to launch its first sortie of its fighters, and the battle was on. Because of the damage that the Nimrov ship obtained in the first strike, the vessel's commander attempted to keep one of Mar's moons between it and the Izanian battleship. It could ill afford another hit like the first one.

As slow and clumsy the Nimrov battleship was, the massive Izanian ship was even less maneuverable. It appeared that it was not designed for close combat fighting. This massive spaceship was designed for quick entrance and deployment of the fighters. The commander of the Izanian battleship decided to stop chasing the Nimrov battleship and concentrate its fire upon its biggest threat, the fighters.

These Izanian fighters were obviously designed for a ground attack, as they were out maneuvered by the simple Earth vessels. The first few Izanian attempts to intercept the rag tag Nimrov fighters was found futile. Eventually, the Izanian fighters broke off their attempts to attack of the Nimrov battle crafts, and began to attack the Mars colony itself. Thus, the battleship was left to fend for itself.

One fighter wing of Nimrov pilots began taking on these Izanian ground attack vessels. The missile designers knew how well they worked in an oxygen atmosphere, and thus, these wily Nimrovs waited until these superior ground attack vessels entered the atmosphere. Upon entering the thin Martian atmosphere, the missiles from the Earth vessels were launched against the enemy ships. These missiles were primitive but surprisingly effective against the unshielded Izanian ground attack ships. Once these missiles locked onto an Izanian ship, they were very accurate. These ground attack vehicles were not meant for quick maneuvers in atmosphere even a thin one like Nimrov 4 has. These primitive missiles would greatly damage these vulnerable ships. The missiles weren't the only weapon that the Nimrovs had protecting their colony. They had bulky and cumbersome beam weapons. While these weapons were difficult to aim and very inaccurate by most standards, when an Izanian ship was near a particle beam installation, they would hit one of every three ships. With this primitive setup, these backwards Nimrovs were effectively neutralizing the Izanian vessels. However, these fighters kept coming, and they didn't appear to every need to return to the ship for re-arming. They hoped they could hold out against this onslaught.

Back at the Izanian battle cruiser, the plucky Nimrov fighters were still taking on the vastly superior ship. They had to deal with a vessel with shields and were having a difficult time with this energy barrier. Also, the energy beams of the Izanian battleship were very effective against the Nimrov fighters. That is, if they managed to actually hit one of the makeshift fighters. The erratic flight path of these fighters made them very difficult to hit with any sort of weapon. The first few runs more Nimrov craft were lost due to running into the Izanian shield rather than from enemy fire.

The Earth fighter wings that were concentrating upon the battle cruiser would fly as close to the shielding as possible and launch their payload toward the battleship. This would put the most pressure on the shielding as glancing blows were problematic for the Nimrov weaponry. If a missile did not hit the shielding directly, it would bounce off and could potential cause problems for nearby fighters.

With the Izanian battleship concentrating on the swarms of Nimrov fighters, it couldn't turn its fire power upon the Martian colony. This is what these humans were hoping to accomplish as long as they could. If they were lucky, they felt that they could neutralize the battleship and prevent it from firing its main gun at the planet's surface. So far, they had been successful in keeping it busy.

Once the battle had begun, these Nimrovs quickly fell into battle readiness. They were surprisingly ready for a test of such importance. The battleship crew could rearm one of the returning fighter crafts in just a few minutes. With the number of craft that they had, they could keep the Izanians occupied and off balance for several days. They just hoped they had enough resources to accomplish this very task. There were times they felt they were winning, and there were times when the felt the odds against them were far too great for victory. However, giving up meant certain death, and this kept them going.

Mission after mission the previously untested missiles were surprisingly effective against the Izanian ships and their shields. During the first few missions it was discovered that most of the missiles would not properly detonate in space. While they had theoretically had everything they needed to work, the temperature in space was too low for them to work properly. However, this did not turn out to be a great disadvantage for the Nimrovs because the unexploded projectiles were greatly more effective against the Izanian battleship's shields.

Like most space vessel shields, the Izanian shields were designed to absorb energy. While they would occasionally encounter an asteroid or some other debris in space, they weren't designed for constant bombardment by metal objects. This design is invaluable against energy weapons like the human particle beam, but they are relatively ineffective against projectile weapons such as the weapons used by these humans. Perhaps the Izanian had never encountered a race that did not have energy weapons. They certainly did not anticipate the use of projectile weapons. It appeared that they had no defense against the very primitive Nimrov weapon systems. The Izanian shields were taking a pounding from these conventional weapons. More and more energy was required from the Izanian vessel to keep the shields operational. The Izanian shields had to absorb blow after blow from the missiles launched from the Nimrov fighter crafts.

The Izanians, who have never been flexible in their contingency plans, must not have anticipated the ability of this backwards race to become prepared for battle in such a short time. If they had given enough resources to this operation, they would have easily overwhelmed the unsophisticated Nimrovs. But, they did not do enough research on this particular race. They were ill prepared for the sophistication of even these simple weapon systems that these humans had. They sent a single battleship to face this backwards race, and they were paying the price.

The battle had gone on for several hours and there were numerous earth fatalities. There was much bravery on the part of several of the young earth pilots. One pilot by the Name of Everett James Douglass was the first to go on a mission that day. Eagle Douglass as he is called, was the number one pilot of his Nimrov class at the Air Force academy. He had a natural knack for flying and he would bring back his fighter "without a scratch," as he would say.

He used his skill to save several other pilots. Would fly in such a manner that the Izanians would try to shoot him with their beam weapons. Thus, this tactic was drawing the fire away from other ships. These Izanians could never quite figure out his flight tricks, and thus never hit him with their weapons. He flew more missions than any other pilot, but he was beginning to get tired.

As the battle drew on, the Earthers were beginning to exhaust their supply of missiles. If something with this battleship didn't happen soon, these Nimrovs would be in big trouble. They weren't losing any ground, so they continued with their tactics hoping that they were wearing down the aggressors.

The Humans were launching 30 minute sorties from their battleship. With each mission, the Izanians would fire the energy weapons less and less. This emboldened the Humans. They were very flexible in their tactics and tried many different approaches. They were removing the ineffective explosive core of their existing missiles and putting anything they could get into a missile's warhead. They were experiencing enough success that they began to determine which materials were the most effective against the battleships weakening shields. They were getting whatever material they could. They even began dismantling part of their reinforcement of their battleship to put into missiles.

After nearly a complete commonwealth day, the Izanian shields finally failed. As we all know, the energy systems of most ships are connected. Thus, if the shields fail, then all of the connected systems will fail. Thus, the humans had successfully disabled the vastly superior space vessel. It was floating in space with all of its energy systems down. The order went out from the Human command center to board the Izanian ship. Several pilots including Eagle Douglass docked with the ship to discover the usual Izanian contingent were on board. However, since this was their first encounter they were surprised to find only 2 Izanian on board. They had no idea that most of the ship's functions were entirely automated. The 2 well trained Izanian attempted to self-destruct the ship, but were totally unprepared for the tactics of these Nimrovs. Furthermore, they debated for too long whether to destroy the ship, and eventually the energy systems were off-line. Thus, the ship was going to be captured. Eagle and some of the other humans attempted to capture these two enemy combatants, but the well trained Izanians weren't going to be captured with their ship. They both pushed a button upon their uniforms and disintegrated in a puff of putrid orange smoke. Against all odds, the humans were victorious!

Their race's quick thinking and flexibility had defeated one of the most battle ready races that any of us has ever had contact. Soon, the news had traveled throughout their solar system. There was much rejoicing. They had successfully repelled an invasion fleet. They didn't know what was going to happen next, but they did take some time to celebrate their victory. They mourned the fallen, but savored their victory. I am sure they will be one of the biggest celebrators of the New Year and will never be late on their Commonwealth Nimroville celebration.

"Is that it? That can't be the end of the story!" stated Cram Nayawt.

"That is the problem with story telling," replied Essdy. "Many times it isn't enough to end at a happy ending. Of course, there is more to the story. The Human's have had quite a time since Nimroville. You should check out the published histories sometime."

"Hey Mr. Yarnspinner, I paid for a story and I want a complete story!"

"Mr. Nayawt, I gave you a complete story. I gave you a darn good story to boot. I am not about to be strong armed into telling you a longer story than what you paid for."

"But all these others are getting a story for free."

"I suggest you take that up with them."

"If I get them to kick in something more, would you keep going? I want to know what happened next. What did the Izanian did to them? Did a second wave come? Did they repel it also? How many survived? What happened with this Eagle fellow?"

"I've got places to go Mr. Nayawt, but if you give me commonwealth credits equal to what you spent on my fee, I'll continue with the story. You'll find out more about what happens between the Izanian and the Nimrovs."

"Hey everybody, if you pitch in a couple of credits each you can hear more of this story. Otherwise, he's going to ship out. Do I have any takers? You? And, You? Excellent. Hey, you heard most of the story, are you in? Excellent. How much? Fine, any amount helps. Okay Yarnspinner, I've got enough credits to keep you going for a while. I just transferred the amount to this card. Is it acceptable?"

"That will do nicely. It is even more than I expected. I will continue with my story over there where everyone can see and hear."

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Eagle Has Landed

The Izanian War

Essdy continued with his story.

The Izanian ship was towed to a Nimrov space station for study. Scientists from all over the Earth colonies came to discover the many secrets the ship held. Eagle Douglass was not only a top pilot, he was an excellent engineer. Thus, his excellent service in the battle allowed him to gain access to Izanian Battle cruiser. These Nimrovs could learn a great deal about advanced weapon systems, advanced composite materials, complicated computer systems, and many other things from this alien vessel.

They felt some urgency, as there could be other ships on the way. They didn't know when these would be coming, but certainly other ships were going to follow. They were at war with a technologically advanced society, and they had to work together if they were going to survive. They need to assemble more weapons, and prepare for another battle. They knew that their missile technology was effective, but could they assemble the resources before the Izanians returned? Would they be able to ward off a second attack?

The Izanians at the time had already claimed the Nimrov system as their own. The sent a message to the Commonwealth council that the Izanian would not tolerate any outside interference. Clearly, they either sent the message before the battle had even begun or it was an attempt to get more time to engage the Nimrov people. Thus, they would also try to stall the Nimrovs. This is why the Izanians sent a message to the Earth people that arrived shortly after the captured Izanian ship was docked at the Nimrov 4 space station. The message sent by Nek Nam Retek of the Izanian stated:

'Nimrov peasants! Do you like your cities? If you do, you should reconsider your actions against the mighty Izanian. A large fleet of our battle cruisers is currently on its way to your puny little civilization. We shall destroy all that you have built! We ask only that you return our property to us, and we shall leave you alone ... for now.'

'I'm guessing they want their ship back,' stated the President in an address to the congressional body. 'They may mean business, but since we do not speak that strange gestural language nor their verbal language, it is difficult to determine what steps we need to take to avoid further confrontation. So, we will continue as planned. Get our top guys on that ship and lets see what makes that thing tick.'

The Izanian message was sent to all of the top science teams. It was given top priority. Knowing the language, they believed, would strengthen their understanding of the technology of the vessel. One of the teams was under the guidance of an eminent Nimrov scientist named Michael Miller. His team included Eagle Douglass. It also included two of Eagle's closest friends, Laura Capitain and David "Sparky" Daniels. It was this team who noticed the translator signal included with the message. The Commonwealth translator message greatly aided in the translation of the hand gestures of the Commonwealth language. Once it was discovered, the linguists made short order of the two messages.

With the discovery of the messages came an urgency that the Izanian were going to return with a larger force. Thus, more resources were assigned to the study of the ship. If another fleet was on the way, they needed to learn as much as they could about the Izanians technology. They wanted shields and compact beam weapons to aid in their fight. Thus, with his significant computer skills, Eagle Douglass and Michael Miller's team were given more access to the computer systems. With the new knowledge of the Commonwealth language, Eagle and their team could use his expertise to gain whatever information they could from the Izanian computers. With Eagle's vast knowledge and eagerness, Dr. Miller stepped aside and gave Eagle full control of the team.

It took months for the top scientist to figure out miniscule bits of information on any of the systems. However, when they did gain some insight, this technology was instantly turned into advancements for Earth's one and only battleship. The colony on Nimrov 5's moon would have to wait. They had multiple teams and each team was assigned to the various Izanian systems.

With the many teams working hard, the greatest breakthrough was attributed to Eagle Douglass and his team. It was they who discovered the secrets stored in the Izanian computer system. Eagle created a complex computer program that would translate his commands into the commands that the Izanian computer could understand. He was amazed at how similar the two computer systems were at the machine language level. After months of fine tuning, Eagle got in. Once he gained access, Eagle was able to access the file system. The files could be then given to linguists who could attempt to translate the information stored within the computer system. Everyone hoped that this would lead to even more technology.

For their discovery, Eagle was awarded the highest medal that could be stowed upon one of its citizens. The United Nations of Earth's Congressional Medal of Honor was given to him for his work, but he missed the awarding ceremony. It was not important to him. What he wanted was to know more about the advanced computer technology and the advanced space systems on board the Izanian ship. He was working 14 hours a day on various projects for Nimrov Space agency. Plus, he was spending the rest of his waking hours learning about the Izanian. He was eating, sleeping, and breathing Izanian culture.

He was hoping that his hard work and sacrifice would lead to something better. He was hoping the space administration would grant him the privilege of captaining his own ship. After all, he knew more about every system on board the Izanian ship than anyone else. He believed he could put together a much better design than any proposed by the NASA engineers. However, the powers that be would not even let him get close to an Earth ship.

With all of the knowledge gained from the Izanian computer system, the Nimrovs were emboldened. They started making preparations for their own ships. There were several proposals for various ships. Scouts, frigates, cruisers, destroyers, and battleships were all designed in an effort to take on the Izanian threat. Work was done on the various designs, and the months would past. In fact, a few years past and the Izanian never came. The people of Earth wondered if that was that the end of the Izanian? Were there only a handful of members of their species? Were there so few, that they couldn't risk losing more? What was the nature of the Izanian?

Meanwhile, Eagle graduated at the top of his class at the Air Force Academy. He did have some trouble with a few teachers, but he always managed to land on his feet. As you may have guessed, he had a little bit of trouble with authority. He could play along to a point, but he liked being in charge. He often took charge in many situations like he did with the computer team. That was the kind of person he was.

He earned many rewards for his work. He was the most well known engineer on the planetary system. For his work he was given the rank of Ensign and assigned a post on the UNSS Douglass. It was the Nimrov's first scout ship. It was designed to explore the outer reaches of the Nimrov system. If they could manage it, they would go farther than any other Nimrov ship. Perhaps they would even leave the system entirely.

Just great!' Eagle bemoaned to his friend Laura. 'They name the damn thing after me, but I only get to steer it around.'

'At least we're on the same ship together E.J.' replied Laura.

'I know, but I was hoping for more. It will be a grand adventure and all, but I'm just a cab driver on this thing. I do not get to pick where we go. I do not get to work on the systems. I just say 'Yes sir, whatever you say sir!' I'm not cut out for that kind of thing.'

'You were always lousy at taking orders that is for sure.'

'You're a riot Alice! One of these days...'

'We're going beyond the moon hot shot! You will have a ship of your own at some point.'

Eagle would often quote lines from common Nimrov entertainment. This is why he said what he did. Laura understood the quote, and thus her response was fitting.

Eagle continued, 'I'm not patient either!'

'Now you're just being silly!'

'OK Boss, I'll behave. For now...'

UNSS Douglass began cruising about their civilization's solar system. They were checking speed, acceleration, and other ship facilities. They were going farther than any other ship from Earth had ever gone. They explored all of their planets and other astronomical bodies.

They were at the edge of their Solar System when the ship's sensors picked up a strange phenomenon. It was a source of energy unknown to the humans. The captain ordered the pilot to enter the phenomenon. Eagle refused. He stated that this energy source is immense, and the shields will not be able to withstand that amount of energy. Eagle felt that at the very least, the shields should be dropped before entering the energy field. The commander of the ship disagreed and ordered the ship to be taken into the field with the shields on maximum. Eagle was ordered to stand down, and he refused this order also. He plotted a course back to the space station on Nimrov 4. Proceedings began immediately for Eagle's court martial. He was removed from his post until a complete investigation was made.

Laura Capitain, Eagle's girlfriend did not want to resign her commission, so she stayed aboard the UNSS Douglass. The Captain's first order of business was to return to the anomaly and explore it. Thus, before the trial was to begin, the UNSS Douglass returned to the edge of the Nimrov solar system.

Once at the edge of the solar system, the commander ordered the pilot to enter the energy field with the shields up and on maximum. Of course, it was a hyper gate. The UNSS Douglass was completely disabled as the hyper gate short-circuited all of the ships electrical systems. The shields could not absorb that much energy. Thus, the ship was dead in space. Fortunately, the dead ship did not set off the Izanian alert sensors. Perhaps if it had working power systems it would have set off these alarms.

However, without any working power systems the ship couldn't maneuver, and it couldn't return into the hypergate. These were brand new systems, and only a very few had a complete understanding of how they worked. However, these engineers were busy designing new ships and not on board the UNSS Douglass. Certainly, the engineers worked hard, but couldn't bring any of the systems back on line. They couldn't even communicate with the Nimrov space central. The ship was drifting in space with no power.

The ship eventually got caught in the outermost planet of the solar system on the far side of this hypergate. Once in this planet's gravity the disabled ship set off the alert sensors of the Izanian. Before the ship could crash onto the surface of the seventh planet, the Izanian defenses destroyed the ship with all hands killed.

A review of the incident exonerated Eagle. He was reinstated with all rights and privileges. However, he was totally disenchanted with the entire system and was making plans to leave Earth's solar system for good. He and a group of adventurers got together and manufactured their own ship. They were going to explore on their own without the blessings of the United Nations Government and without the approval of NASA.

To date, it was the only other major incident between the two civilizations. The Izanian could never muster the resources to return to the Nimrovian system. Of course, the Nimrovs had no intention of dealing with Izanian again. They would do everything in their power to avoid the Izanian. Thus, the 'war' ended in a draw.

However, Eagle had a ship to use for exploration. They would eventually become one of the new members of the Galactic Commonwealth. The Nimrovs are starting to make their mark, but they have a lot to learn yet. There are plenty of stories to tell, but this is the end of this one. Thank you for listening.

"Well spoken Yarnspinner! I'm satisfied. Thanks, but how do you know so much? Yarnspinner? Where'd he go?"

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Because He's There!

Written With Dwayne MacInnes

Journal Entry for 07:14:72 by Dr. Daniel C. Hever, PhD

George Mallory - lost mountain climber.

In 1924 C.E. (in Gregorian calendar) Sir George Mallory and a team of mountain climbers including Andrew Irvine attempted to reach the summit of the mighty Mt. Everest. Sir Mallory and Mr. Irvine did not leave the mountain with the rest of the team. They were lost and presumed dead, but nobody knows whether they made it to the summit.

It had been over 100 years since the recovery of George Mallory's body. It was in 1999 C.E. However, I don't feel like doing the conversion to our current metric calendar, so we'll leave it at about 100 years for now. Mallory was well preserved on the slopes of Mt. Everest, and he had been held in a frozen state since his body was retrieved off the slopes of Everest.

We will hopefully discover the truth about his adventure when he is revived. Did he make it to the summit? What happened on those frigid slopes so long ago? The process of bringing Mr. Mallory back from his suspended animation is nearly finished and he will be awakened in a matter of hours. We have done a great deal of research on the man and his culture to make the transition for Sir Mallory a smooth one.

There have been great technical advances made since the discovery of Sir Mallory's body. I think the biggest advance is in nanotechnology. Our civilization has created processes that can create microscopic robots. This has resulted in huge advances in medicine. Surgical repairs can be made at the cellular level. With this technology, we will revive the long dead Mallory. I can hardly wait for this process to finish.

As a first phase of this experiment we revived individuals from the 20th century. Although most of these individuals died many years after Mallory, we felt that we got a sense of what the culture was back those 100 years ago. From our readings and the information from these cryogenically frozen individuals, we believed we had a good feel for what it was like for Sir George Mallory. They brought us closer to culture of his time, and we could piece together more from other sources.

We were fortunate that several individuals in the 20th century had themselves cryogenically frozen to be revived later in time. Since these individuals were expecting to be awoken at a later time, the same precautions did not need to be made to make them feel they were in their own time. Many were pleased to be revived after many years of frigid hibernation.

Sadly, some former citizens of the 20th century (Gregorian calendar) did not provide a full body, but merely a head. Some of these were greatly disappointed when no suitable biological body would be provided. The building of a body from the DNA of a patient can be done; however in most instances no provisions were made for such a procedure. Further, constructing a body was a long and expensive procedure, and many of these individuals spent all of their money on the freezing process and the storage space. Thus, if someone was revived without an existing body, they often felt they were nothing more than a curious head in a jar. Cybernetic bodies could be provided, but many had difficulty controlling this body. However, these individuals did provide a wealth of information about the culture in and around their time of life.

It was this method that my team and I developed to study a wooly mammoth that we were to revive. The method of studying a subject from afar before revival we felt was a necessary step to lessen the impact of being thrust into the future. Before reviving a creature whether it was animal or human, we studied it with the use of scholarly texts as well as with nanocameras.

Along with the medical uses of these nanobots, this nanotechnology also allowed the creation of a wide variety of useful tiny machines. One such device was a tiny camera. These cameras had a myriad of uses, and not all of them were medical. While these cameras were larger than the medical nanobots, they were still about the size of an ordinary house fly. The extra size was due to the need for mobility and storage of information. However, the manufacturer often claimed that you could now be a fly on the wall. Please note that the use of such a device is highly regulated to prevent abuses.

Excerpt from Journal for 02:06:93 by Daniel C. Hever:

We have proposed a use for several new and existing technologies. First, we will use a widely used technology that was developed by me and my team. We will use existing nanotechnology to repair and revive this mammoth. This wooly mammoth will be gradually thawed in a therapeutic bath and repaired using the nanosurgeon robots. This will be done so this particular specimen can be studied thoroughly in its near natural environment. We have several goals in mind. Many scientists here would like to learn more about the behaviors of this species of animal. We feel that by reviving this creature, she will retain those behaviors and she will be suitable for study in that regard. Also, we would like to determine if she retains memories. In this way, this process could be used to study individuals and cultures that have been dead for many years.

Second, in order to fulfill this goal, we will need to use the nanocameras developed by AOENC, Inc. The cameras in question will be used to study this long extinct mammal that has been frozen in ice for thousands of years. In order to study this mammal in its original habitat, we will need to take advantage of a brand new technology developed by a team from the University of Montana and the University of Northern Iowa.

This third technology will be used to transport this camera back and forth in time. While this process takes a huge amount of energy to perform, we will benefit by studying the exact behavior of the animal in question. Thus, we can determine if the revived subject has the same memories and experiences. Thus, we believe we can learn more about the behaviors of this mammoth from the original beast rather than a facsimile or clone.

I have spoken to Dr. D. Max Wayne of the University of Montana and to Dr. Gogi Tee of the University of Northern Iowa, and they have tested their process on the "fly" camera. Their tests show that they can indeed view images and retrieve audio from previous times. In their tests they have obtained full color video of a few historic moments. With this time shifting technology and along with the cellular regeneration techniques provided by the nanobots, we believe we can learn much about the life of the wooly mammoth.

We have contacted AOENC, Inc. to customize the appearance of their camera to appear even more fly-like. This fly appearance will have a further benefit. The time travel apparatus causes an odd buzzing sound upon entering and leaving a specific time frame. Hence, if this buzzing was heard by a subject being studied, the fly look will help explain the sound.

With our slightly modified nanocamera we have filled out the proper paperwork for governmental approval. We feel that this experiment will have no impact on any timeline. Thus, I'm sure this process will meet governmental approval. If we are successful in our attempts, we plan on reviving other subjects and perhaps even humans. However, we will wish to learn as much about our subjects before reviving them. This will decrease the stress of the strange environment.

End excerpt.

In the above experiment, the wooly mammoth that had been frozen in ice for thousands of years, was revived after studying it in its own environment in time and space. An environment similar to her last known surroundings was synthesized in which to place the mammoth and study her. In previous experiments this particular mammoth had been cloned. However, these clones did not have the same experience as the actual mammoth. Thus, no presumptions of actual behaviors could be made. This was unsatisfying to many researchers.

The mammoth that we revived exhibited the same behaviors observed from the nanocameras. Thus, much could be determined about actual behaviors of this ice age beast. It was a very successful experiment. We believe that this creature retained its memories and experiences, and several tests were performed to help verify this hypothesis. Thus, we could learn a great deal about past cultures by reviving some frozen humans. We had three specimens with interesting questions surrounding them. We are currently studying our third subject, Sir Mallory. The other two experiments involving the frozen individuals turned out less successfully than we had hoped.

Excerpt from Journal for 04:12:43 by Daniel C. Hever:

From our experiments with the wooly mammoth, we believe that when an ancient creature or individual is revived, he/she/it will exhibit the behaviors observed from the nanocamera studies. Thus, we are fairly certain that this individual or creature will retain their memories and will behave as if they never died. It was as if they just went to sleep and then woke up and continued behaving as if living in its previous environment.

In order to prove this hypothesis, we will be studying a frozen man from the late Neolithic period. This man had been discovered in the Otztal Alps between Italy and Austria in the late 20th Century of the old calendar. There was much speculation on how the man came to die on the mountain. Some speculated that this "iceman" was a ritual sacrifice to the mountain. Others believed he was running away from combat and received an arrow in the back during his flight.

This is our first chance to make use of the sound recording possibilities of the nanocamera. We don't know what language our iceman speaks. We have some rough ideas, but the years have been many. We would like to know the exact language in order to make his transition to our time smoother.

We began our research by reading all of the sources that had been collected about our specimen. He had a few artifacts that had long been lost. There was much speculation about our subject, but this was merely speculation. We needed hard facts. Thus, we prepared the nanocameras to send back to the day that he died. From the sources, we had a pretty good idea where he laid down and die. We had to guess his path to his final resting place. We wanted to follow his last several minutes. We hoped to capture a ceremony if he had been sacrificed. In that way, we could capture some of his native language. We would also be able to better replicate his clothes and equipment.

Everything was going well until they sent their camera back to view events. We do not know for sure what happened to our camera, but it was destroyed before returning. I believe that the camera was ingested by a bird and destroyed. In order to prevent any other changes in the timeline, the government has insisted that no further cameras would be allowed back to that time frame. Thus, with the lack of information about our subject, I am afraid we should refrain from reviving him. We will move on to our next subject.

End excerpt

Excerpt from Journal for 04:76:58 by Daniel C. Hever:

Our next ice mummy which we wish to revive comes to our team from Siberia. This female was believed to be a spiritual leader of her people. If this were true, it would show the influence of females of her particular group. She was found with several artifacts and the team wanted to know more about her. While this individual had less information in the archives than our previous subject, she is not as ancient. Thus, we can make some very educated guesses. We have a better idea of her language, and some more information about her culture. However, we will need to verify this information before we revive this "Ice Maiden."

End excerpt.

Once again, we were unable to retrieve sufficient information about this subject. We had painstakingly determined the best place to put the camera. We had done plenty of calculations about which way to view and where to view. However, this camera was destroyed in a massive blizzard that one of the team members forgot to note. Without proper information about this individual and her surroundings the revival process was aborted and another opportunity lost to the team.

We had one subject left. We knew a great deal about this individual. Again, he was from a time much closer to our own. We knew what language he spoke. We could greatly replicate friendly surroundings for Sir George Mallory. Once and for all, we should be able to determine if he did indeed reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Also, we should learn the circumstances of his death.

It has taken several years of paperwork and study in order for this day to come. Our past failures have made the government reluctant to issue the necessary permits to send the nanocameras back to study our subject, Sir Mallory. However, with much coaxing they have allowed us to send one camera back. However, early on it was decided to revive Sir Mallory even without any video footage. There had been much written about him that survived. We spoke a common language. While our cultures are separated by a great deal of time, we feel that this shouldn't be a great concern.

We accomplished much in our studies. We did send our fly-like camera back onto Everest and successfully retrieved some data. However, we did not see Sir Mallory or his climbing partner Mr. Andrew Irvine. All that was seen was the mountain side and all that was heard was a howling wind. While there was an eerie stillness in the area, we were greatly disappointed in the findings from our time traveling camera. We are sure that Sir Mallory will be comfortable in our provided surroundings. We should be able to determine much from him. I am heading to Sir Mallory's room now. I will fill out a full report for the University when our conversation has ended.

End entry.

"Test. Test. Is this thing on? Hello? Test. Test. This is Dr. Daniel Hever recording. Sir George Mallory is about to be revived, and we are here to record his statements as they happen. The only voices you'll be hearing are mine and Sir Mallory's. Quiet please. Let's begin?"

"Sir Mallory? Wake up. Sir Mallory?"

"Huh? What are you Yanks doing here? Where am I?"

"You're in a hospital; you had a bit of a fall."

"Bloody hell! Tell me about it mate! It was the darnedest thing! There I was at 8200 meters. Bloody thing could have been the end of me!"

"What thing? What happened?"

"As I said mate, I was there at 8200 meters hanging on for my life. Good things you Yanks came along, or I would have likely froze to death. Where's Andrew?"

"Sir Mallory, you were saying? You were at 8200 meters hanging on for your life, and then what happened?"

"Sandy's a right good chap. He must have fetched you directly. Good bloke that Andrew. Where is he?"

"Andrew Irvine? I'm not sure where he is, but please Sir Mallory, tell us what happened."

"Right, right, I was at 8200 meters. What is that? That's about 27,000 feet to you Yanks. Anyway, it was the darnedest thing! I was up in the thinness of the atmosphere, just climbing like always, and there it was. Out of nowhere! It was suddenly there! Out of nowhere I tell you!"

"What was there? What came out of nowhere?"

"A bloody fly! At 8200 meters! I was hanging on for my life, struggling with the thin atmosphere, and this bloody buzzing fly popped out from nowhere! Scared the wits right out of me. I fell quite a ways! Good thing you Yanks showed up, or I'd be dead for sure!"

"Uhhh thanks Sir Mallory. You get some rest and we'll continue this later. Turn the recorder off please!"

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Me, A Roman Slave

I had just hidden my time machine when one of Marius' soldiers spotted me. Not knowing what else to do, I began to run. However, I knew I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was on horseback, and I couldn't outrun his horse. Thus, he quickly fell upon me, and I was captured.

This soldier looked for the slave trader that traveled with Marius' army, and he sold me to him for 4 sesterces. I was in big trouble now. I was going to live the old cliche', "while in Rome do as the Romans."

Along with thousands of others, I was herded south. We marched until we reached Naples where there was a large slave-trading establishment.

Once we arrived at the slave trading place, we were all stripped naked and cleaned up. We were all separately interviewed to discover our talents. Unfortunately, I speak neither the language of the Cimbri, nor of the Teutones. I only speak a small amount of Latin, but not enough to effectively communicate. They certainly didn't have anyone that spoke English. Pig Latin was also of no use. So, communication was difficult. They kept repeating a phrase, but I have no idea as to its meaning. They give me the name of Caprimulgus. I don't know what that means, but I hope it is a good label.

We were herded into another room, and the preparations for our sale were completed. Our feet were painted white with chalk. An order of auction was arranged, and I was placed after a young Cambric boy who they gave the name of Eros. There were lots of people that were sold before they got to me. Some of them had the same name Caprimulgus, so I got a little worried.

I decided to do something to indicate some of my skills since communication during the interview process was negligible. There was a tree nearby, so I grabbed some branches with the intent of building a makeshift piece of furniture. I'm a fair wood worker, and I'd rather do that than be purchased for the gladiatorial games.

The bidding for Eros went for quite a long time. He went for a pretty high price. I was beginning to wonder why I was set up behind him. I certainly wasn't going to fetch that high a price. I think the phrase that they used to describe me was compelling enough to think that I would be valuable.

I fashioned a makeshift couch from the few twigs I gathered. It wasn't anything special, but it was enough to show them that I had some woodworking skills. It surprised the auctioneer, but he went along with it. I hoped that this little item would ensure that I wouldn't be sold into gladiatorial service. I'm too old to be an effective fighter. My reflexes are significantly slower than they were 10 years ago. I wouldn't last long as a gladiator.

The bidding went back and forth for quite a while. I was greatly surprised. I think my makeshift twig couch was making a difference. They could see that I had a skill, and I could be put to good use. Eventually, I was sold to a well to do furniture maker. I was grateful to not have to go with a large portion of these captives to be trained as gladiators. Some of them may make a large amount of money, but it wasn't the life for me.

The furniture maker made luxurious furniture to be sold to the senatorial and equestrian classes of Rome. His furniture was of very fine quality, and he was renown throughout Rome as the premiere furniture maker. I felt very lucky joining such a prestigious furniture maker in Naples. He also bought a young woman to help with the housework. She was very striking, and I wonder how his wife will react to this purchase.

At first I was assigned the task of building tables. I'm a decent wood worker, but I'm used to having modern tools. I would have done wonders if I had my woodshop with me. However, I had to work with the equipment available. I was still handy with the hand tools.

I knew that if I worked hard and crafted desirable furniture, I could earn my freedom rather quickly. So, I painstakingly crafted each piece I was assigned and I made some items on my own. Since our furniture was greatly desired throughout the republic, we sold numerous pieces and were very successful.

As the months past, I learned more and more Latin and some of the local dialect. I also learned more about my passage into slavery. One thing I did finally learn was the phrase they kept repeating at the slave interview. The interviewer kept saying "He must be an expert on animal husbandry. Look how fat he is!" Thus, they named me Caprimulgus or "Goat-milker" with designs on selling me as a shepherd.

I've never lived on a farm, and I don't have a lot of experience with animals. I don't know how long I would have lasted in the country. I'm certain that anyone who would have purchased me with those designs would have been greatly disappointed.

The man who purchased my services was named Gaius Libertus Lignarius. He had multiple ex-slaves who were paying him commission. He was earning a lot of money with all of the artisans under his tutelage. He wasn't a Roman citizen, and he very much wanted to be. He was very prosperous, and he hadn't actually made any furniture himself for quite a while. If he were given citizenship he would have easily been a member of the Equestrian order.

He lived on a large estate on the hills of Naples. Naturally, it was well furnished. Occasionally, he would invite his free tradesmen up for dinner. Those of us that hadn't purchased our freedom yet were hired to serve some of the dinner guests. Generally, we would only serve the freedmen. His regular staff would serve the more respected guests.

Several Roman Senators had lands in Campania. He often had dinner at their estates. Often in these instances, he was the one served by the less competent waiters. However, many times he would bring a reclining couch as a gift. We made some of the best in the Roman world. He would insist on dining on this couch in order to make sure it was "up to standards." Thus, he would at least dine in comfort. Often times, it was the finest reclining couch that the host had. Thus, it was odd to have the finest furniture in the rear of the dining area. This often brought notice of others. Thus, in order for his host to feel less foolish, he began to move up in rank. These hosts wanted the finest furniture at the front for all to see. Thus, Libertus would gain in rank simply because of the nature of his fine gifts.

I lived in a small loft above the shop. It was on the third floor, and it was rather small. Another slave with more experience lived in the apartment below. Since I was in the furniture business, I could spend my time furnishing it as I pleased. Thus, although it wasn't a great place to live, it was nicely furnished. The building had a distinct lean towards the street. You had to take care in which direction you slept otherwise the blood might rush to your head by morning.

After furnishing my place, I started to save my peculium, which is extra money, to earn my freedom. In the years after Marius' victories, our products were in great demand. Every battle abroad brought more wealth to a few citizens. They would use some of this wealth to purchase luxury items. Thus, we had plenty of demand for our products.

After working for Libertus for 5 years, I earned enough to buy my freedom. He agreed to grant my freedom with the agreement to pay him a percentage of my pay. It was a pretty standard agreement. He found a location a short distance from his shop to establish my shop. This time, I would live in the first floor above the shop. I agreed to house a few of his slaves in the upper floors. This reduced the amount I had to pay him.

At this time, I thought about changing my name to something more appropriate to my profession, but it had grown on me and I decided to keep it. Besides, my reputation was built upon my unusual name for a carpenter. However, as was somewhat traditional for freed men to take on the name of their emancipator, I became Caprimulgus Liberius.

The five years after purchasing my freedom were successful. The demand for Naples furniture came from other places besides Rome. Furniture from Naples was sold to the King of Parthia and to the Egyptian royal family. Throughout the civilized world, people looked for furniture built by us.

I was making an excellent living, and I even considered purchasing some slaves to help out in my shop. However, there was growing unrest in the Republic and it was affecting our trade. Some of the allies of Rome felt they were being treated unfairly. Libertus was one who felt that he should be considered for full citizenship. His requests in this area were regularly denied.

Revolts became regular occurrences. The Samnites in Campania revolted, and the trade routes between Naples and Rome were cut off. Soon, most of Campania had separated from Rome. The Samnites established themselves as a separate state. With all this unrest, it wouldn't be a good time to increase production.

Being non-Roman I had a few advantages. Since I had earned a great deal of money up to this point and I had an excellent reputation, I could begin looking at my options. One of the things that I considered was to find my time machine and return home. However, it had been many years and I was quite happy with the way my life was going. I also wasn't too concerned about joining Roman society and I still did things in my own way. My attitude about things was far different than many Romans.

I felt that my shop was too close to Libertus' ship. He had some individuals who were ready to purchase their freedom, so I sold my shop and apartment back to Libertus. With this money and some that I had saved, I was able to purchase a small plot of land in a bit of a nicer part of the city. This parcel of land that I purchased used to hold a shop, but it had burned to the ground. Since the furniture business was suffering, I decided to construct the new shop and home by myself. I had enough to purchase the materials. I had saved enough to take the time build a new building.

It took a while to build the building on my own, but in the end it was worth it. My building was just going to have a small shop and living quarters above. I couldn't quite afford an estate, but I would be more comfortable in the new building.

Shortly after I finished, Lucius Cornelius Sulla began his consulship to take back Campania. Sulla punished many of the Samnite rebels. Unfortunately, Libertus was labeled one of the rebels. He went into hiding, but was betrayed by a slave. He was crucified along the road to Rome to teach the Samnites a lesson. This released me of all of my former obligations, but it cost me several fine pieces of furniture to remain alive. I am glad that I was able to communicate at this point. Otherwise, I certainly would have been put to death as well.

With Libertus dieing in disgrace, that hurt my business with Rome. However, Egypt and other wealthy foreign customers turned to me and the other former slaves of Libertus for their business, but this did not mean a lot of business.

With the strife in the Republic during this time, furniture purchases were way down, and when the Sulla's proscriptions started, furniture sales took a turn for the worse. I wasn't pleased with Sulla killing off well to do Roman citizens. They were my core business. However, I didn't voice any opposition.

Perhaps it was a time to look for other work. Marcus Crassus was purchasing slaves in the field of home construction. I could sell myself back into slavery to him. My house and shop turned out pretty nice, and it was well thought of in the neighborhood. Thus, I thought about taking the trip to Rome, but the violence there was too great. I figured if I could stick it out, business would pick up. I also started building more modest pieces for the locals. However, I couldn't do this alone.

There was a slave auction, and I decided to see what was available. Some of the Samnite civilians were being sold into slavery. There were lots of women and children on the blocks. I purchased a slave woman to work in the front of my store. She would give me the opportunity to concentrate more on my construction.

She wasn't particularly attractive, but she was quite competent in terms of running a store and a home. She didn't cost a great deal, so I think she was a very good deal. She was a decent cook, and quite a loving person. We grew very close, and eventually, she became pregnant with my first child. Before he was born, I freed her and married her. We wed on the day Marius died. Shortly after that day, our free son was born. He was called Marcus Caprimulius Liberius.

With Marius dead, tensions were somewhat relaxed. Sulla killed off a great deal of the Aristocracy. However, Soldiers with newfound wealth and property began ordering luxurious furniture again. Thus, business began to pick up. The aristocracy in Rome was once again noticing my services. I built several pieces for Crassus. He wanted furniture to put in some of the real estate that he had been acquiring.

Crassus began to demand more and more furniture. Thus, I looked for purchasing more artisans. I began to frequent the slave auctions. I managed to purchase a few Greek artisans. They were very expensive, but they were well worth it. They had skills already, and I could steer them towards the style my customers had grown accustomed.

I began to have more time for leisure. So, I began to take more time to visit the gladiatorial games. I was beginning to bring in a lot of money. I did not have enough money to sit in the front, but I was able to sit in decent seats. I wondered how some of the slaves that were sold on the same day that I was faired in the games.

I found that I was becoming more Roman. I enjoyed the games, and I started to look towards eating out more. I had more internal pressure to act more Roman and to shed my strange future ways.

When Sulla retired to Campania, he also purchased some furniture from my shop. I was once again one of the premiere furniture makers in Rome. People throughout the Republic began to seek me out for fine furniture.

I began to go to more and more slave auctions trying to keep up with demand. I allowed some artisans their freedom with the same agreement I had with Libertus. They would pay me a commission on everything they sold. I used the money from their purchase of freedom to purchase more slaves.

I hoped the tensions between the government and the armies would soon subside. It was much better for my business to have internal stability. However, this was not to be. Marcus Aemilius Lepidus decided to march on Rome with his army, and Gnius Pompanius Magnus was given the task to put down his rebellion.

Things were good when the armies fought external forces. The army would take wealth from others and have purchasing power to buy our goods. However, whenever there was internal fighting, a large number of wealthy men ended up dead. This is very bad for business.

Luckily, Sulla didn't march on Rome. We didn't need any more aristocratic bloodshed. However, his campaign in Spain was disastrous. With Luculus in Asia Minor, and Pompey having troubles in Spain, a revolt of country slaves took place.

My men were happy with their lot. They were well fed, and they had a place to live. They earned plenty of money, and could purchase their freedom at any time. Thus, they were not on the side of Spartacus. I offered them their freedom if they wished it. I turned 66, and the years had taken their toll upon me. I didn't need some slaves rebelling against me. They unanimously decided to continue working in my shop.

I had a pretty large amount of money built up. I purchased a modest estate for my children to live. My wife was several years my junior, and she gave me 3 strong boys. They would continue on with my work once I was gone. I made sure all of my possessions were divisible by three. I had 6 slaves working for me, and I had 15 paying commission. It was agreed that they would continue to pay my heirs upon my death.

It is hard to believe that I lived in Ancient Rome for 30 years. The estate I purchased needs a lot of work. In my youth I would have started from scratch. However, I just don't have the energy. The boys are too young to fix the house, and it is drafty. I long for my old apartment above the shop. Even with its lean it was at least warm.

I am trying to fix up this place, but my age prevents me from several activities. I can't scramble up a ladder like I used to. This cough just won't go away. So, I have decided to return to my time machine. I have a feeling that I don't have much longer to live. I have family and friends here, so I won't be returning myself. However, I hope to send the machine back with this report. My English is quite rusty, and I'm sure my penmanship needs a lot of work. However, I feel that I should try to send this report back through. Thus, people there will know what happened to me.

This cough will not go away, I wish there was something I could do. My guess is that I caught pneumonia. I'm glad that my time machine was undisturbed. This long walk back to it took a lot out of me. I'm afraid that I won't be able to return to Naples. That trip would be just too much for me. I hope you get this report without any difficulty. I think I'll wonder off in the mountains and spend my last days there. I wonder how much impact my life will have. I've got a few great kids, and I had a good life in the Roman Republic. Farewell everyone!

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The Last War

By Dwayne MacInnes

I am the Historian of our race. I fear that I shall be the last chronicler. We are a dying people. We, to be brutally honest, have slowly been dying for eons. In fact, our fate is closely tied to that of our world. It has been know for millennium upon millennium that our planet has been dying. Our atmosphere is rarified, the seas have vanished from the surface. The only vegetation that has survived on the surface is a red creeping vine.

I suppose that is why for nearly as many years we have coveted the young blue planet next to ours. Great oceans cover this fresh world. It is alive with various flora and fauna. Alas, it has always remained tantalizingly outside our grasp. For though we are quite advanced in many sciences, space travel has only been perfected in the last couple of centuries.

I suppose some explanation is in order as to why we have not progressed as far in space travel as we have in the other sciences. Simply put we are a warring race. Martial skill is highly regarded in our culture. We have made wonderful weapons that efficiently kill our opponent. For example, we have a high-energy beam that will instantly reduce nearly everything it touches to ash. We have also created a black gas that hangs low to the ground and will kill any breathing beast that can also just as easily be washed away with a hot jet of steam after it settles.

Nevertheless, our constant warfare has done little to help our plight. So in the last few centuries our various warlords have united for the common goal of finding a way to alleviate our problem. Fortunately, we are as gifted scientist as we are warriors. There has not been a deadly germ on our world for as long as anyone can care to read these historical records. So it is of no surprise that it was decided that we would transplant our people on a new world. A world that is ripe for the picking, a world where we would thrive once again, a world that just happens to be our neighbor.

Therefore, we began our studies of this blue gem that beckoned to us in the night sky. We watched and learned everything we could about this planet. Through our telescopes we saw that the dominate species was a strangely jointed creature that resembled our own herds of food stock. These primitive creatures would be easy to subdue and it was obvious that there was a side benefit of knowing that food was readily available once we landed.

After centuries of constant and meticulous study, we began research in space flight. We developed a cylindrical capsule that was large enough to house some of our great war machines, unassembled of course. Nevertheless, assembly could be done in a matter of a day or so after landfall. After the beachhead was established, some of the capsules would begin transporting basic manufacturing tools and machines to help speed up the conquest of this new world.

A landing site was picked out on the azure planet. It was a small island off the coast of the largest land mass. It was figured that once our base of operation was established here the rest of the world would soon fall to our juggernauts. Sure the dominate species had some simple sea going vessels but it concerned us little as our battle walkers were virtually impervious to any primitive ballistic weapon.

All that remained was the perfect time to launch our assault. It had to be carefully chosen to minimize the risk of space flight. Therefore, when our two worlds were at their closest the fleet was finally launched. For days on end, we fired our space capsules into space until our atmosphere was choked with the gasses resulting from the launching process. After the skies cleared up, we started our vigil at the telescopes. It would take months to cross the great distances of space. But we are a patient people considering the hundreds of years of studies we had invested in the venture.

Finally, that fateful day arrived. One clear night we observed our first capsule land exactly where we had wanted it to. It was humorous to observe the dominate species curiously gather around the crater of our capsule. It is only fair to say that their curiosity was gratified the next day when our first walker fired its energy ray and destroyed all around it. The poor pathetic creatures vainly tried to retaliate, but their projectiles only bounce harmlessly off the armor skin of the walker before they were in turn reduced to hot ash.

The capsules began landing regularly after the first. Things were going along perfectly. Our first two assault forces were joining up to enable them to clear out all resistance and completely to subdue the world. Everything so far was going to plan. That was when the unthinkable happened. One of the projectiles from the creatures had found a weak point in one of the walker's cockpit, killing the pilot.

After that, more caution was used around these creatures. Before they could fire their projectiles, our walkers would fire off canisters of our deadly black gas wherever it was suspected that they might be hiding. That effectively put a stop to any further mishaps on land. The wretched creatures began to leave their residences in droves. They began even to flee their island home.

The walkers of course tried destroy as many of the primitive sea vessels as they could. That was when the second mishap happened. One of the vessels not only charged three of our walkers but actually attacked. The vessel had destroyed two of our walkers before being destroyed itself by the remaining walker. Fortunately, that was the last walker to be lost to the pathetic natives.

This also marked the time that consolidation of the island began. It was not long before the tools and machines began to arrive so that manufacturing could be done on this planet. The little creatures that had shown so much resistance in the first few days fighting were broken. Several were gathered up and their nutrients were consumed.

These were grand days. As a final show that we were in fact, masters of this new world the red creeping vine began to conquer the planet in its own right. Soon the island resembled the comforting red of our home world. Perhaps it was our own arrogance or maybe we were too drunk with our own invulnerability to notice the change.

It was not a major thing at first. We were still busy with making this world our new home. Aircraft and gathering machines were being built. Nevertheless, if we had maybe paid a little bit of more attention, we might have noticed. If we had just given the same care on observing our conquest as we did in preparing for it we could have seen it. The red vines were slowly dying.

At first when we did notice, we did not think anything of it. Then the death rate rapidly increased. Then the unthinkable happened. Not in time immemorial has such a thing happen to one of our kind. But it did. The assault force was getting sick. First, like the vine, it was one. Soon it was spreading uncontrollable. The germs!!! In our arrogance, we had forgotten about the germs.

We could have possibly produced some antibodies for our young budlings if we had even thought about it. But how could we. Germs were something of the primordial past. We did not even really comprehend what they could do until our entire assault force was devastated by their relentless attacks.

Nothing could stop us. We had beaten the dominate species only to be stopped at the zenith of our conquest by an organism that can't be seen by the unaided eye. Here on our planet. The planet the creatures of the blue world call Mars. We could only stare and watch helplessly through our telescopes as our forces quickly died off. Only to be eaten by that planet's scavengers.

Now the creatures (they call themselves humans), have our wrecked and abandoned vehicles and manufacturing facilities. Though it has taken them time, they are figuring everything out. What had taken us eons has only taken them a century. Now they are approaching our planet. There is nothing that we can do to stop them. For, we are a dying people.

Dedicated to and inspired by H.G. Wells

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The Last War

To Whom It May Concern:

We have always been a warring race. We could never get along with our neighbors, and we are about to pay the ultimate price. You see, I am one of the premiere scientists of our people. The last few years I have forsaken the warrior ways and have concentrated on space travel. Our planet does not have long. The launch will happen shortly, and I do not have a lot of time.

10 years ago, I created a "Doomsday" weapon. This weapon was very dangerous, and it was a weapon of last resort. It was a weapon that would destroy our world and everyone on it. When I designed it, I believed it would be used only as a deterrent. This weapon was most destructive and there is nothing that can stop it. It was a masterful method of destruction.

In fact, it bought us 3 years of peace. Those were three glorious years. I believed that there was no more reason to pursue methods of killing. This is when I began looking into other careers. There was not much money to be had outside the military. I considered going back to the University, but my bosses would not let me. I knew too much, and they would sooner see me dead. We may have been at peace, but there were still dangers.

I had always been interested in astronomy and space flight. It is what brought me into science in the first place. I was intrigued by our sister planet. It was so blue. I remember hearing about the interesting creatures that inhabited our neighbor. It had long been suspected that we could live on that planet. I had often dreamed of visiting that far off world.

As part of my job and in my spare time, I researched rocketry. Our people used rockets for missiles. Since I had top security clearance, I had access to much research. I tinkered with various designs in during my off hours. That was a peaceful three years.

A breakdown in security changed everything. Suddenly, we were not the only people with my doomsday weapon. Another group got the weapon and threatened to use it. Apparently, they did not comprehend the power of the weapon. They ignorantly believed that this terrible weapon would be useful in a limited way. Thus, they restarted the wars.

Before our warring ways we lived on a lush and green planet. Our planet was very much like our neighboring planet is now. Under its blue exterior, it is green and full of life. There were still pockets of thick greenery like my beloved house and garden, but those are all gone now because of our ignorant use of our brains. The destruction of our planet was senseless.

We were once a thriving people. The other countries that shared our world were also thriving. The few years of peace revived portions of our war torn world. Some of our cities were on the mend. Some places were becoming green instead of being red with the blood of our citizens. We threw all that away.

There are no cities on our neighboring planet. We will have to find a place to live somewhere in its wild areas. It looks like there are vast stretches that are completely habitable. We will just have to pick one. Perhaps we will just go where the computer takes us.

Soon their will be nothing left on our planet. The red dust is taking over everything. It is red like dirt soaked in blood. That is what my weapon did. It would break everything down and turn it into a fine red dust. Nothing can stop it. I guess the irony that they used it so close to their own boarder should be somewhat satisfying. The wind blew it towards them, and everything they had built was soon destroyed. The weapon has almost run its course, as there was little left that was not turned into that awful red dust.

I hope our blue neighbor has rich soil. I long for black dirt. I long for the days when we had a fine garden. My wife and I had not started a family. We did not want our kids to live with the daily threat of war. We are both still young, so if it is feasible on our new home that we will have children.

When the wars started up again, my hobby engulfed me. I felt that our only hope would be to colonize our friendly neighbor. I planned to have an exploratory mission to scout out places to colonize. Once this awful weapon was unleashed, I had to scramble just to get the rocket ready. It is too bad that I could not fit more individuals on the rocket. When I originally designed it, it was only meant for one with enough cargo for a return trip. However, with the removal of some of the cargo space, I can now save my wife and myself.

Our home here felt like paradise during peaceful times. It was lush and my wife was an excellent gardener. We had all of our wants taken care of. Our property had plenty of fruit trees and the eastern portion of the garden provided a great bounty. It was full of trees that were pleasant in sight and good for food. A river flowed through their garden that was quite pleasant. This river provided water and fish. We were fortunate to have that place.

The river is now gone. It is a red dusty riverbed now. The trees are gone too. The destruction of our world is nearly complete. Why are we such a warring people? People have been saying for years that our warrior ways will be the end of our planet. Why didn't we listen? Why couldn't we live in peace?

I was a University professor when we bought our place. I was not making a lot of money, but we were getting by. However, my wife wanted more. She spoke with an awful man. I rue the day that she spoke to that serpent, I mean person. He spoke of great wealth that I could gain from using my knowledge. He lured me into that life with his ways.

I developed several weapons for this man. He paid me well, but I now feel bad about the evil that I have unleashed. Once my terrible weapon was unleashed, they could not stop me from quitting. However, the damage had already been done. I would spend all my time getting ready to save my wife and myself. What a terrible thing I have done! I am responsible for the great destruction of our world. I did bring us a few years of peace, but that is of little comfort.

Now my beautiful place is gone. The trees are all dust. I had to leave my home and we must flee before it is too late. We will have to live with our decisions. Luckily, we have a place to run. There must be other civilizations that go extinct because they have no place to go. They simply destroy all that they build and no being knows they ever existed. It is probably too late, but I hope our children learn from our mistakes.

That is why I am writing this. Someday, someone will discover what we have done. I just hope our warring ways are through. I hope we can learn to live in peace and harmony. We are all the same. We all have the same wants, hopes, and desires. We all want what is best for our children. We all want to feel safe where we live. We cannot do that with the wars. We can only do it by learning to get along with our neighbors. If they do us wrong, we must forgive. Otherwise, we begin a great cycle of destruction.

I must run. The red dust is quickly encroaching. The rocket is ready and my wife is aboard. I hope I have not dallied too long. The last non-red spot is where the rocket will launch, and that spot is getting smaller all the time. I must dash. Eve and I will make the best of our new home after being cast out of paradise. Please forgive me for eating from the tree of knowledge and using it for evil. Do not be like us!

Yours faithfully,

Adam

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter One

It was spring break and where did this Floridian academic go during spring break? Certainly he wasn't about to go anywhere near Ft Lauderdale. No, Dr. John Maland went to a far more exotic location. He was on board his small wooden sailing vessel somewhere between Miami and Bermuda. His destination wasn't on the map, which is very unusual for inhabited islands. However, this was no ordinary island.

What initially drew this island to the attention of Dr. Maland was the fact that their culture was unaffected by the "Age of Discovery." The pirates that lived around the Caribbean did not touch the inhabitants of this island. There are no records of any encounters with the islands natives. All of the sailors left this island alone. It had no contact even as explorers were exploiting surrounding islands. In his research, Dr. Maland was trying to discover why this island was so special during this period.

When he considered this aspect, another question would occur to him. Why did this tribe allow him to research them? Surely, other scientists tried to study them. He couldn't be the only scientist to wonder about this tribe. Certainly, there must have been other anthropologists and others that had stumbled upon them through the course of history. Why didn't any of them write anything down?

Of course, the island being in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle may have had some impact. In recent times, this fact could have scared off many would-be scientists. The mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle could have kept some scientists away, but would it scare off all of them? Was he missing something? Was he getting himself into deep trouble?

Nah, he felt that the Bermuda triangle stuff was all nonsense anyway. "Margaret Mead does her studies in Samoa and New Guinea and she's labeled one of the most ground breaking scientists of all time. My work is in the 'Devil's Triangle' and I get labeled a pseudo-scientist!" he would often lament. However, this group was very interesting and that took the sting out of most of it.

In his first few encounters with the inhabitants of the island, he discovered a few interesting facts. The tribe of this island had adopted "Iapetus" as their protector and major deity. They claimed that Iapetus would rise up from the water and smite their enemies. They claimed that this deity was also responsible for their isolation. They informed John that he was allowed to study them by the graces of Iapetus.

John thought this was incredible. He did some research and discovered that Iapetus is the name of a Greek Mythology Titan. According to Greek myth, Iapetus was the father of Atlas and Prometheus. When Zeus overthrew the Titans, he banished them to Tartaras. There was no reason for the island inhabitants to single out this rather obscure titan.

"Why not worship the titan Oceanus?" Dr. Maland often thought. "Wouldn't that would be a more fitting deity?"

It was incredible that an ancient Greek myth could be transformed and adopted by a far off island culture. When this was first published in an anthropological journal, some pointed that this was more evidence that Atlantis was in the Bermuda triangle. The question remained, why would this titan be the object of worship for this tribe? Even if Atlantis was in the Bermuda triangle, wouldn't they be worshipping the same gods as the Greeks of a comparable time?

Dr. Maland concluded that the name of Iapetus was probably just a coincidence. The constant link to fringe groups was a minor annoyance to John, but he was sailing in the Caribbean on a beautiful spring day towards an island paradise. He will take some criticism from mainstream scientists for several days in the tropics.

These Iapetian's, as they call themselves, began trading around the Caribbean a few years earlier. They were trading their exquisite handmade jewelry for cloth and tools. Dr. Maland was studying how this sudden interest in the outside world was affecting their culture. They were remarkably resistant to the lures of much of the new technologies. They still used their dugouts rather than the newer fiberglass boats available. They used paddles and sails rather than motors. The group adopted some technologies and ignored others. Their pace of life was still slow compared to the hustle and bustle of American life. That was why John used a wooden sailboat to get to the island. Well, that and the fact that he loved to sail.

As he approached the beach with the huge statues of Iapetus, he saw a small group of Iapetians waiting to greet him. Many of the tribal members looked forward to his visits. They liked his stories as much as he liked theirs.

"This tribe has an incredible ability to learn," noted John. "In the few years of trade, the entire tribe has learned a great deal of English. Nearly every member of the tribe can speak some English."

Dr. Maland was hesitant to teach them more, but they could be very insistent. While their English skills helped with his research, but Dr. Maland was much more interested in their language. If he could, he wanted to link it with other languages. Perhaps a link to Greek would give more credence to the Bermuda -- Atlantis link. However, the islands inhabitants were quite eager to practice their newly found language skills.

As a form of entertainment, the tribe would gather around the fire and the storytellers would tell their stories. Mostly these stories involved Iapetus and some outsiders. Rarely did outsiders get to hear their stories. In fact, the tribe had never invited John to one of their story telling sessions.

This time after the typical greeting ceremony, the group invited Dr. Maland to join them. The tribal elders had discussed it before his arrival, and they were going to let him join them as they gathered around the fire for their story. Further, since Dr. Maland was there, the storyteller was going to tell his story in English.

* * * * *

"In the time before the motors," the story began. "We were a peaceful people. We did not interfere with the outside, and we expected them to do the same. We meant no one any harm, but we had a capable defender. So, many ships would pass, and leave us unharmed. However, one day a large wooden monster came upon our island. It bore some symbols." The story teller wrote 'PICKERING' in the sand. "This creature had short stubby arms coming out his sides. This monster had large fins on his back to propel him along the water with the wind. Men sat on his back and went along for the ride. The men slowed the great monster and rested with him near our shore. Men shouted and yelled at our people, but none could understand. They shouted and yelled some more, but none could decipher the words. The men became angry and released the fury of the beast upon our island. The arms of the monster boomed and caused great destruction from afar. The people fearing the worst called upon the priestess to ask Iapetus to rise up from the depths and save his people. The men on the great beast laughed at our priestess. They pointed the arms of the beast at her, but they did her no harm. Upon hearing the prayer, the mighty Iapetus arose out of the depths. The men on the monster fell silent with fear of our mighty protector. The beast they rode grew quiet, but did not flee. The men pulled and worked their harnesses, but Iapetus got closer. Their great monster was paralyzed with fear. The men ran, pulled on ropes, and shouted but their transportation would not move. As our protector got near to the fiend, the booming started again but Iapetus was not affected. Our protector lifted the booming monster over his head and smashed in on the reef. The beast broke into many pieces and the men that rode her were killed. We thanks Iapetus for his aid, and the priestess offered some food to our mighty protector. After eating the offering, our protector returned to the depths. He was greatly saddened by his destruction. He did not like to kill, but he did when he was forced. In his anguish, Iapetus caused a great storm to rage to mourn the loss of those men. When the storm left our people gathered the remnants of the beast and created a great fire. Upon the flames of the fire much food was prepared. All of the people of the tribe thanked Iapetus for his help. They also apologized for causing his anguish. Iapetus appeared and ate more of the food, and all was right again. The only reminder of that day is this part of the beast." The storyteller takes out piece of wood with 'Pickering' engraved upon it.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Two

"This iceberg is enormous, and that is just the tip of the iceberg," Dr. Claude LeFleur joked to himself.

With the global warm temperatures, this iceberg had broken off the arctic ice shelf and was floating south towards Canada. Many icebergs had done such things in the past, but this one was very special. Some Canadians on their fishing boat were trawling between the icebergs, when they spotted something unusual about this particular iceberg. When they approached to investigate, they were astounded at what they saw. They immediately contacted authorities. This is how Dr. LeFleur got involved.

Dr. LeFleur was at the top of his field. In his younger days, they scoffed that such a young man could not be so competent. However, he proved them all wrong with finding after finding. Now, at age 50, he was at the forefront of another major discovery. He was in charge of researching this iceberg. He was onboard the tugboat that was towing it into the Hudson Bay.

A research station was set up on James Bay on the southern tip of the Hudson Bay. That was the only location large enough to handle this special iceberg. It was an unusually warm spring, and the ice was melting quickly. The more the ice melted, the more excited the crew became. This iceberg had an enormous creature trapped inside. The fishing crew, who discovered it, dubbed it an ultra-yeti.

The creature was pure white and was enormous. This ultra-yeti was reminiscent of the legendary creature thought to roam the Himalayan mountain range; however, this beast was much bigger than the legendary "Abominable Snowman." It was quite a fierce looking monster. From Dr. LeFleur's initial examination, he deduced that the creature was pregnant. Thus, they all agreed that she was female. They named her Casiell, which is Latin for "Earthy Mother".

As the tug slowly pulled the ice entombed creature south, more and more ice was melting away. "This had better not take too long," thought Dr. LeFleur. "Otherwise, all the ice will melt, and she'll go sinking to the bottom of Hudson Bay. However, she is gigantic. Even on the bottom, she may still be above the water."

The creature entombed in this block of ice was indeed gigantic. It would make many dinosaurs look like small dogs. When Cassiel roamed the earth, she would have stood 250 meters tall while standing on her hind legs. "This animal was half the height of Canada's tallest building," thought Dr. LeFleur. "It would dwarf many buildings in the North America. I'm one of the luckiest people alive, because I get to study her!"

Dr. LeFleur's research team was waiting for them to arrive at their small research station on James Bay. The team notified several prominent biological scientists, and it was the talk of the many blogs on the internet. There was a lot of talk about the ultra-yeti. Many biologists made their way to the research station. Many curious people also made their way to the remote area of Canada. The research team had to establish some security to make sure that nothing got out of hand.

The unusually warm weather melted much of the ice and exposed much of the ultra-yeti's fur before they reached the research station. However, there was still enough ice under her to keep her afloat. However, Dr. LeFleur was worried about decay. He was hoping for much cooler weather to keep her from decaying, but there would be many opportunities to get good data.

Dr. LaFleur's team obtained some of the fur for analysis. Furthermore, the team was able to obtain some blood and tissue samples. With these samples they were able to do some DNA and chemical analysis on the creature. In their analysis of these samples, they quickly confirmed that she was pregnant.

There were many exciting discoveries. Clearly, this creature was not the sole member of her species unless her species was born pregnant. "Who knows how many of these creatures once roamed the earth?" thought Dr. LeFleur. "What caused this unfortunate creature to become trapped in the ice? Are there others to be found in the melting arctic ice?"

Dr. LeFleur's team studied the gigantic creature very thoroughly. Claude was anxious to get more information from Cassiel's baby. The weather was cooperating and melting much of the ice that trapped her legs. From what they could tell, she would have delivered just as any mammal. Once her legs were free, they would attempt to access some tissue and blood from the baby through the uterus.

When the fishing vessel first discovered the creature, she was in an odd position in the ice. Her legs were near the top and at an odd angle; her head was much farther down. While they were towing her through Hudson Bay, they would rotate her as much as they could so she would lie down at a more convenient angle as the ice melted. At present, she was lying mostly on her back but slightly on her left side.

The team's plan was to free the child if possible. Once freeing the child, the science team could then get to the mother's stomach. This would allow them to analyze her diet. "How much could this creature eat?" wondered Dr. LeFleur. "What did she eat? Was she a scavenger? Was she herbivorous, carnivorous, or omnivorous?"

They managed to get some ultrasound equipment to their isolated site. They used the ultrasound to give them a great deal of information about the baby. The baby was male, and appeared to be almost ready for birth. The team theorized that she was about to give birth when she died.

"Perhaps," one scientist theorized. "She broke through the ice and could not get free."

"She may have been searching for her last meal before giving birth, and perhaps she starved before she delivered," guessed another.

"If she ate fish, she may have gotten caught in a sudden freeze while fishing," another thought aloud.

"There are no signs of trauma, so we know she wasn't injured," included another scientist. "She may have just gotten trapped too far north and simply died of exposure."

"Like some bears, perhaps she was going to give birth while hibernating," noted one scientist. "Maybe her cave or resting place was extremely wet and cold, and she didn't survive long enough to give birth."

"Perhaps whatever it was she fed on ," another scientist added. "Maybe they were scarce that year, and she didn't get enough to eat."

"These are all possibilities," added Dr. LeFleur. "We'll have more information once we can analyze the contents of her stomach."

They had all kinds of questions regarding this enormous mother, and they were getting close to getting a good look at the child. The quickly melting ice was revealing more and more of the creature. With each new discovery, the information made its way across the internet. Pictures and speculation was rampant, but the team of scientists managed to get plenty of good science done.

She had the teeth similar to a bear. They surmised that she was a part of the bear family. She did have several traits of bears. Grizzly and polar bears can get quite large. However, they normally do not exceed 4 meters. A bear that large is quite a rarity. This animal was 80 times that size, which led to lots of questions about her origins. Without more information, they could only guess about these things. Once the DNA analysis was complete, they would have answers to a lot more questions, but that would be months away.

After diligently studying the creature for a couple of weeks, something happened that was completely unexpected. It was 4 AM when a research assistant made her way into Dr. LeFleur's tent. "Dr. LeFleur!" she stated anxiously. "Wake up professor! There's trouble!"

"What?" asked the doctor sleepily "what has happened?"

"He's gone..." the RA stated sheepishly.

"Who's gone?"

"Cassiel's baby," replied the RA.

"What?" asked Claude as he jumped out of bed "how is that possible?"

"The ice had melted enough..."

"Are you trying to tell me that the baby just fell out?" asked the Dr. LeFleur as he put on some pants over his pajamas.

"Well sir," stuttered the RA "It was more like a birth."

"But you said he was gone, did he fall into the bay?"

"Um, no sir, after he was born he walked away."

"What?"

"I know it is hard to believe, and I wouldn't have believed it either if I hadn't witnessed it."

"The baby was born alive?"

"Yes sir, we tried to follow him, but even on those baby legs he moved pretty quickly."

"Which way did he go?"

"Ur South..."

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Three

Dr. John Maland spent the entire spring break with the Iapetian people. He heard many stories and learned more of their language and their legends. It was good to get away from the hustle and bustle of big city life, even if it were a working vacation. However, no story was as consequential as the story of the ship entitled the Pickering. Thus, Dr. Maland decided that he needed to research the Pickering upon his arrival home.

However, before he got back to work, like many, he became entranced with the stories of the giant creature in Canada. He read as much as he could about the enormous ultra-yeti. He visited blogs and news organizations. He discussed the situation with colleagues. For a brief time, his own work took a back seat to the buzz of Cassiel.

After catching up on the news around the nation, he had to go to work. He taught his regular schedule. He wished he did his pressing research rather than bothering with current events; however, having up-to-date information was important to him. He was a bit disgusted with the sensationalization of Cassiel, and the lack of good information from the news media. Thus, it took him longer to get the information he thought he needed. This was the truth about his anger about being slightly behind.

Eventually he got to the library to research the Iapetian story. The U.S.S. Pickering was a US war ship. She was a two masted sailing vessel. Weight and configuration made her a brig. She was not the largest vessel in the fleet, but she had 14 guns with a regular compliment of 105 sailors onboard.

The ship and crew had some experience in Naval battle. They had been patrolling against French privateers. The most notable engagement was against the L�Egypte Conquise. This privateering ship was slightly larger and had more firepower. Nevertheless, the Pickering managed to capture that ship named for the French conquering of Egypt.

Eventually, officials permanently assigned it to the US Naval department. Its orders were to join patrolling the waters of the West Indies. However, she was in the northeastern part of the US at the time. Thus, she needed to sail toward Guadeloupe. The Pickering and crew left Newcastle, Delaware in late August of 1800 and never arrived in the West Indies.

Most reports suggest a gale in September caught the naval ship and destroyed it somewhere in the Sargasso Sea. It was part of the voluminous number of legends about the Bermuda triangle.

It seems that there were true aspects of the Iapetian legend. However, instead of a giant monster, their Iapetus was like many of the ancient gods. It was nothing more than a fortunate coincidence. The legend was only series of events that saved the people. A storm that arose just at the proper time and destroyed the ship that was firing upon the island's inhabitants.

"The ship's crew perhaps asked the islanders for help, but none of them spoke English," conjectured John in his journal. "The crew likely fired a warning shot, which is the basis of the 'booming arms' of the 'beast'. When a storm came up and destroyed the ships, it added to the legend of Iapetus."

After Dr. Maland entered the information about the U.S.S Pickering into his journal, he read the events of the day. He discovered in the news that Cassiel had given birth to a live ultra-yeti child. The child had wandered away from James Bay research facility. Information was sketchy on what happened to the child after birth. "Perhaps this is more exaggeration by the media," thought John. "Perhaps they got their facts wrong or misquoted someone."

However, shortly after catching up on his work, he received a call from Dr. LeFleur. "Dr. Maland," the Canadian professor began. "I have been following your reports on Iapetus."

"I am flattered," replied Dr. Maland. "I too have been following your reports. Is it true that the ultra-yeti gave live birth?"

"All evidence leads to this conclusion, but I didn't see the birth myself. Be that as it may, the baby ultra-yeti is not anywhere to be found at the research station."

"So, you don't know where the baby is?"

"That is correct," replied Dr. LeFleur. "The reason I'm calling, is to find out more information on your giant beast."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I read about the legend of Iapetus, and I am curious about your beast."

"From my research," started Dr. Maland. "I have determined that Iapetus is not a beast at all. It is just a series of coincidental storms that have occasionally protected the inhabitants of that island."

"Are you sure on that?"

"As sure as I can be I suppose. Why the sudden interest and the urgency of this phone call?"

"I thought that since many legends have the basis in fact, that Iapetus may help us out should the need arise. If this god was the basis of an actual creature, we could use its help."

"Is the situation that bad?"

"I wouldn't say it is, but should Cassiel's baby head for the metropolitan areas of Canada or the United States, he may do some major damage. We would want to prevent that from happening in any way we could."

"I wish I could help," explained Dr. Maland. "However, I am fairly certain that Iapetus is not an actual creature."

"Thanks for you time then," a dejected Dr. Lefleur stated. "It was just a stab in the dark. Good bye."

"I'm sorry I couldn't help, and I will look forward to your further reports. Good bye," replied Dr. Maland as he hung up the phone.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Four

Dr. LeFleur sat wearily at his desk. He was trying to remember the last time he had slept. Since the baby ultra-yeti walked away from the research station, he had not been in a bed. He managed to catch a couple of catnaps when the opportunity arose, but it had been several days since he had a good nights sleep. As he sat there daydreaming of sleeping, his phone rang.

"Hello this is Dr. LeFleur," he answered.

"I think we have some good news doctor," replied the voice on the other end.

"I could use some," replied the researcher.

"The -- uhh -- monster is still missing, but we have some evidence of -- err -- him."

"What kind of evidence?"

"At first we thought it was some college kids playing some sort of prank."

"Go on..."

"Well, there was this wheat field. It was filled with winter wheat you know."

"And..."

"This young winter wheat field had these interesting patterns put into them."

"What kind of patterns?" asked Dr. LeFleur.

"Uhh -- crop circle type patterns."

"Crop circles? What makes you think this was the baby ultra-yeti?"

"Well you see -- in most of the prank type crop circles they're -- ahh -- circles. But, in this case, the crops were -- ehh -- foot prints."

"Footprints? They could still be a prank. Do you have any other evidence?"

"Umm -- there are also some -- ahh -- droppings."

"Droppings?"

"Yes -- a big pile."

Excellent!" exclaimed Dr. LeFleur as he jumped out of his chair. "Tell me where. I'll be there as quick as I can!"

Dr. LeFleur had been waiting for several days for any indication of the baby ultra-yeti's whereabouts. He grabbed a large flask of coffee, and a couple of cans of caffeinated soda. He had his equipment packed and ready in his aging truck. He jumped in and began driving towards the farm in question. The excitement of a possible yeti sighting had shaken the sleepiness out of him, but it could return at any moment.

The drive was quite a long way from the research station on James Bay. However, the baby had long strides and could cover a great deal of distance. Further, he had been missing for several days. Dr. LeFleur thought it was incredible that the baby could have traveled so far with no one taking notice.

The young ultra-yeti had made it half way to Ottawa, Ontario. If they could not find him and divert him, he could do a great deal of damage in the Canadian Capital. It appeared that he was heading directly for that city. Since they had very little data, they had little to give them an idea of where he may be heading.

Dr. LeFleur was listening to the radio. The local radio station reported several sightings of the baby monster. After several days of silence, the reports of an enormous, white, and bear-like creature came filing in. It was as if large white monsters filled the woods and fields of parts of Canada. Reports came from all over southwestern Quebec and the northwestern part of the province of Ontario.

Some of the reports conflicted, which is common for this type of thing. Descriptions of the spotted creature widely varied. However, there was no doubt that the baby ultra-yeti was now feeding. Reports of damaged crops and animals began pouring in. As Dr. LeFleur suspected, the animal was omnivorous. He was apparently feeding on all types of plants as well as eating cattle and other domesticated animals.

After a few hours of driving, Dr. LeFleur reached the farm that reported the footprints. Several prints went across the field, and it was reminiscent of a crop circle. Dr. LeFleur briefly studied the prints, and deduced that the baby ultra-yeti had grown quite a bit. This baby was probably 25 to 50 meters tall by now. There were reports all over the area of missing animals and damaged crops. At this rate, the baby could be 50 stories tall by the time he reached Ottawa. If this happened, he would cause a great deal of damage.

The professor took all of the local reports and determined a likely location and heading of the giant baby. He wanted to be able to follow the child and perhaps lure him away from the Canadian Capital. He began making calls on his cell phone. He alerted the authorities of the possible dangers coming their way. He wanted to make sure that the city had plenty of warning to evacuate.

Finally, he spotted the enormous white baby eating the young shoots of a farmer's field. He remarked at how interesting the patterns the child ate in the field. He made numerous circles. This was more like the crop circle patterns of various web pages. These were different because a creature ate the crops rather than flattening them.

Dr. LeFleur was admiring the sheer enormity of the baby ultra-yeti when he his cell phone rang.

"Hello this is Dr. LeFleur."

"Hello Dr. LeFleur, this is General Innes MacWayne."

"Hello General. What can I do for you?"

"My sources say you know more about this 'Ultra-Yeti' than anyone."

Dr. LeFleur could hear the quotes around the words as the general spoke them. "Well, I am in charge of the project. I should be the most knowledgeable."

"So, then you would know how to destroy it."

"What? I haven't given that much thought..."

"You realize that we can in no way allow this creature to destroy Ottawa. Thus, we are making contingency plans. We need to know the creature's vulnerabilities."

"Uhhh -- vulnerabilities?"

"Dr. LeFleur, how can we kill it?"

"I don't know what to say..."

"Let me be frank doctor. We don't want to have to resort to any nuclear weapons. Do you think that conventional missiles or bombs would affect the creature?"

"Nuclear weapons? Aren't we Canadians?"

"The creature can also pose a threat to the United States. The U.S. President has agreed that this threat be eliminated before it reaches their soil."

"General, I understand your position, but I don't have any data that would be of any help. I don't know the vulnerabilities of this creature. My team and I have not looked into that particular question at this time."

"That is fine doctor. Tell me, do you know where the creature is?"

"Errr -- I uhhh -- have -- umm -- not caught up to him yet."

"If you do, could you please inform me at this number?"

"Uhhh -- sure."

"Remember doctor, it would be best for all concerned if this dangerous creature were neutralized before it reaches any population centers. The sooner we control this creature, the better it will be for all of Canada. You do understand that do you not?"

"As soon as -- I see the creature -- I will inform you..."

"The sooner we find him, the sooner we can make our tests. If you don't know its vulnerabilities, then we will have to test our defenses against him. We will need to do that before he reaches any major cities."

"I understand."

"Thanks Dr. LeFleur."

"Good bye General."

The doctor felt the conflict grow within himself. He wanted to study the creature for a while. However, the more he delayed the greater the danger for the city centers. He had to decide what was more important -- scientific research or public property. His initial assessment led him to lie to the general, but this decision was putting people and property in danger.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Five

Dr. Maland was glad he was a long way from the events occurring in Canada. While he would love to observe the giant ultra-yeti in action, he felt much safer observing the creature from a safe distance. He read reports on the internet with great interest.

The internet was full of conflicting stories, so it was difficult to determine what was accurate and what was fictional. Reports of a giant white bear-like creature became wide spread. There were even some reports of this ultra-yeti making it as far south as South Carolina. Certainly, these were fictitious accounts.

The many sites around the internet labeled the young ultra-yeti "Bob the Bumble." It was likely a take on the abominable snowman legend. "Who can say abominable anyway?" asked Dr. Maland to himself. "Al the Abominable Snowman simply would not work..."

One particular website was tracking the sightings of the young monster. The site tracked him from his birthplace at James Bay to the most current and accurate location that they could obtain. The group running the site had to sift through numerous conflicting reports to track the beast. However, it was a very popular site for those interested in the ultra-yeti.

From his own research on the ultra-yeti, he noticed that the beast did not stray too far from a body of water. He never strayed too far from the various reservoirs that dot the province of Quebec. In the creature's general path was the Canadian capital. Certainly, the Canadian government was aware of the creature's movements. They must have some sort of military plan to prevent the creature from destroying Ottawa.

This thought gave Dr. Maland a queasy feeling in his stomach. The thought of the Royal Canadian Air Force sending their F-18s to strike at the young ultra-yeti did not sit well with the professor. After all, the young animal was just trying to survive.

However, this baby was quite capable of doing much property damage. While he was merely a few weeks old, there were many reports that he was 50 meters tall and growing quickly. He could be taller than many building in a short time. If he were to stumble around a city like a bull in a china shop, that alone could do millions of dollars of damage.

The military of the Canadians would certainly strike at Bob before he reached any major cities. They would also likely attack before he reached some of the smaller towns north of Ottawa. He was getting quite close to those towns. "Perhaps they have already attacked," Dr. Maland muttered to himself when his phone rang.

"Hello," the professor said as he put his cell phone to his ear.

"Dr. Maland please," came the voice on the other end of the phone.

"This is Dr. Maland."

"Hello Dr. Maland, it is me Dr. LeFleur."

"Hello Claude I was just thinking about you."

"Oh? Good thoughts I hope John."

"I was looking at Bob's movements."

"Bob?"

"That is the name they gave the ultra-yeti -- Bob the Bumble."

"Ech! That's terrible."

"Yeah, but what are you gonna do?"

"True. The reason I called was about your research anyway."

"My research?"

"Yes John. How do the Iapetians ask for help from Iapetus?"

"In the usual way. A priest or priestess will go to their shrine on the beach and beseech Iapetus to come and smite their enemies. Why?"

"Do you think they could get their god to help you?"

"Me? Why do I need help?"

"Do you think Iapetus would come as a favor to you?"

"Claude -- Iapetus is a superstition. This god is nothing more than a storm that has helped the natives out of a few tight spots. He is not a creature."

"Are you sure of that?"

"Come on Dr. LeFleur -- I'm sure I have never seen the monster. I've only heard the stories. They are just like all of the other stories of its kind."

"I wouldn't believe in giant monsters either if I wasn't tracking one."

"While you have a point ..."

"Listen John -- the military has moved me away from the area around the baby. He is getting close to some populated areas and they want to end all of this. That can mean only one thing -- military strikes."

"I figured..."

"Well this creature has an extremely tough hide. They won't be able to penetrate it with their conventional weapons. I'm almost sure of it."

"So, how would Iapetus help?"

"I don't know. I'm just grasping at straws. If he gets out of control, they are talking nuclear weapons. I just don't want that type of thing to go on."

"I suppose I could ask, but I don't think it would do any good..."

"It would help your research..."

"It will take me a couple of days. I have classes to teach and papers to grade. I could leave on Friday morning."

"It would make me feel better."

"Okay. I'll talk to you later."

"Good bye Dr. Maland, and thanks."

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Six

The farther south the baby ultra-yeti went, the more difficult it was for Dr. LeFleur to follow. The area of southern Canada where the baby was now wandering was swampy, had many reservoirs, and had few roads. Dr. LeFleur's truck did not have off-road capability, so he had to stick to whatever road he could find. The ultra-yeti was not interested in staying near roads but stayed near bodies of water. Thus, it was becoming a very difficult task to follow him.

A radio-tracking device would have been a big help, but there were no adequate devices available. Any time the professor attempted to fire anything into the thick hide of the young creature, it would bounce right off. Thus, tranquilizer darts and tagging devices were completely useless against the wandering baby.

The baby's route still indicated that he was going to Ottawa. Dr. LeFleur noticed a huge lack of thrill seekers. He expected that there would be throngs of people attempting to see and photograph this unique creature. However, the area was strangely quiet.

Despite his desire to do otherwise, Dr. LeFleur gave General MacWayne regular updates. Even if we wished to hide his movements from the officials, he knew that it would be a wasted effort. Thus, the military was aware of Dr. LeFleur's movements, and he was getting closer to Ottawa.

The giant snow-white creature crossed highway 117 just east of Mont Laurier, Canada, and his follower was just a short distance behind him on highway 309. The baby was a bit farther east, but still heading south. A speckling of small towns along this stretch of highway were eerily quiet.

The weary professor checked his map, and realized that if the baby were going to reach Ottawa, he would have to cross highway 309. "If I wanted to protect Ottawa," he thought to himself. "I would make my stand on this road."

Dr. LeFleur started to get anxious. With the empty small towns, he was unable to fill his tank. His truck was beginning to run low on fuel. He could not track the beast on foot. He shook his weary head and mumbled, "Much further and I won't have to worry about him. The military will handle it."

He kept heading south looking for signs of the baby and for any signs of life. Here and there, he would see glimpses of a huge mound of white moving off in the distance. At the crest of a small hill, he saw a dark creature. It was a dark green. "Am I dreaming?" questioned the sleepy professor to himself. "Could that be Iapetus?"

He kept driving and quickly discovered that the dark green beast he saw was a column of military vehicles. He had reached the end of the line. A roadblock was setup, and they would not let him pass. He came to a stop and greeted the soldier staffing the roadblock. "Hello Soldier. I guess it is the end of the line for me."

"Hello Dr. LeFleur," replied the soldier. "We have been expecting you."

The soldier radioed the arrival of Dr. LeFleur. Soon, there were a number of soldiers marching towards him. A myriad of things went through his mind, but he shook them off. His felt his mind might be playing tricks on him because of his lack of sleep.

"Dr. LeFleur," stated a broad shouldered man as he walked up and put out his hand. "I'm General MacWayne."

"General," replied Claude not knowing whether to salute or take the offered hand.

"We have been expecting you. We appreciate your commitment to this matter; however, your duty is now finished and we'll take it from here."

"What is happening?"

"Come with me," stated the General as he walked back towards a line of tents along the road. "Dr. LeFleur, we have set up a perimeter protecting our Nation's Capital. If that monster crosses this road, he'll sure be sorry."

"General, the hide of that -- the ultra-yeti is very thick. Do you really think your weapons can penetrate it?"

"We won't know that until we have to actually shoot the monster. However, we have to protect Ottawa -- and Montreal. This beast could do tremendous damage to those cities just by walking through. Bull in a China shop and all that!"

"So, what are you going to do?"

"We have detection devices and scouts all along this stretch of highway. If we get a positive identification, we go to work. We've got tanks and jets and rockets. Lots and lots of rockets!"

The general's eyes became wide with excitement. It was obvious that he was looking forward to the confrontation. Dr. LeFleur was feeling a bit queasy when the alarm arrived. The young ultra-yeti had just entered their perimeter. The General took Dr. LeFleur into his command center where they could watch everything. "This is going to be cool," stated the General.

The Royal Canadian Air Force took off in their f-18s from the airport in Ottawa, but the first line of defense was the tanks and artillery. For the days leading up to this event, they had amassed the largest military operation in Canadian history. They had as many C2 Tanks as time allowed and there were lots of them. They also had a collection of C2 and C3 howitzers and several M109A+ mobile howitzers.

Several of the infantry had antitank rockets and many shoulder held rocket launchers. Just in case, they also scrambled some rocket launching ADATS. The General was of the opinion you cannot have to many rockets. Thus, he had as many rocket launching weapons as he could get into that area north of Ottawa.

From the command center, General MacWayne gave the order to move out. The big guns open fired upon the ultra-yeti. For a large animal, the yeti was quite agile. The boom of the big guns startled him and he would flinch at each one. Some of these flinches were enough to make the projectile miss. The hits did not have any effect on the thick hide of young creature. His reactions were like those of a person swatting at mosquitoes.

"Send in the tanks," ordered the General.

The tanks roared to life and moved toward the ultra-yeti. They moved in to surround the beast and force him to move away from the large Canadian cities. When the tanks open fired upon the monster, the baby roared. The sting of the projectiles and the loud boom upset the young one greatly. With great dexterity, the baby monster grabbed one of the tanks and flung it away. He kicked a line of them and destroyed them.

With the creature fighting back and inflicting damage, the tanks retreated. The airplanes were now ready to attack. The jets gathered into several formations and started to fly towards the monster. They were going to keep their distance from young beast and launch their missiles at him.

As wave after wave of missiles came towards the ultra-yeti, the monster became more and more agitated. He had been a docile creature before, but suddenly he was a fierce monster. He grabbed large boulders and threw them at anything that moved. He smashed tanks and artillery. He pulled full-grown trees, roots and all, from the ground and used them as fly swatters.

An f-18 flew too close on its pass, and was smashed to bits by a tree. Rocks and trees began flying. A large swath of destruction was forming, but the beast was still heading south. In fact, instead of driving the beast north, he began moving south at a quicker pace. He wanted to get at those creatures that were causing him pain.

He kicked and scraped and roared as he moved. Tanks and artillery pieces became tangled pieces of junk metal. The ADATS launched their rockets. The soldiers launched their rockets. However, these rockets just angered the beast. Their military action had caused the ultra-yeti to be in full rampage.

The yeti swatted aside the rockets as if they were flies. They just aggravated the monster even more. He ran after a several soldiers and they were no match for the speed of the young beast. He scooped the soldiers by the handful and began putting them in his mouth. The monster chewed several soldiers and spit them out. This caused the infantry to order a full retreat. Panic set in on the soldiers on the ground, and they ran. They ran in every direction yelling and screaming.

In the command center, General MacWayne looked in awe. He saw his highly trained troupes break discipline and scatter like scared rabbits. He could not communicate with the infantry, be he was still in radio contact with the tanks. He ordered them to resume their barrage. He hoped that the attack from the north would change the direction of the southerly moving monster.

Again, the tanks moved toward the enormous white monster. Their guns fired loudly. However, the beast ignored them. He continued his southerly rampage. He tore rocks and trees from places that they have been for centuries. A cloud of dust began swirling around the monster with the occasional rock or tree flying out of it.

The f-18s had run out of missiles and other weaponry so they had to return to the airport. This allowed the young beast to concentrate on the large column of tanks that lined the road towards Ottawa. With the rocks and trees, tanks and howitzers began flying out of the growing dust cloud the creature was stirring.

The monster gradually came closer and closer to Ottawa, and the Canadian military was helpless to stop him. Eventually, the ultra-yeti reached the Ottawa River. He just had to follow the river towards Ottawa and he would cause all kinds of damage. However, he headed towards Montreal. He followed the river to Lac Des Deux Montagnes and vanished.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Seven

"Vanished?" thought Dr. John Maland to himself. "How can an enormous snow-white monster vanish like that?"

Dr. Maland was gathering all the information about the ultra-yeti that he could get. If he were going to ask Iapetus to help with their problem, he was going to have to know where to send him.

The last report Dr. Maland read was that "Bob the Bumble" vanished somewhere in the Ottawa River basin. If he got into the St. Lawrence Seaway, the young ultra-yeti could end up anywhere along the Great Lakes. He could menace anywhere from upstate New York, to northern Minnesota. That was a long stretch. It was not enough information to give to the mythical creature Iapetus.

"Why am I doing this?" he asked himself. "Iapetus doesn't exist. All of this work for a silly notion. I have finals to score. I shouldn't be wasting my time fetching mythical beasts."

Dr. Maland scratched his head and paced the floor for a few minutes. He did not like all of the pressure that was suddenly put upon him. With this pressure of this sort, he often found himself talking to himself. "On the other hand," he continued. "It would be a great opportunity to see their summoning ritual. It would be worth that."

"But, where do I tell them to go?" he continued in his internal debate. "How do I tell them to send their protector there?"

Dr. Maland paced some more and internally debated himself over the merits of the trip. The deciding factor to go on this journey was the ritual. However, he was going to need to find out where the creature was. Without this information, his trip would be useless. He decided to call Dr. Claude LeFleur to see if he had any more information.

"Hello?" enquired Dr. LeFleur as he answered his phone.

"Hello Claude. This is Dr. John Maland calling."

"Hello John. How are you?"

"Fine thanks. The reason I'm calling is that I'm going to need to know more about the young ultra-yeti's whereabouts. I can't go summon Iapetus without some knowledge of where I'm sending him."

"He vanished in the river. We don't know where he is..."

"You don't have any ideas? You can't even guess where he is going?"

"Your guess is as good as mine. I've been put out of the loop. I now get my information from the same place that you do."

"I'm sorry. OK then, I guess I will talk to you later."

"I'm sorry too. Thanks for your help on this."

"Sure thing. Good bye Claude."

"Talk to you later John."

"That wasn't much help," John thought to himself. Then he realized it did not really matter where to send the creature. "This is a mythical beast! I'm only here to see the ritual. It isn't like he's real or anything. This trip isn't going to affect anything."

"So, where do I send him?" John continued with his internal debate. "I shouldn't make it too hard. Something easy. I know. I'll send him up the Hudson River. New York should be easy to find!"

Dr. Maland created a map of the eastern U.S. He made sure that the Iapetian Island was included. That way, he could direct the natives on where to send Iapetus.

"That is..." Dr. Maland continued. "If they wish to do us this favor."

John gathered up his supplies and filled his sailboat. His finals were going to have to wait. His research was going to come first this time. His students would understand.

Dr. Maland sailed into the heart of the Bermuda Triangle, and did not have trouble. He arrived at the island, and he was greeting in the usual fashion. It was an unscheduled visit, but it appeared that they expected him to come. A couple of the Iapetians met him at the beach as he arrived.

He asked to be taken to the tribal leaders. He wanted to initiate the plea for help as soon as possible. There was no need wasting time. After his meeting, the village came to life. They agreed to ask their deity for help.

The preparations began on the beach. There were two massive carved pillars sunk deeply on the beach. They almost looked like two highly tattooed legs sticking out of the sand.

Between these pillars, they began digging a deep trench. The natives lined the trench with palm leaves. Once the trench was fully lined with leaves, they began filling it up with fruits of all types.

The native trees produced plenty of fruits. It was a major element of the Iapetian diet. They were using their excess as an offering to Iapetus their god. "This is pretty standard sacrifice," Dr. Maland noted. "It is generous of them to perform their ceremony for someone else's benefit."

Once the Iapetians had filled the pit, they built a fire farther up the beach. Around the fire, they placed their drumming equipment. "They are going to use dance and song to bring their deity to them," Dr. Maland continued in his notes. "I hope I can follow the ceremony as I assume it will be in their native language."

"When the sun touches the distant waters the ceremony will begin." Dr. Maland learned from the tribal leaders.

Just as the sun began to set, the drumming began. The islanders began their chants. They were chanting the word for "join us" in their language. It was a very hypnotic chant. The drumbeat was very deep and rhythmic. It was as if the entire island shook with the beat of the music.

After several minutes of drumming and chanting, it stopped. From a nearby hut, out stepped a Priestess in ceremonial garb. She had a dress made from woven leaf fibers. They had taken the fibers and made a thread of them. They took this thread and wove it into an intricate cloth. It was surprisingly strong and soft. The cloth was very time consuming to create, and they used it only in ceremonial clothing.

The Priestess began dancing closer and closer to the pillars. The drummers played softly. She was gyrating and waving her hands in a fashion similar to a hula. "It is very reminiscent of Polynesian dancing," Dr. Maland wrote in his notebook.

She danced closer and closer to the pillars on the beach. The drummers played louder and louder. A rhythmic pulse began pounding and pounding throughout the beach. The entire party was rocking back and forth with the beat. She got closer and closer to the pit. When she reached the side of the pit at the farthest point from the sea, it all stopped. Dr. Maland noted that the rhythms and the sound were very hypnotic. At every point when the drumming stopped, he felt himself jerk.

The Priestess dropped to her knees at the mouth of the pit. She began bowing to the sea. Up and down she went. The drummers let her proceed in silence. After a few bows in silence, she sat on her knees and began her song. Dr. Maland struggled with the language, but he wrote his notes in short hand. He tried to get as much as he could understand, and this is what he noted.


Oh oh great Iapetus
Thankful are each of us
We give you this offering
On this fine day of spring

Oh oh kind Iapetus
You are so good to us
Such a kind protector
We hate to ask of ya

Oh oh fine Iapetus
You are very generous
My sister has a friend
Help could you send

Oh oh good Iapetus
Our love is strong and such
Trouble is in the north
We ask you to sally forth

Oh oh strong Iapetus
We count on you so much
The fruits of your island
Are here for your hand

Oh oh hungry Iapetus
If it is not to too much fuss
Come snack on our beach
You tongue can take what's in reach

Oh oh our Iapetus
You are strong and stuff
We shant forget-tie
Your slaying the ultra-yeti

Dr. Maland had difficulty understanding the rest of the chant. He just did not have enough grasp of the language. However, it did sound as if she was inviting Iapetus for a date. Much of what he translated sounded very silly to him, and he tried to take the ceremony seriously. However, occasionally he had to suppress a laugh.

At one point, he was suppressing a laugh when the waves around the beach became very choppy. They looked very different from a regular tide coming in. When the strange waves began reaching the shore at a regular interval, the priestess stopped her chant. She sat in a prostrated position and the drums began playing softly again.

Out of the corner of his eye, Dr. Maland thought he spotted something in the water. The darkness was growing slowly, and he thought he was imagining things. The hypnotic drumbeats slowly grew in intensity. Dr. Maland thought he saw something in the water again. "Are some whales passing by?" Dr. Maland asked himself silently.

The steady drumbeat became louder and louder. Dr. Maland felt himself swaying with the beat like the natives. Another passing image from the sea caught Dr. Maland's attention. "Am I hypnotized?" he asked himself. "Does this ceremony create some sort of mass hypnotic field that causes ships to run aground?"

As the intensity of the drums grows, the Priestess begins her dance again. The sea becomes dark. The irregular waves continue but the water becomes white with foam. Off the coast, the water is very dark.

Suddenly the drums stop. Dr. Maland is startled again, and notices the creature. The enormous lizard-like creature emerges from the water and consumes the offering in one gulp. "Iapetus is real!" Dr. Maland screams. With that rush of emotion, Dr. Maland fell unconscious.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Eight

General Innes MacWayne had scouts searching all along the Ottawa River looking for the baby ultra-yeti. He did not want it to get into the St. Lawrence Seaway or the monster would be very difficult to track. His Canadian military search teams had searched for quite some time, and they had not come up with anything.

"Finding a 100 meter tall, snow-white monster shouldn't be this hard," he mumbled to himself.

"Sir!" shouted one of the search team leaders as he saluted the general. "Still no sign. Sir!"

"Alright soldier," replied the general after returning the salute. He turned to one of the commanders and continued. "Colonel, take your brigade towards Ottawa. If the monster heads that way, we need to head him off. I'll send another brigade towards Montreal. This search is fruitless, so we had better protect our towns. I'll notify the U.S. secretary of defense about this."

The Colonel took his troops and their vehicles towards Ottawa. It was a long column of tanks, rocket launchers, and personnel carriers. A similar caravan headed towards Montreal. The creature's whereabouts were still unknown, but they did not want to leave their major cities unguarded. It was still possible that the monster could surface and destroy one of those towns.

The call between General MacWayne and the Secretary of Defense of the United States did not go well for the Canadian military man. The secretary was fuming mad that the Canadian military did not stop the beast. Further, the news that they did not know where the monster was located also did not go over well.

The U.S. had mobilized some units to deal with the beast, but now they did not know if they properly deployed the units. The Secretary strengthened the military's position along the Canadian border. He also ordered regular Recon missions over the northern states where the monster could emerge. He demanded that they find this monster before causing damage to any American city.

They knew now that the Canadian tanks and rockets were no match for the young monster. The Secretary asked the states to mobilize the National Guard of the affected areas. As much military might, as could be mustered at such short notice, was going to face the beast. The President even allowed the use of nuclear force.

After several very tense days, a reconnaissance plane spotted the creature in the Adirondack Mountains. He had crossed into upstate New York and appeared still to be on the rampage. He had destroyed several vacation spots and smashed some buildings of some small New York towns. His path was much more erratic than when he was in Canada. He was going up and down mountains and sometimes saying in valleys.

General Kenneth "Kit" R. Mann was in charge of the task force to destroy the monster. Canadian General MacWayne briefed him on all of the information that he could provide. After the briefing, he called for Dr. LeFleur to join him at task force headquarters in Albany, New York. He wanted the expert on this ultra-yeti beside him to determine the best strategy for destroying this menace.

Dr. LeFleur arrived by special jet early the next day and met with General Mann.

"Good Morning Dr. LeFleur," the General spoke as the two men shook hands.

"General," replied Dr. LeFleur.

"Thanks for flying out here on such short notice. I'm General Kenneth Mann, but you can call me Kit."

"General," replied Dr. LeFleur curtly.

"Very well, General works too. I know you are somewhat attached to this -- er -- animal. I can respect that. However, we cannot allow -- uh -- him to continue on his rampage. He is causing quite a stir upstate. He's caused quite a lot of damage already."

"The barrage of missiles and what-not has upset him."

"Quite! Be that as it may, this creature was riled up by Canadian forces but is taking it out on American property."

"I guess so."

"Do you have any ideas on how to calm him down? Does music have charms to calm this savage beast?"

"The quote is ... never mind. He will calm down on his own when he gets tired. Or, when he gets hungry."

"Using a carrot rather than a stick eh? I like it. We should air drop in some food for this -- em -- animal."

"That might be a good idea! You could use food to lure him away from populated areas."

"Fair enough Dr. LeFleur. What does this -- ah -- animal eat?"

"From my brief studies, his diet is very similar to that of a bear. He is capable of catching large animals like moose and deer. Plus, he has eaten lots of plant material like wheat."

"It is your opinion that we could lure him with food away from populated areas."

"I believe it could be fruitful. However, he does seem to be migrating southward. I cannot say where his final destination will take him. His kind may have had a hunting and grazing ground somewhere that he is trying to get. He is the first of his kind that we are aware of, and much of his behavior is still a mystery."

"That is valuable information for us doctor. Now, for a bit of unpleasant talk... How do you suppose we could kill it?"

"I haven't the foggiest. His hide is very thick and the munitions that the Canadian military used on him had little effect -- other than making him mad."

"Very good doctor. I appreciate your candor and hope you're wrong about that. Thanks for coming, and I'm sure I will want more information from you later. Make yourself at home here. If you need anything, ask the soldier outside. We'll keep you posted."

"Am I a prisoner?"

"Not at all! It is just that we don't want you getting in the way. You will be kept safe. We'll feed all of the information we get to you from this computer. You can monitor our progress and continue your study of this -- er -- animal."

General Mann left Dr. Lefleur in the tent and started making some plans. He determined that an excellent course of action would be to lure the monster to a remote location with some food. The U.S. military would attack the creature at this location. It was determined that with the prevailing winds, the location of the creature, and the large population centers, it would be a very bad idea to use nuclear weapons.

A few miles northwest of Herkimer Landing, New York the military began stockpiling food. It was a very remote part of the Adirondack Park Preserve. It was difficult to reach from the ground, so the General could not put much of a land force in the area. However, plenty of airpower was available.

When the young ultra-yeti came upon the food, he lingered. There was a lot of food there, and a few airdrops of more food occurred while he was still there. He feasted mightily, and once his stomach was full, the young beast rested. Since his emergence from James Bay, he had never lingered long in one place. He had been like a fugitive. He would rest briefly at one place or another, but not for long stretches. This spot he found to his liking.

The enormous creature for the first time since his birth, stretched out to sleep. He flattened out a large section of forest, and went to sleep. He looked quite content. He was no longer in a rampage.

The general let him rest. He had time to move later. He may even make a few more airdrops for the creature. In this way, he would have time to mobilize his forces more effectively. If he could convince the creature to stay there for a few days, he could bring down a large amount of firepower.

The young ultra-yeti did like his spot in the woods. There was plenty to eat from the airdrops and drink from nearby West Canada Lake and other lakes. He lingered. He was much calmer now. He was almost leisurely. After a night of restful sleep, he still lingered. He basked in the sunshine of that spring morning. He even spent a second night at the spot. He had found a peaceful spot.

All the while plans were being made. Plans that were not in the ultra-yeti's best interest. If he had known what things were in the works, he would have not lingered. He would have left with all due haste. General Mann organized a night strike. He would hit the beast as it slept. He would hit this monster hard while it was still resting. Strike while it was at his most vulnerable.

While the ultra-yeti was sleeping in his makeshift nest, several F-111s took off from their base. Along with these, several F-117 stealth fighters with a full compliment of smart bombs started their sortie. Off the coast, the navy launched several cruise missiles. The attack was coordinated to strike the beast and the surrounding area simultaneously.

At precisely 23:30 EST, the area around the ultra-yeti erupted in huge fireball. Smart bombs were exploding and cruise missiles were striking their target. The peaceful slumber that the young ultra-yeti enjoyed had erupted into a massive coordinated strike.

Fire and smoke surrounded the area. A recon team had placed their lasers on the beast and guided the munitions to their target. Once the smoke cleared, a huge crater remained. The beast was gone.

However, he did not vanish in the ball of fire. He had jumped up just before the first bomb hit. Perhaps it was the faint whistle, or perhaps it was just instinct. In any event, the young monster jumped from his nest before it exploded and ran. With his long legs, he could cover ground quickly. The recon troops could not keep up with him. However, he was headed across the mountains towards New York's state capital, Albany. He was once again in full rampage.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Nine

Dr. Maland slowly came to consciousness. He did not know how long he had been out, but to him he felt he was out for days. In fact, he was not out for more than a couple of minutes. The building excitement and the sudden and unexpected site of the giant monster overwhelmed his senses.

After coming aware of his surroundings, he began to take in the giant beast. Iapetus was lying on his stomach next to a fire the natives built in the pit. The aquatic creature tucked his hands back, and they rested besides his waist. A young native was relaxing in the palm of one hand and she was leaning back upon the webbing between his fingers.

Many of the members of the Iapetian community were patting the enormous creature on the head, and he looked quite at peace. He had his eyes closed, and he had fully retracted the spines upon his back.

Dr. Maland estimated that Iapetus was at least 200 meters long. However, he noted that a good percentage of that was tail. While on his hind legs, the giant beast was probably between 75 and 100 meters tall. He was somewhat reminiscent of a green iguana, but Dr. Maland did not believe he was a reptile. His legs pulled up under him more like a bird while reptile legs stick straight out from the hips.

Thus, when Iapetus stood, he balanced himself upon the seesaw of his hips. He would use his tail as a balance. His spines were retractable and there was a membrane between each spine. The spines would aid in swimming and make him look more menacing. "With his spines retracted and him resting upon the beach," noted Dr. Maland. "The giant monster is almost cute."

"While Iapetus was mostly a dark forest green," wrote in his journal. "He does have stripes of various colors."

Upon close review, Dr. Maland noticed several colors. He noticed red, blue, and orange in some of the stripes. These markings -- Dr. Maland guessed -- allowed the creature to hide from predators. Perhaps they were to attract females. The thought of more creatures like Iapetus or predators of him almost made Dr. Maland faint again.

Dr. Maland continued to observe the giant beast and even got the nerve to put his hand upon him. The creature was cold to his touch. "He's cold blooded," he noted.

The more he observed the beast, the more he became curious about how he came about. Who were his ancestors? Is he the last of his kind? How old was he? These questions he could not answer. "This kind of stuff is more suited for Dr. LeFleur..." Dr. Maland mumbled to himself. "Dr. LeFleur!"

He shook himself as if he had just awakened from some strange dream. He scrambled to find the priestess. She was lying upon a bed upon the beach. She was fast asleep. All of his efforts to wake her failed. His mind then turned to some of the tribe elders. He found them telling stories around the fire.

"What do we do from here?" the professor asked them.

"Nothing will happen until morning," replied one of the elders. "We rest and revel."

"Rest? How can we rest?"

"Iapetus will not be moved until the sunrise. There is no need for anything but rest."

"But..."

"Sit. Listen to our stories. He has done us -- and you -- a great favor. Take heart in that. The sun will renew your worries soon enough."

Dr. Maland sat and listened to the elders speak. It all hit him in a huge wave and he did not take notes. He heard the tribal stories and the gratefulness they felt towards the giant beast that now sat upon their beach. The concern for what was happening in the north began to fade. He relaxed.

The waves washing against the shore was a soothing sound to John. He was swaying to the waves. Back and forth he rocked. He was at peace. He was calm. He heard a soft voice calling his name. His mind struggled against the scene. Up he jumped in a start. "What? What is it?" John grunted as he awoke.

It was the priestess, and she said, "It is time."

"Time for what?" John asked trying to clear his head.

"The generous Iapetus cannot read your maps," explained the priestess.

"Iapetus? Maps?"

"You must take him to your need."

"Right! Right! The ultra-yeti."

"Come."

The sun was just beginning to rise. Dr. Maland's boat had been loaded with supplies and was resting upon the beach next to Iapetus. The priestess took Dr. Maland over to Iapetus's head so he could see John when he awoke. After the priestess said a few words, the giant eye of the beast opened.

Dr. Maland felt he could fall into the deep pupil of monster. The pupil dilated and focused upon John. He suddenly felt like he was going to be breakfast, but as his knees were about to fail, the monster gave a snort. John almost felt insulted. "Wasn't I good enough to eat?" he thought to himself.

After a few more words from the priestess, John boarded his vessel. With a nudge from Iapetus's nose, he was launched. He unfurled his sails and headed north. "Where am I going to go?" he mumbled to himself. "The last I knew the ultra-yeti had disappeared."

Dr. Maland decided that when he got in range of North America, he could use his cell phone to call Dr. LeFleur. That should take care of that problem. The only other problem was speed. At his current rate of travel, it would take several days just to reach Florida. It was the calmest John had ever experienced sailing around the Caribbean.

Suddenly, that became a moot point. Iapetus nudged John northward. He almost fell out of the boat as it suddenly accelerated. John had gone from slow going to the fastest he had ever sailed in a manner of moments.

Iapetus pushed him farther north. He used the sail as a rudder to steer the boat. He would move the sail a little towards the starboard or port to change directions. Otherwise, the sail was straight back as it flapped in the breeze as they sped along.

John had to make sure they got close enough to the shore to get a cell phone signal or they would end up in the Arctic Ocean before he could determine where he needed to go. After a few hours of sailing, John found himself coming quickly upon the coast of North Carolina. "How fast are we going?" John asked himself. "And how do I stop?"

John got a signal and quickly called his colleague Dr. LeFleur.

"Hello John. How are you doing?" Dr. LeFleur said as he answered his phone.

"Well -- we're on our way..."

"What? Who's we?"

"I'm on my boat -- being pushed by Iapetus.."

"What?"

"It was a shock to me to -- but we need to know where to go..."

"Go?"

"Snap out of it Claude! I don't know how long I'll have a signal. Where is -- Bob -- er -- the young ultra-yeti?"

"Albany..."

"Alban.."

"He is almost to Albany... John??? Hello?"

John lost his signal, but he knew enough. He would try to steer Iapetus into the Hudson River. However, before that, he needed to go hard to starboard or, they were about to crash right into the North Carolina shore. He could not push hard enough against the sail to make any headway. He could not budge the rudder either. They were simply moving to fast.

John began waving frantically at his impromptu motor. He caught the attention of the beast and the propulsion halted, but he was still traveling very quickly. The monster stuck his head out of the water, and observed the obstacle ahead. He nudged the boat and it made a wide right turn. The two barely missed some rocks in the shallows and headed farther out to sea.

John checked his GPS and mapped out a course. After the narrow escape, they returned to their previous speed. "This guy can really go," John noted. "I wonder how long it would take for him to swim around the world."

John snapped out of his curiosity. He needed to concentrate on sailing. He did not want to smash into some rocks or the shore again. It took the pair another couple of hours to reach the mouth of the Hudson River. John had learned that Iapetus was quite responsive to his hand signals. Therefore, they managed to go along the coast swiftly and safely.

The area around Manhattan Island was quite busy. There were ships and traffic of all sorts. Without any prompting from John, the pair navigated the congested water with quite a bit of ease. He managed to communicate to Iapetus that they needed to go up stream on the Hudson River. The two entered the river and headed upstream. Their speed had dropped off considerably.

It took the two a scant amount of time to go from the Caribbean to New York City, but it took them almost the same amount of time to go from New York City to Albany. It was much harder for them to go against the current of the river and avoid the obstacles. Thus, Iapetus was quite cautious.

The closer they got to the Capital of New York State, the more debris they encountered in the water. There were boat fragments, and even a few docks were floating down the river. All manner of floating objects were coming down the river.

The going became so hazardous that Dr. Maland signaled for Iapetus to stop. They could no longer safely make their way upriver. The debris coming down the river was just getting too thick.

Dr. Maland beached his boat along the shore and wondered what to do next. That is when a large white fuzzy ball caught his eye. The rampaging ultra-yeti was responsible for the debris in the river. John pointed at the white bear-like creature. Iapetus understood the hand signal and walked along the riverbank towards the giant monster. John just sat on the bank and watched him go.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Ten

The first strike against the ultra-yeti had missed. The beast moved quickly eastward. His pace was faster than the recon soldiers could run by a long shot. The hurriedly called in for support and an Apache helicopter with night vision capability took over tracking the monsters erratic easterly run. It appeared that the ultra-yeti was going to go well north of Albany as he altered his route toward Lake George.

His path did not lead towards Lake George for long. He altered his path and headed northeast. Before the helicopter navigator could radio their heading, the ultra-yeti changed direction again. Once again, he ran eastward towards Lake George. The enormous monster changed directions several times, but it appeared that his destination was Lake George.

"Perhaps he plans on doing his disappearing act in Lake George like he did up north," speculated the co-pilot of the helicopter as he reported to base.

"Lake George is pretty long," replied the pilot. "He probably doesn't even know its there."

The two men in the helicopter continued tracking the beast as he made an erratic run eastward.

"His serpentine needs some work," joked the co-pilot.

Before the pilot could respond, the ultra-yeti reached Interstate 87. Upon reaching that thoroughfare, the beast made a quick turn southward. He began running down the road, and he abandoned his strange path. He was keeping right on the interstate. He knocked over lampposts. Bridges and overpasses collapsed under his immense weight. The ground shook violently as he ran and some buildings along the road crumbled with the violent vibrations that he created. The monster was once again headed for Albany. However, there were a few other towns also in his path.

General Mann threw all he had at Interstate 87. His priority was to stop the beast. He wanted to prevent as much destruction as possible, but with the location and heading of the monster, that was going to be difficult.

The sun was just beginning to rise as the beast entered Glens Falls, NY. General Mann was able to secure much military firepower for the battle against the ultra-yeti. His first order was to send in several waves of various attack helicopters to attack the monster south of Glens Falls. He ordered them to strike as soon as the beast crossed the Hudson River.

Unfortunately, as the monster ran up to the bridge it began crumbling with the shaking of the ground. When the giant creature stepped upon the bridge, the southbound lane collapsed. The collapse tripped up the monster and he tumbled into the Hudson River. Some of the pilots hesitated, but others took the opportunity to strike. Hellfire missiles came roaring from the south towards the fallen monster. The explosions ripped the part of the bridge that had remained, and several missiles struck the ultra-yeti. However, the water of the river prevented the beast fur from catching fire, and the missiles did not harm him to any noticeable degree.

A second wave a missiles came from the helicopters, but these just finished tearing up the bridge as the monster had recovered from his fall and began running along the river. The helicopters followed attempting to get further strikes upon him. Some of the helicopters had not yet fired any of their armaments. Bullets and missiles began flying from the aircrafts. However, they succeeded in destroying nearby buildings more than they succeeded in stopping the beast.

No longer was the monster following the interstate. He was now following the Hudson River. While this did slow his pace, it did not remove Albany from the path of destruction. Further, if the beast continued to follow the river downstream, he could eventually reach Manhattan. This would be a devastating blow if the U.S. were to lose New York City to this rampaging beast.

The helicopters were running low on fuel and ammunition so General Mann ordered the A-10 Thunderbolt IIs into battle. The A-10s could linger longer around the beast, and with their maneuverability, they hoped to distract the monster. The General ordered the A-10 pilots to get as close to the monster as safety allowed. Albany and Manhattan depended upon them to change the giant monster's path.

The plan of attack for these tank killers was to fly in single file along the river valley. Each plane would fire a maverick missile and follow the missile in towards the target. When the airplane was as close to the monster as the pilot felt comfortable, they would open up their GAU-8 avenger cannons put a line of fire across the beast's chest as they banked eastward. The idea was to either destroy the ultra-yeti or have him follow the planes to the east.

Some of the A-10s had cluster bombs and other ground destroying weapons. However, most were simply equipped with mavericks. They also had a full load of the depleted uranium tank busting ammunition for the A-10's cannon.

The young ultra-yeti continued to follow the Hudson River and was only momentarily side tracked by a small town here and there. He would briefly leave the river's waters to stomp on a building that happened to catch the young monster's eye.

When the tank killing airplanes finally reached their target, the monster was destroying a bridge that passed over the river. The small town of Schuylerville was about to experience a rude awakening. Luckily, the military had evacuated the civilians in the path of the monster. The distinct whine of the A-10s caught the ear of the white monster, but it did little to distract him from the destruction of the bridge, which blocked his path.

The attack aircraft swooped in upon the wary animal and began their assault. Missile after missile struck the beast and many bullets flew at him. The entire town erupted in a massive fireball. One missile missed the beast and struck a gas station that caused a change reaction of explosions. Flames engulfed the small town.

Still the planes pressed on and so did the giant monster. The bridge that had once blocked his path was no longer, and thus, he pressed forward. He would occasionally swat at the approaching planes, but they were too maneuverable. A few had broken off their attack and gained some altitude. These planes dropped their bombs upon the monster. The river began to widen with the craters left by the attacking A-10s, but they could not steer the monster from his course of following the river.

Wave after wave of airplane fired upon the mighty monster, but it had little effect on him. It was as if he was caught in a swarm of mosquitoes. They were simply an annoyance, and he pressed on. Without warning, he rushed at one of the A-10s. The lead pilot banked quickly eastward, but the following A-10 was too slow. The monster was upon him and grabbed his jet. The engine whined and the pilot lunged forward as the ultra-yeti stopped the planes forward progress.

The young monster shook the plane as if it were a rattle and then threw the plane to one side. The rest of the A-10 pilots avoided crashing into the enormous creature, but they had to break off their attack.

The tough aircraft withstood shaking, but the pilot lost consciousness. The plane crashed a bit off in the distance, but by some miracle, the pilot survived the ordeal. The plane had a few stress cracks, but it did not break apart.

However, the weapons were ineffective against the thick hide of the monster. The bullets would penetrate the outer layer of skin, but they would be absorbed and pressed out again. They did no damage to the creature. The missiles did not even faze him. He pressed on along the river and the A-10s admitted defeat and headed home.

Once the long line of evacuation vehicles had left the stretch of river north of Albany, General Mann sent in the tanks. His last line of defense before the beast reached Albany was going to be a long column of Abrams M1A2 Tanks. They were now speeding along highway 4 north of Albany.

The attack of the airplanes did not steer him clear of the river. He continued to follow its course. Those attacks did manage to irritate him the more and he stomped more buildings than he did in the previous stretch of river. This did give the tanks the opportunity to get farther north as he had slowed his pace to destroy.

Small town after small town was laid to waste in the wake of the monsters path. He crushed homes and businesses. Gas stations exploded and fires broke out all along the river. Upon each demolished building, the giant creature gave out a roar of victory. He would then run to the next town for more wanton destruction.

The tanks finally caught up to the monster in Mechanicville. Several tanks stopped upon a bridge crossing the river, and turned to face the oncoming beast. Others went fully across in an effort to surround the rampaging monster. They had him nearly surrounded when the open fired.

The entire town shook with the exploding shells of the tanks. The monster charged the bridge and with one swing of his mighty hand, the bridge collapsed. They fired another volley, and the monster pounded the bridge again. Huge chunks of concrete crumbled into the water.

He grabbed one of the tanks and threw it at one of the columns of tanks. He pounded the bridge again, and the missing span was large enough for him to get through. He grabbed the bridge and pulled. Another huge chunk came off and he tossed it at the other column of tanks.

The fire from the tanks was more erratic now. The drivers attempted to avoid the flying debris. The gunners had difficulty aiming, as the beast and the tanks were moving in odd directions. The shells began hitting the surrounding buildings more than the creature. After several large explosions, the young beast roared and ran farther down the river.

Some of the tanks were trapped on one side of the river and could not rejoin the column. The monster had destroyed a few tanks but some managed to follow him down river. However, the tanks could not keep up as the beast ran very quickly now. He was no longer interested in playing with the tanks.

At his run, he reached the outskirts of Albany in a short time. General Mann had thrown everything he had at the monster, but was unsuccessful in stopping him. He turned his attention to evacuating Albany. He would worry about saving New York City afterward.

The rampaging monster had won the first battle against the U.S. military. Albany was his for the destroying. The young beast walked through the suburbs destroying houses and businesses as he went. Occasionally, he would pick up a vehicle and throw it as far as he could. He was going to enjoy his victory.

After a few miles of destroying the outskirts of Albany, the young ultra-yeti headed for the tall buildings of down town. He had grown bored of destroying the small houses and businesses. He was ready to tackle something bigger. Then he spotted an enormous green creature headed up the river towards him.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Eleven

Dr. Maland could see both monsters from his particular vantage point. He had beached his boat at the southernmost tip of a riverside park. However, he quickly realized that while he could see quite a bit, he would be in a world of hurt if the two beasts headed his way. However, the river to the east and an interstate to the west blocked his desired escape route.

While streams of Albany citizens headed south out of the city, very few were on the interstate to the west of Dr. Maland. He did have his sailboat, but the debris in the water would make it a treacherous ride. That was not a safe alternative, so he scrambled up the riverbank. He began searching for a safe place to ride out the pending fight. He noticed a road a little bit to the south of his location and he ran towards it. From his vantage point, it appeared to pass under the interstate.

Iapetus gave out a mighty roar when he spotted the snow-white ultra-yeti. However, the young monster paid little attention as Iapetus arose from the river. The ultra-yeti casually acknowledged the roar and headed toward some buildings in downtown Albany farther away from the river. The young monster began pushing down some of the buildings that he encountered.

Iapetus ran along the interstate and then some of the surface streets and quickly caught up with the ultra-yeti. With a lunge, the monster surprised the young beast and the two went crashing down into a nearby office building.

With Iapetus on top of him, the young creature gave a strong kick that launched Iapetus into the air. The surprised lizard went crashing into another unfortunate building crushing it to the ground. Meanwhile the young and slightly more agile ultra-yeti ran southward toward the Empire State Plaza.

Iapetus shook off the shock of being thrown and ran after the young beast. As he was about to pounce on the young monster again, the ultra-yeti changed direction. Iapetus crashed into a building on the north side of the plaza. The building easily succumbed to the pressure of Iapetus's enormous bulk. It gave way and tumbled upon the prone beast.

Upon seeing Iapetus lying on the ground under a pile of rubble, the ultra-yeti pushed over one of the Agency buildings and began tossing the rubble on top of the green beast. Quickly Iapetus was covered in a pile of concrete and steel -- the remnants of former buildings.

Meanwhile, Dr. Maland was running through the streets of Albany dodging the occasional car and looking for a place to hide. He had passed under the interstate and was now on the eastern edge of the plaza. He observed that the ultra-yeti headed south -- towards the plaza. He hoped he could stay out of the path of destruction. He hung back towards the east side as the two monsters tangled for the first time. He saw Iapetus tackle the young ultra-yeti only to be tossed to the side.

He continued to head northwest along Broadway as the two beasts ran south but when the young yeti turned, he became aware of the great danger he was in. The monsters could take 3 steps and be on him quickly if they suddenly came directly towards him. He was on the same street of the building Iapetus just demolished. He was only a few blocks away from where the giant beast was buried under the rubble.

John was lucky to escape unharmed as the young monster began pushing down the other three Agency buildings. With the creak and groan of the crumbling buildings, Dr. Maland barely heard the helicopter overhead. However, he was keenly aware of it as it landed in the park where he stood in awe of the giant monsters.

Dr. Maland looked over his shoulder and noticed a highly decorated soldier holding his hat, crouched down, and rushing towards him. However, the destructive force of the ultra-yeti still held John mesmerized.

The soldier finally reached Dr. Maland and spoke loudly over the roar of the helicopter. "Dr. John Maland I presume?"

"Why yes," answered John.

"I'm General Mann. Dr. LeFleur is in the helicopter. Would you care to join us?"

"Dr. LeFleur?" stammered John. "I guess so..."

General Mann ushered Dr. Maland into the waiting helicopter. With John safely buckled in next Dr. Claude LeFleur, the machine took off. "Hello Claude," stated John with astonishment.

"Hi John," replied Dr. LeFleur. "I wish we could have met under more pleasant circumstances."

"You ain't just whistlin' Dixie there!" replied Dr. Maland.

"General Mann -- here -- tried to prevent the destruction of Albany, but that ultra-yeti was just too tough. We hope that Iapetus can stop him from destroying Manhattan. However, it doesn't look to good right now."

"Yeah..." is all that Dr. Maland could say. He was trying to soak it all in as if he were living in a dream.

The helicopter began circling the city to keep a close watch on the two giant monsters. The ultra-yeti was pushing on the Erastus Corning Tower as the helicopter circled.

Iapetus had regained consciousness and erupted in a spray of rubble. One of the hunks of concrete flew to the place John had been standing just moments before. The flying debris spread in all directions causing more damage to the capital of New York State.

He gave another roar at his young opponent. However, the young monster continued to try to topple the tallest building in Albany. Iapetus ran over to the building and whipped his mighty tail at the distracted monster. The force of the blow was enough to knock the ultra-yeti into the pile of rubble where one of the Agency Towers once stood.

Iapetus flexed his muscles and his spines were fully erect when he gave another mighty roar. His full fury was unleashed as he pounced on the downed monster. While on top, he bit down hard on the ultra-yeti's shoulder. This prevented him from being thrown as the young monster pushed and kicked.

Fear began showing in the young beasts eyes as he continued to push against the great bulk of Iapetus. He felt an enormous pain in his left shoulder as he attempted to push off the monster. With great effort, he rolled onto that shoulder and Iapetus was forced to release his bite. When the bite was released the young ultra-yeti sprang to his feet and ran towards the river.

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Iapetus Saves Manhattan

Chapter Twelve

Dr. LeFleur and Dr. Maland watched the two monsters battle from the relative safety of a circling helicopter. They watched as the Iapetus followed the ultra-yeti into the river and disappeared from view.

"Get closer!" shouted General Mann to the Pilot. "We don't want to lose track of them!"

"Yes sir!" replied the helicopter pilot.

The helicopter pilot got closer to the river, but the two monsters remained hidden from view. However, at the point where the two beasts entered the river, the water sloshed and bubbled. It was obvious that the two beasts fought at that point.

"Iapetus is an aquatic animal," remarked Dr. Maland. "He's definitely got the advantage in the river."

"The two monsters are enormous," replied Dr. LeFleur. "There is little room to maneuver in the river there... But I believe you are right."

"It's a shame," sighed Dr. Maland.

"Yes it is."

Suddenly, the helicopter pilot pulled back on the stick sharply tossing the occupants about. A giant white beast flew out of the water and landed on the rubble that once was one of the four Agency towers. The beast flew quite high and smashed into the rubble that rocked the city for blocks. He laid there bleeding from cuts on his arms and his torso.

Slowly Iapetus emerged from the river. He once again fully erected his back spines and gave his mighty roar. He slowly walked the few blocks to where the ultra-yeti landed.

Now the young soaking wet monster had lost his swagger. He was no longer in a rampage mode. Destruction was no longer a priority and it showed in his manner. Everyone in the helicopter agreed, the young beast was afraid for his life.

Before Iapetus could reach him, the ultra-yeti rolled off the pile of rubble and kept the Erastus Corning Tower between the ancient monster and himself. He looked like he was going to use the tower as a squirrel uses a tree.

Iapetus was still in no hurry to continue the fight. He entered the Empire State Plaza with confidence, but he knew that the young ultra-yeti was a dangerous adversary. With a steady and cautious walk, he approached the tall Albany building.

The soaking wet ultra-yeti looked pathetic hiding behind the tower. The tower could not offer him much protection. An obstacle that with a little effort could be swept aside.

The two beasts circled the tower guarding against the move of the other. At the same time, they were measuring each other up and deciding on their own next move.

The ultra-yeti broke the stalemate. He shook the water from his fur like a dog. This action caused Iapetus to hesitate and the young monster crashed through the tower and tackled his opponent.

The tangle of beast and steel and concrete crashed to the ground with an enormous crash. The claws of the young beast tore at the scales of Iapetus. However, the claws of the young monster could not penetrate the hide of the old beast.

Iapetus's claws on the other hand, tore through the tough flesh of the ultra-yeti. This gambit had backfired for the young beast and he began to struggle to break free of the embrace. He grabbed enormous chunks of concrete to smash into his foe, but the wrestling match continued.

Finally, the young beast got a hold of a long piece of twisted steel that used to be part of the building that he had just toppled. With a swing of desperation, he smacked Iapetus in the head with the weapon, and he was free from the other monster's claws.

The ultra-yeti scrambled to his feet with his weapon still in his hand. In an axe-like swing, he brought it down as Iapetus attempted to get up. It once again smashed upon the monster's head. Iapetus was stunned.

The twisted steel was a formidable weapon and the ultra-yeti was poised to use it again. Over his head it went and back down. This time it missed its mark as Iapetus rolled away before the weapon could fall.

Dazed from the blows to the head Iapetus managed to reach his feet. He was a bit unsteady as the young beast swung the steel girder wildly at him. He avoided several blows as he attempted to shake the cobwebs from his mind.

The weapon wielded by the young beast had turned the tides, and he continued to swing it at the green monster. Iapetus managed to avoid most of the blows, but he felt the danger of his situation.

Eventually, one of the swings caught Iapetus under the arm smacked into his ribs. He emitted a groan, but managed to pin the weapon under his arm. With his other arm, he grabbed it.

There was a brief struggle for the weapon, but using his tail, Iapetus swept the feet right out from under the ultra-yeti. The young monster still held onto the weapon as he fell. Unfortunately, this pinned the young beast to the ground. The old monster slid down the length of the girder and sunk his teeth into the young beast's neck.

The ultra-yeti struggled to break free, but the jaws of the old sea monster were strong. The young monster tried to twist and struggle to break free, but he felt his strength being drained away. Slowly the struggles began to decrease as the life slipped from his body.

Eventually, the girder crashed to the ground and the ultra-yeti died. Iapetus gave a sorrowful cry. There was no flex in his spines. He mourned the passage of the young beast and trudged to the Hudson River. He jumped in and swam off.

The helicopter landed in the park where it had picked up Dr. Maland. The men that were in the helicopter walked over towards the dead ultra-yeti. The beast and the rubble that once was several buildings awed them.

"He was just trying to survive," remarked Dr. LeFleur.

"He was a remarkable animal," replied Dr. Maland.

"Look at the damage!" insisted General Mann. "This monster is responsible for a tremendous amount of destruction all along the Hudson River! It'll take years to rebuild and billions of dollars!"

"He may have been happy in his nest in the woods," replied Dr. LeFleur. "We don't know what his natural habits were. We could have possibly coexisted, but you had to try and kill him."

"He was a threat!" exclaimed General Mann.

"He was a force of nature," replied Dr. Maland.

"He was unleashed by humanity's unwillingness to accept itself as part of nature," continued Dr. LeFleur. "Humans have this silly notion that they were granted dominion over the earth. Nature, sometimes gently and sometimes with huge fury, informs is that we are not in charge."

"Bah!" replied General Mann.

"And still..." started Dr. Maland. "...we don't listen."

The End.

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Back In A Flash

Part One

By Dwayne MacInnes

"Data telemetry 95%, adjust two-seven-eight and four-two-niner," the monotonous voice advised over the radio.

"Adjusting two-seven-eight and four-two-niner," Colonel Diana Kemper replied in her British accent. Her calm voice hid the barely controlled emotion of excitement that tried desperately to bubble forth. Diana was about to be the next Chuck Yeager and she was destine to become a historical icon.

"System diagnostic nearly complete," her American co-pilot Major Thomas Barnes sitting beside her in the cockpit said over the radio.

"Data telemetry 100%," the monotonous voice of the ground controller replied.

Over all her years in the military, Diana noticed that no matter where they came from or what age or sex they were, all ground controllers spoke in the same flat emotionless tone. She found it ironic that her in-flight computer displayed more human emotion than the controllers did.

"That must have been something they learned in school. Either that, or the school searched for people with the personality of a tree," she laughed silently as she completed the thought.

"Something I missed?" Tom asked as he looked over to Diana in the pilot seat.

"Nothing," Diana replied realizing she had not laughed as quietly as she thought.

"All systems are in the green. Prepare for acceleration in twenty seconds," the impassionate voice advised.

"Roger, ground control," Diana replied.

This was it. Diana repressed another wave of excitement as she thought about being one of two of the first humans to break the light barrier. The programmed remote drone and the animal flights all proved highly successful. Now, it was the big moment for human flight. The British and American governments collaborated on this program to fly faster than the speed of light. Something thought for over a hundred years to be impossible.

Their spaceship, the Zephyr, would accelerate towards light speed. The closer they got to the speed of light, communications with Earth would become impossible. Therefore, the computer would mostly control the flight. It would fly out to a preordained coordinate and automatically return towards Earth. If the worse case scenario happened and the human crew was unable to respond, the computer would land the Zephyr back on Earth at a base outside Manchester.

"I feel like the train engineer with the dog," Diana thought to herself. From her history studies, she remembered that as 20th century progressed, trains became more and more automated. The owners of railways kept engineers onboard to reassure the public. The old joke was that an engineer and a dog would run the train; the engineer was there to make sure nothing went wrong. The dog was there to make sure the engineer did not touch anything if it did.

"Acceleration in 10, 9, 8..." the ground controller started counting down.

The flat voice brought Diana back to the present. She looked over the flight panel. Everything looked good. She glanced over to her co-pilot and flight engineer Tom sitting next to her. He was taking one last glance out the window at the stars before he returned to reading the flight computer's readout on its screen.

"7, 6, 5..." the voice continued over the radio. There would soon be no communication until the Zephyr finished its flight plan after it had decelerated from light speed and was again in close proximity to Earth. Diana tried to sit back further in her seat. The straps had already secured her to the flight seat so snuggly that she really did not move much.

"4, 3, 2..." the radio relentlessly counted down. Diana's grip tightened on the flight control. She wondered if Major Tom realized that there was a song related to his name composed one hundred years ago. Probably better if he did not.

"1, acceleration go, engines beginning full burn," the voice concluded as the thrust from the Zephyr's engines threw the two passengers further back into their seats. The g-forces grew oppressively greater as the ship sped faster through space.

If the invention of artificial gravity had not come to be in the last couple of decades, acceleration like this would be impossible. As it were, the inertial dampener took a few seconds to catch up to counter-act the g-forces from the thrust. For those few seconds, Diana feared that she would be crushed to death. Fortunately, the g's pushing her back into her seat relented as the artificial gravity inertial dampeners compensated for the thrust.

Diana watched the image of stars beginning to flash past her windscreen. If she could see behind her, she realized that she would not be able to see anything once they reached light speed. All signals from Earth were now effectively severed.

The Zephyr began to shake violently as it approached closer to the barrier. It felt as if the small spaceship was going to rip itself apart struggling to push through and past the light barrier. A quick glance down on the flight panel showed that the navigation shields were holding at full power. Another necessary space flight innovation, without the navigation shields a micro-meteor would end the flight quickly and disastrously.

As suddenly, as it began the Zephyr's flight smoothed out as if it was gliding on glass. Diana glanced down at the flight panel again. A red light flashed on indicating a problem with the quantum flux matrix. Before she could do anything, a bright flash flooded the cockpit for a nanosecond. The illuminate flash indicated the breaking of the light barrier much the same as the sonic boom indicated the breaking of the sound barrier. That was the last thing Diana remembered before she blacked out.

* * * * *

"Colonel?" a voice sounded out from the blackness.

"Colonel Kemper, are you OK?" persisted the voice with an American accent. Diana forced herself to focus on the voice. She willed herself to swim out of the blackness and into the light. As Diana regained consciousness, she fluttered open her eyes. The light burned her retina before her brown irises compensated for the bright sunlight flooding into the cockpit.

"Sunlight?" the thought completely brought Diana back to her consciousness. "Where are we?" she asked.

"According to the computer programming we should be back on Earth outside of Manchester," Major Tom replied.

Diana undid the straps and sat forward in her seat in order to get a better view outside the windscreen. The Zephyr had landed in a vacant field. Trees lined the horizon, bright sunlight flooded through the windows and puffy white clouds floated across the blue sky. They were at least back on the Earth.

"I lost consciousness just as we exited the 'flash'," the American offered. "When I came to, we were here. According to our instruments, we were out only for ten minutes."

"There was a malfunction with the quantum flux matrix. Run a complete system and subsystem diagnostic to make sure that is all that went wrong."

"Yes, ma'am. That will take about two days to run."

"Manchester base this is Zephyr do you copy?" Diana spoke into her radio headset. Nothing came back but static.

"Manchester base this is Zephyr do you copy?" Diana tried again. Again, her only response was static.

Diana made sure that the radio was on the correct frequency. She tried a few alternate emergency frequencies without any results.

"There must be something wrong with our radio. Can you get a fix with the GPS?" Diana asked her co-pilot.

Tom looked at the instrument for a second. He pushed a few buttons and again looked at the GPS.

"Colonel, this doesn't look good. I am not getting a GPS reading at all. Maybe we're more damaged than it looks," offered the major with a hint of concern in his voice.

"You said that the computer is stating that we should be at the Manchester base, correct?"

"Yes, that is its preprogrammed flight course if the human pilots are incapable of flying the ship."

"Computer," ordered Diana.

"Flight computer on line," the mechanical female voice responded in a British accent.

"How did you fly back and land on Earth without the radio and GPS being operational?"

"Radio and GPS are fully operational...my subprogram allows me to use astrogation and highly detailed topographical maps to land at my preprogrammed coordinate," replied the computer.

"Computer, how can the radio and GPS be operational if we are back on Earth and neither one works?"

"There are no signals for the radio or the GPS to pick up."

"Computer, are you sure we are on Earth?" Diana prodded.

"There is a 99.9% probability based on gravity, density, diameter, axial tilt, astrogation position and land masses corresponding to my topographical maps."

"Computer, did we go back in time?" Major Tom asked trying another track.

"Negative, based on astrogation planetary and stellar position we have not gone back in time."

Diana and Tom both silently cursed as the computer gave its analysis.

"However based on the same information," the computer continued, "we are two hundred thirty one years in the future from the date we launched."

Diana and Tom looked at each other as it dawned on them that they were in the year 2299.

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Back In A Flash

Part Two

By Dwayne MacInnes

Diana and Tom were both stunned into silence as the computer's remark sank in.

They both just stared at each other at a loss of words. Diana looked out the cockpit windscreen again and viewed the surrounding sylvan glade. Even if they were, over two hundred years in the future there should have been a base or some buildings.

Diana's eyes widened as a terrible thought came to her. "Computer," she said in a trembling voice.

"Flight computer on-line."

"Computer, give me a reading on the surrounding radiation level," Diana ordered hoping against hope that she was mistaken. The look of fear on Major Tom's face showed that he too was following her train of thought.

"Radiation level is higher than normal, but will not pose any immediate health concerns with a limited exposure."

Tom started looking at some of the other instruments on the panel. He tapped on one with his fingers as if to make sure the needle was not stuck.

"Colonel, the rads are much higher than normal. Instruments show that the o-zone is virtually gone and…" Tom's voice broke off in a swallowed sob.

"Please continue Major," Diana said calmly.

"Based on the half-life readings this happened over two hundred years ago. The strontium-90 and cesium-137 readings suggest that this was from a nuclear exchange instead of some natural disaster."

Diana sat there for a minute wrestling with some internal dilemma. The colonel just stared out the window watching the trees' leaves flutter in the slight breeze. It all looked so deceptively safe.

"Major, we need to find out what has happened."

"I agree, we can fly the Zephyr to some ruins and hopefully find some records. Maybe…"

"No," Diana cut off the major. "We still don't know all that may be wrong with the Zephyr. I will need you to stay here, finish the diagnostics, and make any repairs that you can. I will head towards where Manchester should be."

"Begging your pardon, ma'am, but I must strongly protest against that. You don't know the dangers out there. We cannot become separated from each other."

"We can't take the Zephyr with us for fear of destroying our only way out of here. Plus…" Diana held up her hand as Tom began to protest. "As I was saying, we also cannot afford to abandon the Zephyr for something else happening to it while we are gone. Therefore, the only option left is for one of us to head north to where we believe Manchester may still be."

"Then I suggest I be the one to go. I'm physically stronger and six years younger than you. No disrespect, ma'am."

"None taken. However, I wouldn't think that thirty-seven was old. In any case, you are the engineer and the only one who can repair our ship. I, on the other hand grew up in Liverpool just north of Manchester. I have spent a lot of time in Manchester, something I am sure you can't say."

Major Tom relented and nodded his head in agreement. Diana did not relish the thought of leaving the security of the Zephyr for a jaunt in an irradiated world. But, her mind was made up.

Fortunately, when the Zephyr was constructed it included a cabin behind the cockpit that stored two bunks, the head, and a small galley. The room behind that held the tools, space suits, airlock and other equipment for space repair.

"I'll take an environmental suit, a torch -- flashlight I believe you Yanks call it, and some food. I'll minimize my exposure to the air. I have my palm computer that I can download whatever information I come across. It only has a four terabyte hard drive. I hope that will be enough."

"I believe that you should be within range to transmit that information right to the Zephyr's computer. Keep in contact with your radio. I'll alert you to anything new that may arise here while you are away," Tom added.

"Right," Diana answered, "well then I better get ready. I should only be gone for a couple of days. Cheers."

* * * * *

Within half an hour, Diana had descended the airlock in the bottom of the Zephyr, climbed down the stairs, and had set out across the grass field towards the tree line to the north. The temperature was quite warm. Luckily, the space suit could regulate the temperature inside the suit as well as recycle the air. Diana was sure that her air supply should last seventy-two hours. At least, that was what the scientists claimed before she set out on this adventure.

A few insects flew in the air. They for the most part appeared to be unchanged by their environment. Then again, these same insects survived several natural disasters that wiped out whole species of life forms in the past. Meteor impacts, rapid environmental changes, volcanoes, etc. These tended to kill off larger species like the dinosaurs, but the simpler ones tended to survive well enough. At least, the cockroach was not the only inhabitant of Earth. There appeared to be some dragonflies and mosquitoes as well.

Diana entered the wooded area and the Zephyr soon disappeared behind her. There were no signs of squirrels, or other mammals. Though she did believe she heard a bird call somewhere inside the woods. While she was back on Earth two hundred years ago, the trees were not as tall or thick. At least, that is the way it seemed to her.

"I suppose these would be considered old-growth by now," Diana thought to herself.

The colonel continued to walk northward using her compass as her guide. The woods appeared deeper than she first suspected. Back on the old Earth, this was all buildings and roads leading to the space base. There were no signs of them at all. Certainly, even after two hundred years there would still be some sign of a road, a building, or even an automobile rusting away somewhere.

Two hours later the woods ended and she found herself in another field of tall grass. There did appear to be a mound ahead of her. It was long and continuous. It disappeared over the horizon in one direction and led to some hills in another.

As Diana approached the mound, she realized she had come across the old railway line. The occasional rusted steel rail poked through the grass covered soil. The timber ties had long since rotted away. This would greatly help her on her trek towards Manchester.

Soon Diana found an overturned train with its many passenger cars scattered about. Some were even lying across the old tracks. Diana ran over to the nearest passenger car half buried in the ground. It was lying on its side, the metal skin was tattered and twisted, the steel trucks and wheels were rusting away. There were several openings where a door or window used to be. All were long gone.

Diana poked her head into the darkened interior. Grass and the occasional small tree had started to grow inside the car. The beam from her flashlight illuminated the interior as Diana ran it across the seats on the side of one wall. She lowered the beam to a ghastly scene.

On the bottom of the car, that used to be a windowed wall, laid the remains of the doomed passengers. The skeletal bones of the occupants were now mingling with those of his or her neighbor's. Skulls with empty eye sockets and in a silent scream all seemed to look pleadingly at her. Passengers, possibly fleeing the cities had packed the unfortunate train.

Diana pulled her head out quickly and sat on the mound crying over the remains of the unknown victims. Names long lost to the passage of time. People never mourned until now.

"Colonel," the voice of Major Tom brought Diana back to herself. "Colonel, do you read me."

"I read you Major," Diana responded in her head set trying to gather herself together.

"Sorry, Colonel, you haven't checked in for awhile. I was getting a little worried."

"I must have lost track of time. I have found a train track and am following it to Manchester. I should be there before sundown."

"Very good," Tom responded, "don't forget to keep in touch."

It was just at sundown when Diana reached the ruins of Manchester. The hills she spotted as she left the woods were in fact the decomposing remains of tall buildings. The entire city appeared to have tumbled down upon itself. Plant life had taken over the metropolis. Grass, trees, and flowers now covered the streets and walkways of the city.

Steel girders, tumble stones, and piles of bricks hinted at where buildings and houses once stood. The rusted out remains of an automobile occasionally poked out of a grass covered dirt mound. Navigating around Manchester was going to be difficult. A quick scan with her Geiger-Counter indicated that the radiation was no worse than that at the Zephyr.

The sunlight was rapidly disappearing and Diana needed to find shelter fast. She scanned around and found an opening in one of the torn-down buildings. Diana ducked inside and searched it out with her flashlight. It was the entranceway of some public building. The passage of time affected the marble floor minimally. A metal stairway had at one time lead to the upper stories and still appeared to lead down to the lower floors. For now, Diana found an old bench that was sturdy enough to bear her weight and prepared to spend the night.

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Back In A Flash

Part Three

By Dwayne MacInnes

Diana spent a troubled night trying to sleep in a space suit. It did not help that she kept having nightmares of the skeletons in the train car and people going up in flames. At one point in time, she dreamt she heard a wolf howling in the night. However, when she awoke from the dream the sound did not repeat itself.

The morning sunlight spilled into the small lobby where Diana dwelled. She woke up shortly before Major Tom and gave him a status report. Diana removed her helmet and had a quick breakfast in the natural air of the ruined world. The experience brought back familiar smells of plants of her native England. These smells mingled with those of decay and dust.

Diana replaced her helmet and began to search around the room where she had spent the night. There were faded posters on the crumbling walls. A rotting desk lay against another wall. A quick search of the desk revealed some evidence of the building's former occupation.

By great fortune, Diana had stumbled upon an old bookstore. With a little more luck, she may be able to find some answers to her questions. She found a pile of decomposed newspapers, long faded and crumbling with decay. Most of the books she found were in the same sad condition.

Diana decided to take a chance and try the stairs to the lower level. Maybe the elements were kinder to the material down below. The stairs held her weight as she gingerly walked down them.

With her flashlight held out as a weapon to pierce the oppressing darkness, Diana started to search amongst the books. She found a few in better condition than any she found on the main level. Some appeared to be promising. She used her palm computer to take a quick scan of the books and sent the information back to the Zephyr's flight computer.

Diana was thumbing through some promising DVDs when she heard a noise in the back of the bookstore. She swung the beam of the flashlight instantly in the direction of the sound. She thought she saw something white disappear behind a bookcase.

The colonel cautiously approached the bookcase. The flashlight held out in front of her. It never occurred to her to bring a weapon of some sort. However, the Zephyr did not have any, but she could have at least picked up a crowbar or found a sturdy branch on her trek here.

The bright beam of light from the flashlight scoured the area where Diana had heard the noise. The only evidence that someone had been there was the skeleton huddled in the far corner. It was unlikely that it was the bones that she saw duck behind the bookcase. Nonetheless, there was nothing else there.

A primitive fear of the dark was starting to grip Diana's mind. Maybe the ghosts of the former residents of Manchester were now haunting the ruined city. Maybe all of the dead humanity was haunting this devastated world.

Diana tried to push her fear back down, but it was a tough battle. She went back to the DVDs. She picked a few which she would feed into the Zephyr's computer. Occasionally she thought she heard another sound, but Diana could never confirm what she heard.

A final quick search brought forth a few more promising books that Diana hurriedly scanned. The darkness was starting to become more oppressive and the colonel felt an urgent need to leave this place. She felt unseen eyes watching her. For the first time in a long time, Diana was becoming completely terrified.

Diana finished scanning the last book and quickly ascended the stairs back into the entranceway. The sun was still out and had filtered its warm rays into the small alcove. Diana rushed outside hoping that the light would remove some of the irrational fear she was feeling.

Though the midday sunlight did comfort her a bit, Diana felt a dire urge to return to the safety of the Zephyr. She radioed Major Tom to inform him of her find. However, she left out the part about her becoming spooked. Diana started back after she had a quick lunch.

* * * * *

The trip back took less time than it did to get to Manchester. Diana did not know how far she had run to get back. She still felt that she needed to return to the Zephyr's safety.

About two hours of sunlight remained when she returned to the glade where the Zephyr had landed. Diana found Major Tom standing on one of the delta wings with his head inside an access panel over the Zephyr's engine. He had obviously been repairing the Zephyr.

Tom pulled his head out and noticed Colonel Diana Kemper walking towards the ship. He waved a greeting towards her, happy to see her back in one piece. Tom then closed the access panel and began packing up his tools.

By the time Diana was back, Tom had everything packed up and joined her at the ladder to the airlock. Neither said anything until they were both back inside the cockpit. Diana was inserting DVDs into the computer's drives when Tom sat in his seat and looked at her.

"Looks like you didn't waste any time in returning," he joked. Diana just shrugged her shoulders absorbed in her work.

"The good news is that all that was wrong was the quantum flux matrix and I have repaired that. Maybe we can have another go at it and see if we can get back to our time. I have been working on a few theories with the computer. It looks like we may have a chance of returning home."

"I was able to find out a little bit of what happened. The rest I am feeding into the computer now." Diana finally spoke.

There was a moment of silence. Tom cleared his voice and got Diana's attention.

"Something wrong? You haven't said much since you returned."

"Sorry," Diana replied somberly, "I am a little depressed by this world."

"What did you find?"

"It looks like there was a nuclear war on a global scale. The cause of it I am not entirely sure. From what I have glanced at, one nation had become like old Nazi Germany. It is the same old story of some dictator determined to run the world."

"Do you know what nation it was?" the major asked.

"I'm not sure yet. However, I believe it was from the western hemisphere, possibly Mexico or Brazil. I remember reading something about both in one the books I came across. I also know that it began as a democratic nation, but had slowly become autocratic. Something in its past slowly started to erode the individual's rights. Because of some horrible action, the people willingly sacrificed their civil liberties for the sake of security. The poor became poorer and the wealthy became even richer through tax cuts and war profits.

"Unfortunately, the books I looked through weren't in the best of conditions and I didn't read them too closely. I wanted to get out of that ruined city as quickly as possible. I am sure something was watching me."

Tom touched Diana's arm to gain her attention, "Was there any mention of the United States?"

"One of the sources mentioned that the Europe and her North American allies fought a desperate war to conquer the dictatorship. Looks like everyone perished in the fight." Diana looked down at her hands fighting to remain in control of her emotions. "I'm sorry, I haven't had much sleep. I think I will hit the bunks while the computer works on the data. I'm sure everything will be ready by morning."

Diana exited the cockpit leaving Tom alone. She climbed into the nearest bunk and let the exhaustion take control. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow.

It was nearly midnight when Tom shook Diana awake.

"Colonel, you have to see this," the major said excitedly.

Tom nearly pulled Diana into the cockpit. He sat her down in front of a monitor. Tom then took a seat next to her.

"I thought I heard a noise outside," Tom said quickly, "so I had a thermal scan done of the surrounding area."

Tom flipped a switch on the monitor and the green screen showed the image of about twenty lighter green images giving off a heat source. At first Diana thought, maybe her mind was playing tricks on her. Nevertheless, there they were the undeniable images of about twenty humans cautiously approaching the Zephyr.

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Back In A Flash

Part Four

By Dwayne MacInnes

There was a full moon out so the ambient light was good. Diana flipped off the thermal imagining and relied on the external camera. She zoomed in on the approaching humanoids. The first images shocked and amazed her.

There standing in the field were what appeared to be humans. They were humans in the basic physical form. The adults stood between five and half to six feet. As you would expect, the children's height varied by age. All of the humans had skin that was an alabaster white, which tended to reflect the moonlight with a slight luminescence. Diana looked down at her own creamy brown skin. No doubt, her skin color would seem as strange to them as theirs did to her.

Even stranger was the fact that they wore no clothing and their bodies were completely devoid of hair. Not even a wisp on the heads of the males or even the females. However, the most marvelous detail of all was their eyes.

The eyes of the queer humanoids were easily three times as large as a normal human's eyes. The irises had no color pigment, just the pink found in albinos. Diana felt a shiver run up her spine looking at the creatures that were so familiar and yet oddly alien.

"This is us?" Major Tom whispered.

Tarsier

Diana nodded her head. She knew that evolution tended to take quick long leaps based on environmental factors. Did humans become nocturnal albinos from living underground after a nuclear holocaust? Surely, the decades long nuclear winter that followed reinforced this new trait. Their faces now resembled the Tarsiers of Madagascar more than they did their own human ancestors.

"Major, raise the navigational shields."

"Yes, ma'am," Tom replied softly keeping his eyes glued to the monitor.

They watched the humanoids all night. The humanoids still communicated with each other, but their language had evolved enough that Tom and Diana could not make anything out from the recordings they took. They also tended to act more animalistic than human. Tool use was back to the basics of early man and the small tribe looked upon the Zephyr with curiosity and fear. Long before sunrise, they left the glade.

Diana and Tom went to their bunks and slept a restless sleep filled with the dreams of hairless, frog-eyed humans walking around with wooden spears. It was still late morning before Diana awoke. Even though she had less than eight hours of sleep over the last couple of days, she could no longer stay in bed. Her mind was racing with questions about how this strange world came to be.

Without waking the sleeping Major, Diana slipped out of her bunk and entered the cockpit. She sat in her flight chair and looked up the progress report of what computer had determined. Diana was surprised to find that the DVDs had faired better than she expected. The computer attained more information off them than she thought was possible after the ravages of war and time.

With a sinking heart, she read over the analysis. Diana was so engrossed in the reading that she did not realize she had been there for over two hours until Tom walked up behind her.

"Find anything out?" Tom asked giving Diana a slight start.

"Yes, Tom," Diana said sadly. "You better take a seat."

Tom sat down in his chair and looked at the colonel. If the colonel had used his first name, Tom new that something was dreadfully wrong. "This is serious, huh?"

"I'm afraid so," Diana replied and sat there trying to find the words of how to begin.

"I've got more information about that dictatorship I was talking to you about. It was not Mexico or Brazil. Tom, I don't know how to tell you this, but it was the United States."

* * * * *

"What? How? When?" Tom sputtered out the questions. His brain was still trying to grapple with the idea that the United States of America, the poster child for freedom had wound up like Nazi Germany. It simply was not possible.

"I don't know where to begin," Diana faltered.

"When did the war begin?" Tom asked straight out staring Diana right in the eyes.

"The final exchange happened sometime in the year 2075 if we base it on the last report that I was able to find."

"You are telling me that the U.S. and the U.K. became mortal enemies just a few years after we launched the Zephyr?" Tom shook his head. It was impossible.

"That's what is strange; according to the report the U.S. had been becoming more autocratic for decades."

Tom just stared at Diana. He could not form any words. His mind was at a standstill trying to comprehend the bombshell the colonel had just landed in his lap.

Diana turned towards the monitor and pointed to the screen. "According to this, the United States had set up concentration camps to take care of dissidents. They would round up troublemakers and have them just simply disappear off the face of the earth. ` "The government monitored personal phone calls and emails, and libraries and postal workers kept tabs on their customers. Neighbors would watch neighbors and anyone thought to be suspicious the government instantly rounded up and imprisoned without due process."

"When did this begin?" The major asked in a sullen voice.

"Remember the 9/11 terrorist attacks?"

"Yeah, my grandfather told me of them often. He told me of how we went into Afghanistan and defeated the Taliban. Utilizing the global goodwill that the U.S. had attained after the attacks and the combined efforts of all nations lead to the defeat of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. We even had our national debt paid off within ten years of the year 2000. Because of that we were able fund this space program with your country."

"Major, this is where it gets very strange. History as we know it changes here. After Afghanistan the U.S. invaded Iraq."

"Why? There were no Iraqis among the terrorists in the al Qaeda bombing of the World Trade Center."

"True, but there were many reason given. Most of the excuses to go to war turned out to be false. However, they public did not find out about it until after the fact of going to war with Iraq. Nonetheless, by going to war with Iraq, al Qaeda found a new breeding ground for terror groups. Your country went in record debt funding the war. It even ran ads on the tellie supporting the war. Many people in the Middle East felt that the U.S. was going to invade them so they decided to fight back. Therefore, things escalated.

"As more terrorist attacks exploded around the world the U.S. surrendered more civil liberties for the sake of security. The president assumed more power and congress became a mere spectator. People were persuaded to vote in certain ways by using fear tactics. Before long, the American citizen had voted away their rights and voted in a dictator.

"The U.S. government also did away with the Geneva conference conduct of war. Prisoners were tortured and humiliated. Soon it just was not just terrorists; it became criminals, and then even ordinary citizens. The same thing happened with phone tapping.

"The U.S. then started to solve all its problems by going to war. Every citizen at the age of eighteen had to join the military for a mandatory four-year enlistment. The United States occupied Mexico and much of Central and South America this way, not to mention most of the oil-laden countries of the Middle East. Even a war with North Korea erupted. This is when France and Germany stood up to the U.S.

"Soon France and Germany had been reduced to nuclear cinders. The rest of Europe and Canada declared war on the U.S. The result you see outside your window."

Major Tom sat there silently looking down at his feet. This never happened in the world from where he came. This was simply impossible. Then something else hit him.

"The flash! When the quantum flux matrix malfunctioned, it did not just send us into to the future. It sent us to an alternate timeline."

"That's how I see it, Major."

"Then the odds of us getting back to our time and place are very remote."

Colonel Diana nodded her head in agreement. "But we have to try. If for no other reason that to find a better place than this."

Major Tom looked up to Diana, "Colonel?"

"Yes, Major"

"I still don't understand how it all started."

"Major, look at who the records say was the president during the first eight years of 21st century."

"That's not possible; he lost that election in 2000."

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Time Flies

The Beginning

By Douglas E Gogerty

It all began when James Henry Millard was an undergraduate lab assistant to the prominent Dr. Jeffery M. Decker. Dr. Decker was a leader in the field of optics. With Jim Millard's help, Dr. Decker invented a very special kind of glass. There was nothing like it in the world.

In their early experiments, they were bending light as far as was possible without distorting it. The Decker/Millard team was responsible for several exciting discoveries in this area. In their earliest efforts, they were able to bend the light of a laser almost eighty-seven degrees with very little distortion. However, they were always trying to improve upon these results.

The research team had experimented with several substances. They had refined the manufacture of refracting glass, and they were experimenting with the substances added to regular glass that would bend the light. In one particular experiment, they added a super-conductive material instead of their usual ceramic material. The light was bent as predicted. However, when they added a current, they got the most astonishing results. The glass was no longer transparent; however, it was not opaque either.

At first, they thought they had bent the light ninety degrees. Thus, all the visible light would come from the edges of the glass. By experimenting with a laser, they discovered that this was not the case. The distinctive red laser light did not register on the glass. In addition, the image did not dim when the edges were covered. In fact, the glass had a strange glow even when there was no light at all shining on the glass. Moreover, at times the team could see strange shadows moving in their glass. These shadows would come and go in a random fashion. The team could find little order to the movements of these shadows. They repeated the experiment several times, and still the shadows appeared.

For three years, they experimented with their glass. With improvements in super-conductive ceramics, there came improvements in the glass. Furthermore, with the independent discovery of a transparent film capable of heating and cooling the glass, they were able to reach a wide temperature range to observe the reaction of the super-conductive material. Thus, they were able to vary the amount of resistance to electrical flow throughout the glass. In this manner, they could find the ideal amount of resistance for given amount of voltage. This produced very good results. The shadows were beginning to take forms.

The team also experimented with the amplitude of the current flowing through the glass. When they determined optimal amplitude for the differing voltages, the forms became even clearer. However, the images were still not perfect. Optimizing the needed voltage and adding the ideal amount of ceramics was the next step. This part of the research took the longest. After painstaking trial and error, the images from the glass became very clear. It was through the sharpness and clarity of the images that it became clear that this was not a television image. The picture became very sharp. It had a better resolution than any known television signal.

Not only did these images not look like television images, they did not behave like television images. The people seen in the glass were not very interesting. These figures appeared to have rather mundane lives. Moreover, the movements of a television set do not alter the picture of that television set. It was a different story with this glass. As the glass moved, the pictured changed. It was as if they were looking at a mirror. The background and point of view changed with each movement of the glass. The scientific team was at a loss to explain this phenomenon.

However, this did not alter the enthusiasm of the team; in fact, it drove them to a new goal. The next several months the researchers tried to get sound to correspond with the images coming from this view screen. All these experiments were a resounding failure. The sound was on no broadcast frequency that they could locate. The team tried every possible frequency. When two people in the glass would converse, their conversation was a secret never to be heard by the science team. With failure after failure, the team finally gave up. The secrets conveyed by the images were safe from the intruding scientists. It was time to alter the course of the experiment.

By observing the images during these several months, various team members noted that all the images were relatively stable. An object, other than a person, appearing in the glass on one day was usually there the next day. In particular, Dr. Decker noticed a picture of an individual playing a tuba. This picture appeared on the far wall of the room that was conveyed by the glass. When someone obtained the first clear images, this picture appeared in the background. On any given day, that same picture would be hanging there on the far wall of the room depicted in the glass.

Furthermore, the people on the other side of the glass would change their routines. That is, they would not be doing the same thing every day at 4:37 PM. As a matter of fact, it appeared that the people in the glass were living their own lives. They would do things that people do ordinarily. Further, the team's log noted that the style of clothing that these people wore was very out of date.

Nonetheless, the stability of the scenes helped guide the team to the next stage of experimentation. The new objective would be to "change the channel". Maybe the team could pick up on some new images. Possibly there would be some audio to be found for a new set of images.

Changing temperature, amplitude, voltage, and dozens of other factors, image after image was discovered. After several weeks of experimenting, Jim Millard made a remarkable discovery. With his particular set of inputs, several very familiar scientists appeared, and they were working with a strange piece of glass. It was the team's own image appearing in the glass and in the image within the image was a picture of an individual playing a tuba. Dr. Decker stated, "It is like looking through a window into a whole new world."

That was it! You could almost hear the lights being turned on. It all made sense now. The reason that the images changed when moving the glass around was the fact that the scientists were looking through a window into a strange world. As the window moved, so did their view of this world. These were not television images at all. The analogy of looking into a new world also helped explain the stability of the images. The people in the glass were real people with real lives. This also helped explain the clothing that these people wore. That was the style then. In addition, one of these people living in this strange world obviously liked the tuba and thus hung a picture of a tuba player on the wall.

Furthermore, this helped explain why they could not find any sound on any frequency. The sounds coming from the people in this strange new world were not broadcast on any frequency. They were simply spoken. A completely new technology would be required to discover what these people had to say.

Now the team had to prove their theory that these were images were from another dimension. However, the scientists were euphoric because it was apparent that it could be possible to observe what was happening in a dimension other than their own. In a world with only three perceivable dimensions, people could see into an infinite number of different dimensions.

All of this pushed the researchers and of course Jim Millard into the realm of the time/space continuum. He would devote the rest of his life, studying dimensions, time, and any other relevant theories to aid in his search. A search for something he had not even yet imagined.

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Time Flies

The Hypothesis

By Douglas E Gogerty

After all of the experimentation, Jim graduated. During his course of studies, he earned two Bachelors of Science degrees. He earned one in Mathematics and the other in Electrical Engineering. However, he did not wish to leave the team. Thus, he rejoined them as a graduate student. Although Jim was still a student, he had quite a bit of experience on the project. In fact, Dr. Decker was the only one with more. Thus, he was given the task of discovering how the glass worked the way it did.

Others members of the team, depending on their field of expertise, were given different aspects of the glass to research. Everyone had a guess on how the glass worked. Jim had the task of testing to see if any of the hypotheses could lead to a predictable outcome. Jim worked hard and long on his task. He did experiment after experiment. With every change in image, he would attempt to find a date for it. Naturally, he also noted the temperature, the voltage, the amperage, and the rest of his experimental inputs. He wanted to determine how the combination of the substances made this inter-dimensional viewing possible. Inter-dimensional viewing or IDV was what the team called the glass experimentation.

Jim's personal hypothesis was the light was bent over three hundred and sixty degrees. This light rotation was responsible for the viewing of past events. This is why it all started with light bending glass. In his guess, each rotation made it possible to view another moment backwards in time. Thus, if he could determine how many rotations the light would take, he could determine how far back in time he could go.

After following the direction of Dr. Decker's suggested testing, it was time for Jim to test his own personal hypothesis. Thus, he made a mathematical model of what he believed was happening with the glass. He would have to determine how it would be possible to control how many revolutions the light would have to make to observe a particular moment in time.

With the collection of a large sample of data, he was confident that he could establish his theory. With his experience with the glass, he was confident on which variables he needed to alter to give more rotations. With the superconductive material embedded in the glass, temperature was definitely a major factor. The amount of current traveling through the glass was also important.

After a few experiments, Jim believed he was on the cusp of a major breakthrough. Not only could he predict which set of previously noted images would appear in the glass; he could change the various variables a certain amount to change from image to image without significant changes to the glass. This was of particular importance; because up to this point, major changes were required to view a new image in any one piece of glass. With Jim's discovery, instead of taking days to reconfigure the glass it would take a matter of hours. With a little more work, he was certain that image after image he could switch between images in still less time.

He also experimented with how to make his own image appear in the glass. He discovered how to see what was happening at the spot he was standing fifteen, thirty, sixty minutes ago. The small increments in time were difficult configure, but he was very adept at manipulating the glass.

With his rotational theory as a working model, he was confident in establishing when the image was taking place. He refined this new process to be able to select images to the nearest quarter hour. He was then able to see what he was doing just minutes before the present time. This created several interesting images. He was able to view an almost infinite number of himself as if he was looking into a mirror with a mirror directly behind him.

He dated the men in the room with the Tuba to be 1914. He looked at the records of the area, and was confident of his date. The more he researched the stronger he felt his theory was. He was fairly sure his calculations in this new body of research were correct; however, being the perfectionist that was Jim Millard, he wanted to be absolutely positive that it would work for times long since gone. He was sure it would work for time recently elapsed. However, could his results be extrapolated? How many rotations could he make before the images were no longer viewable?

If his upcoming experiment was successful, it would forever change the perception of inter-dimensional viewing. After this experiment, the glass could forever be thought of as an inter-time viewing device instead of just an inter-dimensional viewing device.

The calculations that needed to be performed were extraordinarily complex. It would take several hours of work to create correct set of variables for his upcoming, important experiment. To be able to change the images in a less involved fashion; Jim recruited some engineers to help him. He told his new associates what he expected from the device they were to work on.

Working with these engineers, Jim was able to connect a laptop computer to the glass. The engineers were able to connect the output from the computer to the glass and use this output to change the amplitude of the current. The computer could also change the temperature of the film covering the glass, and the myriad of other variables that were essential in changing images.

When the engineers had accomplished the goal Jim had set for them, he was able to enter the time and date into the computer. The glass would respond by showing Jim the image he wished to view.

Jim was ready to attempt the experiment of a lifetime. He was going to show that his theory was correct, and he was going to do it in high fashion. He was confident that his work with the glass could have astounding consequences. He was going to show that his theories were applicable to times long gone. That the IDV was a useful project and that there were some valid uses for it.

Furthermore, along with this experiment, he would show the glass would also work in a place other than the laboratory. Up to that point, the only images observed were within the laboratory itself. He was going to take the glass outside the lab, and give it a major test.

After his experiment was complete, Jim organized a colloquium with several of the faculty of the university. Jim had an important announcement, and he wanted the entire university to share with the team's discovery. His preliminary work was finished, and it was time to exhibit his findings. He was going to put on a show.

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Time Flies

The Hypothesis

By Douglas E Gogerty

When the faculty was gathered together, Jim got up to speak. "Ladies and Gentlemen," he began, "I just flew in from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and boy are my arms tired!"

A few titters of laughter came from the audience. It was an old joke, and perhaps too old. However, Jim liked starting his speeches with a little joke, and he had to press on.

"I am sure you are aware of the work that Dr. Jeffery Decker, myself, and others have been working on regarding the inter-dimensional glass or the IDV project. A few years ago, I was given the task of determining how the glass was able to give the images that it was giving us. Exclusively, I worked with our glass in this field of research, and I have been able to determine how it does indeed work.

"With the help of Mr. Algernon Quintell and Ms. Willamina Harris, two local engineers, I have been able to fabricate a device that will allow me to view almost any time that I may wish to view. To be specific, this glass will allow me to view what has happened at the location where we place the glass at any time I select.

"We took the device to Gettysburg for a test. I entered the date November 19, 1863 into the device I have before you. I also entered the time of 6:00 AM. However, the cooling film would not get cold enough to go back that many years, and we did not have a powerful enough generator to increase the amperage. Thus, we had to balance the temperature using liquid nitrogen. After several hours of waiting and looking through the glass, I was able to take this video."

Jim placed a tape into the VCR and images appeared on the monitors located throughout the room. "As you may know, the IDV only collects light. Sound does not linger. Thus, I assigned some undergrads to obtain audio from other sources. They managed to obtain a ancient recording, and thus, the crispness of the video will not match up with the poor audio. However, it was a recording from 1863."

The video was playing, and it looked a bit strange through the occasional liquid nitrogen flow. However, the crowd soon realized what it was when they heard, "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

"In case you were wondering, this is the actual image of Abraham Lincoln giving his Gettysburg Address. This is not a recreation or fabrication of any kind. That is Lincoln himself." Jim explained. He pointed to several features that indicated it was indeed the sixteenth president of the United States.

"Obviously, this new technology has tremendous potential. Any scientist or historian will be able to view events as they actually happened. Things will be seen that have never been seen by anyone of our time. Many questions that have long gone unanswered, will now have answers. Speaking of which, do any of you have any questions at this time?"

"Can you give us a real-time demonstration?" one of the professors asks.

"Certainly. First, we will need a marker or milestone that occurred in this very room. Something that a number of you will recognize. Are there any suggestions?"

"Several years ago, the building on this sight burnt down," came a voice in the crowd. "Maybe we could see this fire."

"Or maybe we could watch last weeks lecture on asexual reproduction of aquatic plants given by Dr. Finnley," suggested another person.

"Your lectures are none too exciting either Dr. Williamson," responded Dr. Finnley.

"I know what we can see," interrupted another participant. "Remember when former President Carter gave his speech to the faculty? That would be a recognizable land mark as it were."

"That is a good suggestion, but I need the exact time and date in order to view that occasion, Dr. Faulklin," responded Jim. "I need this information entered into this device in order to view this episode."

"I showed the video taken from that occasion to my 'Modern Government' class last week," added Dr. Williamson. "The video is in my office, and the time and date were noted on the tape."

"Great!" exclaimed Jim. "We will be able to compare the images from the glass with the images coming from the video tape."

When Dr. Williamson returned with the video tape, Jim replaces his video of Abraham Lincoln with the Jimmy Carter video. The time and date were recorded on the bottom of the video image, and Jim entered those numbers into the glass's laptop computer. He took a little bit of time to synchronize the images. The audience was amazed at the clarity and accuracy of the images coming from the screen. To assure the assembled professors that no tricks were involved, Jim moved the glass around. By doing this, Jim was able to show several different angles to the speech given by President Carter. Everyone in attendance was amazed.

"As you can see, the images given through the glass are very accurate. With this device we can get an accurate view of several events in history," continued Jim.

"What about viewing the future?" asked Dr. Williamson. "I would like to know who will win the Kentucky Derby next month."

"I would to," replied Jim. "However, from the few tests I have done, I have been unable to predict what will happen in the future. This device picks up light that has already reflected off surfaces. There is no way to pick up light that has yet to be reflected. If we reverse the polarity, we get the exact same images. Nothing that we know of will pick up images of future occurrences."

"How can you be sure of the accuracy of the images from the past?" inquired a skeptic in the crowd.

"The several images that I have been able to catalog are very consistent," responded Jim. "If the images from the past were not consistent, I would be very skeptical of the results from the past also. However, the same images from August 13, 1984 at 2:30 PM are always the same. Furthermore, I have done tests similar to the one we have just completed involving former President Carter. I have been able to match views from the past with those on video tape. It is this reason that I am reasonably confident in the images taken from the past."

"What is your theory on the time/space continuum?" inquired the skeptic.

"My theory on the time/space continuum is not yet complete, and I would not like to discuss it at this time. However, I would like to add that history is events that have happened. As we all know, light has some very unusual properties. For instance, it behaves like a beam and a wave. Somehow, the IDV glass picks up the light from past events. I do not know if it is being reflected off distant objects, or if it is a previously unknown property of light."

"Very good!" inserts Dr. Williamson. "There are several factors that are involved in the unraveling the mysteries of time/space."

"Yes, that is a good point. Now, are there anymore questions?" asked Jim.

After answering a few questions and making a few more demonstrations, Jim gave his theory on how the glass works. He discussed in detail on how he believed the light was being rotated through the glass. After a while, no one in the crowd could think of any more questions to ask Jim. "Well, thank you all for coming. If you would like to know more, my paper on this research will soon be available. You can also ask your questions to me at anytime. You all know where to find me. Thanks again for coming, and drive safely."

The crowd filed out, and a few come up to congratulate Jim on his work. Many mentioned that they would be very interested in reading Jim's paper describing his research.

It was this research and the discovery of the inter-time viewing that Mr. Millard used in his dissertation. This was no ordinary research paper. This would enable Jim to take an important step in his life. With this impressive body of work and the support of Dr. Decker, Jim would no longer be Mr. Jim Millard. He would now be Dr. Jim Millard, Ph.D.

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Time Flies

A Brief Vacation

By Douglas E Gogerty

Jim was finished with his paper, and he would receive his diploma at the end of the semester. Years of hard work and sacrifice would pay off at that time. Jim was the leading, and perhaps only authority on inter-time viewing. It was a title that made Jim very proud.

On the occasion of Jim's upcoming graduation, Dr. Decker threw Jim a party. It was on this happy occasion that Jim received some unhappy news. At this party, Dr. Decker announced his retirement. "I have pictures to paint and stories to write," Dr. Decker informed the people in attendance. "I sure hope none of this interferes with my watching the Cubs on TV!"

Everybody, including Jim, was at a loss, but Dr. Decker assured Jim that he would recommend that Jim take over for him at the university. That assurance did not ease Jim's fears. Dr. Decker would be missed; most of all by Jim, but almost everyone believed the line of excellence would continue. It would be the inevitable passing of the baton from mentor to student.

Jim naturally applied for the position vacated by Dr. Decker's retirement. With the strong recommendation from Dr. Decker, Jim felt confident about acquiring the empty place in the Physics department. He was very popular at the university and had a most impressive academic record.

Because of fair hiring laws, the university posted the position nationally. Despite the overwhelming array of qualified applicants, Jim felt very self-assured. "Who would be more qualified for the post than me," Jim occasionally thought to himself. "Besides, who would want the job?"

A search committee was formed and interviews were performed. With each step in the hiring process, Jim became more and more confident that the position was his.

The final decision was to be made in late July or early August. Jim wanted to take this opportunity to take a long needed vacation. He did not take any summers off in his college years because he always went to summer school. With some money he had saved up, he decided to do some traveling during that summer. It would be a well-deserved rest.

His final interview was on May 22nd. After the interview, the search committee informed Jim that he was one of the three finalists. With that news, he felt that it would be useless to worry. In fact, Dr. Williamson, who was one of the hiring committee members, told Jim, "Why don't they have you sign a contract now and cut out all this rigmarole?"

Jim nodded modestly and returned to his apartment to make some plans. He was looking forward to seeing some of his old friends, and partaking in some sort of adventurous activities.

It did not take Jim long to decide where he wanted to go. He decided there were two longtime friends who he kept in contact but hadn't seen in several years. He talked to a travel agent, and he would leave for Florida on June 1st. This would give him plenty of time to get his affairs in order.

Before he left, Dr. Williamson asked for an address where Jim could be reached "...just in case something comes up." Jim gave him the information Dr. Williamson wanted, and Jim embarked on his adventure.

Jim's friend Ken Michaels met him at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International airport. Jim wanted to spend a couple of weeks in St. Petersburg and then he was going to visit another friend, Wayne Leonard, in Charleston, South Carolina. He was greatly looking forward to being somewhere tropical. The summers in central Texas were a little hot and dry. It was not exactly what Jim wanted on this vacation. Furthermore, something about the Atlantic Ocean had always appealed to Jim.

Ken took Jim to several sights in the area. Jim saw Busch Gardens, Tiki Gardens, the Salvador Dali Museum, and various other sights in the St. Petersburg/Tampa area. However, Jim spent most of his time at the beaches. Jim loved to swim and bask in the sun. He spent several hours at Clearwater beach, reminiscing with Ken.

Ken was a high school friend of Jim's who was now a professor of philosophy at the University of Tampa. They argued about everything but were still the best of friends. Sometimes being a philosophy professor would give Ken an arguing advantage, but Jim was a good debater in his own right. At times, the two friends got several strange looks from passing beachcombers, but this did not bother them. They would continue on arguing about who was better Batman or Spiderman or what was the best movie of all time.

It was a very relaxing time for Jim despite the occasional agony of defeat. He did not like losing any of the debates. Jim always loved a good debate and Ken was more than willing to oblige him. After two weeks of arguing in the sunshine of Florida, Jim had to press on. He hated to leave, but Wayne and Charleston were waiting.

Jim and Ken had one last debate on the safest mode of transportation, but before the issue could be resolved, Jim had to bid his friend farewell and head for South Carolina. Wayne was one of Jim's most interesting friends. Wayne was a forest ranger in the Francis Marion National Forest. Jim was about to spend two weeks in the wilderness. Being from Montana, Jim was quite at home in the wild; however, he had spent several years at the university in the middle of Texas. There was not a great deal of wilderness in the city of Austin. Further, the South Carolina wilderness is very different from the wilds of Montana or Texas for that matter.

Being in this lovely forest setting gave Jim the chance to take pictures. He did take some pictures in Florida, but Ken was a bit impatient when it came to that sort of thing. When at a particular sight, Ken would not wait around very long. In South Carolina, Jim took pictures of everything. Wayne was very patient and sometimes took some pictures himself. Jim had a digital SLR camera, and he loved to take photos, especially of the scenery. He barely filled his memory card in Florida, and he almost needed to purchase another one to get all the sights of the South Carolina area where he was staying. He spent one whole day taking pictures of wildlife in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.

Wayne and Jim also reminisced about the old days. They used to camp in Wayne's back yard when they were little. They thought it was the greatest in those days. Wayne especially loved it. He would always say that is why he became a forest ranger. There was nothing like the thrill of the outdoors. Being a ranger allowed Wayne to camp out regularly. When he was not camping, he was at least in the wilderness. Wayne was the picture of a contented human being. Jim could never think of a happier person than Wayne. Seeing someone so happy made Jim happy. South Carolina was a very relaxing leg of his trip.

After a couple of weeks in South Carolina, Jim went home to Montana. Jim's dad still lived in Great Falls. His mom had died when Jim was an undergraduate, so he tried to get back home as often as he could. He became really close to his dad after his mom died. He never dreaded coming home to spend some time with his dad.

Jim's dad was the owner operator of a hardware store. Jack Millard never went to college, but often regretted that he never got the chance. Jim's grandparents were never that well off, and they could not afford to send Jack to college. After Jack graduated from high school, he went right to work. He worked in several retail settings until he got the opportunity to open his own business. For ten years, Jack ran a very successful store, and he probably would have retired if his wife had not died. The store was now his reason for getting up in the morning. It was very good therapy for him.

Jim and his dad often talked about Jim's mother. Inevitably, this always led to the same question. "When are you going to find a wife?"

This question Jim could never find a good answer for, and it was the reason he did not often wish to talk about his mother. It always meant having the same conversation.

"How have you been Jimmy?" began Jack.

"Dad, when will you stop calling me that? Do you know I have my Ph.D. now? I am no longer your little Jimmy."

"Sorry, doctor, old habits die hard."

"OK, I guess I can forgive you. I have been fantastic. Ken and Wayne say 'Hi!'"

"How are they doing?"

"Very well, they seem to be very happy."

"Are any of them married?"

"Dad! Are we going to open this old can of worms already?"

"Well?"

"Ken has a serious girl friend, but she is in Paris on some sort of trip or another. I didn't get to meet her. Wayne, well, he lives in another world, and he hasn't met anyone who wants to share it with him. He has met a few women, but nothing serious has come from them yet."

"What about you? Have you met anyone that trips your trigger?"

"Dad, I don't know? It is not that my standards are too high; it is just that nobodies standards are that low."

"Don't sell yourself short son."

"I won't dad, but most women are afraid of me, and the rest have this preconceived notion of who I am. I can't live up to either perception. Thus, I am stuck being alone."

"The big problem you have is you are too shy."

"I agree, that is part of my problem. However, another part is the fact that I actually like being alone. Not many people can understand that."

"I suppose you're right."

"Besides, Jack Jr. has already made you a grandpa. You don't have to worry about that."

"I am just concerned about your happiness."

"Thanks for your concern, but I will be all right. So, how is the store?"

"Business is good. So are you trying to change the subject?"

"Me? No, never, I would never try and do anything like that."

"Son, I would like you know, that I am very proud of you. By the way, the university called they wanted you to call the committee in the morning."

"Did they say what they wanted?"

"Nope! Sorry, I didn't ask either."

"I guess I will find out tomorrow. So, how are Jack, Carol, and little Sean?"

Like always, the conversation of the father and son went long into the night. They talked about just about everything. They even revisited the marriage conversation. When they were equally exhausted, they went to bed.

Jim called the university the next morning. The committee wanted to meet with him in mid-July. He arranged the meeting with them for July 22nd. They were not very specific on the details of this meeting. He tried to find out what it was about, but they were very tight-lipped about the whole thing. He would have to wait until July to find out what they were considering.

This delay would still give him some more time with his dad. He may even meet up with some high school friends that still lived in the area. He was not sure who was still in town, but a few trips around town on his bicycle would let everyone know he was in town.

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Time Flies

The Disaster

By Douglas E Gogerty

Not much of note occurred in the last few weeks of Jim's vacation. This is mostly what Jim had hoped. He relaxed. He read quite a few things that he simply did not have time for while he was at school. It was a restful and enjoyable time. However, he could only take so much of this. He was ready to get back to the old grind. When July 21st arrived, he bid a fond farewell to everyone in his hometown, and he left for Texas.

His apartment was still in order after his extended trip. However, it was slightly dustier than he remembered. He unpacked his clothes and was back into the swing of things in a matter of hours. It was as though he had never left. When all was put into order, Jim turned on his stereo and finished reading the book he had started on the airplane. He was quite tired from the travel, so he turned in early to get a head start on the next day. He wanted to be ready for a day that would be very important to the rest of his life.

Jim arose early to prepare for this meeting. He showered, shaved, and threw on some errand-running clothes. He needed to get some things done before his big two o'clock meeting. The first thing he did was get his haircut. It had been quite a long time since his last cut. It was due.

The library was Jim's next stop. He wanted to get photocopies of all the articles of his that were published. He had quite a few, and he was proud of all of them. If they asked him about his research, he would be prepared.

He stopped for a bite to eat at his favorite local Chinese restaurant before continuing on his errand running. He needed to pick up a transcript, and some other things that he ordered from the University. Jim's background led him to be prepared for anything. He would have a briefcase full of things that they may wish to see at his meeting. Whatever he needed, he wanted to have with him.

When the running was finished, Jim cleaned himself up a bit, and put on his suit. His briefcase was jammed with paper, but he felt confident that there was nothing left to do. He was as prepared as he could be.

He showed up at the office of Dr. Williamson a few minutes early. Actually, he would have been fifteen minutes early, but he waited around outside the building. He was a little nervous, but he did not want to appear to be. When Jim made it to Dr. Williamson's door, Dr. Williamson was sitting at his desk writing something down. "Come in Jim," he says hesitantly. "The rest of the committee will meet us in the lounge. Have a seat."

Jim did not like Dr. Williamson's tone, so he asked, "What is going on? Is there something wrong?"

"Jim, they asked me to try to break this to you gently. Please sit down. I tried all I could, but they wouldn't listen to anything I said."

"What? What is it?" begged Jim as he took the chair at the front of Dr. Williamson's desk.

"It appears that you will -- not -- be a part of ... next year's faculty."

Astonishment came over Jim. He did not know what to say. He just slumped in the chair with his mouth open.

Dr. Williamson continued, "They are going to tell you about budget cuts, and this and that. The fact is -- they wanted to go in a different direction. Your research is expensive. In addition, they claim that they were looking for a person with more teaching experience. They didn't want someone who was primarily a researcher. In my opinion, they were all jealous of Dr. Decker's notoriety, and you were an unfortunate victim of that. I am so sorry."

"So what is the point of this meeting?" asked Jim angrily.

"Actually, they want to discuss your options."

"What?"

"Why don't we go to the meeting and talk to them."

Jim and Dr. Williamson walked into the lounge where a dozen or so professors and administrators had gathered. "Have a seat Jim; would you like something to drink?"

"No thanks, let's get on with this," Jim replied curtly.

"Jim, although we did not select you to replace Dr. Decker, we wish you would consider staying as a teaching assistant," started Dr. Faulkner, the head of the math department. "There would be virtually no change in your benefits, and you could remain a part of our team."

"You know the routine well, and your work load wouldn't be very different from the one you have grown accustomed to," added Dr. Marrienna.

"In a few years, you could be a full time member of our faculty," finished Dr. Faulkner.

"Is that all?" asked Jim with as calm a tone that he could muster.

"What would you have us say?" asked Dr. Faulkner.

"I don't really know, but of course, you know I am going to turn you down," replied Jim. "You didn't expect me to settle for being a TA after all the work I have done for you."

"Don't be so hasty, Jim. Think about the offer," Dr. Marrienna inserted.

"Frankly, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. Pardon the platitude," replied Jim. "I do not think I have to consider your proposal. You slap me in the face, and expect me to act like it never happened!!! I am sorry, but I respectfully decline your 'generous' offer."

Before anyone could say anything, Jim had left the room. He had been prepared for just about everything, but what had just occurred. Dr. Williamson went after him. "Jim, hold up! I mean Dr. Millard."

Jim stopped to hear what Dr. Williamson had to say.

"Good for you Jim. I don't blame you. I know of a position that has just become available at the University of Northern Iowa. It is a small university, but I am sure they would love to have you. They are in a bind. One of their professors suddenly became ill. The job is right up your alley. Of course, you would have to teach a class or two. Are you interested?"

"Dr. Williamson, thanks. Can I let you know?" replied Jim fighting the turmoil that was brewing inside him.

"Of course, I understand. You will need some time to absorb all that has happened. I'll give you the information. Do you have your articles with you?"

"Yes, I thought somehow they would be interested in them."

"Could I have them? I want to make a point to the committee."

Jim fumbles into his briefcase and pulls out a large stack of paper. "They're all yours. But, what are you going to do with them?"

"I want to show them the work you have done. Not just the work for the university, but also the work for science in general. It will show them that they shouldn't have let jealousy get in the way of making they're decisions. For the last few weeks, I have researched a few things. I found thirty-seven articles that sight one article or another of yours. That is prestige. Prestige that they just threw away like an old shoe. It also says something about the work you have been doing. It will be good to rub it in their face. I sure hope they don't do this to any of my students when I retire."

"Thanks, Dr. Williamson."

"Hey, you deserved better. Let me know if you need a reference or anything. Consider the Northern Iowa job.

"I will."

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Time Flies

Starting Over

By Douglas E Gogerty

Jim was not sure what he was going to do. He was totally unprepared for this rejection. He was completely counting on continuing his work in Texas. The thought had never even occurred to him that they would not want him.

After a long reflection, Jim decided to go back home to Great Falls. He knew he would always be welcomed there. He wanted to go where he knew he would be wanted. If nothing else, he could help his dad out in the hardware store.

However, it never came to working retail. Shortly after he returned home, he learned of an opening in the math department of the University of Great Falls. He applied for that job, and was offered it shortly afterwards. He jumped at the chance. It was not exactly what he wanted, but it would be a good start.

He was a quality researcher, but he did have some teaching experience. He would miss his research, but being in the classroom would be a welcome change.

He taught introductory calculus and physics. He rather enjoyed the experience. Although his first love was research, the interaction with students was a refreshing change of pace. He was a well-liked and respected instructor. He earned the respect of his students and colleagues. He could have spent a long time in this situation.

He did spend five years in Great Falls; however, he deeply wanted to return to his research. Thus, near the end of the fifth school year, he looked for a position at a major research institution. He looked into places where he could continue his research on the time/space continuum. He wanted to learn more about the glass he helped discover.

This is how he ended up teaching in Washington D.C. It was a long way from both Texas and Montana, but this university needed a quality instructor. They had heard of his research, and how it had been neglected. This school believed that Jim could bring them some prestige, as well as, bringing a greatly needed instructor. This would also allow Jim to start again with his research, and continue teaching.

From his notes and with newly discovered materials, Jim began the process of manufacturing a new piece of glass. In his 5-year absence, other researchers perfected the manufacturing processes for a few different ceramic superconductors. These could be ideal for his research.

Furthermore, the range of temperatures that could be reached by the film covering the glass had increased. However, they still did not reach ideal low temperatures to enact the superconductors. Thus, Jim scrapped the film all together. Instead, he decided to imbed small tubes in which frigid or hot liquids could travel. This may affect the view, but temperature control would be greatly simplified.

Now that the temperature could be controlled by the temperature of the liquid, the glass became even more portable. In fact, Jim and his graduate students created a time viewing device that looked like a telescope. This could be mounted upon any vehicle that could supply the glass with the different temperature liquids. In fact, if the time was known before hand, the exact temperature liquid could be transported with any vehicle including a bicycle.

The advanced battery packs provided a constant voltage and amperage. Thus, only temperature was used as a factor. While this did at times restrict which views could be seen, it made the calculations vastly easier.

The portability of the device was a tremendous help for their research. Further, when they constructed the prototype, they intended to use a lens mounting structure. Thus, they could connect the device directly to a video recording device.

Dr. Millard was allowed to hire three graduate assistants. One student would be assigned to his academic class and the other two were to help with his research. He hired Irene Katerin and Luther Suxel to assist in his time/space research and Lo Wai to handle the classwork.

Lo had the most difficult task because Dr. Millard had a very ambitious research project. He would handle some of the teaching load when the other two TAs were doing field research with Dr. Millard.

Dr. Millard and Irene and Luther spent two weeks in Dallas Texas on the end of the term research project while Lo taught Dr. Millard's classes. The three university researches wandered all around various parts of Dallas testing their device. They went to the grassy knoll and the book depository. They recreated the Zapruder film, but they got better images with their modern equipment. They captured Lee Harvey Oswald in the act. They found that there was no one in the grassy Knoll, and concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald did in fact act alone.

The team published their paper and went to several seminars showing their video and promoting their device. They attached Lo's name to the research to thank him for his support.

Jim was sitting in his office pondering the many things he would like to see, but before he made his decision, Irene rushed in yelling. "Dr. Millard!" she cried. "Dr. Millard, the police -- they have arrested -- arrested my brother!"

"What? Tell me what happened," responded Jim in the most compassionate voice he could manage.

"The police -- they have accused Bobby -- of murdering Hanna Forsythe! She was -- his girlfriend! That is why he -- he had that stuff -- that stuff of hers?"

"Irene, what are you talking about?"

"My brother Bobby -- he was arrested -- he is the main suspect -- Hanna Forsythe -- his girlfriend." Irene panted.

"Why do they suspect Bobby?"

"He had some of her stuff. They were going to move in together. They had a little fight, but he didn't do it. He couldn't."

"Calm down Irene. Tell me, when and where Hanna was killed?"

"The police say it was last night around 1:00 A.M. in her apartment."

"Where is her apartment?"

"I -- uh -- I think it's -- 1009 Aspen Drive -- but I am not sure."

"It's okay; I'll take care of it."

"What are you going to do?"

"Go to your brother. Tell him everything will be all right."

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Time Flies

Solving the Crime

By Douglas E Gogerty

Jim knocked timidly on the D.A.'s door. "Come in, it's open," came a voice inside.

Jim peeked in, and saw a middle-aged man sitting at a desk. "What can I do for you?" said the D.A. behind the desk.

"Hello, my name is -- uh -- Jim Millard, and -- er -- well, I have some vital information -- with regard to the -- uh -- the Katerin case," Jim stuttered.

"I am a very busy man, Mr. Millard. What kind of information do you have?" asked Barney Masters impatiently.

"Doctor -- actually," interrupted Jim. He briefly described his experiments, and told him of the video he had made. "Let's see the video," requested Mr. Master.

Jim handed the video to Barney. The D.A. placed the video tape into the VCR. Barney viewed the tape with great interest. Dr. Millard was unable to enter the premises of the victim, so he shot the entire scene from outside her apartment. He made sure that the tower clock on the bank across the street was always visible in the video.

Jim fidgeted and averted his eyes. He knew his video was serious business. Jim remembered the feelings taking the video had evoked in him. He felt as if he was eaves dropping on someone else's life.

The video clearly showed Bobby Katerin leaving the apartment at 11:37 bank time. Irene was clearly visible in the window shortly afterwards. She looked as if she were checking to see if Bobby had actually left. Then a strange man enters the building at 11:52. When the man exists, he is covered in blood. He sulked across the street and entered the apartment complex on that side of the street. After a brief pause, a light goes on in an apartment in that building. The video then ends.

When the video ended, Barney said, "Well, that is very impressive; however, I do not think this video is admissible. The prosecution will argue that your invention has not been proven infallible which of course is the truth."

"Could you say you got an anonymous tip, to get the police into this man's apartment? I am sure they will find some important evidence in that apartment." stated Jim.

"We could do that..., but wouldn't that be a lie?" the D.A. said thoughtfully. "Well, no matter, we could get the wheels started on the warrant now."

"That is all I can ask," Jim responded.

"Furthermore, this case could start a precedent on the use of your experiments in law enforcement. These experiments could make my job a lot easier," added the D.A.

"I don't want to appear uncaring, but I don't really care to have my experiment used in this manner. You see, Bobby Katerin is the brother of one of my assistants. I am doing this as a favor for her. I did not even think about applications in this area. I was hoping it would be a purely scientific project, but I guess that is fairly selfish on my part."

"Your experiments could take a great deal of pressure off the court system. The possibilities in this area are almost endless..." Barney stated.

"I suppose if it would help, I could allow it to be used in this manner if it wouldn't interfere with my research," acquiesced Jim.

"We'll get the ball rolling on this case. Can I keep this video?" inquired Mr. Masters.

"It's all yours. I would appreciate all you can do for Bobby. Thanks again," Jim said as he left the D.A.'s office.

"Don't worry about Bobby, he's in good hands," Mr. Masters said as Jim walked down the hall.

He was not sure what to expect from all his efforts, but he was hopeful that it would result in Bobby's release and acquittal.

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Time Flies

The Letter

By Douglas E Gogerty

* * * * *
Dear Dr. Millard:

We at the Justice Department have been contacted by Barney Masters with regard to your
invention.  We are very much interested in learning more about your new technology.
We believe there are a great many uses for this technology in our country.  We have
been in communication with several agencies, and we feel that with your cooperation,
this technology could be quickly produced in enough numbers to be greatly beneficial
to our country.   In a few days, I will contact you and set up a meeting.  We will
discuss any arrangements at that time.

Sincerely

William J. Claxton
Department of Justice
United States of America
* * * * *

This letter came at quite a surprise to Jim. He did not know that District Attorney Masters had discussed the specifics of the Forsythe case with anyone. To get a letter from the Department of Justice was a big shock.

A few days after receiving the letter, Jim received a call from William Claxton. Mr. Claxton was very anxious to arrange a meeting. The two men compared schedules and the meeting time was set for 2:00 PM the next day. Jim handled the phone conversation as if he had been through it numerous times. Although this was a new experience for him, he was no stranger to arranging meetings. Thus, he would be prepared as always. He did not know what was going to happen, so he would try to be ready for anything.

Mr. Claxton arrived at Jim’s office at precisely 2:00 PM. The two men shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Jim offered Mr. Claxton a chair, and William obliged him by sitting down in the overstuffed chair in front of Jim’s desk. Mr. Claxton began "Shall we get down to business?"

"By all means," replied Jim.

"Tell me about your invention," started Mr. Claxton.

"While it is a very complicated process, the invention can be described quite simply. It uses the properties of light to bend and twist it in such a way that we are able to view past events."

"It can look into the past?"

"It can. However, you can only view events that took place at the location in which you are viewing."

"I don't follow."

"Sorry. With my device, if I want to see what happened in my apartment two years ago, I can turn the device on here and see that. However, if I want to see what happened at your apartment two years ago, that cannot be done here. We would have to go to your apartment."

"So, you did not see the murder of Hanna Forsythe."

"I was not able to gain entry to that apartment, so I had to view events from the outside."

"That was enough to find the murderer?"

"Well, it gave them another lead that they did not originally have. When they followed that lead, they were able to gather much more evidence against him than they would have had they not suspected him."

"There is no precedence for use of your machine in law enforcement. Couldn't this pose a problem for future cases?" continued Mr. Claxton.

"Frankly, I wasn't thinking of my invention as a tool for law enforcement. In fact, it had never entered my mind. I was hoping my machine could be a research tool. It would be invaluable in finding about our history. With various versions of this glass, we have viewed events from long ago. However, there are likely limitations on how far back we can look."

"What have you looked into?"

"Our latest research was on the Kennedy assassination. We hope to publish our results next month."

"So, you were doing some law enforcement type research."

"I guess so... It could have several ramifications in law enforcement. If the government and the courts find it a valid and useful tool, I suppose I can support these actions. However, I do not want it to interfere with my own research."

"Is there an accuracy problem with this device?"

"Not as far as I have been able to detect," responded Dr. Millard. "We have made several tests with this regard. We have found no discrepancies."

"Of course, it will be up to the courts to decide the admissibility of evidence obtained though this method. This may take some time."

"I would assume that to be true."

"Have you contacted anyone to mass produce this device?"

"Quite frankly, that thought had never entered my mind."

"If we had one of our government contractors contact you about this very thing, would you be willing to allow that to happen?"

"Wow! I'd have to think about it, but I don't see any reason why I would object."

"This could be a great service to your country Dr. Millard. We are very interested in using this device in our law enforcement efforts," Mr. Claxton said as he arose.

"I'm glad you think so," replied Jim as he also got up from behind his desk.

Mr. Claxton gave a firm handshake to Jim and stated, "I'll have one of our contractors get in touch with you in a week or so. Think it over, and we'll be in touch."

"Thanks! I will," Dr. Millard said as he showed Mr. Claxton to the door.

After Mr. Claxton was gone, Jim sat back down behind his desk. His head was swimming with all of the possibilities of having the glass be used in daily police investigations. He could hardly believe it, and he sat behind his desk with a big smile for several more minutes.

After the euphoria wore off a bit, he got back to his regular duties. However, he felt he was on cloud nine for most of the day.

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Time Flies

The Standard Contract

By Douglas E Gogerty

Jim did not know too many members of the faculty at the law school, but he could not think of a better place to go for advice. He asked several of the faculty that he did know, and they all recommended that he meet with contractual law professor Mortimer Kenisser. Dr. Kenisser had been teaching law for 35 years, and he was friendly with several members of faculty. He had been very active in university business and had made several acquaintances along the way. Moreover, he loved his job. He had several offers to become the dean of several law schools, but he was very content with his current position. He was popular with students and staff equally. Most importantly for Jim, he was willing to consult with him on this contract.

Jim, brief case in hand, walked into Dr. Kenisser’s office. The two men exchanged greetings. "Sit down Jim," Dr. Kenisser said, "I will be with you in a moment."

Jim sat in one of the over stuffed chairs in front of Dr. Kenisser’s desk. Dr. Kenisser was grading student papers, and while he finished grading a student’s paper, Jim just looked around the room. He could not help but notice how neat Dr. Kenisser kept his office. Everything seemed to have a place. Even the pile of ungraded papers was stacked neatly in a pile, which was right next to a neatly stacked pile of graded papers. The graded paper that Jim could see had numerous red ink marks on it. Dr Kenisser made all the marks neatly in the spaces of the double spaced student’s paper. Dr. Kenisser wrote a few last notes on the paper he was grading and sat it neatly on the graded stack. "Well," Dr. Kenisser begins, "I understand you have a contract that you would like me to look over."

"Yes, here it is," Jim replied as he took the contract out of his brief case. "I have never dealt with the government in this manner before."

"No reason you should," responded the professor. "Your invention must be very important. Normally, the government would not get involved. They would let the private sector take care of it. They obviously do not want this technology to get into the hands of just anybody."

"I suppose that is true, but I would still like to perform my research. Is that possible under this contract?" inquired Jim.

"There is no mention of existing experimental technology. It only mentions further construction of these experimental devices," responded Dr. Kenisser.

"Would I be able to construct any additional devices?" inquired Jim.

"Not under this contract. You would probably be able to negotiate that matter. You should also be aware that if you sign this contract, you would have to cooperate with the governmental contractor in the design and construction of these devices. This may detract from your research and possibly teaching responsibilities."

"I hadn’t thought of that," admitted Jim. "Does it say what type of work I would have to do?"

"It isn’t that specific. You would likely have to do some consulting. They would bring you design plans and the like, and have you look them over. This is usually how this is done," explained the knowledgeable professor.

"Would that type of thing be negotiable?" continued Jim.

"Yes and no," responded Dr. Kenisser. "You see, the university has all rights to your research. The only way you can be rewarded for your efforts would be to act as a consultant. Otherwise, the university would be the only benefactor of this contract. This is a often used loop hole in the standard university contract. I suggest that you take advantage of this."

"Money is of little importance, but they probably would not be able to construct any useful device without me," inserted Jim. "Patents are one thing, but to actually know exactly how to put something together is quite different. Do you have any further recommendations?"

"No it is pretty standard. If you would like to construct additional devices, you should amend this contract. Otherwise, there is not anything out of the ordinary. The university and your department will do very well under this contract."

"I greatly appreciate your time," Jim said.

The two men shook hands, and Jim thanked Dr. Kenisser again. He placed the contract in his brief case and headed back to his office.

The government contractor who gave him the contract had said he has had several university professors work with his company. Thus, this would not be a new experience for them. The contractor was true to his word, and the contract was standard for this type of work. In addition, the university and his department would be compensated for Jim’s work. Thus, it appeared to be a win for everyone.

However, Jim did not like the fact that he could only work with his current designed time viewing device. How could he make improvements if I could not build new devices? "Ugh! I should have asked Dr. Kenisser about that," John grumbled to himself.

Everything was indicating that he should sign the contract. After all, what was the worst thing that could happen? He would always have his current device, and he could continue to do his current research projects.

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Time Flies

Trouble

By Douglas E Gogerty

Try as he might, Jim could not negotiate additional devices. The government was not interested in him competing with their production. They would not allow him to make additional machines. Furthermore, they did not even want him to make improvements on his existing machine.

The contractor reminded Dr. Millard that they could make the devices without him. The University owned the patent, and they were including him as a courtesy. They were interested in his expertise, but beyond that, the engineering team could manufacture the time viewing lenses without him. In fact, they could arrange with the university to sue him for copyright infringement if it came down to that.

Signing the contract gave Dr. James Millard an uneasy feeling. While he could see that it would be a useful device in law enforcement, but how else was it going to be used? Apart from solving crimes, did the government have other ideas in mind? He suddenly felt like a conspiracy theorist. However, try as he might he could not shake the ominous feelings that came over him.

Reluctantly, he signed the contract. The government contractor quickly began fabricating prototypes. They intended on mounting the device on video cameras. Thus, they could obtain video of the crimes and any other relevant events they needed. Hence, even if the video would not be admissible in court, they would have a reference. That is, they would know who did it and how. Therefore, they would only need to gather the incriminating evidence.

Jim realized that getting away with crimes was going to be a great deal more difficult once these devices made their way to police departments. He comforted himself that this was a good thing.

After months of consultation, the prototypes were tested. Naturally, they worked exactly as expected. However, the contractor continuously asked Jim for his version. Jim naturally refused. If this was the only device he would ever have, he was going to protect it. He thought that it was strange that they asked for it in the first place.

Eventually, production began and the FBI obtained the devices in large numbers. Long unsolved crimes were finally being resolved. Lots of good was happening because of the time viewing lenses. Still the government contractors asked for Jim's version. Still he refused.

Long-standing controversies were slowly being settled. President Kennedy's assassination, President Garfield's assassination, and the FBI checked a long list of other high profile killings. With each successful case, the government was more convinced that it was a very useful tool. Still the contractors asked for Jim's version, and he still refused.

Dr. Millard was getting increasingly concerned with the request for his device. Contractually, they had no right to it. Jim had never used the device for any purpose other than research. He could not figure out why they wanted to see it.

"Their devices work fine," Jim often mumbled to himself. "What is it about my device?"

Law enforcement agencies were succeeding in convicting criminals at an amazing rate. Unsolved crimes were becoming a thing of the past. Police would take the device into a crime scene and know exactly what happened. The admissibility in court of the videos taken by these devices was beginning to take shape. Still the government asked for his version, and still Jim refused.

Every day Jim felt that he was being followed. He believed the government knew his every move. He felt more paranoid than anyone was. "Just because I'm paranoid," Jim joked with himself. "That does not mean that I am not being followed."

One day, Jim returned to his office to find it strange. He looked around and did not find anything missing. He checked everything twice, and it appeared to be normal. However, he felt something was different. Perhaps it was paranoia, be something was wrong with his office. He triple checked, but nothing was missing.

Jim sat at his desk and returned to his task of determining his next project with the device. If he could get enough power through it, and get it cold enough, perhaps he could see dinosaurs. Maybe it was time to put the device to its limits. "If I destroy the device," Jim thought, "perhaps they would leave me alone."

Jim wandered off in thought and was startled when a knock came on his door. "Come in," he said reflexively.

A beautiful young woman walked through the door. "Are you Dr. James Millard?" she asked.

"I'm Dr. Millard," he responded.

"I'm Candice Millwood, and I've heard a lot of good things about you," she said flirtatiously.

"Listen Miss..."

"Please call me Candy!" the gorgeous young woman said with a wink.

"Listen Miss Millwood, I've got a lot of work to do."

"I heard you had a time machine!"

"Rumors miss, just rumors."

"I would love to see it!"

"Wouldn't we all love to see it? Perhaps the government has one it could loan you."

"The government's version is top secret. You have to be a cop. However, your device is just locked up somewhere."

"You know an awful lot about this..."

"I just want to see it," Candy said with a pout.

"You said yourself, it is top secret. If I had such a device, it would be my hide if I showed it to anyone without clearance."

"Pwease..."

"Oh Man! That is rich! Tell your boss that if he thinks some young Mata Hari can wink and capture me under her spell..."

"Whatever do you mean?"

"You may leave my office now Miss Milkweed."

"That's Millwood!"

"I have no time machine, so you're wasting your time and mine."

"But..."

"I said 'Good Day!'"

Candy turned and left with a pout. Jim felt he passed that test. Then a realization came to him, "I hope they don't think I'm gay now!"

Over the next couple of weeks, Jim would enter a room and feel that it was wrong. It was not every room he entered. It was just a room here and there that felt wrong. He was beginning to chalk it up to paranoia, when he went to check on his device.

There was Candy and an enormous mountain of a man. "Good evening Dr. Millard."

"Hello?"

"We come for the time lens," said the mountain.

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Time Flies

Out of Time

By Douglas E Gogerty

"If you take the lens, the government will know who has it. They have hundreds of them!"

"Come on Dr. Millard," pleaded Candy still playing the tart. "Couldn't you play ball just once?"

"I could have the police here in five minutes," explained Jim.

"It wouldn't do any good," explained the mountain. "I'm special agent Maxwell. Stuart Maxwell. I believe you have met special agent Millwood."

"Charmed I'm sure," flirted Candy.

"Stuart?"

"You got something against Stuart?"

"I took you for ... a Steel ... or a Stone ... or something."

"They call me Moose!"

"That makes sense."

"So, are you going to give us the device or not?" asked Moose.

"Could I see some credentials? I've seen hers."

"Here is my badge," Moose said as he showed Jim his credentials.

"Very good," replied Jim. "Now, let me see your warrant."

"Warrant?" inquired Candy.

"Yes my dear," replied Jim with a lilt in his voice. "There is this thing called a constitution. It is the law of the land here in the United States."

"Don't get smart!" threatened Moose.

"Well you see, this constitution specifically states that I have the right against unreasonable searches and seizures. It's the fourth amendment."

"So what are you saying?" inquired Moose.

"I'm saying, unless you have a warrant -- obtained because you have some 'probable cause' to do so -- you are not going to see or obtain my device."

"We have ways of making you!" threatened Moose.

"In this day and age of time viewing devices, someone will pay highly for you making me give you the device. So, unless you want to answer to the founding fathers, I suggest you leave."

"Come on Moose," whined Candy. "You know Jimmy boy, I could make you very happy -- for a little while anyway."

"It's Dr. Millard to you!"

When the two agents left, Jim felt himself shaking. He just stood up to a mountain of a man. He did not know if the constitution frightened him off, or if he was just there to be frightening. In any event, it was another test passed. He still had his device. However, he did not know how long he could keep it up.

After a couple of days, Candy was back in Jim's office. "What do you want now Special Agent Millwood?"

"My boss is really mad," she sobbed.

"Spare me the act."

"Well, I tried. He is mad, and he is right here. This is Director Richards."

"Director," Dr. Millard said curtly. "What can I do for you?"

"Let me get to the point of my visit," started the director.

"I wish you would," responded Jim.

"You have a top secret device in your possession. We are very uncomfortable with this arrangement. We would like it very much if you voluntarily gave up the device."

"With all due respect, I have a signed contract that entitles me to retain my device. I expressly indicated that I wish to continue my research. This would be impossible without my device."

"I appreciate that, but if this device were to get into the wrong hands..."

"Sir, do I need to quote the fourth amendment to the US Constitution?"

"Information is our business Dr. Millard. Your device has become an essential tool in the gathering of that information."

"Information is also my business Director Richards. My device is an essential tool for my gathering of that information. Without it, I cannot continue on my research. I have already given up researching ways to improve it. I did that at the government's insistence. I do not plan on giving up any further research opportunities."

"Do not force us to take drastic measures."

"More drastic than you already have?"

"Much more drastic."

"Sir, this time viewing lens has been used to solve crimes all over the country. There are no more unsolved crimes. Thus, if you are threatening me, let me assure you that you will be caught and punished."

"I guess we are finished then."

"We are indeed. It was nice seeing you again special agent Millwood. Take care of yourself."

"Gee thanks," giggled Candy.

Jim wondered if the femme fatale act was way to ingrained in agent Millwood as the two left his office. She was a natural.

A few days later, Jim's father called him. "Jim, who is this Director Richards person?"

"Did he come to see you?"

"No, just a cute young thing named Candy. She asked me to tell you that Director Richards has many ways to get what he wants."

"Oh no!" grumbled Jim in disbelief.

"She was really cute! Any sparks?"

"Dad! her group wants me to give up my research!"

"Then give it up."

"You don't understand."

"I gave up a lot for your mother."

"Dad, she is not interested in me."

"That is not what she told me."

"Does she have some sort of hypno-ray that I'm immune to?"

"What nonsense are you talking now son?"

"Nothing! Dad, she is a government agent who wants me to give up everything I've worked my whole life on."

"So you'll find something else."

"Just like that?"

"Sure! Your priorities change when you get married."

"You're not listening! She isn't interested in me at all."

"That is not what she told me."

"Yes, but you've seen too many movies. Don't be surprised if a mountain of a man shows up next."

"What movie is that?"

"Never mind. Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. Everything is good here."

"I'm glad," Jim said with a sigh. "I'll call you later."

"Okay son. I love you!"

"Yeah yeah! Later."

Perhaps his dad was right. Not about him settling down with Candy Millwood, but giving up his device. He could not do the research he really wanted. Perhaps it was time to take it to its limits and destroy the device. The subtle threat that they knew where his family lived was unnerving.

After a few more encounters with Agent Millwood, Jim decided what he was going to do. He set up the device in the bunker. He made a request for liquid Hydrogen. He thought about using liquid Helium, but he would not get enough superconductive benefit from the colder temperatures.

The real trick was going to be how much power the device could withstand. He was completely secretive about his entire project. Nobody knew what he was doing. If they asked, he would say 'It's top secret.' Most people knew he was involved in a top-secret project, so they inquired no further.

He recorded everything as it showed earlier and earlier events. One hundred years he saw the early days of the university. Two hundred years he saw the early days of statehood. He kept going back hundreds of years. He added more and more current to turn back the clock. With each step, he viewed farther back in time.

The liquid nitrogen and the heat generated by the current were fighting each other, but he continued. One thousand years and he saw the Native Americans as they once were. Two thousand years and he kept pushing the device.

The two elements began fighting in earnest. Jim was struggling to keep the superconductive material cold enough. He thought perhaps that he should have gone through the trouble of getting liquid Helium. He just kept adding more current and increasing the flow of liquid nitrogen. Farther and farther back, he recorded. He began recording a great deal of nothing. Plants and animals and their coming and going he would occasionally observe, but not much else.

Ten thousand years ago and he had not seen a much in the form of activity for quite some time. Twenty thousand years ago and he saw the effects of the ice age. Perhaps he would see a mastodon or mammoth. He kept pushing the device by adding more current and increasing the flow of liquid nitrogen.

As he went back he kept looking for ice age creatures, but he found that he was in an out of the way spot. The creatures would have to work hard to get to where he was working. Nevertheless, Jim kept pressing on until he heard a loud snap. He checked the viewfinder to see what he could. He checked his settings to see how far he was looking.

He stopped increasing the current, but he continued to hear a crackling noise. He increased the flow of liquid nitrogen to cool the apparatus, but it just went pop. Jim was recording regular time again. The glass had cracked and the experiment was over. '51,200 years' Jim noted in his notebook. "No dinosaurs," Jim complained to himself. "Still, it viewed before 50,000 BCE which is not too shabby!"

Candy made one of her regular visits, and Jim gave her the broken device. "It's yours," he told her.

"Why the change honey?" she flirted.

"I broke it," he explained.

"That is too bad, but Director Richards will be pleased."

"Perhaps. Say, why don't we go celebrate?"

"What you and me?"

"Let's just say your hypno-ray has finally worked on me."

"What?"

"Never mind! Do you want to go or not?"

The End

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First Contact

Part 1

By Douglas E. Gogerty

It was 9:06 AM GMT on 25th of March 2108. The Hubble Space Telescope II was taking images of star HD179949b. While processing a series of images, an astronomy intern at the University of California at Berkeley first spotted a small anomaly. It was incredibly bright, but it was very small, distant, and brief. It could have been anything, but it incited some astronomer's interest. However, they did not have enough data to make a determination of what caused the brief, bright flash. Nevertheless, they kept a close watch on that small section of space.

A few days later, an astronomer using the ancient VLT array in Chile also detected something. A similar flash of light that was very close. It was much closer than the previous anomaly. In fact, from the information that was gathered, they theorized that it was just outside Earth's solar system. Whatever it was, it was now close. Was it the same phenomena or was it different? Speculation went on among astronomers for weeks.

About a month after the first flash, the asteroid detection system flashed orange. A miniscule object was on a Near-Earth course. Because of its small size, it posed little danger to the earth. However, this object grabbed the attention of the debating scientists. They used the resources available for tracking dangerous asteroids to track this relatively insignificant object.

The tiny metallic object was smooth and regular. It was not like the other asteroids of that size. Further, it was decelerating. How could that be? The gravity of our sun and our planet should cause the object to accelerate. What was slowing the object down?

For two weeks, astronomers tracked the object. Eventually, it was too close to earth to track any longer. They now had enough data to plot a trajectory. It appeared as if the object would enter a low earth orbit. It was not going to crash into the earth at all.

Ground based detectors spotted the metallic object and tracked it as it made orbit after orbit just outside the Earth's atmosphere. With each orbit, it had a slight change in longitude. Its first orbit took it from the North Pole to the South Pole, but after a week, it was orbiting around the equator.

Another flash and it was gone. However, it did not fly away. It was picked up on RADAR at Dulles International Airport. It had entered the Earth's atmosphere. The military sent some fighter jets to intercept the unidentified flying object.

All attempts to communicate with the UFO were unsuccessful. Further, the military aircraft were unable to force it to change its trajectory. They could not lock their heat-seeking missiles onto the strange craft. All of their weapons were ineffective against the alien spacecraft as it was now called.

Eventually, it landed on the edge of a runway at Dulles. Immediately, military vehicles and personnel surrounded it. Authorities notified the airlines, and they closed the airport. All air traffic moved to other locations.

The classic saucer shaped craft sat on its three legs at the end of the runway steaming, but not from heat. It was ice cold and warmed in the springtime air. The varying temperatures caused the condensation on the craft, which froze and then steamed off.

The black saucer glistened in the sun, but it just sat. For days, it just sat there. It had no windows, so there was no way to detect if or what was inside. Detectors of every type were set up around the craft. If it emitted any type of signal, an alarm would sound.

Curious crowds came from all over to attempt to get a peek at the alien spacecraft. However, the military kept the area well guarded. Only authorized people were able to see the visiting craft.

After days of no activity, a small shaft appeared out of the bottom of the saucer. The military units went on full alert. Weapons were made ready to fire. Just as suddenly as it appeared, the shaft disappeared into the spacecraft. However, it deposited an object on the ground.

The small object had six wheels and rolled from out beneath the craft. It was some sort of vehicle. However, it was only one meter long and about half as wide. It rolled off the tarmac and onto a surrounding patch of ground. General D.C. Hever gave the order for Sergeant Christian Dwaystal to approach the vehicle.

"We mean you no harm," insisted Sergeant Dwaystal.

The space object did not respond to the words of the sergeant, but a long arm unfolded and scratched at the dirt.

"What do you want?" asked the Sergeant.

The object's arm began drilling into the soil. Another segment of the arm penetrated the hole that was a few inches deep.

"What should I say?" Sergeant Dwaystal asked the General.

General Hever just shrugged as a small tube arose from the object. The vehicle began to buzz and hum.

"Usted habla Espanola?" asked Sergeant Dwaystal. "Parlez-vous Francais?"

Just then, the detectors screamed as the vehicle emitted some sort of signal. In a panic, the vehicle was destroyed in a barrage of weapon fire. Sergeant Dwaystal was barely able to get out of the way before the craft crumbled into a pile of rubble.

More detectors sounded as the craft began emitting signals of various frequencies and amplitudes. General Hever ordered everyone to stow his or her weapon and fall back. The military crowd moved back as ordered.

After a few tense minutes, the detectors quieted. A few moments later, the shaft beneath the craft emerged. Slowly, the shaft reached the ground. Just as slowly, the shaft retreated into the craft revealing a three-legged object.

Inside the tripod sat a multi-limbed creature. It looked something like a terrestrial octopus. Three of its legs fit into the three legs giving it support. Two other arms were in appendages for reaching and grasping. The remaining appendages were inside for working various controls. It was an alien creature in a space suit.

It took a few steps towards the crowd. Nervously, a few soldiers discharged their weapons.

"Cease Fire!" shouted General Hever.

The weapons had no effect upon the alien. The suit was more durable than the initial vehicle. The alien headed directly towards the General. A few soldiers stepped between the approaching alien and the General. However, General Hever ordered them aside.

The two stood face to face. The General remained silent. After a few tense seconds, an electrical voice made a few sounds. It then said, "Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!"

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First Contact

Part 2

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The General looked inquisitively at his subordinates. They all shrugged. No one knew what to make of the initial statement given by the alien visitor. "Apprehend him!" the General said eventually.

"Open with a joke he said," the alien muttered. "They will be less inclined towards violence he said."

Several military men rushed to grab the multi-legged alien. However, an invisible field prevented them from getting too close. The soldiers fell back one by one from the three-legged space suit of the alien, each receiving a slight electrical shock.

"Perhaps I should have said Gort! Deklato Rosco!" continued the alien. "It might have been slightly more apropos, but that line is not nearly as memorable."

General Hever ordered his men to stand down. They were not going to be able to apprehend the alien physically in that manner. He told his men to ready their weapons.

"Maybe they have not seen The Day the Earth Stood Still," he said continuing his muttering internal dialog. "I should have stuck to the classics."

"Surround the alien, but hold your fire," ordered the General.

They had previously observed that their weapons had no effect upon the visitor from space. The bullets of the projectile weapons bounced off the alien's shielding. The energy from the energy weapons was simply absorbed by the shield making it even stronger.

"I just did not want to sound so clichéd," muttered the alien ignoring the actions going on around him.

"Prepare to move in!" ordered the General.

The soldiers did not fire or lower their weapons, but they continued to eye the alien with suspicion.

"I come in peace," stated the alien with a highly dejected tone. "Take me to your leader..."

"You speak English?" asked the General with some surprise.

"We have encountered your transmissions. When you beam signals into space, you should expect others to encounter them. Actually, we have been studying you for quite some time. I have spent the entire voyage studying your transmissions. I particularly like the Friday After Dark episodes on one of the channels. They are filled with your species copulating, and I find them most entertaining. Nonetheless, I am capable of speaking, with rudimentary fluency, several of your species' languages."

"Will -- you -- come -- with -- us -- peacefully?" asked the General in a slow broken tone.

"Do not patronize me!" insisted the alien. "Your weapons are useless against our technology. I could destroy everyone within several miles of here. However, I have not. I will follow you, if I am taken to someone of authority."

"We will take you to the aircraft carrier Richard B. Cheney," responded the General. "The President of the United States of America will meet you there."

"Lead on and I will follow," replied the alien. "I will be unable to ride in your vehicles, but I am capable of high speed travel."

"Very good," the General replied waving his arms to indicate to his men to stand down and fall back. "Soldiers -- to the George W. Bush Naval Facility."

The soldiers lowered their weapons and boarded the waiting vehicles. General Hever boarded the vehicle in the front of the convoy and led the soldiers towards the naval base.

The alien's spacesuit glowed for a few moments and then the alien was airborne. From a safe operating altitude, he followed the General and the convoy towards the ocean. He landed beside a large statue of the naval yard's namesake, George W. Bush. The statue had the inscription Always Remember.

He followed General Hever onboard the aircraft carrier. The General walked into a room, but the alien did not follow. "This way," insisted the military commander.

"I am sorry, but my suit will not allow me to enter," insisted the alien. "We will meet upon the deck."

The General re-entered the room, and after a few minutes, a tall stately gray-haired man emerged. The man was dressed in a dark blue suit with a red tie. He was wearing sunglasses and he said a few inaudible words to himself.

A few moments later, a tall stately gray-haired woman emerged. She was wearing a dark gray suit. "I am President Fogarty," the woman said.

"I must admit," started the alien, "that I am surprised."

"Surprised to see a female president?" she asked.

"Oh no!" replied the alien. "The fact that not only has your species survived, but your country is still democratic."

"Why does that surprise you?"

"I live very far from here, and your transmissions take a long time to reach us. When I left, a particular political party of yours had been rigging your political process. They took the voice of the people away from them. They abused every aspect of the political process."

"When was that?" asked the president.

"Time is a relative measure Madame President. Everyone has different measures and names for those measures. However, the president at that time was George W. Bush."

"Ah! Early in our 21st Century, that was about 100 years ago," replied the President. "I know it well."

"Every aspect had been played towards the advantage of that President's party. They had entire networks playing propaganda -- friendly to their point of view. They were highly critical of the opposition and friendly towards their political viewpoint. The general public was only getting half of the information required for a free and open society."

"Not only that," added the President. "They stifled science. They misrepresented scientific findings in many areas such as climate science. They impeded research in biology and many other areas."

"Further," insisted the alien. "The President had a belief in an End of Times scenario. Many people, who believed in him, blindly accepted his policy to bring about the end of the world. Our researchers were certain that they would succeed and end most life on Earth."

"Perhaps it was this belief or the greed of oil reserves," added President Fogarty, "that led this political party to get involved in wars in the Middle East. There seemed to be few countries with vast oil reserves that they did not covet."

"However, here I stand in a Naval Yard aboard a vessel dedicated to these very scoundrels," insisted the alien.

"Every man, woman, and child in the United States knows those stories," replied the President. "They are taught in every history class with great regularity. You see, it was because of those scoundrels as you call them, that the citizens of the United States of America learned several valuable lessons. Shortly after *all* of the scandals were revealed, the public rose up and demanded a fair system. They began to pay greater attention to the political process. No longer were they satisfied with the election process, and they clamored for change. If the electorate had not risen up against these political shenanigans, I do not doubt that we would have destroyed ourselves. That is why we dedicated these entities so that we Always Remember."

"I am most glad to learn this, and a little disappointed. You see, I was sent to prepare this planet for my people," replied the alien. "From your reports we did not think that you would be able to stand at the brink and not fall into the abyss. However, you managed to survive this crisis -- as you had so many others. I congratulate you on that. We will look elsewhere. I look forward to viewing the reports of this revelation as they reach our world. Perhaps our peoples will meet again."

Before President Fogarty could say anything, the alien had taken off and returned to the alien spacecraft. Moments later the space vessel was gone. Earth had fought off its first alien invasion simply by continuing to exist.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

With the end of the great adventure of taking the giant monster Iapetus to New York to save Manhattan from the ultra-yeti, Dr. John Maland returned to his normal life in academia in Florida. He resumed his classes, lectures, and research.

He won much acclaim for his book on the island people and the Iapetus legend. Perhaps some of that acclaim came from the saving of a major metropolitan area. Nevertheless, the book read like a classic adventure tale. The Iapetian legend had a foundation in a large monster, and this monster prevented the destruction of New York City. It made for a great story. Thus, the accolades poured onto Dr. Maland.

For centuries, this giant creature had protected the inhabitants of this island in the Bermuda Triangle from external forces. It fought pirates, naval vessels, and every kind of interloper. The island was completely untouched by external influence.

However, they allowed Dr. Maland to come and study them. They suddenly embraced the external world. Further, at Dr. Maland's request, they allowed their protector to save an external people.

The giant creature was known the world over, and tourists flocked to the island to get a peek at the enormous beast, and the people that befriended him. The island was constantly visited by naval traffic. Gone were the days when Dr. Maland could sail his tiny sailboat to the beach of the island. The tiny island had become a major tourist spot.

While the Iapetians' lives had become quite hectic, Dr. Maland's life quieted down into normalcy. John had difficulty believing that it had been almost two years since his spring break trip to their island.

The damage the ultra-yeti inflicted upon upstate New York was nearly repaired. Memories of that adventure had faded from the conscious of most of the world. They had gone on to other things. Other worries and disasters struck as they always do. Thus, life for Dr. Maland had returned to a degree of normalcy.

Spring break was once again upon the horizon and Dr. Maland was considering what he would do with that week off. As always, he wanted to get away from Florida and the hordes of college students that would soon invade the area.

He was dreaming of his time with the Iapetians when a knock came upon his door. He opened the door and let a dark skinned man in a three-piece suit carrying a briefcase into his office. He had seen his face before, but he was having difficulty placing it.

"Have a seat," insisted Dr. Maland as he pointed to one of his overstuffed chairs. "What can I do for you?"

The man sat cross-legged in the chair in front of Dr. Maland's desk. He held the briefcase close. In an accent Dr. Maland had heard before the man said, "From the look on your face, you do not recognize me."

"Your face is familiar," confessed Dr. Maland "however; I am having difficulty determining where I have seen it."

"Perhaps this suit is confusing you. My people had never worn such things."

"Wait! You’re an Iapetian," John stated with surprise.

"Yes," responded the man politely.

"You're the storyteller!" Dr. Maland replied with much excitement as he got up and shook the man's hand.

"It has been a while," replied the storyteller with a smile.

"And that suit!"

"With the traffic coming to our island, there has been a need to be much more entrepreneurial. Thus, reluctantly, I have become a businessman. I do not feel quite at home in this, but it is necessary."

"You have done us a great service. I hope it has not ruined your way."

"Not at all," replied the Iapetian. "It is us that initiated the contact. It is what we wanted."

"Still... I hope the island and its inhabitants are not adversely affected."

"Your worries are unfounded. We can establish the isolation with a request from the great Iapetus."

"I suppose you are right at that!"

"There are reasons we ended our isolation, and that is what I have come to see you about."

"What can I do?"

"Over the last few years, we have amassed a large amount of wealth. This wealth was gathered for a specific purpose in mind."

"What?"

"You see, the mighty Iapetus leaves our waters to make brief visits to the cold icy lake where he was spawned. These visits can be 20 or 30 years apart, and some have been even longer. No matter the interval, a population of his kind is born."

"There are more?"

"Do you know nothing of animal reproduction?"

"Pardon me for my outburst, I just find it shocking that there are more of his kind out there."

"The female of his species is quite numerous; however, they are considerably smaller. Further, they are fully aquatic. They do not have the structures that allow our protector to leave the ocean environment. Thus, only the males can be our protectors, and there is only one."

"I see," replied Dr. Maland.

"As an individual, our protector has had several broods, but has not produced an heir. When he is of an age, he will spend weeks or months in this deep, dark, forbidding lake and spawn with many females. In fact, he will mate with every female of his species. If he does not produce a male during this time, the species will end. Unfortunately, that time is approaching. He is ancient, and he cannot live forever."

"What can I do to help?"

"Our people need a protector, and we have been working on the problem of extinction for a very long time. While we are certain that he will produce an heir and our protection will continue, the mighty beast will leave us for a very long time. We have determined a strategy that will ensure our long-term survival and protection. Further, it will help ease our protector's mind to know that he can leave for a long stretch of time to complete his most necessary task."

The storyteller opened his briefcase and placed a large document on Dr. Maland's desk.

"What is this?" ask Dr. Maland.

"With the funds that we have gathered, and these plans, our protection is ensured."

Dr. Maland began reading the document given to him. The plans were full of schematics and blue prints that Dr. Maland could not decipher. The technical document was well beyond his comprehension.

"What do you need me for?" Dr. Maland asked after scanning the document.

"We have contracted with a local business here in town, and we are in need of a liaison between us and this company. We want you to oversee its construction. None of our people have experience in these types of things and I cannot be spared."

"Why me?"

"We have provided you personally and your country a great service, you are indebted to us."

"But -- I have no experience in these types of things," complained Dr. Maland.

"You are savvy enough for our purposes. We just need you to check with this company periodically and keep us informed of the progress."

"Who is this company? I cannot even decipher this plan. What are they building?"

"While I appreciate your concern, we are certain you can handle this minor responsibility. The company is AOENC Engineering and they are located here in town; however, the actual manufacturing will occur in Niceville Florida."

"Niceville?" replied Dr. Maland. "I guess I should not argue with you. You have provided us with a great service. If you have faith in me, it is the least I can do. I will do my best, but I still do not know what they are building."

"They are building..." replied the Iapetian storyteller "...a Cyber-Iapetus!"

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"A Cyber-Iapetus?" asked Dr. John Maland.

"A mechanical protector appears to be the ideal solution. It would work both for a temporary interval, and long term if necessary."

"But how?"

"For centuries, when a ship would come to our island we would examine it closely," explained the Iapetian storyteller. "Thus, we have gathered much technology over the years."

"You have been collecting technology?"

"Certainly! In addition, with all of our needs being met by our island and the mighty protector, we have managed to synthesize the collected technology and add some of our own to this project."

"So, why didn't you build this cyber-Iapetus yourselves?"

"We lack the natural resources; also, we do not have the large spaces required to construct such a thing. No, the only course we could take was to look outside our island."

"Did you have me in mind for this task the entire time?"

"When you came upon our island, we thought you might be able to help. However, that business you had up north did change the equation slightly. We had planned to build it ourselves by renting a space and purchasing the necessary equipment. That adventure of yours brought us an unexpected windfall, and we could afford to hire experienced workers to manufacture our mechanical protector."

"And you want *me* to supervise the construction?" inquired Dr. Maland.

"We only need you to give us a regular status report. You do not have to inspect the process regularly. I believe we can trust the CEO of AOENC business group, a Mr. L. Edward Roy. We ask that you just ask him periodically on the progress. Further, if they have questions, we ask you to be the go-between. You can bring the questions to us. Finally, perhaps once or twice a year, we would like you to check on the construction itself. We will pay the expenses of course."

"Twice a year?"

"We expect the construction to take several years. It is quite a complicated build. Some of the technology is very innovative, and may take months to test. The power system is entirely of our design, and has been patented. I am sure they will want to fully test it before implementing it."

"I guess it is the least I could do for you."

"Thank you sir," responded the storyteller giving Dr. Maland a card. "Here is L. Edward Roy's card. Please contact him and set up an appointment at your earliest convenience."

"I will," John replied as he took the card.

The storyteller arose from his chair and shook Dr. Maland's hand. He gave a slight bow and left the office with his briefcase.

John looked at the plans again, but they did not mean anything to him. However, he got an idea on what to do during spring break. He would visit the manufacture facility in Niceville, Florida.

It was still early afternoon, so John called the number on the card. He spoke to the receptionist. He told her who he was and what he wanted. She told him that she would leave a note for Mr. Roy and he would be in contact.

Later that day, Mr. Roy called him and it was arranged. John would arrive on the Monday of his spring break, and spend a week touring the facilities in Niceville. It was not going to be as exciting or interesting as some of his spring break adventures, but it was something to do. It would definitely be different.

He thought about how he would travel the 650 miles to Niceville. He could fly and rent a car, but with the nice weather they were having, he decided he would put the top down and drive the 10 hours. Driving up the coast was always nice, and there were plenty of places to stop and rest.

When his class dismissed on the Friday before spring break, he went home and packed. He planned on leaving early in the on Saturday and drive all day. That would give him Sunday to look around the area and unwind before he began touring the manufacturing plant.

The weather was beautiful and the drive up the coast was just as he remembered. However, he did feel like a salmon swimming upstream as the college kids jammed the southbound traffic as he headed north.

He drove into Jacksonville around noon, and he was already tired. He knew of a hole-in-the-wall pizza place he had always visited when in the area. He ordered a small classic veggie to go and made his way to memorial park. It was a small park on the St. Johns River. He stretched, walked, and ate pizza there.

When he washed down the last piece he was going to eat, he walked the path around the park. He sat and watched the things happening on and around the river for a while. He felt rejuvenated and returned to his car. He debated on whether he would eat another slice of pizza, but he decided against it.

He made his way to a gas station, filled his car, used the facilities, and got an iced tea for the road. He still had quite a way to travel as Jacksonville was about the halfway point. He hoped to make it to his hotel in Niceville before dark, but it looked as if that was not going to happen. He had loitered too long in Jacksonville.

This stretch of the trip had more stops and more frequent rests than the first leg of the journey. Nevertheless, he made it to his hotel by 9pm. He was regretting the fast food Chinese he found for dinner, but he had finally made it to his destination.

He put his cold pizza in the room's refrigerator and debated on looking around town. However, the long drive had taken too much out of him and he decided to stay in his room. He reclined on his bed and turned on the TV, but he was asleep by 9:45.

He awoke with a start around midnight, stripped off his clothes, and officially went to bed. Naturally, he was up very early the next day. Dr. Maland had the cold pizza for breakfast, and planned to spend a lazy Sunday exploring the area. He drove around and found the factory. It was an enormous building and it would easily accommodate the construction of the mechanical Iapetus.

There were several beaches and golf courses around town. He spent most of his time looking for a good place to go sailing. It just would not be a spring break if he did not go sailing at least once.

After the uneventful Sunday, John got up early on Monday. He put on his suit, and drove to the factory. He entered the reception area. He found the receptionist and said, "I have an appointment with L. Edward Roy."

"What?" asked the receptionist.

"My name is Dr. John Maland, and I have arranged to visit this facility."

"Oh! Welcome Dr. Maland we have been expecting you. Please, have a seat and Ms. Linda Higher will be with you in a moment."

"Mr. Roy will not be showing me around?"

"Oh no, Dr. Roy is a very busy person. He could never spare the time."

After a brief wait, Ms. Higher ushered Dr. Maland into a room, and offered him a seat. A slightly mechanical voice on the speakerphone said, "Welcome to our Niceville Florida plant Dr. Maland. I apologize for not being there in person, but I was detained in our Tokyo office. I will be in Amsterdam on Friday, and I just could not make it in person."

"Dr. Roy I assume?"

"Oh yes, where are my manners? I assume you have exchanged pleasantries with our very capable Ms. Higher."

"I have."

"She will take very good care of you. I must be going now sir. Enjoy your stay, and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask."

"Thank you Dr. Roy."

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Three

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Shall we take the tour?" Ms. Linda Higher asked.

"By all means," replied Dr. Maland.

Dr. Maland followed Ms. Higher through a number of cubicle offices. Eventually, they came to an enormous room. She explained that this room the final assembly would take place. "The room's ceiling is 100 meters high and it is 500 meters long," Ms. Higher explained. "This should be sufficient to assemble the project. Currently, we have some areas designated for assembly of some of the components. In fact, in the far northwest corner, the power-plant is being worked on now."

Ms. Higher took Dr. Maland to observe the work being undertaken on the power system of the Cyber-Iapetus.

"What is it going to use for power generation?" asked Dr. Maland.

"Excellent question, it is one of the most complicated aspects of this build. Our project engineers are working on deciphering the provided plans. They have yet to determine exactly how it is to work, but from what I understand, it is using nuclear fusion technology. It is quite advanced."

"That should make it very self sufficient."

"Indeed, and because of its complexity, we began it first."

Dr. Maland met with a few of the engineers and discussed the building plan. He felt the 5-year timetable was quite optimistic. However, the team assured him that they would complete the project on time and under budget.

Dr. Maland spent the week sitting in on meetings and watching the workers at AOENC Engineering going about their jobs. He observed some of the early construction processes. He was very interested in how the power generation system would work. However, most of the engineers were skeptical that it would actually operate.

After 4 days of looking around the facilities, and finding everything in order, Dr. Maland bid farewell to the people he met at the Niceville facility. He had wanted to meet Dr. L. Edward Roy, but the CEO could not make it to the Florida plant during his visit there. He did not get as much sailing done as he had hoped. Thus, he left on the long drive back on the final Friday of his spring break.

He arrived in Jacksonville early, in an effort to take advantage of a few of his favorite sailing venues in and around town. He managed to get some afternoon sailing done and was on the water early on Saturday morning. He was driving back towards home before midday.

Traffic was heavy when he neared his home. The second wave of spring break revelers were arriving. He would be back at work on Monday, so he would be able to cope with the hordes.

* * * * *

The build process continued and Dr. Maland had several phone conversations with Dr. L. Edward Roy. He relayed the information on to the inhabitants of the Iapetian Island. He got as detailed reports as he could obtain.

He relayed the successful tests of the power generation system. The system would take in water, and separate the hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen would be fed into the fusion chamber. These hydrogen atoms would be accelerated and would be smashed together in a small but powerful magnetic field. The fusion process would continue until the results were oxygen atoms. This oxygen with the oxygen removed from the water was the only waste and was released into the air. Further, with proper tuning, the system could have any of the first eight elements as waste, excluding hydrogen. Thus, helium or carbon could be obtained if desired.

The reaction would generate the needed power for the separation of hydrogen and oxygen as well as enough power to run an entire household. It would be sufficient for the needs of the enormous island protector. Further, the system was relatively compact for such a high yield system.

In addition, the water did not have to be pure. It could use seawater, which was convenient for the islanders. The Iapetian engineers thought about most of the needs for this power system when they designed it.

AOENC Engineers were so impressed with the system, that they implemented it throughout the Niceville plant with plans to implement it company wide. They handsomely compensated the Iapetian people for the use of the technology. Thus, the money allocated for paying for some of the completion of the mechanical protector could be used for other purposes.

Gradually, more systems were completed. The power train, the hydraulic systems, and the computerized regulation systems were gradually added to the list of completed items. With each completion came a call from Dr. Roy and a report to the Iapetians.

Dr. Maland spent his next four spring breaks watching the manufacture of the Cyber-Iapetus and sailing where he could find a good spot. The giant project was beginning to look like Iapetus on his last visit. The workers constructed the structure around each of the various components on the huge factory floor.

John could make out arms, legs, and tail of the mechanical monster on his last spring break visit. The engineers were correct; the project would finish on time and under budget. It was going to be a very impressive device.

It would be able to travel on land or by sea. While in the water, it would propel itself with its large tail, and the arms would fold under its torso to improve its aqua-dynamics and to act as dive planes. On land, it would walk upright on its two powerful hydraulic legs.

The heavy power plant was located just above the legs to provide a low center of gravity. A series of tubes in the tail sucked in seawater to feed the fusion reaction.

Just above the fusion reactor were a series of batteries for emergency power storage. This would allow the machine to spend longer intervals on land.

The machine had multiple and redundant computer systems. It had an autonomic like system to run and maintain the power system. Its responsibility was to feed the system with water and take care of any wastes. To make them redundant, they put one system in the root of the tail, and another above the batteries.

They designed a small balance and guidance system in each leg, with redundant systems next to the other emergency backup systems. The balance system took inputs from sensors on the bottom of the feet and several gyroscopes. The system could make minute adjustments to keep the device upright.

Finally, there was a triple-redundant master control system protected in a "rib cage" of titanium with the other emergency backup systems. If desired, a pilot and copilot could sit within this protective shell in the chest of the mechanical beast.

These occupants can view the surroundings via a few small carbon nanotube windows. To protect these windows, an operator can close a series of blast shields. In which case, a number of exterior cameras provide vision. Further, these cameras could transmit images to a central control station for remote control or observation. In addition, these cameras give input to the central computer to assist in locomotion and other activities.

Several ballast tanks run the length of the torso. This would allow for various attitudes while operating at sea. These tanks could be filled with the waste gasses from the energy production system or external air.

Once all of the systems were in their proper places, flexible foam insulation would cover these essential parts. Finally, a non-corrosive carbon fiber and Kevlar skin would make the entire device completely waterproof.

After Dr. Maland's final spring break trip, he decided he would watch the final construction of the Cyber-Iapetus. He would leave on this trip when his classes were through. He felt at home at the plant; thus, he decided to make this trip a surprise inspection.

This time, Dr. Maland flew into the Okaloosa Regional Airport and rented a car. He drove directly to the plant, and walked in as the workers were installing rocket-launching hands. A fire breathing mechanism and a couple of mini-guns in the chest had already been installed.

Before Dr. Maland could protest about the deviation from the original plans, a security guard grabbed him and escorted him away. They tossed him into a secure room with no windows and a thick locked door. He would not be able to report his findings to anyone.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Four

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The construction of the enormous Cyber-Iapetus had taken five years, but it was finally complete. All of its vital components were in place and protected. They filled its tank with water and its batteries were fully charged. Once started, the mechanical beast would be able to operate for several days before it needed more water.

AOENC Engineering isolated Dr. John Maland in a securely locked room when they initiated the start sequence. The batteries initiated the electrolysis to separate the oxygen and hydrogen of the water supply. The hydrogen was fed into the fusion chamber and the giant cybernetic monster came to life.

Slowly, it raised itself from its prone position and made its way to its feet. The computer took the information from the many inputs to stabilize itself. Shortly afterwards, it took its first step -- and then its second.

Slowly and cautiously, the individuals controlling the mechanical monster worked its way out the doors and into the warm Florida summer. Once out of the enormous building, they put the beast through its paces. The monster ran, walked, swung its arms and its tail, kicked its legs, and tested its various defensive maneuvers.

Once the defensive measures were performed to Ms. Higher's satisfaction, they continued with the newly implemented offensive weapons. The laser in Cyber-Iapetus's head would select a target and the missiles would fire from its hands and impact the selected target. That operation performed as implemented.

The testers put the mini-guns in its shoulders through their paces. These were somewhat difficult to control, as the beast's torso would have to move to aim the guns. However, they were quite lethal on the areas around the targets. The bullets sprayed with devastating results.

Finally, the Cybernetic beast opened its mouth and fire erupted out of its open maw. The head could move up and down and side to side to spray fire in a variety of directions.

Ms. Higher was satisfied with the results of the tests and ordered the beast reloaded. The guns and missile launchers were quickly reloaded, and the fuel reservoir for fire breathing was filled to the top. The mechanical nightmare was completely operational.

Next, Ms. Higher ordered the technicians to direct the beast into nearby Choctawhatchee Bay to test its seaworthiness. The mechanical monster swam on the surface as designed. It used its tail to propel itself and with its hands tucked under its torso could change its direction.

The beast dove into the depths with equal agility. It swam around the bay and erupted to the surface. It opened its weapon doors and was immediately ready to fight upon emerging out of the water. Apart from a few minor leaks, which they quickly caulked on the spot, the mechanical Iapetus pasted all of its tests.

Ms. Higher dismissed the technicians and entered the beast's interior control compartment. Using the controls within the machine, she took over the control of the beast and steered it into the Gulf of Mexico. Once in the Gulf she dove deep under the water and vanished.

* * * * *

Dr. Maland, still locked in the secure room, heard a slightly mechanical voice emanating from somewhere, "Dr. Maland you have interfered with our plans."

"Dr. Roy you'll never get away with this!"

"Silly man! I am not Dr. Roy and you do not even know our plans."

"Well..." stumbled Dr. Maland. "Whatever you are planning will certainly fail."

"We shall see," replied the voice. "In any event, you would have remained unaltered if you had not interfered."

"Unaltered?"

"We still have need for you, but you are unlikely to cooperate knowing what you know."

"No! I'll do whatever you say."

"That is not likely and we cannot take any chances with the important task that only you can perform."

"What task?"

"We need you to tell the Iapetians that Cyber-Iapetus is complete."

"Why is that important?"

"We do not wish to cause unwanted destruction."

"Huh?" asked Dr. Maland as he began feeling dizzy.

"Pleasant dreams," replied the voice as Dr. Maland fell unconscious from the gas they piped into his room.

* * * * *

From Goose Creek Bay, south of Tallahassee, Cyber-Iapetus emerged from the water. It headed due north until it encountered the Coastal Highway and headed east.

Chaos erupted as cars on the highway scattered away from the enormous mechanical beast. The monster did not kick or swing at anything. Drivers scattered just to avoid confrontation and created their own mess.

With the snarled traffic on the Coastal Highway, authorities investigated and quickly discovered the giant mechanical device heading east on the highway. The Florida State Patrol sent several squad cars to intercept.

However, before the troopers could reach the troublemaker, it had left the highway and had gone into the nearby groves. A similar event occurred when Cyber-Iapetus reappeared on the northbound Woodville Highway.

With snarled traffic, the State Patrol asked the governor for assistance dealing with the enormous menace. Before the governor could reply, he received a mysterious message. The note read:


Dear Governor:

A large mechanical device is headed towards the Capital. This device is capable of much destruction. Anything you do to prevent the device from reaching its goal could result in total annihilation but will not stop the device. This mechanism will stop by the capital building for your inspection, and a demonstration of the power can be arranged. You will be notified of other demands at a later time.

Signed: A Friend

The governor immediately informed the Department of Homeland Security. They recommended sending three attack helicopters to meet the beast. The governor complied. The three helicopters from the national guard headed south along Woodville Highway; however, the mechanical beast had left that highway before they could reach it.

Cyber-Iapetus had turned. The helicopters altered their course to cut off the beast on Bloxham Cutoff Road. They intercepted the monster in an unpopulated and tree laden stretch of that road. On the first pass, the helicopters fired guns only, which had no effect upon the mechanical device.

The laser on the head of the cybernetic animal pointed at the far left helicopter as it passed, and a single missile launched from its left hand. The missile impacted with its target and exploded. The helicopter smashed into a stand of trees and burst into flames as the remaining made their turns for a second pass.

The helicopters launched their hellfire missiles at their foe, but they had no effect upon the monster. The doors for the mini-guns opened, the guns emerged, and the bullets began to fly. A second helicopter received a great amount damage and crashed onto the road leaving the final attack helicopter to make a third pass.

The final helicopter made its pass using both missiles and bullets. As it passed, the mechanical monster raised its hand and swatted at the helicopter. The force sent the helicopter spinning, but the pilot managed to regain control and prevented a crash.

However, before it could make another pass, a missile came from the right hand and the helicopter exploded in a huge fireball. The first attempt at stopping the cybernetic monster had failed, and it continued on its way.

As if it were using an online map service, the enormous mechanical beast turned right on Wakulla Springs Road and continued north past the Leon County Fairgrounds. Eventually, it reached the State Capitol building and stopped out front. There it stood for everyone to see.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Five

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Dr. John Maland awakened to find himself in his own bed. He had a vague recollection of going to bed, but it seemed like that happened days ago. He tried to recall what had he did to make him feel this way, but nothing came to mind. He had the feeling he was going to do something, but he could not recall what it was. He felt out of sorts, and he thought he might be coming down with something.

He crawled out of bed and staggered his way to the bathroom. He looked into the mirror and his reflection seemed normal yet strangely different. He opened the medicine chest and took a couple of aspirins.

When he was finished in the bathroom, he made his way to the kitchen. He opened his refrigerator and found it unremarkably empty. He thought that perhaps that nagging feeling about something he was going to do was a trip to the grocery store. He could do that.

He cobbled something together for breakfast, and got ready to face the day. After a nice hot shower, his confidence that a trip to the grocery store would strip him of that feeling of needing to do something began to fade. He became more convinced that it was something more important, but what?

Upon leaving the house, he was overcome with this feeling that he was being watched. However, he could not put his finger on why he felt that way. As he walked to the store, each time he looked back, no one was there. The only strange person he encountered was an odd man who looked a little like Peter Lorre. The man was berating a couple of squirrels for fighting and not sharing.

The trip to the store was uneventful, and he saw "Peter Lorre" on his trip back. This time, the man was trying to determine which foot was his left. He did not accost Dr. Maland, so John walked by without incident. Nevertheless, John still felt that someone was watching him or following him. He thought that perhaps this is how the strange man got started talking to squirrels.

When he returned home, he had a voicemail message. It was from Dr. L. Edward Roy. He called to inform him that the Cyber-Iapetus was completed. The CEO of AOENC Engineering wanted John to inform the Iapetians as soon as possible, so he could receive the final payment.

Dr. Maland had an odd feeling that he already knew that the Cyber-Iapetus was completed. However, he could not place why he would know such a thing. After such a long time, he wished that he could have made his way to Niceville to watch the final construction. This thought made his head throb, so he took some more aspirin.

He still had the feeling he wanted to do something, but he could not think of what it was. Thus, he tried not to think about it and got things ready to make the trip to the Iapetian Island. He could not think of any reason to delay the trip. He was sure they would be happy to hear the news.

Dr. Maland decided to make this an extended trip. With the strange feelings he was having, he thought that the getaway would do him some good. Thus, he prepared everything to give him an extra-long stay.

Once his preparations were complete, John made his trip into the Bermuda Triangle to the Island of the Iapetians. They were excited about the completion of their mechanical guardian. They decided to hold their ceremony immediately. John had the vague feeling that he should tell them something else, but he could not think of what he wanted to tell them.

Some natives began digging their ceremonial trench between the pillars upon the beach. Others gathered fruit for the great send-off of their protector. Dr. Maland even participated in the preparations. He was still nagged by a feeling that he was forgetting something, but he felt good about helping.

When the sun hit the water, the drums began and the priestess began her song. In the tongue of the Iapetian people, she invited the great beast to share with their bounty. Dr. Maland still found the lyrics to be slightly amusing, but he knew that they would convey the message to the mighty beast.

Upon emerging from the water, Iapetus looked strikingly different than he did when he helped defeat the ultra-yeti. Much of his forest green color had been replaced with colors that were more vibrant. He had red, orange, and even blue patches. It was clear that he changed into his full mating colors. The change would make him more desirable to the females.

The great beast reclined on the beach, and the crowds gathered around him. Each of the natives bid their great protector a good and prosperous journey. Several tourists were also lucky to see the great beast; however, local officials kept them from getting close.

The storyteller gathered the natives together. They all sat next to their protector while he began his tale. Because this was an official ceremony, it was performed in their native language. Dr. Maland took notes and translated the tale.

* * * * *

There are stories of our protector in this deep northern lake. It is even said that they have their own name for the great Iapetus. They call him the monster of their lake. We all know that he is a great creature, but he is no monster. He has protected us for centuries. How could you call that a monster? Now, he will briefly depart us to pass the torch to the next generation. Every beast needs to continue its line. The mighty Iapetus is no exception. Even now, the females gather in the depths of this dark, cold lake. Our protector must join them soon, and word has come that our replacement protector -- the Cyber-Iapetus -- has been completed. We should have no troubles between now and the delivery of our mechanical replacement. Thus, we will bid our protector, our friend, our beloved a fond farewell.

Mighty Iapetus, it is time for you to join with the females and continue your line. You have already put on your finery, and never have you look more striking. The females will not be able to resist such beauty. We will be protected. Thus, you should concentrate on the task at hand. Produce your heir. Worry not about us. We shall be fine. Enjoy your time with the females, and give us no second thoughts. Go to the place with the strange name. Go to your Loch Ness!

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Six

By Douglas E. Gogerty

For several days, the gigantic Cyber-Iapetus stood motionless in front of the Florida State Capitol building. Like a giant statue of Iapetus himself, the impressive weapon system stood for everyone to see. The Florida National Guard cordoned off the area, and no one was allowed to get within 100 yards of it.

After being on display, a compartment upon the chest of the machine opened up. Out stepped a figure covered from head to toe in black. Only the eyes of the mysterious figure showed through eyeholes in a black, shiny, plastic mask. The only object the ninja-like figure carried was a briefcase.

The ninja pulled an envelope out of the briefcase and handed it to one of the soldiers guarding the perimeter. It was addressed to the governor. The soldier radioed his commander, who arrived and took the package from the guard. He regarded the black encased person, and delivered the envelope to the governor.

While the person in black stood by the open Cyber-Iapetus, the governor opened the envelope. Inside the envelope were details on the destructive capabilities of the mechanical weapon system standing in front of the capitol building. Further, there were demands for $100 million, or the weapon would destroy several Florida cities.

* * * * *

After seeing Iapetus off, the Iapetian people had several days of festivals. There was music, dancing, story telling, and much feasting. With each passing day, Dr. Maland struggled with something. He did not know what it was, but he was sure there was something.

Several days of revelry had passed, but the festivities continued. On one of the days, John was listening to the rhythmic drumming. He sat on a log and began swaying with the music. He struggled to keep conscious as the hypnotic sounds surrounded him. He remembered experiencing this feeling during his first encounter with Iapetus. The drums got louder and louder, and Dr. Maland continued to struggle with remaining awake.

Suddenly, he felt lightheaded and tumbled backwards off the log, smacking his head hard on the ground behind him. A sharp pain shot through him, and he smelled a faint aroma of ozone. In an instant, he is out cold.

* * * * *

After a brief consultation with several officials, the governor ordered the soldiers to open fire upon the weapon and its former occupant. Once the gunfire began, the door to Cyber-Iapetus closed trapping the black clad individual outside. The person was riddled with bullets and fell to the ground. A small fire broke out in the back of the individual's skull. It melted a part of the costume and revealed a now burnt out circuit board.

Even without its pilot, the Cyber-Iapetus walked over to the nearby Plaza Tower in Kleman Plaza. With a few swipes of its mighty hydraulic arms, bricks flew off the tower and windows shattered. The mechanical beast turned with a quick swipe of the tail and more bricks crumbled and more windows broke.

Plaza Tower photo courtesy of www.plazatower.net

For several minutes, Cyber-Iapetus pounded on the building. It pushed and swiped. Eventually, the building crumbled to the ground. The giant machine stepped upon the rubble, raised its arms in the air, and gave a mighty roar.

Shortly after the roar, the governor's phone rang. Upon answering the phone, a slightly mechanical voice said, "Ms. Higher, the ninja-cyborg you shot, was merely our messenger. As you may be aware, you have not hindered our ability to do massive amounts of destruction to property in your fair city and state. Thus, our demands remain. Please, do not force us to do more damage or increase the amount of our demands."

The call ended at that point. "Trace that call!" demanded the governor.

Meanwhile, Cyber-Iapetus walked off the rubble and returned to its previous spot inside the cordoned off area.

"Sorry governor," replied the chief of security after several minutes of work. "The call was made on a secure untraceable cell phone. The call could have originated anywhere."

* * * * *

Dr. Maland woke up in a soft bed. He looked around, but did not know where he was. His head throbbed, and he reached up to feel his head. It was wrapped up in bandages.

Someone entered the room, and said, "You're awake, I'll get the doctor."

"Doctor?" John wondered. "What happened? Where am I?"

The doctor entered. "I am glad to see you're awake. What can you tell me?"

"Nothing," replied John helplessly.

"What is the last thing you remember? Do you know who you are?"

Dr. Maland wrinkled his brow and thought hard. "Nothing," was all he said.

"Relax," assured the doctor. "Let it come naturally. You hit your head. Do you know where you are?"

"The hospital..." John replied.

"That is a good sign," laughed the doctor. He held up a small circuit board and asked, "Do you know what this is?"

John looked at it a while and shook his head no.

"Does the name Iapetus mean anything to you?"

The word 'Iapetus' resonated through his entire body. It meant something to him, but what? He thought and thought. He was beginning to get dizzy and his eyes began to roll back into his head.

"Relax," the doctor said in a soothing tone. "There is someone who wants to see you. Is that alright?"

John let Iapetus go, and remained conscious. "Who is it?"

"A friend," replied the doctor.

"Sure, let them in," John responded still trying to remain conscious.

The doctor left and brought back the Iapetian storyteller. A flood of thoughts and memories rushed back into John's mind. It was too much for John and he blacked out.

Dr. Maland did not know how long he was out, but he awoke with the storyteller at his side. The Iapetian smiled at him and asked, "How are you doing?"

"Iapetus!" John blurted out.

"He's gone to his spawning ground."

"Cyber-Iapetus..."

"Has not arrived," asserted the storyteller.

"No," John responded trying to think, but all he got out was, "mighty weapon."

"Yes, he should be a great protector for us."

"No -- altered -- rockets -- guns..."

"What?" asked the storyteller.

"Florida -- in danger..."

"You're not making any sense my good friend."

John tried to speak in complete sentences, but it was too much of a struggle. Too much was coming at once, but he could only get out a few words. He tried again, but all he could get out was, "Iapetus -- save..."

"Relax," the Iapetian told John as he lightly touched his arm. "Now, tell me slowly."

John took a deep breath, and closed his eyes. He let the words come to him. He took a few more deep breaths and said, "AOENC Engineering altered the design of Cyber-Iapetus."

"Go on," the storyteller said in a soothing tone.

John kept his eyes closed and took a few more breaths. "They made him a terrible weapon by adding rockets and guns."

"Oh dear..."

John struggled to stay relaxed, but he had to focus. He took a few shallow breaths and then a deep one. Finally he got out, "I fear that the state of Florida is in great danger, and only Iapetus can save them."

"It is too late," replied the storyteller. "Iapetus is gone!"

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Seven

By Douglas E. Gogerty

John sat up in his bed while the words Iapetus is gone echoed in his brain. How could Florida be saved without the aid of the giant beast? Everything disappeared from his thoughts except ways to save his home state. After a few moments lost in thought, John said, "You said Loch Ness in your farewell speech."

"Yes..." replied the Iapetian storyteller.

"Is that the place where Iapetus will spawn?"

"The priestess informed us that that is the name of the place our protector goes."

"So, the priestess is of the opinion that Iapetus is headed for Loch Ness?"

"I believe that is what I said."

"Then I must head for Inverness Scotland," John said getting out of bed.

"You are in no shape..." the storyteller began as John crumpled to the floor.

The storyteller grabbed John by the arm to help him back into bed, but John said, "I am all right. I must save Florida."

Dr. Maland sailed his boat back to Florida, and booked a flight to Inverness Scotland. He would try to communicate with the Iapetus and convince him to leave the spawning ground and help the people of Florida.

* * * * *

The governor of Florida sat behind a desk in the emergency bunker. The room was small and windowless, but it was protected from forces of nature and other potential disasters. The governor would be safe from whatever was to come.

She reread the demand. The treasure would pay $100 million or the mechanical monster would destroy Miami. In a demonstration of the power of the beast, it had easily destroyed a residential tower near the capitol. However, the rules of engagement in this type of situation were clear, "Do not negotiate with the terrorists."

After several minutes lost in thought, the governor's office assistant entered. "Madame Governor your requested officials are here."

"Please send them in."

The General from the National Guard, the state treasurer, the Lieutenant Governor, and a few other state officials entered the bunker.

"Ladies and gentlemen," started the governor. "We're in a difficult position with very few options. I invited y'all here to get opinions, but I have made my decision. As a politician, I could make a moving speech, but I'll save it for another time. Y'all know the situation, so here is what we're going to do."

"Madame Governor," interrupted General Chever of the National Guard. "If I may offer..."

"Do not interrupt me General," replied the governor sternly. "As I was about to say, we have been given a brief reprieve from the destructive power of the mechanical weapon sitting outside our fair capitol building. Clearly, some sort of remote command center controls this device. Thus, we should be able to detect these signals -- perhaps even jam them. Thus, I have ordered that a radio detection station be set up in an attempt to determine how the terrorists communicate with their weapon."

"That has been established as per your order," added the Lieutenant Governor.

"Excellent," replied the Governor. "Thus, the only thing to do now is force them to communicate with their weapon. General, we need you to bring some weapons to bear on this device. I'll leave it to your discretion to determine the best way to wake the beast but minimize collateral damage."

"Yes Ma'am!" replied General Chever.

"Any other order of business?"

"There is some sort of disturbance along the coastal highway," reported the Lieutenant Governor.

"That'll have to wait. This has full priority. All our resources must be placed on this immediate menace. If there is nothing else, y'all are dismissed."

* * * * *

Dr. Maland arrived in Scotland after a long flight. Fortunately, he slept during most of it. His head was throbbing, but his duty to his state and nation drove him on. He must contact Iapetus and convince the mighty protector to fight Cyber-Iapetus and prevent the destruction of Florida and beyond.

The Loch Ness legend had spawned several tourist traps; however, John knew where he had to go. He rented a car and headed to The Original Loch Ness Exhibition on the Beauly Road. He wanted to know if there was an increase in Nessie sightings, and this was the best place to start.

Dr. Maland talked around and spoke to several people. There were several reports of increased activity, but the experts believed the animals were just sturgeon. "There hadn't ne'er been no credible sightings," insisted local historian Dougal MacInnes in a thick Scottish accent. "We've got a detector a goin'. The Sturgeon are a runnin' in an' out, but nuttin' unusually big has gone through."

"Can you take me to the inlet?" asked Dr. Maland.

"Aye, I could be a doin' that fer ya."

Dougal and John got into his rental car and went to the Loch's inlet from the sea. With the support of local interests, some scientists set up and monitored a detector. The device was set to look for large animals entering the loch. According to the attending scientist John had spoken to, several large animals had entered. He asked if any creature in the range of 200 meters had passed recently. None had.

John had beat Iapetus to Loch Ness. He had seen the giant monster swim. With its speed capabilities, Iapetus should have entered the loch by now. Was this not the spawning ground? Where could Iapetus be? The only thing that John could do was sit and wait for the beast to show up, and hope it would happen soon.

* * * * *

A formation of six AH-64 Apache helicopters headed towards the capitol building. They were fully armed and ready. Attendants continuously monitored the radio and cell communication detectors in an attempt to find where the communication signals guiding the mechanical monster originated. Only regular signals had been detected up to this point.

The enormous Cyber-Iapetus stood silently near the capitol building. It stood waiting as the apache helicopters approached from the south. Keeping the government buildings to their left, the helicopter pilots approached their stationary target.

The order went out and the helicopters began launching their Hellfire missiles. Wave after wave a missile were fired at Cyber-Iapetus. Each helicopter had its full compliment of 16 missiles. One after another, the missiles flew at the intended target and exploded. The missiles struck the beast high and low. They looked for a weakness.

All 96 missiles struck their target and created a continuous explosive fireball for several minutes. When the smoke cleared, Cyber-Iapetus stood there. It turned toward the helicopters and roared. It turned and moved towards the hovering helicopters. It slowly closed the gap, and the apache helicopters began firing their 30mm guns at the approaching beast.

The bullets bounced off the approaching Cyber-Iapetus. Eventually, the monster opened its mouth and a stream of fire streamed out. It shook its head, and before the helicopter pilots could react, the six helicopters were on fire. The helicopters fell out of the sky with a flaming crash. Cyber-Iapetus gave another roar and returned to the spot, which was now a crater, where it had stood before the attack.

Once the encounter had ended, the governor requested the communication findings. The experts poured over the collected data, and double-checked it. Wishing not to be mistaken, they went over everything a third time. They found nothing out of the ordinary. They were unable to detect signal guiding Cyber-Iapetus's actions.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Eight

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The six attack helicopters were lying in a flaming heap, and Cyber-Iapetus was standing unharmed in a crater in front of the Capitol building. The governor was attempting to decide her next move when her phone rang. A slightly mechanical voice spoke.

"Governor governor governor... We have only given you a small sample of the capabilities of our mechanical device, and you yourself have discovered a few capabilities on your own. This device is quite capable of defending itself from your puny attacks. How much more convincing do you need? Our demands are now for $150 million."

"We do not negotiate with terrorists!" insisted the governor.

"There are no negotiations involved. We are making demands, and you would be smart to follow them or we will destroy Miami. No negotiations necessary. Just assemble the money and place it in a fire-safe container in front of the device. You have 24 hours."

"It'll take more than that to gather the money."

"You have had plenty of time to begin gathering this money. You should have not wasted that valuable time. Procrastination has gotten the better of you. Have a nice day."

"Wait..." begged the governor but the line was dead. "Did you guys get a trace on that?"

"Sorry governor, it was the same as last time -- a secure encrypted phone. No trace possible."

The governor sat there, quivering with fury, stammering as she tried to come up with a real crusher. All she got out was "Cyberninja!"

* * * * *

Dr. Maland spent the entire day by the inlet detector for Loch Ness. He chatted with the operators and learned about Loch Ness lore. He saw instances where large creatures had entered the loch, but nothing large enough to be Iapetus. He was getting concerned. Where could he be?

Dr. Maland began to wonder if Iapetus took a land route to the loch. Perhaps the enormous beast noticed the activity around the inlet and avoided that situation. After all, Iapetus was quite capable of crossing overland.

It became apparent to John that he should explore other possibilities. However, he wanted to be in continuous contact with the station at the inlet. Fortunately, the station broadcast reports on large creatures entering the loch for the 'Nessie Hunters'. Dr. Maland obtained the communication channel and tuned a radio into that station.

John traveled around the area asking if anyone had sited the monster recently. However, the reports were just the routine sightings. There were no great numbers of people seeing the same thing. It was clear that Iapetus was not here yet.

* * * * *

"General Chever bring all your weapons to bear," order the governor.

"Yes Ma'am," replied the general with a salute.

Tanks and armored vehicles poured out of the bases around the state. Helicopters and airplanes took flight. With the cooperation from the federal government, several naval vessels in the Gulf of Mexico were ready for engagement.

However, before engagement began, Cyber-Iapetus was on the move. The mechanical monster began walking down Apalachee Parkway. It crushed cars and trucks with no regard for vehicles in its path. Occasionally, it would swat its tail at a neighboring building doing minor damage. Clearly, the 24 hours had expired.

The ships launched missiles, the airplanes and helicopters flew to where the beast was walking, and the tanks and armored vehicles made their way along highway 27 to intercept.

Before the weapon could strike the mechanical monster, it turned abruptly and began tearing apart the Governors Square Mall. The missiles from the naval vessels smashed into the walls of the mall rather than striking their target. The various munitions tore apart mall stores.

The helicopters and airplanes coordinated their attacks. Wave after wave of missile and gunfire attacks were made against the mechanical beast. However, the spacious mall took the brunt of the attacks. The clothes stores were torn to shreds. The shoe shops were in tatters. The food places were spoiled. Nevertheless, the attacks continued.

The armored vehicles entered the mall parking lots from all directions. They added to the mayhem as they fired their weapons at the mall and the mechanical creature. The two-level mall was crumbling to the ground with the armaments continuously pounding the area.

As the mall burned and crumbled, Cyber-Iapetus turned its attention from mall destruction to the weapons that attacked. The gun doors in its shoulders opened, and the mini-guns began to fire. As a squadron of airplanes made their run, the guns ripped apart a couple of the planes. The planes crashed into some armored vehicles on the ground.

Cyber-Iapetus picked up some of the rubble, and began throwing it at the vehicles that surrounded it. The tanks that avoided the crashing aircraft were soon covered with the rubble from the mall.

A few missiles launched from the hands of the beast and struck some of the helicopters that crashed into the Little Lambs Preschool a short distance from the mall. Other businesses in the area of the mall were being damaged by the engagement between the military and Cyber-Iapetus. Another wave of naval missiles struck the area causing still more destruction, but the encounter continued.

"Enough!" ordered the governor. "General Chever end this! Disengage your attack."

"But governor..." started the general.

"No General. It is over. Disengage now. Your troops have done more damage than the mechanical monster. I will not stand for any more of this mayhem. We have assembled the money, and I am hoping by ending this conflict, they will contact us, and we can avoid more needless destruction."

"Governor, I am sorry for interrupting," the governor's aide said as he entered the governor's office. "However, there is more trouble. The highway patrol is asking for help from the National Guard. There are reports of some kind of storm or something coming from the south and wreaking havoc on traffic. There are snarls all the way to the Gulf."

"What more can happen today?" replied the governor. "Tell them, the National Guard is currently engaged and cannot assist with traffic problems. Have them do the best they can. Just what we need -- a damaging weather system to pile on this. General, you have your orders."

"Yes Ma'am. I'll have my soldiers stand down."

"I just hope it isn't too late to meet their demands. Otherwise, Miami is doomed!"

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Nine

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Dr. Maland was worried. What was taking Iapetus? He had more than enough time to swim across the ocean to Loch Ness. In fact, the giant monster could have made the crossing since Dr. Maland arrived in Scotland. Was he at the wrong place? Evidence pointed to the females arriving, but could it be something else? Could it just be a coincidence?

John drove around the Loch talking to tourists, natives, and anyone who would talk with him. No one saw anything that matched the description of Iapetus. There were no mass sightings. There was no evidence that Iapetus was here at all.

He returned to the monitoring station, but there were still no major developments. Large numbers of largish aquatic animals were gathering in the loch, but nothing the right size. It had the makings of a spawning ground, but it just did not have a male.

Florida was in great need of Iapetus's services. Cyber-Iapetus was rampaging and inflicting great damage. Dr. Maland did not know if military operations were successful, but during his observations, the mechanical protector appeared to be indestructible. Certainly, Iapetus would be helpful in the protection of Florida, but where was he?

* * * * *

The mechanical monster withstood attacks from several military weapon systems. It emerged from the rubble of the Governor Square Mall without a scratch. Rubble from destroyed tanks and helicopters were burning in the area. Cyber-Iapetus continued along Apalachee Way randomly destroying buildings as he traveled.

The mechanical weapon began tearing through the North Florida Safety Council building when Iapetus suddenly appeared from nowhere. It was not a storm, but Iapetus the Protector emerging from the Gulf to save Florida. He had not traveled to Loch Ness, he came to Florida to help.

The fierce reptile flared the spines on his back and gave a mighty roar in a challenge to the mechanical beast. Cyber-Iapetus turned its head to see what the noise was. Before it could brace itself, Iapetus was flying through the air in a cross-body block. The two giants tumbled along the Apalachee Parkway in a tangle.

Cyber-Iapetus pushed the colorful lizard up into the air and he crashed into a nearby motel. As the building crashed upon him, he flailed around and brought the rest of the building to the ground. As he emerged from the pile of debris, he picked up some of the rubble and tossed it at the mechanical monster. It was making an ungainly attempted to stand when the debris came flying. One large piece of concrete spun Cyber-Iapetus around and it fell back upon the ground on its back.

Grabbing this opportunity to attack the struggling machine, Iapetus again jumped upon it. He began swinging his massive arms and punched the robot numerous times in the head. However, these had no effect upon the mechanical beast and it tossed Iapetus high up into the air. This time before Iapetus landed, Cyber-Iapetus made it to its feet. It rushed the beast as he got to his feet and swung his tail. The tail hit Iapetus in the chest, and the impact threw him far down the street.

Shortly after the great protector landed, missiles launched from the mechanical monster's hands. The missiles hit their mark in the midsection of Iapetus pushing him even farther back. The giant protector shrugged off the impact, and slowly advanced towards the cybernetic beast.

Iapetus walked towards the machine contemplating his next attack. Before he could take action, the gun doors on Cyber-Iapetus were open and firing the mini-gun into the flesh of the encroaching monster. This momentarily stopped his forward progress; however, he once again flared his spines and roared. With a shake of his head, he continued forward.

The cybernetic weapon was not going to wait for Iapetus to reach it. It pressed the attack with a swing of its mechanical tail. The tail hit its mark, but, Iapetus caught the blow between his body and his arm. With a twist, the constructed protector was swept off its feet. Through the air it flew into a nearby tire store. The building instantly collapsed and the monster tumbled in a twisted pile of metal. Steel belted radials flew in every direction.

Before the giant lizard-like creature could continue his attack, Cyber-Iapetus tossed a few tires before it retreated into the Leon County Sanitary Landfill. In the open space, the two monsters grappled. Each one took turns punching the other. Neither of the monsters did much damage to the other with this sort of attack.

The cybernetic beast pushed Iapetus back, and opened its mouth. Flames shot out of the mouth of the monster and hit Iapetus in the chest. Iapetus gave a slight yelp in surprise, and the flames pushed back the lizard. The smell of burnt flesh permeated the air, but it appeared that it had little actual effect on Iapetus. With another roar, he jumped on top of the unsuspecting mechanical creature and they tumbled to the ground.

The tangle of monsters rolled around exchanging blows. After a few moments, in a smooth motion, the mechanical beast tossed Iapetus into the air, rolled to its feet, and swung its tail. Upon impact, the colorful monster flew into the woods and smashed down into some trees. With another breath of fire, the trees were ignited and the entire area was engulfed in a giant fireball.

With the flames, smoke, and trees, Iapetus vanished from view. Cyber-Iapetus looked around and reared back its head and gave a roar of its own in victory.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Ten

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The governor sat at her desk overwhelmed by the recent events. A mechanical beast was tearing apart the capital city, and she had the ransom with her. She was waiting for the extortionists to contact her. She hoped that her order to attack the monster had not cost the state the city of Miami. However, Tallahassee was being torn to shreds.

Further, from reports she had received, there was some sort of event causing problems up from the Gulf. This force of nature headed towards the affected areas. There were two problems converging towards each other.

She sat at her desk with her face in her hands when her chief of staff entered. "What is it now?" she asked herself.

"Ma'am we have some good news."

"What is it?" the governor replied with a bit of hope in her voice.

"Apparently, what was causing traffic problems up from the Gulf was a giant lizard. It has engaged the mechanical beast."

"Engaged?"

"They are fighting."

"Out in the open and not tearing apart the city I hope."

"Well -- not exactly. However, from the last report I got, they were battling at the landfill."

"At least that is something. Do you have any idea why the lizard is here? Who sent it?"

"No ma'am. However, we are making progress on the extortionists."

"Progress?"

"Yes ma'am. Apparently, it was stolen from AOENC Engineering out of Niceville. We have been working with people there to get leads on where they may be controlling the weapon."

"And?"

"We expect to have results any moment now..." the chief of staff said as his cell phone rang. "This could be a report."

"By all means, answer it."

"Hello," the assistant said into the phone. "A fire? How big? Wow! completely engulfed? Thanks keep a safe distance away and keep me posted."

"What is it?" asked the governor.

"Apparently the extortionist's weapon started a fire just east of the landfill. The fire is big enough to obscure our view. We do not know where the lizard is. We do know that the mechanical monster roared and continued heading towards Miami."

"That good news didn't last very long. Y'all keep working on triangulating the home base."

"Will do. What do you want to tell the press?"

"Tell them all about the giant lizard fighting for us, but nothing about our leads."

"Yes ma'am."

The governor was more hopeful, but the situation was still grim. She placed her face back onto her hands, hoping for a break.

* * * * *

The huge fire engulfing the wooded area next to the landfill began to abate, but there still was no sign of Iapetus. Several hundred acres were on fire, and the heat from the flames was intense. There were reports of the heat being felt from 15 miles away.

Cyber-Iapetus did not wait around to see what happened. It left the landfill and continued its journey along Apalachee Parkway. It did not dawdle. It picked up its pace. It was no longer in the urban center, and there were fewer targets for destruction. Thus, the cybernetic beast was no longer picking a building at random to destroy. It was making its way towards Miami along State Highway 27 as fast as it could.

With its fast pace, Iapetus did not catch up with his cyber doppelganger until it was past Lamont Florida. The giant lizard had run away from the fire through the trees. However, it was difficult keeping up with mechanical beast that was running along roads. Eventually, he caught him from behind.

Iapetus grabbed the tail of the running machine, and pulled it to a stop. With a backwards lean and a twist of his mighty torso, Iapetus tossed his foe into the woods. The agile giant jumped upon the tumbling machine. With Cyber-Iapetus trapped beneath his legs, Iapetus uprooted a nearby tree and thrust it into the open mechanical mouth of his opponent.

The cybernetic beast whipped its tail and twisted itself out from beneath Iapetus. It scrambled to its feet and chomped at the tree. The tree broke off, and fell to the ground. The mechanical beast reopened its mouth to shoot some flames at Iapetus. However, the root of the tree had disrupted the mechanism and the flammable liquid just poured down the side of its face.

Suddenly, the mechanical beast was on fire. Iapetus flared his spikes and gave a mighty roar. Citizens of Lamont claimed that the giant lizard did a little jig. However, the fight was not over. From the flaming mechanical beast, missiles launched from its hands.

Iapetus's reflexes were up to the task as it swatted a missile targeted at his eye. However, the explosion temporarily blinded him. He stood their stunned for several seconds.

The still burning Cyber-Iapetus took advantage of the motionless lizard and jumped on him. However, Iapetus had sufficiently recovered to see the mechanical monster heading towards him. He leaned back upon his tail, and put his feet on the chest of the rushing beast. Leaning further back and giving a kick with both feet, he sent his burning nemesis flying.

Without hesitation, Iapetus was stomping on the mechanical beast. However, the machine was still structurally sound. The flames had little effect on the shell of the machine. The weapon was well designed for several forms of attack.

To put out the flames, Iapetus began digging and throwing dirt onto the temporarily prostrate machine. After putting several hundred pounds of dirt upon the weapon, Iapetus extinguished the flames.

Suddenly, Cyber-Iapetus kicked and flailed. The dirt scattered, but Iapetus continued piling on the dirt. It seemed to have some effect on the mechanical device. Its movements slowed and then stopped. It was covered in a huge mound of dirt, and it looked as if it would stay there.

After Iapetus was satisfied with the size of the mound covering his mechanical opponent, he rested. However, his rest was short lived as the mound exploded. The explosion threw Iapetus several feet backwards. When he regained his composure to look at the where the cyborg was, Cyber-Iapetus was gone.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Eleven

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The explosion of the pile of dirt left Iapetus confused. His cybernetic opponent had appeared to vanish in the explosion, as if it were destroyed. However, there was no debris in the crater. The mechanical monster did not explode at all.

Upon closer inspection, Iapetus noticed a tunnel leading away from the former dirt mound. Cyber-Iapetus had dug its way away, and attempted to cover its escape by collapsing the tunnel. However, the missiles from its hands caused too great of an explosion.

Iapetus jumped down the hole and followed the tunnel. After a short distance, he caught up with his foe. He grabbed the mechanical tail and thrust it upwards. The machine jerked up. This caused the tunnel to collapse around the grappling monsters. Soon, both monsters arose from the ground leaving a giant crater in the soil. The fight would now continue above ground.

The two monsters were wrestling on the ground when Cyber-Iapetus kicked Iapetus up into the air. The cybernetic monster rolled and knocked his foe several feet away with its tail. It scrambled to its feet, and rushed the tumbling lizard-like monster.

With a kick of its feet, Cyber-Iapetus kept Iapetus rolling. Suddenly, Iapetus rolled into the crater that was created when they emerged from the ground. The mechanical monster now had the high ground. Each time Iapetus would stand up, a giant cybernetic tail would hit him on the head knocking him back down.

After a few blows to the head, Iapetus became dizzy and sat in the hole. He shook his head a few times in an attempt to chase away the birds flying around his head. This also allowed him some time to think about how he was going to get out of the hole.

Cyber-Iapetus seeing his opponent sitting in the hole reared back his head and roared in victory. He bounded around the hole a few times and then stopped cold.

* * * * *

The governor had not left her office in several days. She continued to coordinate the many facets of this emergency. She got regular updates of the fight between Iapetus and his mechanical counterpart. Further, she was regularly briefed upon the search for extortionists and their communication station. She had several conversations with L. Edward Roy, the CEO of the company that built the weapon system. However, right now she was enjoying a rest from commotion that normally plagued her.

"Governor, there is a Dr. John Maland on the phone for you," stated a voice on the intercom.

"What does he want?" the governor asked wearily.

"He says he has information on the two fighting monsters," responded the assistant.

"Okay, I'll talk to him," replied the governor as she picked up the phone. "Dr. Maland, what can I do for you?"

"I'm sorry governor, I should have contacted you sooner. It is just -- that -- I thought..."

"Dr. Maland, I am a very busy person. Thus, I would be most grateful if y'all would get to the point."

"Sorry," replied Dr. Maland. "I attempted to recruit Iapetus to help, but I see from news reports that my help in this matter was unneeded."

"Go on..."

"I witnessed the construction of the Cyber-Iapetus. I am aware of several aspects that you may not be aware. However, first and foremost, the mechanical weapon system was designed to protect an island of Iapetus in the Bermuda triangle. Thus, the control of it was designed to be done primarily from that island."

"Are you certain of this?"

"There may be relay stations or remote stations, but the primary control should be situated on this island. Therefore, if you send someone to the island, you may be able to override any commands sent from a remote location. At the very least, you should be able to determine what frequency they are using to control the machine, unless there is someone in the driver seat."

"The device is most certainly empty. How will we be able to find the command center on this island?"

"If you send someone to the island, ask for the storyteller or the priestess. If you tell them the situation, they will most certainly help you if you mention my name. This island is new to us, so you will need a new map in order to find it."

"Can y'all meet someone there?"

"I'm afraid I'm in Scotland. It is a long story... Nevertheless, I'll be back in Florida tomorrow. I assume you will want to take care of this before then."

"Most certainly," replied the governor. "Dr. Maland, thank you for you help with this matter."

The governor hung up the phone and began coordinating the intervention. The envoys from the governor made their way to Iapetus Island. Once there, they quickly found the control station. They were not able to override the commands sent from the much closer remote station, but they had a way to determine where it was located. They had the communication channel.

However, it would take time to find the remote control station. The cybernetic weapon could do a great deal of damage in the mean time. They had to make a decision. They could jam the signal, preventing any further damage. However, this could potentially allow the perpetrators to escape.

The other alternative was to let the two monsters fight while they track down the location where the communication was emanating. Since the two monsters were fighting in a rural area, the governor decided to get the extortionists while letting the monsters fight.

* * * * *

Dr. Maland was sitting in the airport waiting for his flight. He was glad that Iapetus did not come to Loch Ness and fought Cyber-Iapetus. However, he was berating himself for not contacting the Florida authorities immediately.

"How much destruction could I have prevented, if I told them about the control station immediately?" he asked himself. "I had to be the hero!"

He sat there thinking of all the things he could have done differently. He was so single minded about the situation that he did not think things through completely. He had focused so much upon recreating the New York situation; he lost sight of the real problem.

It weighed heavily on his mind as he sat in the airport. He did speak to another passenger as he sat there. He just closed the world off and beat himself up mentally. He was really down upon himself as he boarded the plane towards home.

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Iapetus Saves Miami

Chapter Twelve

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Iapetus rested in the hole, and prepared to re-engage his cybernetic opponent. However, the machine stood motionless in mid taunt. The Florida National Guard stormed the controlling station just after Cyber-Iapetus gave his roar, and there he stood.

Iapetus warily exited the pit that he and his foe made when they emerged from underground. He sniffed the air and slowly walked over to the stationary weapon system. At the slightest sound, he flinched. Nevertheless, his opponent just stood there.

Finally, he was within reach, and he pushed the metal chest of the machine. Nothing happened. He pushed a little harder with the same result. He sniffed the machine, but smelled nothing of interest.

When he was satisfied that the mechanical device was no longer a threat, he flared his spines and gave a mighty roar. The roar shook buildings several miles away. He gave a few shorter calls and curled up at the feet of his former fighting opponent. With a sigh of exhaustion and perhaps relief, Iapetus fell asleep.

* * * * *

It was early in the evening when Dr. Maland arrived in Florida's capitol city. He had decided to fly directly to Tallahassee rather than his home. He wanted to see if he could help the people in Tallahassee in any way.

Despite the jetlag and the exhaustion that he felt, he rented a car and began the drive to the capitol building. Even though it was well after rush hour, traffic in that area was awful. The destruction Cyber-Iapetus inflicted on that particular area snarled traffic well into the evening.

He faced a few roadblocks, but the governor was expecting him, so he was able to pass. Dr. Maland saw little evidence of the destruction until he got closer to his destination. As he neared the capitol building, he saw the destruction around the building and the huge crater in front.

As he looked east, he saw more evidence of a giant destructive force passing through. Buildings were now heaps of twisted metal, brick, and concrete. He reached a point where the road was no longer passable. The helicopter wreckage was still blocking the road.

The governor had sent one of her assistants to escort Dr. Maland the remaining few blocks to the building. With all the destruction, there was no way to drive the last few blocks. Thus, they crossed that distance on foot. A state trooper took care of parking his rental car.

This part of the city looked as if a major battle occurred there. The damaged military equipment and the rubble were everywhere. Dr. Maland felt sorry for the people of Florida and the businesses around the government buildings. The sorrow increased as the pair walked silently to the governor's office.

"I'm sorry governor," Dr. Maland said as he entered her office. "I thought only of intercepting Iapetus. I neglected to help the people here by giving them vital information."

"Dr. Maland I presume?" replied the governor.

"Yes, I'm sorry. I am Dr. John Maland. I am a professor of anthropology at Florida International University. It is nice to meet you."

"It is my pleasure to meet y'all," replied the governor while shaking Dr. Maland's hand. "Now don't y'all get bent out of shape over this."

"But..."

"No 'buts'!" insisted the governor. "Everyone was doing what he or she thought was right. The people to blame are those that stole this Cyber-Iapetus."

"Uh, I don't know what to say..."

"Y'all don't have to say anything. I just wanted to thank you for your effort. The Iapetian command center is what did the trick. Even Dr. Roy hadn't thought of that aspect."

"You have spoken to Dr. Roy?"

"Certainly! He has been most helpful. Further, he has agreed to help pay for the repair of the damages. He regretted that someone used his company's resources to inflict such destruction. Further, they did it simply for extortion. He was greatly concerned that it would negatively impact his company's good name."

"I'm glad to hear that he wasn't involved..."

"The men gained access to a few AOENC technologies. They implanted a chip into a Ms. Linda Higher's head. This chip was designed to help people with brain damage. However, someone determined that it had other uses, like controlling people. She was powerless against them."

"Oh, that explains a few things."

"Do you have experience with this device?"

"I'll say! It was what caused me to go to Iapetus Island in the first place. I was powerless to stop Iapetus from leaving. When the chip was discovered and removed, I was completely focused upon intercepting him."

"Y'all weren't all there. See..."

"That is nice of you to say. Am I to understand that you have captured the perpetrators?"

"We believe so. We're working with Dr. Roy to verify this. We owe Iapetus for delaying the cybernetic weapon and giving us time to capture the thieves."

"Where is Iapetus?"

"He is still sleeping at the feet of Cyber-Iapetus."

"Do you need anything else from me?"

"The Iapetian storyteller is waiting for you there. Here are the driving directions. They may seem round-about, but some roads are impassible."

"Thanks governor."

"No -- thank you. Now get going before it gets dark."

Dr. Maland left the governor's office with a spring in his step. The sad thoughts that had plagued him since he was in Scotland were gone. He almost sprinted back to his rental car.

The drive to where Iapetus rested seemed quite short despite the distance. The storyteller was sitting on the great monster's foot. Florida State Troopers and National Guard members kept guard, but they were expecting him. He parked the car and walked towards the great beast.

John and the storyteller embraced. Another crisis had been averted. Miami was saved. The new protector was still functional and Iapetus was free to go to Loch Ness. However, for now, the great beast slept.

"What happens now?" John asked the storyteller.

"In the morning, Iapetus will wake and make his way to his spawning ground. The governor has stated that I can take our mechanical protector to our island."

"So that is it."

"Yes it is."

John asked one of the troopers to return his rental car because he was going to accompany the storyteller on part of the journey to Iapetus Island. He camped out with the storyteller that night next the Iapetus.

In the morning, the now refreshed Iapetus arose and stretched. He shook the chill off, and took a leisurely stroll to the Gulf of Mexico. The storyteller and Dr. Maland entered the cybernetic protector and followed him.

They walked into the water and when Iapetus was in deep enough in the gulf, he dove under the water. He swam a little way, and then breached the surface like a whale. After his little show, he went under the water and vanished.

Cyber-Iapetus piloted by the storyteller swam around the peninsula and emerged from the water in Fort Lauderdale. The mechanical protector walked to Dr. Maland's home and opened up. Dr. Maland emerged. He bid farewell to the storyteller and entered his house. He took a long hot shower and sunk in his easy chair. It had been quite a long time since he had been home. He had plenty of catching up to do.

The storyteller piloted the mechanical protector to its home on Iapetus Island. It had been quite an adventure for him as well. This adventure renewed his distrust of outsiders, and the Iapetian people began closing down their tourist trade. They decided to isolate themselves again. The world was not mature enough, and they had everything they needed.

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The Scout

Chapter 1

By Dwayne MacInnes

Scott sped his dirty black muscle car down the battered pockmarked road that used to be Interstate 94. Dirt swirled in the air behind him leaving a telltale cloud resembling smoke from a burning vehicle. A destroyed and burning vehicle was a sight very familiar to Scott. Many of those vehicles were ones he destroyed; others were the victims of the roving packs of wasters.

The sun was high in the sky and its heat beat mercilessly down upon the parched wasteland. Over a decade ago, this all would have been part of the American Breadbasket. Now, it was the Great American Desert or as most people called it -- The Wastes. Scott took a sip from his water bottle as the car bumped down the rough highway. The warm water felt great washing away the dust and dirt coating the inside of his mouth, which was brought on by days of traveling through this sun baked and weathered land. The dead gray skeletal trees passed by in a vast sea of hard packed earth, most of the loose topsoil had blown away long ago.

1970 Dodge Charger

A quick scan of the monitor mounted in the dash told Scott that he had company joining him from the rear. Boiler plating now replaced the rear and side windows of the 1970 Dodge Charger. A modest slit in both the driver and passenger's side steel plated windows allowed Scott to scan his mirrors. The windshield was reinforced bulletproof glass. Other modifications included the steel armor that encased the former muscle car, bulletproof tires, a beefed up suspension, an enclosed environmentally controlled cab, and a larger more powerful turbocharged engine to pull the heavier car. Two huge fifty-gallon self-sealing gas tanks took up the rear seat. There were no fears of gas shortages anymore. Not since the Big Bang that is. Nestled between the tanks were Scott's provisions and his .30-06 hunting rifle.

The camera mounted in the trunk revealed a gang of bikers closing in on Scott's Charger. Chances are that this meant trouble, but there was always the chance that these were Light Scouts escorting a convoy. Scott readied the two .30 caliber machineguns mounted inside the front fenders. The two .50s mounted outside the fenders Scott kept in reserve. He did not like to waste the ammo if he could avoid it. Being a Scout paid well, but .50 ammo still tended to be pricey.

Scott had been driving close to 100 miles per hour before he noticed the bikers. His car could easily do 120 or even 130 if he pushed it. Even with the problems of maneuvering a heavy car like this at high speeds, it would not be a problem on the old straight North Dakota highway as it bisected the horizon, diminishing in the distance. However, Scott did not want to run, he gradually slowed the Charger down. The roar of the engine relaxed to a purr as the vehicle reached 80. The bikers rapidly closed in.

Ding! Ding! Bullets from the light rifles (probably .30-06 hunting rifles) on the bikes told Scott that these were not friends. The small caliber rifle fire could not penetrate the Charger's armor; nonetheless, Scott did not like the idea of someone shooting at him. He waited until the bikers were close to his rear before he slammed on the brakes.

The bikers were caught by surprised. They evidently had never dealt with a Scout before. Two of the cyclists slammed into the trunk crushed between their bikes and the rear armor. Four others shot around the Charger and regrouped in front of it. Scott smiled behind his helmet; these wasters were obviously new to the game. He accelerated and depressed the finger trigger mounted behind the steering wheel. The .30 guns opened up tearing one biker to shreds before the Charger pounced upon the motorcycle's wreckage like a tiger on a deer. There was a slight bump inside the cab as Scott drove over the waster and his bike.

Two bikers peeled off in opposite directions and headed for the open land, the third tried to outrun the Charger on the road. The lighter motorcycle was pretty much stock from its original construction. Whatever modifications done to it was the mounting of a rifle to the front and maybe some engine work. Therefore, it took off like a jackrabbit before a hound.

The bike may be faster and more maneuverable than the modified Charger. However, there is one thing it was not. Scott depressed the trigger again. The .30 guns spat fire and steel at the fleeing waster. Within seconds, driver and cycle were just another smoking pile of broken wreckage on the highway.

These wasters were inexperienced; then again, no one since the Big Bang had decided to scout out the northern roads before. The wasters were more than likely used to preying on helpless nomads or the occasional lightly guarded convoy trying a new and unsecured route. However, once this road was open to trade the Twin Cities could join the rest of the recuperating United States.

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The Scout

Chapter 2

By Dwayne MacInnes

Two months before, the U.S. was surprised to hear a message from St Paul, Minnesota. The atmospherics were just right for the message to make its way west. After the Big Bang, the upper atmosphere had dramatically changed. Super windstorms ripped through the air. The raging winds tore planes that flew too high to shreds. Rock storms occurred after the winds ripped stones and boulders off mountain peaks and tossed them to the earth below.

The message was short but it indicated that St Paul was alive and was looking for fellow survivors. The U.S. government desperately needed a secure spot in the Midwest to secure a northern trade route to the eastern seaboard. Scott's job was to secure that route.

Abandoned and wrecked vehicles choked Interstate 94 just before Scott reached Minneapolis. The short radio conversation the new government had with St Paul warned of the various gangs and warlords who now ruled the city west of the Mississippi. Scott had no choice but to turn off and make his way through the unfriendly territory. Years of being a scout trained Scott to be extra cautious in cities. Wasters on the open highway were a lot easier to deal with than combating hostiles in a labyrinthine city. Old maps were of little use as the gangs would have changed the landscape significantly to lure the unsuspecting into a trap.

Scott was not new to this, but he still had very little knowledge of the current layout of Minneapolis. What roads were unblocked? Which one led to St Paul? The map on his monitor was at least twelve years out of date.

The black ‘70 Dodge Charger slowly wound its way through the wreckage and debris of Minneapolis in the morning twilight. Although, the missiles had overlooked it, the plague had done some of its own work here. That fateful day over twelve years ago released the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse upon the Earth. No country no matter how remote was unscathed. If the nukes did not get you, the biological and chemical weapons did

The warring gangs had left Minneapolis a burned-out and shattered city. The ravaged IDS building resembled a mangled and blackened skeletal hand clawing its way up towards the heavens like a drowning person desperately reaching for help. It was as good a representation of the dead city as any monument could ever be.

Scott was surprised that he had made his way onto University Avenue inside Dinky Town without encountering any of the gangs reputed to dwell inside this debris-filled metropolis. The trek here had taken the scout past the destroyed buildings of the University of Minnesota and he spied the burned out husk of the Metrodome in the distance.

Suddenly fire spread across the windshield. Someone had tossed a Molotov cocktail onto the hood of the Charger. Scott instinctively hit the switch for the camera mounted under the hood. The black and white image on the monitor was not that easy to navigate with, but it was a lot better than trying to see through flames.

Nonetheless, Scott put his foot down on the accelerator. The old car rapidly picked up speed. The flames flew backwards over the windshield with its flammable liquid trailing behind. Next, a heavy foam shot onto the bulletproof glass as Scott flipped another switch, dousing the flames. The wipers made easy work cleaning the rest of the mess off the windshield.

A flip of yet another switch returned the view from the trunk-mounted camera onto the monitor. A small red Toyota truck with a half-dozen gang members was trying to catch up with the Charger. Scott smiled, now the cat was out of the bag. Bullets fired from small personal arms dinged off the rear armor inflicting no more damage than some scratched paint.

Scott scanned the road ahead looking for anything that might help him turn the tables on his pursuers. Then he spied the old pitted parking lot outside a burned out Baker's Square. Scott hopped the Charger over the sidewalk and onto the lot, he drove the car past the burned out restaurant and back onto a side road. Without losing speed, Scott pulled the car back onto University, but this time he was heading back towards Minneapolis and the beat-up red Toyota truck.

Red Toyota Pickup

The driver of the truck was clearly surprised to see the Charger now coming towards him. His fellow gang members opened up with everything they had as the muscle car approached them in a high-speed version of "Chicken".

Scott was not interested in playing games with these guys. He did not hesitate to open up with his valuable .50 machine guns. The solid rounds punched through the red truck like a sharp pencil puncturing a sheet of paper. The truck swaggered and black smoke poured out from under the hood. Many of the gang members dropped down inside the truck bed to escape the putrid and oily smoke.

Scott swerved his car onto the sidewalk on his right as he shot past the speeding and nearly out of control truck. As the red vehicle sped past, Scott wrenched the steering wheel hard to his left as he hit the breaks. The Charger's tires squealed in protest as he swung the car behind the truck.

The surprised gang members in the truck bed started to pound on the rear window of the Toyota's cab. The driver, who had remarkably survived the onslaught of .50 bullets, took a quick glance back to see Scott hot on his tail. He tried to make the truck accelerate, but he engine was all but dead. Only more black smoke belched out from under the hood. He then tried to swerve the truck out of way of the Charger's guns.

More deadly projectiles spat out of the .50 guns as Scott depressed the thumb button on his steering wheel. Only a short burst was need to chew up the truck. The speeding wreckage soon lost all control and flew off the road and into a building on its right. Flames shot into the sky as the truck impacted into the side of the old brick building.

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The Scout

Chapter 3

By Dwayne MacInnes

The black 1970 Charger slowed as it approached the checkpoint on University Avenue leading into Minnesota's old capital. The barricade's construction composed of an old MTCO bus some cement highway medians and two menacing M-2 Browning machineguns each mounted on top of a military humvee.

The soldiers looked in half disbelief to see the modified black muscle car approach. One soldier wearing sergeant stripes on his arm held his hand up ordering Scott to halt. Scott complied and slowly climbed out, took off his helmet, and tossed it onto the driver's seat. His short brown hair was greasy from days of living in his car. Gray dust covered his black leather jacket and pants. A steel star badge with the words U.S. Scout was pinned to his left side of his chest. On his right hip rested a holstered .357 Magnum revolver

"You the scout sent from out west?" asked the sergeant with incredulity.

"That'd be me," Scott smiled. He remembered getting a similar reaction about two years ago when he reached St Louis, Missouri and five years ago when he entered Austin, Texas.

"The governor and his deputies will be waiting to see you at the capitol. Just follow University Avenue you can't miss it."

"Thanks," Scott smiled as he reentered his car. One of the soldiers drove the bus back to allow Scott to pass. The other three soldiers watched in surprise as the scout passed them.

It was before noon when Scott pulled his Charger up to the Capital building. It took him a couple of minutes to drive around the curved road that led around the structure. When he drove up to the front, Scott parked his car in front of a battered "No Parking" sign. Scott chuckled to himself as a small delegation approached the Charger.

The scout climbed out of the car and waited for the small group to approach. He was happy to breathe fresh air again. However, technically the air in his car's cab was more pure than what he could breathe outdoors. There were still traces of radiation and other pollutants floating around.

"Mr. Malice," a smiling older thin man approached with his hand extended. "We are very glad to see you."

Scott accepted the man's grip and pumped his hand in a firm handshake. "Governor Trimble I presume," Scott replied.

"Yes, and these are my chief advisors," Trimble motioned to the men behind him. "The man in the uniform is Security Chief, Lieutenant Reynolds," the man in military battle dress uniform or BDU nodded. "This is my secretary Mr. Malcolm," Trimble pointed to a young man wearing a suit similar to Trimble's suit. "And finally, my economic advisor, Mr. Mitchell," the governor introduced the short round man that appeared a few years older than Scott did.

"Is Malice your real name?" Reynolds asked after the introduction.

"Does it matter?" Scott replied.

"I suppose it doesn't," Reynolds chuckled to himself.

"Anyway, it is the name that was on my birth certificate before it was consumed in a mushroom cloud that destroyed Seattle," Scott said grimly.

The Governor was escorting the small group back towards the capitol building. Two men wearing army fatigues and shouldering M-16s guarded the entrance. "They got Seattle too," Mitchell said sadly.

"Yep, most of the big cities were nuked. The smaller ones were hit with the plague bombs or chemical weapons and those that escaped all of the above felt the effects of radiation and/or the flu. No one got away unscathed," Scott replied.

"We've been mostly in the dark this last decade," Reynolds offered. "We are isolated from the rest of the United States stuck here in the middle of the Wastes. Hell, the only reason we are still here is because we can get some farming done down by the Mississippi and in the surrounding areas close to the cities."

"How about Washington, D.C?" Malcolm asked.

"It got the trifecta, nuclear, biological and chemical. Portland, Oregon is now the Capitol of the United States. It is the largest city still intact to boot."

"Son of a gun, Oregon," Mitchell pronounced the last syllable of the state's name as ‘gone' instead of the correct ‘gen' with a hard ‘g'. Scott would have thought the economic advisor was mocking him except for the astonishment in Mitchell's voice. Scott let it pass, more than likely it was just a local dialect.

"How'd it start?" Reynolds asked grimly.

"Beats me," Scott shrugged his shoulders. "I was a pizza delivery boy trying to make my way through the Vo-Tech when it all came down."

Scott remembered the day. He was in Missoula, Montana driving a delivery for Domino's Pizza when the emergency air raid sirens started to blare around town. Scott did not even know Missoula had such sirens until that moment. The news on his radio reported that a nuclear explosion occurred in Great Falls. The last piece of news was that Spokane went up in a nuclear fireball. Then that was it. All communication across the country broke down.

Fires burning around the world, from both forests and cities, threw enough debris into the air to block the sun out for months. People came down with a mysterious flu that swept through the cities leaving more dead than alive. Those poor pathetic few who survived the Big Bang now had to endure the cold of a nuclear winter and starvation.

It was a good two years before the first scouts reached Missoula. Portland, Oregon was the new seat of the reemerging U.S. of A. Through the efforts of the scouts, they secured routes all along the western coast, through the southwest and on to the eastern seaboard. The ties reuniting the country were tenuous.

Wasters played havoc through the interior of the nation. They would raid and destroy precious convoys of fuel, food, and medical supplies. Many outfits now traveled in convoys escorted by Light Scouts and heavier defensive vehicles.

Scott had joined up with the U.S. Scouts over five years ago. It is one of the best paying jobs out there. Unfortunately, the life expectancy of a scout was a little over one year; the only job that could arguably be worse was being a salvager, they tended to last only a few months. Scott fit naturally into the role. He personally modified the Charger he now drove, he could automatically calculate his gas mileage in his head, handled his guns as if he was born with them in his hands, and he was a loner by nature.

To many, he was a legend and a hero. Wasters had bounties out for him. Many Scouts tried to copy Scott and few succeeded. He was the best there was and that was the reason why the president personally chose him to open up the route to the Twin Cities.

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The Scout

Chapter 4

By Dwayne MacInnes

The popular joke that passed around from city to city was, "What's the best way to stop Global Warming? Answer: A nuclear winter." It seemed that no matter the number of people who had died, or the tragedies witnessed by everyone. Not even the threat of starvation, wasters, or muties could quash man's desire to crack jokes about his predicament. Scott figured as long as people could still joke and laugh they had a fighting chance for survival.

The governor and his advisors sat around a large table in a conference room. Scott Malice was standing in front of the group. He was not much of a public speaker, but he tended to get the job done in his own frank and honest way.

"Gentlemen, St Paul is of utmost importance to the new United States of America. Other than St Louis, no other Midwestern city survived the Big Bang. We desperately need a northern trade route to the east, and St Paul is the key." Scott looked around the room. Until now the men in the room only thought that they needed the U.S. not that the U.S. needed them.

"You have several factors here that make you one of the most important cities not only in the Midwest, but also in the new United States. Obviously, as I said you are one of two surviving cities in the region that will help tie the two coasts of the country together. However, of great importance is the Ford assembling plant you have. We are hoping that the plant and the hydroelectric dam that operate it are still operational." Scott paused to look over at Mr. Mitchell. The plump man nodded his head in an affirmative gesture.

"Good, you also have some factories in the surrounding area that manufactured mid-caliber ammo that we also hope is operational."

"Yes, they are Mr. Malice. In fact, they are being operated now in order to keep our defense forces armed," Mitchell offered.

Scott resumed, "That is excellent. Another major point is the Prairie Island Nuclear Power Plant and the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant. I'm assuming that because you still have power one or both of them are still functioning."

"Yes sir, we have military outposts manning them. The warlords would love to get their hands on them," Lt. Reynolds replied. "Prairie is about fifty miles southeast of us so we have the logistical advantage over Minneapolis. However, they still occasionally make raids.

"Unfortunately, the Monticello plant is 40 miles northwest of the Twin Cities so the warlords have the advantage there. Our hold there is tenuous; fortunately the warlords tend to fight more amongst themselves than against us."

"Mr. Reynolds," began the scout "neither of those plants can fall into hostile hands. We'll be able to help you clean up Minneapolis as the trade routes become more secure. However, we cannot allow hostiles to control the power."

"Mr. Malice, I appreciate your admiration of our city," replied Mr. Reynolds sincerely. "However, what you ask cannot happen. We do not have the combat vehicles we need to support both outposts and to secure our borders from the wasters and the warlords."

Scott smiled, "Not yet, but you have the means. You've seen my car. Gentlemen, you have to use your imagination. I know you have several fine engineers in the city let them loose, let them modify some of those cars sitting alongside the road into something formidable.

"Modify that Ford plant so that it can fit armor and weapons onto those vehicles. Make those guns and ammo, and then unleash them onto your opponents."

Governor Trimble jumped up from the table. A laugh broke out from his mouth, "By God, you are right. It won't be easy, but for the first time since the Big Bang, I feel that we can start moving forward."

After the meeting, Scott found a nice room in a local hotel to sleep in. How long was it since he slept in a bed? Scott could not remember. There was even hot water another rare commodity, if only they had some soap. Well, you couldn't have everything, Scott reminded himself.

Although, St Paul did not have any of the new currency consisting of gold Sacagawea dollars or silver Eagle half dollars to give Scott for his services they did offer him food and reloads for his guns and gas for his car. He would soon be heading back toward the west to announce his findings to help secure the new trade route. Scott told the governor that in a few weeks another scout should be heading in from the east to help secure the route that way.

It was only a week after his arrival to St Paul that Scott found himself heading back west. Warlords and wasters would be more alert now. The return trip was always the hardest.

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The Scout

Chapter 5

By Dwayne MacInnes

Once again, Scott weaved his way through the labyrinthine streets of Minneapolis. The gangs had obviously moved a few things around since Scott's arrival.

Wrecked vehicles now blocked roads that were once open and roads that once obstructed were now clear of obstacles. His guns were primed and Scott was prepared to meet any car, truck, or van that the warlords decided to send against him.

During his week stay, Governor Trimble and his advisors informed Scott about the local warlords. The several small gangs tended to be more interested in small turf wars amongst each other and posed no real threat to St Paul. However, three major warlords had established clear defined territories in Minneapolis.

The largest was the "Killaz"; they controlled the center and were notorious for exacting revenge on anyone who crossed their path. They had a large cache of military grade arms. A smaller but almost as effective group was the "Death Heads" they favored smaller more maneuverable attack groups. They had a dedicated suicide squad made up of bicyclists that could easily make their way through the debris-ridden metropolis. The third and final group was the "Mikaz". The Mikaz, unlike the Death Heads, favored larger vehicles. They owned several large garbage trucks that they had modified so that they could quickly remove barriers to allow the smaller vehicles to pass by any obstacles. These trucks were also most effective in using their hydraulic forks to lift up the backend of vehicles, either tossing them into the back of the truck or upending them.

Scott hoped that the warlords were still more interested in each other than they were in his small armored vehicle. It had been a week since his surprise entrance so it was possible that the warlords had forgotten him. On the other hand, the warlords had a week in which to prepare a trap for him.

The scout wound his way through the debris and obstacles. Scott itched to get back on the open road where he had room to maneuver, and he could bring the Charger up to a faster speed. As it were, Scott felt that he could make better time if he just got out and walked. Of course, the scout would last about as long as that proverbial snowball in Hell if he did leave his vehicle.

Scott was lost in thought and had been to listening to the droning engine when a loud ‘thump' echoed off the passenger door. Scott quickly glanced out his passenger side port to notice that a bicyclist had smacked his rearview mirror as he passed by. From the way the cyclist held his hand, the reward for his action against the reinforced mirror was a broken hand.

Anger exploded inside Scott's head. He took it very personal when someone tried to damage his car. The scout slammed his foot down onto the accelerator and the Charger leaped after the fleeing cyclist. The white skull on the cyclist black hooded sweatshirt and the bike he rode told Scott whom he was dealing with.

The cyclist weaved back and forth and rode the mountain bike over piles of debris with little problem despite a broken left hand. Scott tried to bring his guns to bear but the small target proved too maneuverable. However, the distance between the bike and the car were quickly evaporating. In a matter of seconds, Scott would feel the satisfying crunch of cyclist and bike under the wheels of his vehicle.

Just before the front bumper could touch the bike's rear tire, the Death Head member sharply turned the bike and shot down a small alley before Scott could react to follow.

Cursing to himself Scott fumed shortly about the cyclist before he glanced down to his monitor to see a large green Waste Management truck barreling down on him from behind. Normally Scott would just accelerate away from the large truck. Unfortunately, the obstacles in the road would not allow that. His second choice would be to wheel the Charger around so that he could bring his weapons to bear. But, the roads were too narrow. As it was Scott was doing everything he could to keep the distance from the garbage truck.

Suddenly, the road in front of the Charger exploded, filling the air with chunks of concrete, smoke, and fire.

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The Scout

Chapter 6

By Dwayne MacInnes

The chunks of concrete bounced harmlessly off the three-inch thick windshield. The fireball hid from view the road ahead and Scott felt the Charger slam into a large crater. Fortunately, his forward momentum was enough for the car to plow through the crumbled road to resume its flight from the garbage truck. The green truck had no problem driving over the new pothole.

Scott glanced up through his windshield to spy a person on top a blackened brick building aiming a LAW rocket at his car. A shiver went up his spine. The Charger could withstand small arms fire with no damage and could survive medium arms with slight, but a rocket could very well destroy the vehicle. At the last second before the LAW fired, Scott veered his car onto the sidewalk closest to the rocket armed gang member. The rocket flew past the Charger and slammed into the road where the Charger would have been.

Consequently, the exploding projectile was close enough to blow the front right tire off the Waste Management truck. The huge truck suddenly lurched forward and down as the missing wheel flew in the air. The inertia of the huge vehicle flung the rear of the truck into the air, flipping the vehicle down the road.

The large green truck smashed into the street right behind the fleeing Charger. Steel, concrete, and glass exploded into the air. The ‘ping' of small debris ricocheted off the rear armor of the black muscle car.

Scott was about to sigh in relief before he saw a yellow school bus several yards in front of him suddenly pull out and stop blocking the road. Scott knew that even if he punched through the thin metal skin of the bus the heavy steel chassis would ensnare his car. The Charger would suffer entanglement as effectively as if the LAW had blown away his front tires.

There was only one option left to the scout and it was a long shot. Instead, of slowing down Scott punched the accelerator and the Charger responded like the spurred steed it was named after. The black car leapt forward and the engine roared as if in anger.

Scott aimed the vehicle toward an area of the road where the hot summers had buckled the concrete. With any luck, it would give the heavy scout vehicle the lift it needed.

The front tires bounced up on the concrete and the rear tires dug as for a final leap off the natural ramp. The armored muscle car did not exactly fly through the air, but it did attain enough lift to carry it four feet above the ground before it slammed into the side of the bus. The Charger was heavy enough that its momentum carried it through the side of the bus. Scott fought for control as his car smashed through the yellow metal side and through the green chairs inside. The front of the Charger protruded from the opposite side of the bus as the rear tires came down onto the bus's floor. This gave the car one last spurt of speed to carry it the rest of the way through the wrecked bus.

The Charger bounced as it regained its treading on the road past the bus. One last explosion filled the air as a LAW rocket exploded into the side of the bus. More steel and glass rained down onto the armored vehicle causing no more harm than scratching the black paint on the roof of the car.

The rest of the trip was uneventful as Scott finally reached the open road outside of the Twin Cities. He knew he would need to inspect his .50 machine guns for any damage. Even if both guns suffered damage, it would be a small price to pay for his survival. The escape from Minneapolis was one of the worst gauntlets Scott had ever run.

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The Scout

Chapter 7

By Dwayne MacInnes

Once the Twin Cities were far behind him, Scott pulled the Charger over at an abandoned rest stop. The neglected buildings where weathered and battered by time and the elements. The roof of one building was missing; either it had been torn off by a tornado or collapsed from heavy snow. Scott did not bother to investigate; he was more concerned with the state of his vehicle.

A scout's car was his life. It was reminiscent of the days of the old west, where if a cowboy's horse turned up lame while out in the desert his chance of survival were seriously diminished. That was a major reason why cars from the sixties and seventies were preferred to newer cars by the scouts. It was paramount to have a car that could survive a lot of punishment.

In the last couple of decades of the twentieth century, automobile manufacturers started making cars that would purposely absorb the damage with crumple zones so that the passengers would survive while the car would not. That was not the case nowadays. If you lost your car in the Wastes, you were lost as well. It was better to die in a good car than to survive a wreck in a ruined car.

Fortune smiled upon Scott once again. By some divine miracle, his .50s had survived without a scratch. Other than scraped paint, the Charger was in tiptop condition. The scout jumped back into his vehicle and proceeded down the old battered highway.

Rest of the trip through Minnesota was relatively uneventful. While crossing into North Dakota, Scott had to take a wide detour around the ruins of Fargo. His Geiger-counter clicked madly indicating that the radiation from the nuked city was still dangerously high.

On the far side of Fargo as the sun was starting to set, the sky suddenly began to turn green. Scott knew the signs of a tornado well enough. The wind started to pick up and a smattering of rain began to fall. He had once seen a noonday turn as black as moonless midnight as green clouds blocked the sunlight before a tornado ripped through the area. He knew he needed to find shelter quickly before he was caught in one of nature's furies.

Scott quickly scanned the horizon for a depression or an overpass where he could hide. All that he saw was smoke blowing up and rapidly dissipating in the rising wind. Scott inwardly groaned at the sight. It went against his better judgment. Hell, it went against the rules of being a Scout. However, Scott still had a conscience, and he needed to investigate the smoke.

Scott accelerated towards the smoke rising from the ground. As the distance closed, the scout noticed the wreckage of some kind of vehicle burning on the side of the road. This could be a trap by wasters to ambush a scout; it had happened so much in the past that the government did not allow scouts to investigate wrecks. However, Scott could not live with himself if did not try to at least help someone who was in need.

Plus, this was highly unlikely to be a trap. What waster would hide in ambush while a tornado was brewing in the Wastes? As the Charger approached the wreckage, Scott recognized that it was a Subaru Outback lying on its side in flames with a smashed camping trailer burning behind it.

Subaru Outback

Scott pulled the Charger over behind the wreckage. The natural light was rapidly fading and the flickering illumination from the fanning flames revealed the bodies of two adults on the side of the road. Scott ran over to them, but they were now beyond his help. The man and woman thrown from the vehicle left mangled bodies twisted upon the hard packed and uncaring earth.

The scout started to trot back to his car when a muffled noise reached his ears above the rising wind and rain. At first, Scott thought it may be a trick of the wind, but he heard it again. It sounded like a moaning. Not the moaning one heard from a mutie caught in mad fury and agony, but the sound of a person in pain. Scott quickly ran towards the source of the moan.

He was having a hard time locating the source in the little light reaching him from the burning wreckage. The rain pelting him now mercilessly turned the unrelenting ground into a slick surface. The mud sucked his feet into the mire threatening to rip his boots off; fortunately, Scott had securely tied them to his feet.

Scott was about to face the inevitable and leave the poor victim to his or her fate if he could not find him or her. The storm was brewing itself up into a ferocious state and Scott would have to return to his car and find shelter fast.

Then there was one last moan and Scott looked over in the direction it came from. There lying on the ground appeared to be a boy of about ten or eleven his blond hair plastered to his head by the rain. He was unconscious and a quick examination revealed no broken bones. In another time, it was best to leave a victim lay until help arrived. Those days were long gone now.

Scott scooped the boy into his arms and, as quickly as he could in the driving wind and rain on a slick and sticky surface, made his way back to the car. Scott lowered the passenger seat as far back as it would go and laid the boy upon it. Then he quickly jumped into the driver's seat and raced the Charger down the old interstate, hoping to find shelter.

The sky was now completely black; the rain fell upon the vehicle as if it was caught in a waterfall. The wind tried to force the car off the road. Scott turned on the front camera with its low-light amplification. The monitor's black and white image was all Scott had in which to navigate.

Then two things happened almost at the same time. The thump of a small stone fell upon the roof the car and the clicking of the Geiger started to increase. If Scott did not find shelter fast, he would find himself caught in the middle of a radioactive tornado storm.

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The Scout

Chapter 8

By Dwayne MacInnes

The clicking rapidly increased and the stones started pelting the car from above regularly. The black and white image on the monitor only revealed empty road ahead. Nonetheless, Scott continued to race down the interstate. He fought for control of the car as the wind and rain slicked highway tried to force him off onto the muddy earth alongside it.

If Scott lost the surface of the battered highway and wound up in some abandoned field, he was as good as dead. The car's massive weight would sink her into the mud. Scott and his passenger would likely be stuck inside, as the car would sink up to the doors. The scout did not worry about wasters apprehending his vehicle because he had a self-destruct or dead man's switch installed. He just had to push the right combination on the toggle switches below the dash and small explosives would detonate on the huge gas tanks. No, that was not his main worry. But, the slow starvation and dehydration inside his steel coffin would be his main concern, because there would not be any chance of rescue out here.

Then an eerie glow began to manifest itself off into the distance outside the windshield. Fluorescent green lightning flashed and illuminated a sickly green funnel cloud, which was streaked with gray debris, was miles ahead on the horizon. The deep rumble of the thunder forced its way over the thumping rocks and the ferociously clicking Geiger-counter. Scott's situation just got even worse.

The funnel raced toward Scott as if it had a single objective and that was to swallow the small car inside its huge and hungry form. The green lightening flashed angrily around the malevolent funnel cloud revealing the debris swirling maddening inside it.

The rocks pounding on the car were starting to become larger as the storm flung boulders in its fury. The stones were now becoming serious obstacles on the rough road. If one of the larger stones hit the Charger there was a great chance of it doing serious damage. Occasionally a stone the size of a man would crash into the road ahead showering the air with smashed concrete.

Sweat beaded on Scott's brow, he cursed under his breath as he fought for control of the car. He needed to find shelter. There was nothing behind him for many miles. A boulder ripped from a distant mountaintop and the size of the vehicle itself plummeted into the side of the road as the Charger passed. The momentum of the huge stone caused it to bounce over the vehicle as the Charger sped down the rain soaked and debris-ridden road. Mud and dirty water splashed against the passenger's side of the car. The unrelenting rain made visibility out the windshield a near impossibility forcing Scott to rely on the black and white imaging on the monitor.

Lightning struck an old withered tree in front of the Charger on the left hand side of the road. The dead tree quickly flashed into flames as it started to tumble onto the old interstate ahead. Scott accelerated even more in order to beat the burning tree before it blocked his path. The Charger started to fishtail yet Scott continued on his race. The black car shot underneath the tree just before it hit the ground. Its burning branches screeched eerily and snapped in protest across the roof. Orange and yellow sparks rained down upon the windshield and the top of the car.

Scott could not relax, for he was still racing the relentless funnel cloud as it continued onward towards the Charger. The malignant green monstrosity was a combination of nature and manmade fury. Though, the Charger would protect its inhabitants from some radiation it would not help if the funnel cloud approached too close. The radiation level would be deadly even behind these steel encased doors.

The scout glanced down at his monitor once more and noticed the object he was looking for. Up ahead lay an overpass. Scott drove towards it attempting to avoid the debris falling around him. He slowed the car down and pulled it to a stop underneath the overpass's concrete protection.

Scott looked out his windshield to monitor the funnel cloud's progress. By a miracle, the funnel cloud changed direction as if it had lost interest in the little black car. The Geiger-counter started to click less incessantly as the radiation started to lower with the storm moving away.

Scott turned off the car and laid the seat back. He wiped his brow and finally let the sigh trapped in his lungs escape. Exhaustion took hold of Scott and he let himself succumb to its embrace.

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The Scout

Chapter 9

By Dwayne MacInnes

A muffled sob brought Scott back to consciousness. On the seat next to him was the small boy. He lay curled in a fetus position with his back toward Scott. The boy shook with each sob.

Scott rubbed the sleep from his eyes and noticed that the morning sun had risen behind him from the East. With any luck, he would be back in the restored United States by nightfall or the next morning at the latest.

The scout reached out to the boy and touched him. The boy instantly became aware of his surroundings and jumped back against the door. The fear in his wide tearful eyes told Scott that the lad did not trust him.

"Easy kid, I'm one of the good guys," Scott said with a smile.

The boy just stared at Scott and shook with fear. He sniffed a couple of times, wiped his nose, but he did not respond in any other way.

"Look here, I'm a scout," Scott said as he showed the young boy his steel badge.

The expression on the boy's face instantly changed. Awe and wonder replaced the fear in the boy's eyes.

"No Fooling?" the boy finally said in a small voice. "I heard of you guys. But, I always thought it was just a story."

"Yep, I'm the genuine article," Scott continued with his smile still intact. "So, what is your name? Mine is Scott."

"I'm Sam."

"Well Sam, how about a little breakfast?"

The boy nodded his head. Scott noticed how thin and dirty the boy was. There were not any showers around and he could not afford to waste water on cleaning up Sam. But, he could at least feed the kid. Scott rummaged through his supplies next to the fuel tanks in the backseat and produced an MRE.

"Looks like spaghetti and meatballs," Scott tossed the boy the Meal Ready to Eat package. The boy wasted no time in opening the brown package and devouring the contents.

"When was the last time you had something to eat?" Scott asked as he observed the boy licking the remaining sauce off the packaging.

Sam just continued licking as he shrugged his shoulders. Finally, after he consumed every morsel he began to talk.

"Ma and Pa were traveling from our old home in Wyndmere to find a new one somewhere else. We were low on food and Pa heard that one of the other towns may have some to spare. Sis and I hadn't had anything to eat in a couple of days and for Ma and Pa it was longer."

Suddenly, Sam stopped speaking and began to cry as the memory of his ordeal replayed itself in his memory. "We…we were attacked by wasters. They shot up the car real bad and Pa crashed," Sam choked out between sobs. "We were all thrown out of the car in the wreck. Ma and Pa didn't move and looked real bad. I heard the motorcycles coming so I…I crawled out into the field to hide. I noticed Mary, that's my sister, getting up.

"I was going to tell her to hide too, but the wasters saw her and grabbed her. All I did was hide. I should have done something but I didn't know what to do. By that time I lay down on the ground and I don't remember anything else."

"You took a nasty spill. I found you just before a radioactive storm hit."

Sam's eyes nearly bugged out of his head hearing this. Everyone knew that exposure to a radioactive storms turned people and animals into muties. Hair would fall out of the body from the severe radiation sickness. Skin would blacken and crack from the radiation cooking it. Open, bloody sores would instantly cover the body and the mind would become twisted in a mixture of madness and pain. Muties tended to live short but violent lives. They would wail and moan in torment and any living thing crossing their paths would be the focus of their fury. If a pack of muties did not finish you off, their radiation would either kill you or turn you into a mutie as well.

Sam looked down at his feet thinking. Scott did not disturb the boy. Instead, he took the time to eat an MRE himself. Scott was nearly finished with his breakfast when the boy looked over at him.

"Mister, I know Ma and Pa didn't make it, but do you think you could help me find Mary?"

Scott nearly choked at he boy's request. "I wouldn't know where to begin, kid."

"They took her to Sturgis. That's their main camp, and they sell everyone they capture in the Wastes there as slaves."

"Sturgis? Sturgis, South Dakota? Look here kid I'm on an important mission and I need to get back to Montana. I can't go down to the Black Hills."

Sam began to open his door. "Fine, I'll go myself!" he shouted as he began to climb out.

Scott reached over and pulled Sam back into the car. "Ok, kid. It is against my better judgment and it will probably land me in hot water back at HQ. But, I will help you find your sister."

The Geiger began to click again. "Sam shut the door looks like there are some muties heading our way."

Before Sam could slam the door shut, Scott already had the Charger started and heading down the ravaged road.

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The Scout

Chapter 10

By Dwayne MacInnes

"How did you survive in Wyndmere?" Scott asked the young boy.

"We still had some areas that weren't completely blown away. We could grow some crops and the water wasn't bad either," Sam replied distantly looking out the windshield.

"I guess I never made it to your neck of the woods. I just assumed all of the land was blasted and blown like here."

"Most of it is. That is why it is important that we grow what food we could. The wasters wouldn't bother us if we gave them some of our food."

"I never thought of that. I guess that explains why the wasters survive so well up here. Normally the parasites like to live in warmer climes and just raid the communities that survived the Big Bang."

"Pa said they used to do that, but many people started to leave or were killed so raiding wasn't so good anymore. Then the wasters made many people move to the towns and start to farm. As long as we had food to give them, they wouldn't bother us. But, if we didn't they would sell everyone off into slavery."

"Is that why your family left? Because the crops failed," Scott continued.

"Yes, but the wasters don't allow people to leave towns. Pa was hoping to find a new home somewhere else without the wasters noticing. Other people have done it," Sam became quiet and withdrawn after this. Scott knew that the wounds of losing his family were still too fresh. Even in a time when losing loved ones was common it did not lessen the pain.

"So you ever hear of the ‘land piranha's'?" Scott asked changing the topic as he drove southwardly down the rough road formerly known as Highway 8 towards South Dakota.

"Yeah, I heard of them. But, I never seen them. Aren't they a bunch of squirrels?" the boy responded.

"You're close they are actually roving packs of Chihuahuas," Scott glanced over at Sam noticing the question in his eyes. "Small dogs, they were annoying before the Big Bang. Now they are deadly. I don't know what, but something changed them. So now, down in Mexico and Arizona you have these packs of dogs…packs of over a hundred little mean dogs that can devour a buffalo in a matter of sixty seconds."

"Yeah right, mister," Sam snorted in disbelief.

"No really, I've seen it myself. Hell, I didn't even believe in muties until I saw one myself and you know they are real."

Sam nodded in agreement.

Ping! Ping! Ping!

Scott shot a glance at his monitor. Following behind the Charger was a two-person dune buggy. The driver was accelerating and weaving the light vehicle through the wreckage on the road. The passenger was firing a .30 machinegun mounted in front of him. Fortunately, the ammo was still of a small enough caliber that as long as it hit the armor the Charger would be fine.

Nonetheless, a lucky shot from the automatic weapon could still seriously damage the scout's vehicle. Scott was not about to let that happen. He stomped on the accelerator and the Charger surged forward on the torn-up highway as the M-60 chewed up the concrete behind the car.

Sam's face paled, his last run in with the wasters had left his parents dead and his sister abducted. The young boy gripped the dash with white knuckles. His jaw clenched tight in fear.

The scout started to weave the car back and forth in hopes of throwing off the pursuers' aim. However, the buggy was a much more maneuverable vehicle and could easily keep up. An occasional ping off the armor audibly reminded Scott of that fact.

Scott also knew that trying to turn the Charger around to face the buggy would be futile. The buggy could easily stay on the muscle car's tail and fire away at its rear armor. Alternatively, the buggy could just also drive off road with ease and snipe at the Charger's side. No, Scott's plan of attack would need to rely on something in the Charger's favor. In this case, the scout figured it would have to be its weight.

Scott started to aim for debris and wreckage on the battered road that he could plow through that might ensnare the buggy. Unfortunately, what large obstacles Scott encountered would just explode or fly away once the Charger smashed into it. The net result was that Scott was actually clearing a path for the buggy that was still firing burst after burst at the car.

The scout desperately searched for something that would work in his favor. So far, the buggy had the advantage. The only redeeming thing was that the gunner still had not been able to get that lucky hit to incapacitate the Charger. Thank God, the buggy did not have an M-2 or a grenade launcher or the battle would already be over

Sweat was starting to stream into Scott's eyes; he wiped his brow with his left arm while wildly cranking the steering wheel left and right. Scott scanned the horizon for anything that might work to his advantage. Then he saw it, an old off-ramp leading to some small dead town.

The Charger was easily doing 120 miles per hour with the buggy keeping pace. The engine on the light off-road vehicle was definitely not stock. The horsepower on the small block engine may just be too much for the dune buggy Scott figured.

At the last minute, just before passing it Scott quickly cranked the wheel hard to right. The Charger barely managed to make it onto the off-ramp. Caught off guard the driver on the buggy tried to correct his mistake in anticipating the scout's move. Unfortunately, the buggy was a second too late in matching the Charger in reaction. As a result, the fast but light vehicle caught the left embankment of the off-ramp flipping the buggy into the air.

Scott watched in amazement as the buggy corkscrewed in the air towards the Charger. Just before the unguided projectile hit the muscle car, Scott made a hard right turn onto an intersecting road. The buggy instead plowed into the ground and now started to flip end over end down the off-ramp kicking up a cloud of loose concrete and smoke. The buggy finally came to rest as it slammed into the wooden front of an old store.

The scout slowed down his Charger and started to head back towards the wreckage of the dilapidated building that was now billowing smoke. Sam looked over at the driver and began to pant. He was now just remembering to breathe again.

"What are you doing?" the young boy asked between breaths.

"If we are lucky I think I found our ticket into Sturgis."

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The Scout

Chapter 11

By Dwayne MacInnes

Scott removed wooden plank after plank. The buggy had done a great job of burying itself inside the partially collapsed building. After a few minutes of hard work, Scott finally reached the buggy. The vehicle laid upside-down half immersed in rubble; the occupants were bloody and torn remnants of human beings. The scout cursed to himself as he did a quick survey.

For the most part the buggy was still intact. The engine was relatively undamaged, just a thrown belt and some loose hoses. The frame was a little twisted and a few of the welds on the roll-cage were broken. Scott could fix these minor things in a day or two with the proper tools. However, the rear axle was broken and the driver's side rear wheel had completely broken off.

Time was not a factor on their side if Scott hoped to get to Sturgis in time to save Mary. It would take just a few days alone to repair the axle and replace the wheel by himself. Again, that was if Scott had the proper tools, which Scott did not. There was always the small chance that some tools remained in a garage or gas station. However, that was unlikely for the wasters immediately would have looted the town for such equipment.

The scout had really been hoping to use the buggy to get into Sturgis. Going in with the Charger would have been suicide. It was clearly a scout vehicle and though it was better armed and armored than the wasters, the gang of thugs could easily overwhelm Scott with their sheer numbers.

Sam reached out and placed a hand on Scott's shoulder bringing the scout out of his musings. Scott looked over at Sam with a reassuring smile. Scott hoped that he could project some hope into the boy. Sam's face suddenly took on a look of horror. Scott twisted his head in the direction of whatever was scaring Sam.

Six large men with long beards and assault rifles aimed at the pair were standing in the open wall. They looked like hillbillies with their unkempt beards, dirty overalls, and menacing looks. The only thing out of place was the fact that they carried M-16s and AK-47s instead of muzzle loading rifles.

"What do we have here, Brent?" asked one of the men.

"I'd say we found ourselves some lost souls," replied the man supposedly called Brent.

"One of ‘em looks like a scout," said the first.

Brent sniffed and looked coolly at Scott. "Well, I guess we better take care of them."

Scott was about to launch himself into a suicide leap at the one he perceived to be Brent and therefore the leader when he heard him say:

"How can we help you boys?"

Scott blinked his eyes and his mouth dropped in surprise. This was the last thing he expected to hear.

Brent broke into a loud laugh that instantly infected the other five men. "Who'd you think we were, wasters?"

Scott relaxed and started to laugh himself. By some divine luck, he stumbled upon some friendly people.

Brent held out his hand and grabbed Scott's in strong firm handshake. The big man continued to talk as he nearly pumped Scott's arm out of his socket. "We're Anderson Brother's Salvage. Finding a scout out here was the last thing we expected to find."

Scott relayed his story about opening a path to the Twin Cities and that now his quest was to help Sam rescue his sister. The six men eagerly agreed to help the scout fix up the buggy and offered to hide the Charger in a nearby Post Office.

What would have taken Scott a matter of days or a week by himself they accomplished in only few hours. The six Salvagers had all the necessary tools packed in the back of the two full ton pickup trucks that they used for their scavenging. Soon the buggy was nearly as good as new. They even painted the buggy with a gray primer to help disguise it. Scott transferred some .30 ammo to reload the almost empty M-60 and then placed his .30-06 hunting rifle in the back of the buggy.

"Yeah, it would not do you any good to walk into the Anarchist's camp with one of their patrol buggies," Brent said while they ate a light dinner.

Scott looked at Brent questioningly, "Anarchist?"

"Yep, that's the name of the wasters who run this part of the area. A dangerous lot they are. We saw that buggy drive by on patrol yesterday. With the storm last night, it is possible that the Anarchists will think it was lost. Plus, with that patrol out of commission we can extend our salvage operation another day before the Anarchist send out a search party."

"What are Salvagers?" Sam enquired of the large man.

"We are. That is to say, that is how we make our living. With the world gone to pot a few of us more adventurous entrepreneurs will scavenge the Wastes looking for things they can use back in the U.S."

"But you guys have factories, right?" the boy asked.

"Sure we do. But, production still isn't what it was and the demand outstrips supply. This makes many things very expensive. We are able to help with the supply by salvaging things out here and selling them back in the States at a slightly less cost than a new one from a factory. There are big profits to be had out there if you are willing to take the risks.

"Anderson Brothers Salvage is the most successful salvaging operation out there. We use our wits and avoid the wasters as much as we can. Part of that is to study and know who those wasters are."

"Why are you hiding Scott's car in a Post Office?" Sam asked taking on a new line of thought.

Brent laughed, "Easy there isn't anything in those Post Offices that a waster would want so it's the perfect hiding place. Now it's my turn to ask a question," Brent turned his attention to Scott. "When do you expect to take off?"

"Right after we finish eating," Scott replied.

"Then you better take this," Brent tossed Scott a dirty, faded, and worn denim jacket that said, ‘Anderson's Garage' on the back. "Wouldn't do to have you walk into Sturgis looking like a scout would it?"

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The Scout

Chapter 12

By Dwayne MacInnes

The engine of the buggy purred as Scott prepared to drive out of the ghost town. Brent leaned over the driver's side.

"Look, I can take the kid back with us over the border."

Scott smiled and replied, "I don't think he'd go. Plus, I'm going to need him to I.D. his sister."

Brent slapped the roll cage and laughed, "Good luck to you."

Scott pulled the buggy back onto the pothole filled highway. The ride tended to be smoother as Scott was able to maneuver around debris better than he could in the Charger. Still Scott would have preferred the muscle car's thick skin to the smooth ride of the buggy.

As the buggy drove down the highway, Scott noticed that Sam sat hunched over working on something. "What are you doing there kiddo?" Scott asked.

Sam just shrugged his shoulders and responded in a small voice, "Nothing."

Scott returned his attention to driving. Sam was probably just thinking over his recent tragedies again and would like to spend some time alone. There was still a couple of hours of sun Scott figured.

Scott noticed that the wasteland was slowly giving way to grass. Here and there, clumps of tall yellow grass waved in the wind. More commonly however was the scrub grass that tenaciously clung low to the ground. Life was slowly returning to the blasted hard-packed wasteland.

The sun was starting to dip below the hills on the horizon and Scott figured it would be best if he found a place to set up camp. The boy and he could sleep under the stars. Everything would more than likely be all right as long as Scott kept his .30-06 rifle and his .357 Magnum ready.

The scout pulled the buggy off the road and parked it behind an old dilapidated barn at the base of low hill. Scott and Sam grabbed some blankets and a couple MREs. With the sun starting set and the barn between them and the old highway Scott figured it was safe enough to risk a small fire.

The two were comfortably eating their evening meal beside the low fire when Sam twisted his head toward the hill.

"Did you hear that?" the boy asked in surprise.

"Sorry, I guess you ears are better than mine. It is probably nothing," Scott replied before shoving another spoonful of mashed potatoes into his mouth.

Sam looked again towards the hill. This time Scott too thought he heard a low wail. The scout really wished he had his Charger now; the Geiger-counter would really help as an early warning against muties.

Scott picked up the hunting rifle and scrambled up the hill in the receding daylight. When he reached the top, he fell to his stomach and put the rifle to his cheek. The scout peered through the scope and surveyed in the direction he figured the wail came from.

It was not hard to locate the source of the noise. The only feature in the bleak landscape was an old twisted high-tension power tower. Near the top on the steel crossbars was a man; below him was a party of five humans furiously beating against the tower. The inhuman wails emanating from the people at the base left no doubt that Scott was looking at some muties.

"Damn," Scott cursed under his breath. Muties did not have to kill you by tearing you apart their radiation soaked bodies could do it if they got too close. If the man at the top had been quick enough, he may have put enough distance between himself and the muties to forestall him sharing their fate.

Scott prepared to fire on the first mutie when he cursed again a little louder.

"What is it?" Sam asked. Scott had forgotten about the boy who now sat next to him straining his young eyes to make out the forms near the tower.

"It's muties. They have a man trapped in that tower and if I shoot them, they will die near the base and the man will still be stuck up on top the tower. I don't think that man has weeks for the muties to decompose and the radiation to dissipate," Scott replied never taking his eyes off his target.

To make matters worse the sun was nearly behind the hills and Scott would lose his target once the light faded completely. Scott figured maybe he could fire the rifle and the muties may come towards him. It was definitely very unlikely, muties did not respond to firearms. They only tended to care about venting their insane rage on the living.

Scott took closer aim and was about to send a shot past the first mutie when suddenly the mutie turned towards the scout. Surprise stunned Scott for there was no way the mutie could know he was there. Scott had been silent and it was impossible for the mutie to see Scott unaided on top of the hill.

Then surprisingly the mutie let out a mournful wail and started towards the hill. His four irradiated companions also turned toward the hill and started to shamble towards it. The pain and rage filled cries sent a shiver through Scott's spine. The form of what had once been a man but now resembled a hotdog overcooked on the campfire made Scott's hair stand on end. The mutie had charred black skin; that cracked revealing the red and pink tender flesh underneath. He had pustules and blisters, which burst releasing its pent-up blood and pus all over his body. A milky film covered the mutie's left eye, but the rage and pain manifested itself in the right. As the abomination exhaled another wail between his blackened and cracked lips, two teeth bubbled out with bloody foam from his ruined mouth.

Then he heard it. Above the wails, Scott heard the noise of a boy yelling. Jumping to his feet Scott saw Sam at the base of the hill running towards the muties screaming to grab their attention. Without further thought, Scott brought the rifle to his shoulder and peered through the scope.

Sam was keeping his distance and drawing the monsters toward him. Scott did not know whether to be happy or angry with the lad. That was something to he would deal with later.

The blast of the .30-06 shattered the twilight. The first mutie's head exploded, the body stopped and stood still for a fraction of a second before it toppled backwards. Without missing a beat, Scott smoothly worked the rifle's bolt to eject the spent shell while it simultaneously chambered another cartridge. Within half a minute five radiated corpses littered the field between the hill and the tower.

The man in the tower worked his way back to earth and took a wide path around the corpses. He wore some faded denim jeans and a flannel coat that was patched in many places. His boots were worn and dusty. He met up with Sam and the two of them marched up the hill.

The stocky man was panting by the time he and the boy reached its top. The man's face burned dark by the relentless sun; his black hair matched the thick mustache on his round face. Scott was still fighting internally whether to rebuke or reward the boy and he was surprised when the stranger stuck out his hand.

"That was mighty fine shooting. I want to thank you and your son for saving me," the man said. Scott looked at Sam and the boy winked at the scout. "My name is Wade Benson. I was on my way back to Sturgis when my bike broke down. Those damn muties had me treed.

"Anyway, thanks. Your son says you are on your way to Sturgis to sign-up with the Anarchists."

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The Scout

Chapter 13

By Dwayne MacInnes

"So what brings you guys to Sturgis?" Wade inquired.

"The boy and I were put out of business working for the Reavers in Kansas when the scouts established the route to St. Louis," Scott replied as he sped the buggy down the old highway. Scott lashed Wade's bike to the back of the buggy. Sam sat in the small compartment between the seats and the roll bars that were perched in front of the rear mounted engine.

"Yeah, things aren't going to be the same. Scouts have been establishing routes all over the country. Soon it'll be like it was in the old days," Wade sighed. "There won't be any room for people like us anymore."

Scott just grunted noncommittally.

"You know, the old days weren't so bad. I miss watching TV or just having a Big Mac whenever I wanted," Wade continued to muse aloud.

"Do you know what I was before the Big Bang?"

Scott shook his head. The question was rhetorical for Wade soon provided the answer himself.

"I was freaking unemployed. Sure, I had the occasional odd job. But I never found something I really liked.

"Then one day the world explodes, it seems like everyone was dying off except for me. After the long winter and the initial chaos, I found my niche. I was good at surviving."

Wade suddenly broke into a long laugh, "Not like this is really surviving. I mean we are parasites living off the labors of the oppressed. But it is better than being one of the oppressed, right bro?"

Scott sat in silence for a couple of seconds as the rubble-strewn road passed under the buggy.

"Why don't you go to the other side?" Scott finally asked.

"I hear they put you in a work camp for a year somewhere on the coast before you can become a citizen. How is that better than being one of those slaves I was talking about?"

"You eventually get your freedom," Scott replied.

Wade nodded his head in silence.

"You know it is going to take more than rescuing me to get into the ranks of the Anarchists," Wade changed conversation tracks.

Scott stared out on the highway occasionally twisting the buggy around some large debris or rock that jutted from the surface of the crumbled concrete.

"Well, I guess I'll just have to present my references. I really haven't had time to get my resume in order."

Wade broke out in a genuine laugh that rocked his stocky frame. "Well, you can count me in for one of those references. Not that it'll do you any good. I have a tendency to spout my mouth off, voicing my opinions when I should keep my trap shut. You may have noticed that. I can't say I'm the most popular man in the group. But I'm still useful otherwise I'd have been a slave or dead long ago."

The sun was nearing its zenith when Scott noticed small-inhabited communities dotting amongst the hills. Men, women, and children worked in the fields wearing nothing more than rags and hacking at the ground with crude farm implements. Occasionally, a lone man with a rifle stood by overseeing the farming. As the buggy passed, everyone would momentarily stop and watch it as it sped down crumbled road.

Wade muttered under his breath. His face darkened as he looked upon the fields. "Still better than being one of those poor bastards," Scott barely heard Wade mutter over the hum of the engine.

"Up ahead is Fort Meade, just drive casually and don't get itchy. There'll send out a couple of escorts," Wade warned.

Soon a couple of motorcycles pulled up beside the buggy as they drove past the old Fort Meade Veterans Hospital. Wade quickly broke into a smile and waved at the men in hopes that they would decide not to open fire.

"You'd do well to let these men escort us to the gate. Sturgis should be only a few miles up the road," Wade offered.

The motorcyclists broke up their formation letting one lead in front of the buggy and the other trailing behind. Wade was good to his word for soon the small party approached a battered town. There were guards standing in front of a chain-linked gate that separated the town from the grasslands without.

The motorcyclists pulled behind the buggy as Scott brought the small vehicle to a stop in front of the gate. One of the guards dressed in a mishmash of clothing approached with an M-16 on his shoulder.

"Wade, good to see you," the guard said. "I see you brought some friends."

"Well, my bike broke down some ways back and these gents were kind enough to save me from some muties as well as give me a lift home."

"Where do you hail from?" the guard asked Scott.

"We used to belong to the Reavers down in Kansas until our operation was ended by those damned scouts. I heard there was some work for my type up here so I grabbed the boy and headed north."

"Hmmm," the guard nodded. "Not many Reavers survived that I hear. You're the first I've seen. But we have strict rules. I can't let you in. You'll have to work the fields for a time."

"Oh, come on Joe," Wade smiled, "the man's good. I swear by it. I've seen him take out five muties in rapid secession. We could really use him."

The guard stroked his stubbled chin. "I'm sorry Wade, you know the boss. I need more proof than his and your word."

Scott's stomach started to churn. Things could not get much worse he figured.

"If you need proof," Sam shot up from the back of the buggy. "How about this?"

The guard's jaw dropped and his eyes nearly popped out of his head. Wade muttered a small curse and Scott's stomach churned even worse as Sam presented in his outstretched hand, Scott's Scout badge to the guard. Scott was wrong -- things could get worse.

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The Scout

Chapter 14

By Dwayne MacInnes

Scott watched as if in slow motion the guard start to bring his assault rifle to bear on the scout. He knew he could not hope to pull his .357 Magnum from his holster in time. Not to mention killing the two guards, Wade, and the motorcyclists. They were in dire straits.

"My dad shot one of those bastards down in Wichita. He gave me this as a souvenir," Sam said to the guard.

Scott now noticed that his once shiny steel badge was now worn and dirty. He realized now what it was the boy had been working on when they first set out in the buggy.

The guard's face nearly split as he whispered, "Holy sh..."

"Damn, you are one useful S.O.B." Wade laughed.

"Now Joe you have to let him in," Wade continued. "Good against muties and U.S. Scouts that is something you don't find everyday."

The guard caught in a moment of indecision blurted, "How do we know he's not a scout?"

Wade broke into his infectious laugh again, "Are you kidding? It would be suicide for a scout to march in here. Plus, a scout would have no reason to save my sorry butt."

"I suppose you are right. OK, you may enter, but he's your responsibility Wade. Anything, and I mean *anything funny* happens and it is on your head.

"You better to take him to Taylor. He'll decide whether to sign him up or not."

The guard returned to the gate and pulled it open. Scott restarted the buggy and pulled it into the battered town.

Wade acted as navigator as Scott attempted to negotiate the broken roads. The town that once housed over 6,000 people before the Big Bang now was a former shadow of itself. Since that fateful day over a decade ago, it had fallen into decay. Several wooden structures had burned down, and some brick buildings had collapsed. However, it was evident that some urban renewal was taking place. The roads were clear and those buildings that had withstood the test of time were in good repair.

After a few minutes of driving, Wade had Scott pull the buggy into a parking lot on the north side of town. The lot belonged to an old warehouse that sported several rough looking guards. Scott noticed many motorcycles, buggies, and various automobiles parked in the lot.

Wade climbed out of the buggy after the engine died and stretched his thick limbs. Sam scampered out of his cramped area and seemed no worse for wear as he scanned the surrounding area in awe. Scott walked over to Wade patting some of the road dust off his faded denim jacket and leather pants.

Wade smiled as Scott neared, "This is where Taylor will be found. I have to warn you of a couple of things first. One is that Taylor is second in command; Moose Van Dyke is the real leader here. But Taylor is in charge of recruiting so try not to ruffle his feathers. Secondly, you may want to leave the boy near the buggy. This building is a slave pen. I don't think your son will want to see what happens inside.'

Scott thought about it for a second, "No, Sam comes along. I want him with me until...I'm more comfortable with our situation."

Wade chuckled, "Fair enough."

The trio walked across the broken asphalt toward the large building. There were loading docks off to one side and a doublewide door off to the other. Two burley guards, who resembled Hells Angels, stood in front of them with their M-16s at the ready.

"What's up Wade?" one of the large men grunted.

"I've brought a recruit for Taylor," Wade smiled.

"It may be a little while before you can see him. The auction is about to begin."

"That's fine, maybe I'll find something I like," Wade laughed.

"Yeah right," sneered the other guard. "You never bid on anything. Some folks say you don't like slaves."

"Well, that's my problem," Wade said instantly going from jovial to gruff. "Nothing says I have to like it and nothing says I have to own any."

"As long as it remains nothing," warned the first guard. "You and your friends may enter."

The interior was dank and dusty. The only light came from torches and lanterns situated inside. There were some pens made of chain link fencing at the back of the warehouse. In front of the pens was a large stage where a man stood describing the bidding rules in a loud voice to the audience of over hundred people between Scott and the stage.

Scott sucked inwardly as he noticed the people in the pens. The pens appeared to separate the slaves by age and sex. All wore only a sheet or robe. The gaunt faces looked forlornly out from behind the metal barrier.

"Today we have three beauties up for bid," the auctioneer bellowed from the stage. Scott was not paying too close attention he was busy scanning the cage containing a small group of girls running in ages from about five to eighteen. He was about to nudge Sam if to see if he recognized any of them when he felt a tug on his arm.

Scott looked around and noticed Sam. His face was red with rage and he was staring at the stage. "It's Mary," he hissed between clenched teeth.

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The Scout

Chapter 15

By Dwayne MacInnes

Scott followed Sam's gaze up to the platform where the auctioneer was standing. The man was holding the sheet that once covered the young woman who stood next to him. She had to be in her early twenties, but the resemblance to Sam was almost uncanny. The beautiful nude woman stood there in front of the crowd shivering in shame and fright.

"This lady here will make a good maid," the auctioneer bellowed. "She is young, strong and healthy."

The auctioneer forced Mary to turn completely around for the audience. Her long black hair swirled in the air as she turned. "I am sure I do not need to describe her other qualifications," the auctioneer laughed. "I shall now begin the bidding at five rounds or one can."

Wade leaned over to Scott and whispered lowly in his ear, "Money's no good now days, so everything's price is determined by bullets or food. Rifle cartridges and human canned goods are the highest form of currency. Pistol rounds and pet food are lower. One can of human food equal five rounds of rifle ammunition."

"I bid five rounds," one man yelled.

"I have five rounds here," hollered the auctioneer.

"Two cans and five rounds," another countered.

"Those better be two cans of human not pet like you did last time, Burke," warned the auctioneer.

"Two cans human, and five rounds rifle," the man named Burke clarified.

"Twenty rounds," a third man offered.

"I have twenty rounds for this beauty. Are there any other takers?" the auctioneer worked the crowd.

"Four cans and five rounds," the first man shouted to regain the bid.

"Six cans," a big man sitting at a table near the stage bellowed before the auctioneer could acknowledge the previous bid. The crowd hushed. Scott figured that this was a rather large bid.

"I have six cans, do I have any other offers?" the auctioneer asked. The crowd remained mute.

"Will anyone give me six cans, five rounds?" the auctioneer queried the crowd.

"It is too early in the auction for me to blow money like that," a man yelled to the auctioneer. Many of his fellows nodded their heads in agreement.

"Very well, six cans going once...going twice...sold for six cans," the auctioneer concluded by draping the sheet back onto Mary's shoulders before she was escorted off the stage.

Scott marked the man who had purchased Mary before giving Sam a reassuring squeeze. Wade stared ahead towards the stage. Scott thought he heard a low throaty groan come from the stocky man.

After two and half hours of bidding, the auctioneer sold the myriad of slaves. Many of the young strong men were to be field workers, as were some of the more stout females. Most of the women however were termed 'maids' and were sold obviously to add to one's harem or as breeding stock.

What sickened Scott the most was that some of the young boys were sold to become eunuchs to serve as personal guards as they matured. He did not want to dwell on what would happen to the young girls. Scott felt an unbridled rage building in his gut. It took all of his effort to force it back down deep inside of him.

"I guess it is time to introduce you to Taylor," Wade said with a little remorse in his voice.

Scott nodded and gripped Sam's hand tightly as Wade led them forward. Scott did not want to risk losing his grip on the boy for the fear of becoming separated from him. If that happened, one of these people could mistake him for a slave.

The crowd of bidders stood around talking to each other in small groups as Wade made his way through the throng. Finally, the three made their way to the base of the raised stage where there was the table Scott noticed earlier. A small lamp burned on its surface giving off scant light. A group of four men was in deep conversation on the other side of the table when Wade approached.

Wade cleared his voice and the four men turned towards him.

"Mr. Taylor I have found a man interested in becoming one of the Anarchists," Wade continued.

Scott stepped forward and tried to make out the faces of the men in the dim light. It was difficult to see in the deep shadows.

"Very well," one of the men replied as he stepped closer to the table. "What are his qualifications?"

"He's a former member of the Reavers down in Kansas, he saved my life last night when my bike broke down on patrol, and he has personally killed a United States Scout," Wade replied.

"Wade, I need more proof than that. I am sure he saved your life, but how do I know he isn't lying about the other two?" the shadowed man named Taylor asked.

"I figure lying is a quality you would appreciate," Scott interrupted Wade. The once boisterous crowd silenced and turned their attention to the exchange between Scott and Taylor. Taylor took a step back, obvious surprised by Scott's response. Before Wade could remind Scott not to ruffle Taylor's feathers Scott added, "I cannot prove my first claim however I can the last." Scott tossed the worn steel badge at Taylor.

The dark man grabbed the badge in midair and studied it. Everyone was now paying attention to the two men. Low whispers broke out from the crowd as Taylor weighed the evidence presented to him.

"Son, I like the way you do business. Welcome aboard," Taylor said as he shot his hand out. Scott grabbed his hand and pumped it in a firm handshake.

Taylor bent forward and the light from the table revealed his broad grinning face, "I think we are going to get along just fine."

Scott hid his surprise as he stared into the smiling face of the man who had just purchased Sam's older sister.

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The Scout

Chapter 16

By Dwayne MacInnes

"Wade, I need to talk to..." Taylor paused.

"Scott Duncan" Scott replied.

"Yes, thank you Mr. Duncan. Wade I need to check Mr. Duncan's credentials myself. You may want to show the man's son where they will be bunking and give him a tour of the town while we consult on some business."

Sam shot a frightened look up to Scott. "Don't worry son, I'll take good care of you," Wade reassured the boy.

Scott looked into Wade's eyes and then he looked down at Sam, "It'll be OK, Sam." Scott looked back into Wade's eyes sternly warning him that it better be OK.

"Nothing to worry about, I owe you my life," Wade laughed.

Scott watched as Sam and Wade disappeared in the crowd as Taylor relayed some last minute instructions to a subordinate.

"Take my acquisition to my chambers; I'll be there later tonight." The subordinate bowed and left the two men alone.

"Well, Mr. Duncan I need to see if you are indeed Anarchist material," Taylor finally said as the two men started to exit the warehouse. He led Scott a few blocks past the warehouse to an old abandoned strip mall. In the parking lot, in front of a brick wall -- riveted with bullet holes -- stood some woodened cutouts in the shape of people. There were various lines painted on the concrete at regular intervals from the targets.

Taylor stopped Scott a few yards from the farthest line before the target and motioned towards the shooting range. "You may show me your stuff."

"Will this be on your dime or mine?" Scott asked the recruiter as he hefted his .357.

"Well, I don't expect you to come loaded for bear, especially if you just made your way north through the Wastes. Here take mine," Taylor said holding out a black Colt M1911-A1.

Colt M1911-A1

Scott smiled and took the automatic pistol, he ejected and checked the clip and when satisfied slapped it back into the handle. Scott pulled back the slide chambering a round.

Taylor stepped back and waved a hand towards the wooden targets. "You can fire from any one of those lines..."

Before Taylor could finish speaking Scott fired off the entire seven round magazine in quick succession at the targets from where he originally stopped. The gunfire ripped through the air with a deafening blast. Smoke and the smell of exhausted gunpowder emanated from the spent pistol. The brass shells fell to the ground with a light tinking noise.

Scott looked over at Taylor. The big man smiled smugly back. "You know you may have wanted to get a little closer. You are about 75 yards from the targets. I doubt you could have hit anything from there."

Scott just shrugged his shoulders and returned the pistol to Taylor handle first. Taylor accepted the automatic and then marched up to the targets as Scott started collecting the spent shells. It was common practice to pick up any loose brass shells. Finding bullets and reloading rounds were two different things. After the Big Bang, almost everyone knew how to reload rounds because the likelihood of one finding the right caliber round for one's weapon was remote at best.

After Scott finished he walked up to Taylor who was standing in front of the targets. He was shaking his head and speaking to himself in a low voice.

"Impossible," was all Scott heard as he stood next to Taylor.

"Well, did I pass?" Scott asked.

Taylor shook his head to bring himself back to the present. He looked a Scott in amazement and then pointed towards the targets. "You hit every one of them."

Scott smiled and looked at the seven targets he shot at. Just as he knew, every target had a bullet hole where their hearts would have been if they were living human beings. Scott shoved the casings into Taylor's hand.

"I think it is about time you meet Moose," Taylor said with obvious awe in his voice.

Taylor then led Scott to an old retail building that belonged to the vacant mall. The door swung open with ease and Scott was ushered into the middle of the store. What little light penetrated the interior issued from the glass doors they had just entered. Scott peered around the old store. Old mannequins were scattered about the store casting eerie shadows. Empty clothing racks and boxes littered the interior.

"You stay here, I will get Moose," Taylor said before he marched away into the darkness. Scott heard him open a door and then close it behind him.

Scott stood where he was for a few minutes. The naked mannequins were his only companions. The store was silent and still. Scott did not know how long he was supposed to wait there in the middle of the store alone. He was about to go and try to find Taylor when he thought he heard a noise.

At first Scott thought, maybe it was Taylor returning. However, the big man did not materialize. Then Scott thought he noticed movement. Maybe it was the trick the light, for he was sure he saw one of the mannequins move. Then he felt a presence approaching behind him.

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Breakdown

By Dwayne MacInnes

T'mai felt the shudder as the propulsion unit's fuel-line ruptured. Alarms and lights flashed inside the cabin alerting T'mai that he would need to take immediate action to shut down the main engines before the saucer-shaped spacecraft exploded into a small nova. Almost unconsciously, the space traveler flipped switches, pushed buttons, and visually scanned dials.

T'mai whistled in dismay. The damage could have been a lot worse and the back-up batteries were unharmed and fully charged. However, the location for such a breakdown could not have happened in a more unsatisfactory area of space.

This part of the galaxy was in the fringe area and hospitable planets were far and few between. Most of the habitable world's populations comprised of wild and dangerous life forms. Rumors of survey parties visiting such worlds and never returning were standard warnings against traveling through such remote and perilous areas.

Nonetheless, T'mai felt the risks were worth the gains if he could take the shortcut through the fringe and reach the Consortium's semi-rotational speculation meeting early. Unfortunately, the equivalent to a tire blowout left him stranded in the cold remorseless vastness of space.

Sure, the saucer could limp to a planet, but the chances of finding any help were remote and fraught with danger. Few of the worlds in the sector had reached sufficient technical skills to offer the rudimentary materials T'mai would need to repair his ship. None would be forthcoming with help to launch his damaged craft back into space. The curious inhabitants tended to kill those they did not understand or worse yet kept their forlorn captives caged up like a wild zoological specimen for their own primitive studies.

T'mai scanned the dials and digital scanners again. The fuel-line's rupture had damaged the food stores. The lack of rations would further limit his options of possible planets on which to land. The readout from the navigational computer listing those worlds only made T'mai's situation worse. The only possible candidate for T'mai to limp his crippled craft to was the worse of the lot. A place the primitives of the planet called Earth.

With the lack of the navigational shields, the saucer-shaped craft would be visible to the various RADAR units. These units the locals used to keep an ever present vigilance against each other. This sad and inhospitable world had not even evolved to the point where they were not a danger to themselves. T'mai shuddered to think of the approaching day when these primitives ventured beyond their own solar system.

As the shiny saucer fluttered out of the sky in a barely controlled descent, T'mai recalled the story of the survey vessel crippled by a similar incident as his. As the survey vessel descended during one of the planet's electrical storms, a primitive's aircraft fired its rockets and shot the vessel down near a habitation they called Roswellnewmexico. No one ever heard from the craft or crew after its hasty mayday and warning.

Saucer Ship

T'mai noted with some satisfaction that though he was on the same continental mass he was far from the reported location of the lost survey vessel. With careful skill, the saucer landed behind two wooden structures on the outskirts of a local habitation center.

T'mai exited the craft and visually scanned the damage. The local star by now had descended below the horizon .T'mai used a small light to illuminate the damaged area. Fortunately, if T'mai could obtain the correct material and food stores he could easily repair the fuel-line. It would take only a few moments to patch the rupture and have his craft safely spaceward.

The main concern was; could T'mai finish his work before the locals located his craft and made him one of their specimens. T'mai stifled a shudder, he had work to do and such thoughts would not assist in his need to find the materials he required.

T'mai grabbed his dimensional carrying case and donned his standard exploratory kit. He quickly scanned the structures for some forms of life. It appeared no locals resided in the domiciles. A quick survey around the perimeter, T'mai figured would be all he needed before he began his exploration of the interiors.

The small spaceman was halfway through his circuit when he heard a small party behind him call out to him. T'mai froze as his translator crackled in his hearing orifice the word "Hey!" being shouted from a local behind him.

T'mai slowly turned around. More than likely the Earthlings would have their primitive, yet lethal weaponry trained on him. T'mai knew that he did not stand a chance for survival on such a remote and dangerous world.

"No one lives there kid," the translator crackled again. T'mai turned to see that one of the Earthlings was addressing him. The primitive was a third again taller than T'mai though most in his group were about the same size as the space traveler. What astounded T'mai the most was that all the smaller Earthlings wore various disguises. Was this a ritual for greeting strangers?

"That's a neat costume you have there," the taller Earthling continued. "I'm surprised your parents are letting you out alone. You should join us."

T'mai stood there silently as he slowly tried to digest all that was happening. Apparently, the tall Earthling, the leader, must have figured T'mai as another disguised smaller Earthling. Some sort of child.

"I'm sorry kid, what is your name?"

"My name is T'mai," the translator responded from his chest.

"Man that is a cool costume. Voice box and everything" the Earthling sounded astounded. "Timmy, I am Dave and you really should join up with us for safety."

"Yes, Dave, you have made a good point. There is safety in numbers and I shall be happy to join your party," T'mai responded.

"Wow you really know how to play the part," Dave said as he herded the crowd down the street towards a structure with the lights on.

T'mai noticed one of the Earthlings donning a bed sheet kept up a constant wail. The concerned alien tugged on Dave's jacket.

"Pardon me, Dave but it appears one of our party members is in some pain."

Dave gave off a bark of laughter, "That's good. It is just Simon he is pretending to be a ghost."

T'mai continued walking with the group towards the house as he momentarily thought about the strange belief system where one becomes linen in the afterlife. Surely, these Earthlings must hold their bedding in high esteem.

As they reached the domicile, one of the smaller Earthlings approached the door and pushed a button. The ring of the summoning bell chimed through the house and as the door opened, the entire group as one recited a greeting, "Trick or treat."

T'Mai

The elderly Earthling at the door held a bowl brimming with what appeared to be different kinds of sweet snacks in colorful wrappers. "My, what a wonderful group of spooks we have here," the old female responded as she parceled out some snacks to each costumed Earthling. Even a few snacks found their way into T'mai's carrying case.

After each received their gift, Dave herded the Earthlings towards the next domicile. Again, some one depressed the summoning bell and again the same ritual greeting, "Trick or treat" recited. This time it was a man a little older than Dave who answered the door and he handed out little copper discs. T'mai looked at some closely. On one side, there was the profile of an Earthling's face and on the other a building of some sort. Before depositing them into his carrying case, T'mai scanned them with his composition matrix scanner on his hand.

"A few of these discs are composed of 95 % copper and 5 % zinc. However most are 97.5 % zinc and 2.5 % copper," T'mai said aloud.

Dave again broke into his barking laugh, "Or as we Earthlings call them 'pennies'."

"Pennies," T'mai replied. "Interesting things. What do you use them for?"

"Well, E.T. these are the smallest unit of money used in this country," Dave replied with a smirk.

"Ah, I see a monetary unit," T'mai said before dropping the last disc in his case. He did not know what eetee meant, but perhaps it was a term of endearment. Regardless, his foraging was proceeding along well. Before long, he would have enough snacks and discs to repair his ship sufficiently for its continued trip through space.

It indeed was not very long after that the group was returning down the street where they met up with T'mai. The night's foraging was most lucrative. The smaller Earthlings' bags were full of sugary foodstuff and some metal discs. T'mai puzzled over the ritualistic greeting "Trick or Treat" but he could not make any sense of it. However, the greeting apparently compels the occupant of a residence to offer gifts of either food or money. Because of this adventure, T'mai would recommend that there be further studies of the planet. Though such work was perilous it was worth noting that the inhabitants were interesting and not as deadly as T'mai believed.

As the group walked past the buildings that T'mai had landed his craft behind, the spaceman pulled away from the group and made his way to his stricken craft. As he figured, it did not take long before he repaired the fuel-line and replenished the food stores. The small saucer shaped spacecraft once again resumed its interstellar trek as it shot into space with a flash.

T'mai never realized that only moments after he vacated the planet, police cars and FBI vehicles descended upon the scene of his landing. The next morning as Dave read about the reported UFO sighting in the morning paper he scratched his head wondering about that strange kid he took 'Trick or treating' the previous night.

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The Scout

Chapter 17

By Dwayne MacInnes

Scott's instincts took over. He swung behind him with his elbow to be rewarded with a man exhaling violently as he struck home in his assailant's stomach. As the man doubled over, Scott grabbed him around the neck and flung the man into some wooden crates. The man crashed into the boxes breaking the brittle wooden boards.

The Scout recovered in time to catch another man armed with a knife running towards him. Scott latched onto the upraised arm with the weapon and as the man continued his forward rush, Scott used this man's own momentum to flip the man onto the ground. With the wind knocked out of him the attacker just laid on the ground momentarily stunned.

Scott easily wrenched the knife out of the second man's hand. He backed up as still another man materialized out of the shadows and swung a long metal bar at Scott. The bar passed in front of Scott barely touching his denim jacket as Scott hopped back out of range.

The new attacker stepped in for another swing when with lightning reflexes Scott ran towards the man and before the attacker could ready his bar again the Scout was behind him with the knife to his throat. The assailant dropped the metal bar with a loud clang to the ground.

Scott was surprised to hear someone clapping from behind him. Scott turned towards the new sound as he tossed the third attacker from him.

"You are a very resourceful man Mr. Duncan," a strange voice addressed Scott. Scott could barely make out two shapes in the dark shadows. One he recognized as Taylor.

"The test is over," the stranger said loudly. Suddenly, some men removed a cover from above and light poured into the store's interior through a skylight in the roof.

Scott shielded his eyes from the bright blast of illumination. He watched as the three attackers slowly recovered themselves and walked over to Taylor and a thin man with short-cropped gray hair.

"Thank you gentlemen, you may return to your posts," the thin man said. The three assailants left the store.

"Mr. Duncan I am Moose Van Dyke," the thin man said as he extended his hand towards Scott.

Scott accepted the firm handshake, "So this was just another test?"

"Why yes," Moose replied. "Taylor has told me about your shooting, and from what I've just witnessed you would make a fine addition to the Anarchists.

"But please, Mr. Duncan, let's step into my office and we can talk in private. I may have a special opening available."

The two men led Scott into a large room that at one time must have been the store manager's office. A skylight let the sun's rays illuminate the room. Scott notice various maps tacked to the walls. An executive desk sat against a far wall that nearly drowned in scattered papers.

"Please have a seat Mr. Duncan," Moose offered a leather chair for Scott to recline in. Moose shifted some papers on the desk and as he sat on the corner, something fell to the ground.

No one seemed to notice the small object except Scott who only glanced at it shortly. Taylor started for the door, "I take it you will conduct this interview in private."

"No, please stay Taylor," Moose said.

"Well, sir I did make a purchase today and I would like..."

"I said stay," Moose responded in a stern commanding voice, "Your trollop can wait until we are done here."

Taylor walked back into the room like a chastised dog. He found another leather chair and pulled it up next to Scott.

"Well, now Mr. Duncan. Were you ever in the military?" Moose asked.

"I was in ROTC before the Big Bang," Scott lied.

"Hmmm, I could tell you had some combat experience that the average waster doesn't possess.

"Now, as I said before I may have special position for you," Moose continued.

Scott's eyes glanced down towards the floor again. He noticed that small object again. It appeared to be a nametag. Scott tried to decipher the letters as Moose went on talking.

"But first I must say, you kind of stepped into the middle of something. It really is regrettable. However, it looks like it may be possible for you to rectify to situation." Scott only was half listening. He almost had the nametag worked out. The last name on it was definitely Van Dyke. Obviously, it belonged to Moose.

"If you are truly interested in joining the anarchists I just need you to perform one last little test," Moose droned one.

Scott finally worked it out and his surprise at the revelation matched the timing of the point Moose was laboriously coming to. As Scott read on the nametag 'Col. Chris Van Dyke' Moose said, "I need you to kill Wade Benson."

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The Scout

Chapter 18

By Dwayne MacInnes

"I'm sorry to have to involve you in some of our politics so soon," Moose continued. "But, you see Wade's accident in the waste was no accident. We tampered with his bike so that it would break down in the middle of nowhere. The muties would have been a nice touch until you inadvertently interfered."

"You see Wade asks too many questions. He doesn't fit in," Taylor added.

Moose gave Taylor a stern look and the big man shrank back into his chair.

"Sorry, sir," Taylor offered meekly.

"As my second in command has put it, Wade is a trouble maker. We cannot afford to have trouble makers in the Anarchists," Moose continued.

"So you need me to be your hit man is that it?" Scott interrupted.

"That is one way of putting," Moose replied. "You are close to Wade and if he was to have another accident or if you were to get into a fight leaving Wade dead no one would ask any questions."

Scott stood up and walked over to one of the maps on the wall as if in contemplation. "You can't dirty your hands because it would be bad for morale if you started killing off your own men. You can't use one of your own men for fear of them talking.

"But you can use me. I'm new, I'm a stranger and if I point the finger at you who would believe me anyway."

"You are very astute Mr. Duncan," Moose smiled.

"Please, call me Scott. However, I believe it would only be fair if we laid our cards on the table Colonel."

Taylor shot out of his chair and Moose looked at Scott in surprise.

"How..." Moose began.

Scott pointed towards the nametag on the floor. "I think you could use a better secretary."

Moose chuckled and motioned Taylor to resume his seat. "I guess I did not appreciate how astute you really are Mr....ah, Scott."

"Look, I used to be military, you use to be military and if I am correct Taylor used to be military," Scott said. "So we belong to an order few out there can still claim."

"Captain Barry Taylor," Moose nodded towards Taylor, "and I belonged to Ellsworth Air Force Base before the Big Bang. We were there when everything hit the fan.

"The best scenario we could figure out was that nut job in North Korea smuggled a mobile missile launcher into China. They launched on Russia and before anyone knew what was going on, everyone's automated defense system kicked in. Nuclear, dirty, chemical and biological bombs are flying across the globe.

"Fortunately, Ellsworth was untouched. We lived in those underground bunkers for as long as our food held out. What was it Captain, six months?"

Taylor nodded in affirmation.

"When we popped up to see what was left there were only fifty-three of us alive. We didn't have much trouble establishing our own little empire here in Sturgis. We had the weapons, we had the vehicles and we had the tactics.

"Sure by the time we finished establishing the Anarchists and had established our borders across North and South Dakota there was only me the Captain and five other soldiers left. You fought three of them today."

Scott pointed towards the maps on the walls. "It looks like the restoration of the United States could really put a damper on your empire building."

Taylor nodded again, "Yes, they could. That is why we are digging out the Minuteman..."

"Captain!" roared Moose.

Scott nodded his head, "That is why you are digging out a nuclear warhead."

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The Scout

Chapter 19

By Dwayne MacInnes

Before the Colonel could say anything, Scott broke into a smile, "Colonel, Sir I like the way you think. With an unfired nuclear warhead, you could negotiate your own country. The last thing the U.S. needs right now is another nuclear war."

Moose Van Dyke was scowling. He did not like to have his plans revealed. Scott continued to play his part.

"Colonel, you have nothing to worry about from me. I'm in. As proof of my loyalty I will 'take out' your troublemaker -- tonight."

The Colonel broke into a smile, "Please, call me Moose. I don't like to flaunt my military credentials around. It's not too wise nowadays after the Big Bang and all."

Scott smiled towards Taylor, "Moose, Taylor, it is going to be wonderful relationship. Too bad we don't have anything to celebrate with."

Taylor pulled out a metal hip flask, "It pays to be prepared."

"Captain, that wouldn't wet my whistle," Moose replied as he pulled out an old bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey from his drawer.

"I've been saving this for a special occasion and I think it has arrived," the Colonel laughed.

Taylor and Scott joined in.

Moose took a long swig from the bottle before he passed it to Taylor. Taylor followed suit. Scott took enough to make it look like he was drinking and passed the bottle back to Moose.

The three men joked and passed the bottle around until it was almost empty. The sun was starting to set when Taylor fell unconscious into the chair. Moose laughed and pointed towards the Captain.

"That is why he's only a Captain," Moose slurred. Scott laughed and pretended to stagger towards the door.

"Colonel, shir," he slurred. "I have a mission to complete."

"Very well, but pleashe call me Mooshe."

Scott gave a drunken salute and staggered out of the door and across the store. Once outside Scott gave up his drunken persona. He had little time if he wanted to get Sam and rescue his sister before Taylor came to or Moose started to have second thoughts.

Fortunately, from the time he spent at the maps, Scott learned where Taylor and the new residences lived. The sun dipped behind the horizon and Scott hurried down the street.

He soon found the building where Taylor resided. It was a two-story brick building. There were guards posted on the outside and metal bars on the windows. Scott ducked down the alley and surveyed the buildings exterior.

Fortunately, the old fire escape was still intact and the steel bars fastened to the windows from the outside. Obviously, Taylor did not want people to get out. Scott cautiously crept his way up the metal steps of the fire escape. Other than a couple of groans from his weight on the weathered stairs, Scott made little noise.

The scout peered in through every window he could. The first story ones just revealed a kitchen, dining room, and some guard barracks. The second story windows were dark except one. Scott made his way over and looked through the window.

Inside Scott noticed a large bedroom. There was a lamp burning on a stand across the room from the bed. On the bed, a figure in diaphanous clothing shook as it sobbed. Scott knew he found the room he was looking for.

Scott pulled out his Swiss Army knife and began to unscrew a couple of the bars off the window. Recently installed, the steel bars' screws contained little rust to hinder his work. Within five minutes, Scott had the bars removed. He tried the window and it opened with ease. Taylor must have figured that locking windows would be useless when there were bars on them.

Scott stepped through the window and crept over to the sobbing girl. He knew it was Mary from her raven black hair. As quick as a cobra Scott wrapped his hand over the girl's mouth to prevent her giving alarm. The girl struggled fiercely in his arms.

"I came with Sam, we are here to rescue you," Scott whispered in her ear.

Mary suddenly became limp and she looked into Scott's face. She saw the kind and sincere look he gave and nodded that she understood. Scott pulled off his denim jacket and gave it to the shivering woman. Mary quickly pulled it on as she studied the scout in his black leather pants and his grimy white t-shirt.

Scott ushered Mary out the window and step through again into the night onto the fire escape when he suddenly heard the unmistakable sound of a cocking revolver behind his head.

"That's as far as you go Scout," a voice hissed behind him.

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The Scout

Chapter 20

By Dwayne MacInnes

Scott could feel the cool metal of the pistol pressed into his skull and the warm breath of his assailant as he hoarsely whispered into Scott's ear. Scott could not see the man with the gun as he stood behind the scout.

"Well, Scout what brought you here in the first place?" the voice grunted. Scott looked over to Mary the young woman just stood there clutching the jacket to her small frame. Her face frozen with horror and drained of blood appeared luminously pale in the moonlight.

Scott found himself in a perilous situation. In a fraction of second, the debate in his head took two forms. He knew he could tell the truth, but there was no telling if his captor would believe it. On the other hand, he could lie, but again there was no telling if the man with the gun to his head would buy it. Either way he could wind up dead.

Scott gambled and determined to tell the truth. It was just implausible enough to be plausible.

"I came to rescue the boy's sister over there," Scott said with a forced steady voice. Anyone who ever said that they did not feel fear when a gun was to their head was either a liar or insane. Scott was neither and it took every ounce of reserve to keep the quiver out of his voice.

"So the boy isn't your son after all?"

Scott slowly shook his head. He tried to steal a glance behind him but all he could make out was a dark silhouette.

"You are not here to destroy the military grade materiel at Fort Meade's Veterans Hospital?" the voice pressed.

"I didn't know anything about until just now," Scott replied.

"Damn," the voice cursed into Scott's ear.

The gun left Scott's head and he heard with relief as the man eased the hammer back into its rest position. Scott spun around and finally received a good look at his assailant. It was none other than Wade.

"I suppose you saw Moose Van Dyke?" Wade asked.

Scott just nodded his head.

"I suppose those bastards were surprised to see me weren't they?"

Scott looked into Wade's eyes. He noticed the sadness and disappointment that registered upon his face as Scott told him about how they sabotaged his bike.

"I suppose as a test of your loyalty -- you are to finish me off, eh?" Wade asked forlornly.

"Yeah, that was the gist of it," Scott replied. "However, I'm just here for the girl and as soon as I get Sam, I'm out of here. You can join us if you wish."

"The boy is at your buggy, and I recommend that you join him ASAP. I have some unfinished business here," Wade said.

Wade stuck out his hand and grabbed Scott's in a firm handshake. "Well, pal. Thanks again for sparing my life. I hope you make it back to the States safe and sound."

Scott nodded and then quickly ushered Mary down the fire escape. As they reached the alley, Scott stole a glance up to the landing. However, Wade was now long gone.

By ducking down alleys and hiding behind derelict automobiles, the pair finally made their way back to the buggy undetected. Sam nearly yelped in surprise to see his sister safe and sound. The two siblings embraced each other and tears fell from their eyes from the reunion.

Scott allowed them a moment to themselves before he interrupted. "Okay, kids we need to get out of here and quick."

"How do we get passed the guards at the gate?" Sam asked. The boy was once again wedged between the seats and the buggies frame positioned in front of the engine.

"Mary, do you think you can operate that gun in front of you?" Scott asked as he fired up the engine.

"Yeah, if I have to. I have no love for these scum," the young woman said vehemently.

"Good," Scott said as he pulled the buggy onto the road. "We may need to shoot our way out."

Scott weaved his way through town and approached the gate that blocked the road exiting town without any opposition. However, the gate appeared closed and locked and there stood two guards with M-16s at the ready.

As Scott pulled the buggy to a stop in front of the gate, two more guards appeared from behind.

"No one leaves town after sundown," one of the guards yelled. "You better head back to town now or we will be forced to open fire."

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The Scout

Chapter 21

By Dwayne MacInnes

Scott looked over to Mary. The young woman shook with fear. Her hands frozen beside her body were useless and Scott cursed to himself. He forgot that these people lived in fear; they did not have the combat reflexes that he had acquired over the years.

"Hey buddy, are you going to turn that jalopy around or do we have to riddle your bodies with lead?" exclaimed the lead guard.

The scout revved the engine resigned to ram the gate when suddenly a flash of light flooded the sky behind them. A fraction of a second later a loud explosive blast followed.

Everyone including the occupants of the buggy turned to see what was amiss. Yellow and red flames licked the sky and the occasional crack of small arms fire punctuated the night.

"What the fuh..." the lead guard ejaculated before some one back in town started yelling.

"Uprising! Everyone to arms the slaves are in revolt."

Another guard exclaimed, "They must have reached one of the weapons cache and then destroyed it!"

Scott quickly took advantage of the situation. "Dammit man, open the gate. I need to alert the veterans' hospital. Then you must block this gate so no one can escape."

The lead guard quickly fumbled around with his keys before he found the correct one. The gate flew opened barely seconds before the buggy leapt through them.

The small buggy flew down the road as men from Fort Meade's Veterans Hospital ran towards town. A few vehicles also started to make their way onto the road. Scott just weaved his way between them before an M113 armored personnel carrier forced him to halt by blocking his way.

M113 APC

The gunner looked down from the M113 onto the buggy, "Hey, were the hell are you guys going?"

"Umm, we were sent to dispatch the garrison to put down the slave revolt in town," Scott replied.

"Well, consider it done. Now turn that buggy around and get back to town or you will be shot," the gunner yelled back.

The explosive rumble of a machine gun tore through the chaos. Scott watched as bullets pounded into the side of the APC as it stitched its way up to the gunner. The Anarchist tumbled backwards as bullets perforated his body.

Scott glanced over to the source of the noise to see Mary had the M60 machinegun elevated as far as it could go. Smoke still streamed from the barrel.

"There's no way in hell I'm going back," Mary said in a stern angry voice.

Before any of the Anarchists on the road could determine what was going on, Scott had the buggy swerving around the APC and disappearing down the battered road. A few rifles and pistols opened up on the buggy before the three escapees vanished into the night.

The sun was rising over the eastern horizon by the time Scott pulled the buggy off the highway and into the city that Sam and Scott had met up with the Anderson Brothers Salvagers. The scout stopped the buggy when he reached the post office that contained his Charger.

As he stepped out of the vehicle, he noticed that Mary and Sam were both sleeping. No one had bothered with conversation during the night. The only thing that mattered to them was escaping the Anarchists.

Scott stretched his limbs and released a yawn as he looked upon the two sleeping figures. Sam wedged in the cramped compartment behind the seats had curled himself up like a dog. Mary's head rested upon her chest.

That was when Scott noticed that the denim jacket was soaked in blood. "NO!" Scott yelled as he rushed to the passenger side of the buggy.

Sam shot up from his curled up position and looked towards the scout. As he followed Scott's gaze to his sister Sam quickly reached out to Mary and shook her still form.

"Mary! Wake up, Mary!" Sam cried with tears flowing down his cheeks.

Scott lifted the woman out of the seat and laid her upon the litter-strewn road. He quickly searched her body and found the bullet wound. One of the Anarchists weapons had found its mark. The bullet had entered from just under Mary's right arm and exited just above her right breast.

The scout was able to register a feeble pulse. Quickly he removed the denim jacket and tore off the upper right part of the nightgown. Then Scott tore off the lower hem of the nightgown, being the cleanest material around he used it to bind Mary's wound.

"Is she going to live?" Sam sobbed.

Scott looked into Sam's watering eyes. The sorrow there nearly floored him. Scott returned to attending to Mary, "Sam, go get the first aid kit out of the Charger."

As the boy ran into the dilapidated building Scott finally answered, "I don't know."

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The Archaeology Students

Part One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Are you ready for the upcoming archaeological dig?"

"Am I? I thought it would never come! If I hear internal strife caused the downfall one more time..."

"Don't you like these traveling classes?"

"It is the slow boats that get me."

"Well, we're almost to the site. Thank goodness they installed this train or it could be another couple of days."

"I cannot imagine how long it would take a sail barge to cross the desert."

"If this place's infrastructure were still in tact, we could have gone by some electric vehicle."

"There just is not enough reason rebuild it yet."

"If it were important, they would develop a faster form of transportation."

"You know, in ancient times..."

"Uh oh, here we go."

"What?"

"Here you go with your flying machines again."

"It is true. You have read the literature. They had all kinds of flying machines. They had airplanes and flying contraptions we don't even have words for anymore. They put jetpacks and flying cars in so many of their stories that they had to have something along those lines too. They at least had to be looking, and perhaps they were close!"

"Yeah -- well -- internal strife caused their downfall."

"Why you..."

"Kidding! I was just kidding! However, you know from our class that they were very reluctant to use clean renewable energy sources. They went to war for their fuel needs. This caused a great deal of problems for them."

"Them? Problems for them? What about us?"

"True, we don't have speedy transportation, and we must take those boats you love some much and other forms of transportation to get to distance places -- like here."

"They had airplanes. They could travel half way around the world in half a day. It takes us weeks."

"True, but we are not burning fossil fuels or polluting the environment."

"Blah blah blah! I've been dreaming of flying for a long time."

"You know, an ancient dream analysis specialist said that dreams of flight were actually dreams about sex."

"I am familiar with Dr. Freud. He also said that sometimes a cigar was just a cigar."

"Perhaps when you dream about sex, you're actually dreaming about flying."

"You're hysterical -- you should go on the comedy circuit sometime."

"So tell me, why did you sign up for this class anyway? You're majoring in what -- engineering?"

"Engineers can have other interests. I came on this trip to see if there is anything to be found out about their flying machines. We have some of their technology, but what technology has been lost? Did they have jetpacks or flying cars?"

"You took this class to find evidence of flying machines?"

"Sure! This was one of the most advanced civilizations on earth at one time. Any city of theirs is probably rich in technological history. If they had some specialized flying technology, I'll find it."

"What good will it do you? They used up all of the fuels they had."

"I wish I had a time machine and tell them not to waste all of it. They could have saved some for future generations."

"Well, as you are well aware, time-travel is impossible. In any event, those fuels would have run out at some point anyway."

"I know. Perhaps I'll find some of their work on alternative energy sources. They did do that you know."

"True, but they got in that game too late to save them. They spent all of their money and resources on obtaining their particular fuels. They had wars. They borrowed money. Before they could fix those problems, other places were well ahead of them technology-wise. This caused internal strife -- and you know the rest."

"Boring -- boring -- and -- boring!"

"Like engineering classes are any better."

"Point taken. I just wish the class covered more about their technology. Just because it was an ancient civilization, doesn't mean they didn't know things."

"Like how to make airplanes?"

"Exactly! We know they had many sophisticated technologies. Just because their culture is dead does not mean it is useless."

"The entire hemisphere was practically unlivable for centuries!"

"So some of their sophisticated technology involved weaponry..."

"It was not only their weapons that doomed them. Their burning of fuels also severely damaged their ecosystem."

"Not everything died, some things survived."

"Let us hope we do not run into some of those surviving creatures. I hear they have a rodent that lives underground and can skeletonize a large animal in seconds."

"Land piranhas are a myth."

"Is that what they call them? I have always heard them called Chihuahuas or prairie dogs or some such."

"Anyway, on the good side of things, their cities are fantastically preserved."

"I wonder how long they'll stay this way now that they are habitable again."

"If we had planes..."

"Enough of the airplanes. Anyway, we do have plenty of space for our needs right now."

"The scary Chihuahuas will keep the interlopers at bay."

"Very funny!"

"I am telling you, this civilization's technology was awfully good to do what it did."

"Heavy on the awful. They nearly destroyed every living thing on earth. It is lucky that life is so flexible."

"Or, we wouldn't be here."

"They probably did not realize the folly of their actions because of the internal..."

"Very funny. In any event, we're here at last."

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The Scout

Chapter 22

By Dwayne MacInnes

Sam promptly returned with the first aid kit. Scott undid his makeshift bandage and cleaned the wound. Finally, he rebound it with sterile bandages from the kit. Unfortunately, that was all he could do.

Sam sniffed. "Mary, please don't die," he begged his unconscious sister, "Please!"

Scott gingerly lifted the woman and took her inside the post office. He laid her upon the floor. Her pulse was weak, but her bleeding had now stopped.

"She's lost a lot of blood," Scott said more to himself than to Sam. "If only we could give her a transfusion."

Alas, the lack of proper equipment and knowledge prevented Scott from administering something that was routine in any ambulance or clinic before the Big Bang. The closest hospital was probably in Billings hundreds of miles away.

Scott did everything he could to make Mary comfortable. His leather black jacket covered her torso. The old worn denim jacket was now serving as a pillow. Sam kneeled by her side and kept a tearful vigil.

Fearing that a patrol may be on their trail Scott pulled the buggy into the post office and parked it next to his Charger. As he waited for any sign of improvement in Mary, Scott removed the .30 machinegun from the buggy and stored it in the black muscle car.

Scott no sooner returned to Sam's side next to Mary than the woman gave out a loud gasp. Her eyes fluttered opened and she hastily searched around the room with her head. "Sam. Sam," she said hoarsely.

"I'm here," Sam replied as he squeezed Mary's hand. Mary looked over at Sam.

"I can barely see you Sam," Mary said weakly.

"Mary, it'll be all right. You'll see," the boy offered in a tear-choked voice.

"Thank you, for rescuing me," Mary whispered. "I could never have survived there."

"You just rest and get better," Sam choked out tearfully.

"Sam? Sam, are you there?" Mary asked.

"Yes Mary," sobbed the boy.

"Sam, I see Ma and Pa. They look well," and with that Mary expelled her last breath.

"NO!!!" Sam screamed. The young boy threw himself prostrate over his sister's form and let grief overcome him. Scott wept as he watched the boy shake as deep sobs racked his small frame.

* * * * *
1970 Dodge Charger

The scout allowed the boy an hour of grief before he tore the listless boy from Mary's body. Sam offered no resistance as Scott led him to the Charger and then lifted him inside. Scott recovered his leather jacket and used the denim jacket to cover Mary's dead form.

The Charger roared to life as Scott started the vehicle. The engine's rumbling purr shook the walls of the post office. The scout drove the black car outside and parked it across the street. Scott then climbed out and ducked back into the post office.

Not paying much attention to the outside world Sam half watched the scout disappear into the building. As Scott returned, black smoke started to emanate from the structure.

Scott slowly drove the Charger back towards the highway. Within three minutes, flames engulfed the post office. The telltale black smoke rose into the horizon as Scott drove north back towards North Dakota.

* * * * *

Sam grieved in silence as the muscle car once again sped down the worn road. Given all they had endured in the last twenty-four hours Scott was relieved to be back in his scout vehicle. The thick hide surrounding them would have stopped the bullet that killed Mary.

Scott pushed the thought from his mind and drove along the highway in silence.

The roar of the Charger's engine was its own music and Scott never tired of hearing it. With any luck before nightfall, the two would be within the safe confines of the United States.

Scott could only hope that the Anarchists would see the trail of smoke and investigate. That would leave his route open to the borders of Montana. An uneventful passage was all Scott prayed for now.

Unfortunately, the rapid pinging off the back of the Charger let Scott know that God was not answering his prayers today. A quick glance at his monitor brought a score of buggies and bikers approaching from his rear.

Scott stepped onto the accelerator. The Charger lurched forward in unrestrained power. The rear tires spat out dirt and small stones as they dug into the crumbling concrete.

As the black vehicle flew down the road, the buggies and bikes matched its speed. The small arms of the motorcycles did not bother Scott. However, the medium arms of the buggies could do some serious damage if they found the right spot.

The muscle car weaved back and forth, as bullets whizzed by or impacted into the rear armor. The Montana border seemed to creep closer ever so slowly. Scott reached for his long-range radio if the atmospherics were right and there was someone close enough he could radio for help.

"Mayday! Mayday! This is a United States Scout vehicle asking for any assistance," Scott screamed as more bullets pounded into the back of the Charger.

The chase led them through the small hills and steep cliffs of the badlands. Scott kept repeating his message. The bikers and buggies also kept up their fire.

M1A1 Abrams Tank

"Okay, Scout stop your vehicle now!" a voice crackled over the radio. Suddenly five Abrams M1 tanks crested the hills in front of Scott and above two Cobra AH-1s flew. Scott slammed on the brakes and the Charger reluctantly slid to a stop.

"Damn," the scout cursed. It appeared Van Dyke and company finally had them.

AH1 Cobra

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The Archaeology Students

Part Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Now that we are at our final destination, where are you going to start?"

"Why?"

"I just thought..."

"That we could stick together?"

"Well -- yeah."

"I do not need your help. I am the flying machine expert here. You can do your own research."

"Would it be that horrible to stick together?"

"Probably... Anyway, I have a destination in mind. According to some records that I have read, there was a library just over there. Where there is a library, there is information. That is where I am heading. Please find your own place."

"Do you read old English?"

"How different can it be from current English?"

"It is a lot different. Languages change over time. It seems that you need me."

"Why?"

"As an ancient history major, I took old English as my language requirement."

"So, you can help me look, is that it?"

"Do you know how to read the word airplane in old English..."

"So you are telling me that it is different."

"Yes I am."

"Crap. Ok, you can help me. Let us go."

"I did not expect there to be this much dust."

"We may have to dig our way into the building."

"Are you sure this is it?"

"Ok Mr. Old English, what does that say?"

"Library."

"Any more questions?"

"How can you be so sure they will have what you are looking for?"

"Why did I have to ask if you had any more questions? Anyway, life is full of uncertainties. You can never tell what any place will hold; however, this is a darn good place to start is it not?"

"I am reminded of a story..."

"Shut up and help me dig out the entrance."

"While I am here digging, I am reminded of the question, Why does everything end up under dirt?"

"Some of our classmates are taking the easy way by entering on some of the upper levels of the buildings."

"Naturally, we have to enter a one-story building."

"We are not just looking at how the ancients lived; we are looking at what they knew."

"Nice words, Mr. Engineer."

"Thanks. I felt inspired."

"I think I can open the door now."

"Okay, let us try."

"Phew! It stinks in here."

"At least we are in."

"It is bigger than it looks on the outside."

"But where are the books?"

"Here is a map."

"Well, what does it say?"

"Uh oh!"

"What?"

"This is a Presidential Library."

"So -- no books?"

"Well it commemorates a presidency. It has personal documents and other paraphernalia."

"So -- no books?"

"Perhaps this president read comic books..."

"You are a real funny man."

"This could be a cultural treasure trove. We should tell the others."

"But -- no books?"

"There will be information on what happened while this person was president."

"Are you telling me that if something of note happened during this person's presidency regarding flight, the information might be found here?"

"Right, if they took a trip to Mars or something, it might be noted somewhere in here."

"Which president was it?"

"Every place I have looked -- the name has been vandalized.

"Can you make a guess based upon where it is located?"

"What good will that do you?"

"Uh -- I do not know -- I was just grasping at straws."

"We might as well look around."

"I suppose you are right. Hey, did presidents not read?"

"There might be another library in town."

"True. This library was supposed to be part of a college or university. There are probably others in town too."

"Most likely."

"What are we waiting for then?"

"Can we not look around just a little bit? After all, we did dig our way in here."

"Without books, what good is this place?"

"Do you not even want to go into the NASA room?"

"What is a nasa-room?"

"I have no idea, but it is right over there."

"Boring! Can we go?"

"Can we take just a peek?"

"Does a nasa have something to do with books?"

"I do not know, I cannot figure out its weird logo. I wonder if it had something to do with their nuclear program."

"Maybe we will die of radioactivity if we enter that room. Come on, let's get out of here!"

"I just want to look in."

"Fine -- but be quick about it."

"Well, if we would find anything interesting, it would be in this room."

"What? Why are there books in here?"

"National -- Aeronautics -- and Space -- Administration."

"Aeronautics? As in flying machines?"

"Apparently so."

"Let me see!"

"I wonder if this place was looted."

"There does seem to be a lack of physical information."

"Methane Blast"

"What? Where?"

"It says it right there. Test firing of ... LOX/methane engine."

"Methane! that is great!"

"That could be significant."

"You are telling me! How much thrust did you say?"

"It is confusing, but I think it says 7500 pounds of thrust."

"Pounds? What are pounds?"

"I have no idea."

"Where did this take place?"

"The Mo-jav-e Desert...?"

"Where?"

"Some desert."

"This whole place is a desert."

"What good does this information do you?"

"Do you know nothing? Our Bureau of Information has a large database of information on this civilization. If you know what you are looking for, they can give you what you want to know. However, going up to them and asking about flying machines gets you nothing. There is just too much information. I need specifics."

"So knowing that they tested a methane rocket engine in the desert is helpful."

"Exactly. I probably can get specifications of this engine from the B.I. now.

"Furthermore, we can make methane. It is one of the few fuels they had that we can use."

"There is potential for starting up the space program again."

"Do not get carried away."

"The possibilities are staggering if I can build something based upon their specifications. I have to write this down. Mo-jav-e you say?"

"Perhaps we can more information on it in one of the other libraries in town..."

"One with books? Well, thank you unnamed president guy! It is a shame your library is such a shamble, but at least I found something of interest."

"While you talk to yourself, I am going to leave."

"I am right behind you."

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The Scout

Chapter 23

By Dwayne MacInnes

When the tanks reached the top of the hills, they open fire. Sam stared in awe as the mighty guns exploded. Scott was amazed as the first salvo screamed overhead and smashed into the ranks of Anarchists.

The motorbikes and buggies flew into the air in twisted burning wreckage. Then the helicopters opened up with their machineguns. The 20 mm rounds fired from the M197 tri-barrel chewed up what the tanks did not destroy. In a matter of half a minute, the entire Anarchist patrol laid destroyed smoking and burning in the late afternoon sun.

Scott now noticed the white stars and American flags painted on the vehicles.

"Looks like you are in the clear, Scout," the mysterious voice crackled over the radio again. "Welcome back to the United States of America."

* * * * *

General MacKenzie paced back and forth in the briefing room. He had just finished debriefing Scott and the report of a petty dictator trying to carve himself an empire out in South Dakota greatly troubled him.

"We've dealt with crazies styling themselves after Napoleon before," the large general said. "But we never had to deal with one who wanted to play at Armageddon. Hell, you'd think we all would have learned something over the last twelve years."

Scott just sat behind the table watching the general march back and forth before the dry erase board. The military base situated just outside of Billings represented the farthest eastern reach of the United States in the north.

"You know general, we may need your fire power to help us get to the Twin Cities," Scott finally said.

"Impossible," the general barked. "We are all that stands between this fried-out colonel and the rest of the United States. You know how hard it is to get five M1s not to mention those two Cobras?"

"General, we don't stand a chance if we send our usual convoy east. How about that Apache you've been working on? I also know you have some of those old Pattons."

AH64 Apache Helicopter

"The AH64 is nearly repaired. However, it is a moot point. There is no way the president and the congress is going to allow me to loan you that helicopter or those three M60s."

M60 Patton Tank

The general groaned, "Ah hell, we have a month to ready the convoy and fix up your car. Who knows maybe I can work some kind of miracle. You didn't happen to see what all they had there at Fort Meade did you?"

"Sorry general," Scott replied. "I only saw one M113 APC. In fact, I thought they caught up to us when I first saw your forces. Thank God, we started painting the white stars back on our equipment."

The general laughed, "Yeah, it has been about half a century since we did that. But, things have changed and now more than ever we need to be able to tell us from them.

"Not to change the subject. But, have you decided what you'll do about the kid?" the general asked with genuine concern.

"I guess I haven't really thought about it," Scott said. "I suppose I'll have to adopt him otherwise he'll be sent to a coast detention center. That would be pretty cruel after losing all of his family."

The general groaned, "You know that there are regulations about that."

Scott scratched his chin in thought before he finally broke out in a smile, "Unless the refugee from the Wastes has a special talent that would greatly benefit the United States."

The general stared at Scott for a while, "What in the hell could that kid offer us. He's hardly a mechanic or an engineer."

"No, but I could definitely use a top gunner for my car," Scott countered.

"WHAT!?!" the general exclaimed. "I doubt that kid even held a gun before he met you. He's no top gunner."

"Yet -- General -- he's no gunner yet. I was kind of hoping you'd help out with this. After all, we have a month to scratch together a convoy and I need a gunner for the new turret I'm adding to the Charger."

The general pondered it for a couple of minutes. Finally, MacKenzie shook his head, "Sorry, Scott this is likely to be a suicide mission. I can't have you take a kid out to the Wastes."

"General, if we send that kid to a detention center where he doesn't know anyone that too could well be a suicide mission. Things aren't what they were before the Big Bang. Hell, that kid has spent his entire life living in the Wastes. He knows it better than any of us I'd bet," Scott answered hotly, his face flushed red.

"Ok, we'll put it to the kid," the general finally relented. "You know if we hadn't been friends for the last ten years I'd never let you talk to me like that."

Scott chuckled, "Well, thank God for friendship."

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The Scout

Chapter 24

By Dwayne MacInnes

Sam eagerly accepted Scott's proposal to be his adopted son and gunner. The Charger now had a turret mounted on its roof that housed the M60 machinegun Scott liberated from the Anarchist buggy. It could rotate 360 degrees, which finally gave the black scout vehicle some rear offense.

Scott was starting to get irritated from wasters always pounding away at his rear. Buying a new machinegun would never have been within Scott's immediate budget. However, with the find of the M60, he now had a gift from the Wastes and he intended to use it.

The next few weeks saw the gathering for the convoy inside Billings that would try to make its way east. The usual array of armed and armored semi-tractors pulling trailers loaded with various goods comprised the heart of the convoy. However, the escorts for these goods were wide and varied in make-up as well as experience.

Scott noted many newcomers to the escort party. The high bounty promised to each driver and crew ensured that many people would tryout for escort duty. Some people showed up with nothing more than a stock vehicle from before the Big Bang and a handgun. However, the convoy committee denied them access to join the convoy on their own. But, they could join up with the more established escorts if those escorts needed additional crew.

The bulk of the escorts comprised the usual experienced crews that drove armored vehicles not unlike Scott's Charger. There was the 'Road Crew' a semi-tractor that pulled a trailer that not only housed and repaired the five armed motorcycles it carried, but also mounted two open turrets that each contained twin-M2 Browning machineguns.

Scott recognized many of the lightly armored buggies that would serve as picket duty in the Wastes. There were several armored cars ranging from old Volkswagen bugs to the more modern SUVs each carrying machineguns and/or recoilless rifles.

m242 25mm machinegun

However, the one that stood out the most and received the most respect was the 'Armadillo'. The Armadillo at one time was a standard Mack semi-truck. Now, the big rig boasted heavy armor and a conversion van's body attached to its rear that used to mount the fifth wheel. A turret on the van's top housed a 25 mm M242 Bushmaster chain gun that was capable of firing up to 200 rounds a minute. The front of the Armadillo and the rear each contained an M240 7.62 mm machine gun. Though the vehicle did resemble its namesake, the offensive capabilities would tend to have one rename it the 'Wolverine'.

m240 7.62mm machinegun

The Armadillo's fame also had to do with its crew. 'Mad Momma McGee', a large stocky woman who before the Big Bang could have been mistaken for a dockworker, drove the big rig. She wore a perpetual scowl as well as a flannel shirt and blue jeans. Her crew was comprised of women who either she or Scott rescued from the Wastes.

As Scott and Sam walked over to the Armadillo, he overheard a newly organized crew joking about the Armadillo's crew.

"Man, this gig is great. A brothel on wheels," laughed a small man working on a buggy.

The man sitting behind the gun snorted and replied, "I hear the real name should be called the 'Armored dil...'"

"HEY!" shouted Scott to the two men before the offensive word was completed. Scott briskly marched over to the dumbfounded jokesters.

"Don't you dare try to cross those women. They are tougher and meaner than you think," Scott lectured.

The man working on the engine shrugged his shoulders as if he did not care. Scott grabbed the man and spun him around, as he pushed him against the frame of the buggy.

"Listen friend," Scott continued in a low harsh voice. "Those women survived the Wastes. I rescued a couple myself from rape-gangs. If you think they have any love for men go ahead and try and warm-up to one of them. You may just lose something dear to you." Scott motioned to the man's crotch. The joker turned white and muttered an apology.

Scott grabbed Sam and continued his trip towards the Armadillo. Mad Momma turned as the scout neared and her usual scowl broke into a genuine smile.

"If I don't live and breathe," Mad Momma exclaimed. "The famous Scott Malice is going to join this party."

"How are you doing, Julia?" Scott countered. Few ever realized Mad Momma's real name was Julia Knudsen.

Several of the surly looking women on the Armadillo smiled and waved down to Scott.

"I can't complain," Julia said. "Kind of getting quiet so the girls and I thought we'd take a trip out to the Midwest."

Scott smiled and warmly hugged the large woman. Scott always feared this bear of a person would break his ribs in one of her bone-crushing embraces.

"Who's your friend?" Julia asked as she smiled to Sam.

"This is my son and gunner, Sam," Scott replied.

"Another orphan rescued from the Wastes, eh?" Mad Momma said. "You know your soft heart is going to get you killed one day."

"Like you are one to talk," Scott parried as he nodded to the women readying the Armadillo.

Scott and Mad Momma caught up on each other's recent adventures. They were laughing when a sergeant approached Scott.

"Excuse me, sir," the soldier interrupted. "The general needs to see you."

Scott's face became serious, "What is it?"

"Some people escaping the Wastes have crossed the border," the sergeant replied. "One of them claims to know you."

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The Mystic Order of Pumpkin Slayers is just like any other group of people. Well, people who would frequent a comic book convention anyway. MOPS, as they prefer to be called, is made up of four individuals. They are the four that slew the first pumpkins.

The Mystic Order of Pumpkin Slayers

The group consists of Victor Viking, Tommy Templar, Angus MacScot, and Kelly O'Kern. These are not their real names. Their names have been changed to protect them from great embarrassment. After all, would you like people saying that you frequented comic book conventions?

Naturally, they are warriors of various cultures. While Kelly O'Kern may dress like some sort of priest, he is actually a Kern. That is, he dresses like a 16th century Irish foot soldier. His clothing, just so happens, looks like a papal garment. But rest assured, he'll tell you in an Irish accent that he is a 16th century Irish foot soldier if you ask him.

Angus MacScot is your run of the mill Scottish warrior. Apart from the fact that he wears glasses and is bald, he is just like Mel Gibson in that movie. Oh, and he does not take the opportunity to paint himself blue, so that is also a difference. Further, he does not have a Scottish accent via Australia. This also sets them apart. Okay, they are nothing alike. I admit it. He is just an ordinary man in a skirt -- er -- kilt.

Tommy Templar is a Templar Knight -- hence the name. The fact that he is not French or Catholic should not deter you from accepting him as a member of the Knights Templar. He does like weapons and armor -- especially weapons. He has mail, a great helm, a shield, and a number of swords that would make any knight jealous. Thus, this allows him to call himself a Templar. If you wish to argue the point, you would have to speak with Henry V (a sword.)

Victor Viking is a name given in irony. What warrior do you assign a slight, timid rocket scientist? Naturally, you assign him one of the most ruthless warrior races ever to grace the earth. He would not choose one himself -- he had to be assigned one. A person who cannot swim and faints at the sight of blood would make a wonderful seafaring warrior -- am I right?

The group would gather each autumn and rid the world from a few evil hordes of pumpkins. Their motto is "Death to pumpkins and all large vegetables!" They naturally dress this up in bastardized Latin. The motto Morte de cucurbita pepo et alia vegetablis grandis gives them an air of respectability even though they are just a group of yahoos who go around chopping up pumpkins with swords and various other medieval weapons.

On this particular occasion, they had all gathered -- in costume -- at a greater Twin Cities Comic and Gaming Festival. You might think that four grown men in Renaissance Faire regalia would stand out in a crowd. They did not in this crowd. How do you stand out from various Klingons and other Star Trek characters? If someone in a Princess Leia slave girl outfit walks by, is anyone really going to notice a man dressed like Jesus carrying a sword? Excuse me, I meant dressed like a 16th Century Irish foot soldier.

No, they blended in perfectly with this particular crowd. They had purchased booth space in an attempt to garner interest in a movie project. The script for M.O.P.S. the Movie had been written, and they were looking for funding to get the movie made. A director, actors, and anyone with any film making expertise would be a good start as well.

As you might expect, they had drawn absolutely no interest in their project. They were crazy to think anyone would be interested. It was the last day of the event, and they decided to pack it in. Instead of being 'vendors', they would be simple attendees. In this way, they could grab some free stuff. Perhaps they would even meet the four or five single women at the event.

They could have dressed in normal clothes -- well -- normal clothes for regular people. Instead, they wandered the convention floor in full costume. According to Victor, "they were taking the pitch to the people." It was either label it that or admit defeat. Thus, the rest went along with this suggestion.

It should be noted that while each of them had a weapon, these implements were fastened to their accoutrements to make them unusable. For instance, those with swords had them "peace knotted" with cable ties to their scabbards in such a way that they could not be drawn. In this way, the members of MOPS could wander the convention floor wielding dangerous implements.

Tommy Templar had his sword and main gauche zip tied to their respective scabbards. The convention people attached his dagger to his belt. His secondary boot knife was secured to his boot. They would not let him bring in his war hammer or axe, and this upset him. However, he brought in an unfettered pocketknife if trouble should arise.

The quartet wandered the convention floor gawking at the "geeks" and visiting the booths. They had as much luck wandering the floor as they did at their booth. However, they were accumulating some free convention swag. Thus, they felt like they were accomplishing something.

After making a lap around the convention floor, they noticed a peculiar booth. There was a table pushed against the wall with its sign pointing toward the wall. Next to the table was a six-foot octopod.

The creature stuffed two legs into a pair of ordinary blue jeans. The jeans were tight and fit rather oddly as if they were tentacles stuffed into a pair of jeans. He had a pair of unusually small, red canvas, high-top basketball shoes. He wore a plain blue t-shirt. Two tentacles used the armholes, two came out the shirt's neck, and two exited out the bottom. This creature's mouth and eyes appeared in the gap between the shirt and pants.

Intrigued by this creature, the MOPS members approached the booth.

"Excuse me; you know that the show is this way..." Angus MacScott stated pointing to the convention floor.

"Leave me," replied the creature with a voice that none of the members could localize.

"That is quite a costume," Kelly O'Kern said ignoring the threat.

"Listen to my words," boomed the voice although no one but the MOPS members seemed to hear. "In one minute, you would not wish to be here."

"What happens in one minute?" asked Victor Viking.

"It would take more than a minute to explain, so be gone!" the booming voice explained.

"If there is going to be trouble, we would like to know," Tommy Templar explained.

"Come on," begged Victor pulling at the other members. "We should leave him alone. He obviously doesn't want us around."

"What does that have to do with anything?" asked Tommy.

"Yeah, we're here dressed like dorks," added Angus. "What makes you think that we have any sense at all?"

"You guys may not have any sense, but I do," insisted Victor.

"You weigh 120 pounds and are wearing 75 pounds of gear, and you're trying to tell us you have sense?" asked Kelly.

"I'm willing to leave this squidman alone," added Victor.

"Octopi have 8 legs, and squid have 10 -- er -- said Mr. Marine Biologist," Kelly retorted.

"Okay Mr. Smartguy -- Octopusman," Victor said strongly.

"What makes you think our friend here is a man?" asked Tommy.

"The deep voice -- for starters," replied Victor.

"Did you just try to check and see if he had a package?" asked Tommy.

"See, you just called him a he!" Victor responded triumphantly.

"Take your discussion elsewhere! I really mean it!" boomed the voice impatiently.

"You're a guy right?" asked Victor.

"Really? You cannot tell?" the voice asked with a slight amount of dejectedness.

"Well, you *are* in an octopod costume," replied Kelly.

"Costume?" started the voice when a blinding white light enveloped the five of them.

Suddenly, the table was no longer facing the wall. It was in the corner of a room filled with other octopods of various colors and modes of dress. The comic convention was gone, and they were in very strange place. Well -- to be honest -- it was only slightly stranger.

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The Scout

Chapter 25

By Dwayne MacInnes

The sergeant escorted Scott inside the chain-linked fence that marked the boundaries of Fort Billings. Scott noticed that the base was a hive of activity. Soldiers and vehicles were racing around the compound.

The sergeant pulled his humvee up to an administrative building. Scott and his escort exited the vehicle and two more soldiers joined the duo as they entered the building. The scout watched the occupants rushing around the interior. Something big was definitely going down.

Again, Scott found himself inside the office of General MacKenzie. Upon entering, the general offered Scott a chair on the other side of his desk. The general reclined in his leather executive chair.

"We have found a friend of yours," the general began as soon Scott seated himself.

The scout just looked at the soldier quizzically. The general barked an order to a sergeant standing near the door. The sergeant opened the door and a stocky man was ushered into the room by two soldiers.

Scott rose from the seat; there in General MacKenzie's office stood Wade Benson.

"Wade you old son of gun!" Scott exclaimed with a big smile on his face.

The general motioned for Scott to regain his seat. "I'm afraid Mr. Benson's visit is not a social call."

Wade shook his head and gave a muffled laugh, "Sorry about that Scout. It did take some convincing that I knew you. After all, the only name I had was a Scott Duncan. Fortunately, it must have been close enough that the soldiers let my party of refugees and me into the U.S. After the slave rebellion, which allowed you to escape, things got a little too hot in Sturgis.

"The revolt did not last longer than half an hour. However many slaves were able to escape, especially the children. I figured they stood a better chance in the Wastes than with the Anarchists."

General MacKenzie cleared his throat and Wade looked at him sheepishly.

"Right, the point of my being here is two fold. First of all, I decided to take you up on your offer. I figure a little stay on the coast will do me some good.

"Secondly, I received word just before I skedaddled that Moose had sent Taylor with some troops and equipment to unite the warlords and take over Minneapolis. If any man can unite them and possibly defeat Saint Paul, it is Moose Van Dyke.

"Moose has also gathered every Anarchist he could. He's planning something big."

"Sergeant," General MacKenzie ordered softly to the soldier standing at-ease by the door. "Please, escort Mr. Benson to his holding cell until we can organize some transportation for his group to the camps out west."

Wade quickly grasped Scott's hand in a warm handshake. "Until we meet again, bro."

Scott stood up and slapped Wade on the shoulder, "Your time will go by faster than you know. If you ever need a job, let me know. This time I'll give the references."

The sergeant led Wade out of the room and closed the door behind him; thus, leaving the general and the scout alone in silence.

Neither man looked at each other for a few seconds. The news Wade offered had both deep in thought. Finally, the general took the initiative.

"How are the preparations for the convoy coming along?"

"We are nearly complete. We were planning of leaving tonight, but in view of this new information I think it is important that we postpone it a bit and gather some more forces."

"Negative," the general sternly replied. "Our window of opportunity is now. We cannot wait too much longer. Though the weather is finally starting to normalize, the early winters will be setting in soon. Quite frankly, we have to have the route secured and outposts constructed as quickly as we can."

Scott hated being forced into no-win situations so he tried another option, "How about the possibility of an escort from some of your forces?"

The general shook his head, "Sorry, but I cannot spare anyone. The president and congress has denied your request for our help."

"What's going on general?" Scott asked. "Something is going on. This base has never been this active before."

General MacKenzie shifted himself uneasily in his chair, "Officially you saw nothing. But, between friends we are pulling out."

Scott looked at the general in shock, "You are pulling out of Fort Billings?"

The general meekly nodded his head, "I'm sorry, but you are on your own."

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"You could tell I was in a costume?" asked the octopod when the room stopped spinning.

"Of course," replied Kelly a little distracted as he searched nervously at the sudden change of scenery.

"I thought I did a good job looking like a human," mumbled the once booming voice.

"Ummmm -- what's going on?" asked Angus.

"None of the humans back there seemed to notice...," muttered the octopod.

"Ummmm -- yeah! What *is* going on?" insisted Tommy.

"I tried to warn you, but you would not listen to my booming scary disembodied voice," the octopod replied as the booming voice returned.

"Who or what are you?" asked Kelly.

"I am Gogle! I am the living record of all things on your planet."

"Our planet?" asked Victor. "Then where are we now?"

"You're on Earth," replied Gogle.

With a sigh of relief Victor asked, "Where on Earth?"

"Oh!" responded Gogle with a slight chuckle. "I probably should explain. First, about 80% of all inhabited planets in the galaxy are called Earth. It is one of those strange coincidences that make things a bit confusing. It is almost as universal as the word Okay."

"So where are we?" asked Victor with a bit of panic returning to his voice.

"According to your International Star Registry, this would be the fourth planet orbiting the star -- Ann L. Kitterman."

"Where?" begged Victor.

"Hey, I am not responsible for the naming of these things," Gogle said with a shrug. "Does (15M, 2.432963, 4.196733) in galactic standard spherical coordinates help any?"

"No," Victor replied curtly with a shake of his head.

"So, what is going on?" asked Kelly attempting to change the subject to something more concrete.

"This raucous party you see before you," responded Gogle as he waved one of his tentacles across the scene. "This event often becomes so out of control that it spills out over time and space."

"They look like intergalactic nerds, if you ask me," Tommy responded.

"Intra-galactic really," Gogle said reflexively. "I guess since you are here and are not going anywhere, I should let you in on the secret of this grand occasion."

"That would be grand," insisted Kelly.

"This is the 186th Annual Intra-Galactic Comic and Gaming Convention," mumbled Gogle.

"What!?!!" shouted the quartet in unison.

"It is the gathering of like-minded individuals where they exchange stories, information, and purchase collectibles," asserted Gogle. "I am dressed as a popular -- but mythical -- comic character called a -- human..."

"And how did we get here?" enquired Victor.

"Would you like the short version or the long?" replied Gogle.

"Short," replied everyone except Victor who asked for the long version.

"Let me see if I can explain it to you in your limited language," started Gogle. "What would you say if I told you that I traveled back in time and killed my grandfather before he conceived my father?"

"That's impossible," replied Victor.

"Exactly," continued Gogle. "It would create a great paradoxical field -- an impossibility bubble -- if you will. So, how would you describe traveling several thousand light years without a space ship?"

"That would also be impossible," replied Victor.

"Thus, mathematically, they would cancel each other out," responded Gogle. "And, Bob's your uncle, we are here."

"What!?!!" exclaimed Victor attempting to follow the logic.

"To be honest," Gogle continued, "Traveling here without a spaceship is only highly improbably -- a pseudo-impossibility -- if you will. By Murphy's Law, if anything can go wrong it will. Thus, it is actually much more improbable that we end up where we wish."

"Huh?" Victor said as if someone were actually listening to him.

"Therefore, since our getting here is only a pseudo-impossibility," continued Gogle completely ignoring Victor's protests. "We had to stack in a few more improbable events."

"Like the Cubs winning the World Series?" asked Tommy.

"Like soccer becoming popular in America?" asked Kelly.

"Like Victor getting some action?" joked Angus.

"Exactly," proclaimed Gogle. "With a collection of pseudo-impossibilities, we cancel out the impossibility of me killing my grandfather before my father is conceived."

"This is all twisted..." Victor said in exasperation.

"Exactly," Gogle said in congratulations to Victor. "Did you take Beginning Hyper-Dimensional Temporal Physics too?"

"What?" asked Victor.

"He just read Hyper-Dimensional Temporal Physics for Dummies," added Angus.

"I ask because the paradoxical field becomes more and more twisted," replied Gogle. "It will become so tight that in four days it will all unravel. Hence, we will all return to your planet, and granddad will be fine."

"That doesn't make any sense," Victor responded with a twisted look on his face.

"You wanted the short version," Gogle said with a shrug.

"So, is this planet your home?" asked Angus looking at all the similar octopod creatures.

"Great googly-moogly no!" exclaimed Gogle. "This is just where they hold this convention."

"So why is everyone -- like you?" asked Victor pointing to the others.

"My particular race happens to be the repository of collected information for many planets in the galaxy," Gogle replied proudly, but with a little hint of shame, he added, "And as I have previously stated, I have the collected knowledge of your race."

"So, what are all the repositories of knowledge doing here?" asked Victor.

"We are the primary vendors for the show, and this is the setup and pre-show party. Even us knowledge repositories have to make money somehow."

As they were talking, another octopod walked up in a more normal mode of locomotion for an eight-legged creature. He stuck out an appendage and said, "Greetings Humans!"

Before Gogle could say anything, Victor grabbed the appendage and replied, "Ouch!"

"A word of warning," Gogle finally said as Victor looked at his aching hand, "this is a party, and some of the males here will try to mate with anything. Therefore, if someone offers you a sperm packet, I suggest you refuse. Now if you excuse me, my favorite band Lizard Spit and the Bongs1 is just about to play."

Gogle, on his panted legs, walked clumsily over to where four individuals, apparently of his octopod race, were standing upon a stage. They began to play something similar to but completely different from human rock and roll music.

"What does he mean sperm packet?" asked Victor trying to quell some up and coming panic.

"I think you just grabbed that dude's penis," replied Tommy with a chuckle.

"You should make him buy you a drink," added Angus continuing the joke.

"Am I going to give birth to an alien-human space creature?" worried Victor.

"I doubt that our genetic make-ups are compatible -- ugh -- said Mr. Geneticist," responded Kelly disappointed in himself for not continuing the joke.

"I don't know if it is your normal paleness, or if you are extra pale right now," insisted Angus. "Perhaps you should sit down."

"Good idea," replied Victor as the group made their way towards a group of seats near the bar. "My hand feels just like a balloon."


NOTES:

1: All band names brought to you by Dave Barry

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The Scout

Chapter 26

By Dwayne MacInnes

The convoy and its escorts were in position to leave as the sun sank behind the mountains. Scott was to lead this motley crew of mish-mash vehicles across the Wastes, so he chose his escort deployment with care.

Two motorcycles and three buggies were to be on forward picket duty. Behind them and leading the pack would follow the Armadillo. The Wrecking Crew and their truck would follow the convoy. The heavier armored and armed vehicles flanked the convoy. Scott would ride herd and like the cowboys of old, he was determined to get this convoy to their destination regardless of the obstacles.

"Ok, folks this is the Dark One, let's get this party moving," Scott ordered over his CB radio.

"Roger that Dark One," a voice crackled over the radio in response.

Engines revved up and split the night air. Slowly the large convoy started to rumble forward into the night. Before long, the twenty convoy trucks and the forty-five escort vehicles were on the move.

Driving at night was a mixed bag. Although most of the vehicles lacked the low-light amplification gear the Charger had, they therefore had to use their headlights. The chance of encountering an ambush by the wasters was significantly lower.

Unfortunately, the convoy could only move as fast as its slowest vehicle so it would be sunrise before the party was half way through North Dakota. That would be the most dangerous time for the convoy, for the drivers and crews would be suffering from exhaustion and the wasters would be alert and ready.

The night driving went better than Scott anticipated. The battered roads offered few obstacles that required avoidance by the convoy. Only twice did the Armadillo need to pull a boulder out of the path of the vehicles. Even the weather held out.

As the morning sun rose over the desolate horizon, Scott could not but feel a sense of relief. Fighting a battle with the wasters at night would have been very difficult.

The further the convoy rolled down the old highway the better Scott felt. He knew they still had a long ways to go. But, maybe the Anarchists were too occupied to bother with his group.

The convoy had traveled for over three hours after sunrise before Scott noticed something behind them. Over the horizon, a telltale cloud of dirt rose into the air. From the size of it, Scott figure there were many vehicles heading their way.

Scott cursed mildly. He stole a glance over towards Sam sitting in the passenger seat. The boy held a joystick and studied a monitor that controlled the turret on the roof.

"Sam, you think you'll be ok using that thing. We won't be shooting at wooden targets."

Sam merely nodded. Scott could not see his face for the boy wore a crash helmet much like the one Scott wore. Both helmets hooked up to the radio to allow them to talk over the CB if they needed.

"Great, can you zero in with your gun camera on the dirt cloud behind us?" Scott asked.

On their monitor, the image of hundreds of motorcycles and buggies filled the horizon. The wasters were gaining on the convoy fast.

"Ok, everyone I guess it was too much to expect that the locals would allow us through their territory without bothering us. We have multiple bogies coming up from behind. Fireman, I need you to drop back here with me and help give these guys a warm reception."

"Roger that Dark One," a voice crackled over the radio.

1978 Ford Bronco

The Fireman drove a red 1978 Ford Bronco. The truck boasted an open mount that a gunner occupied. The gunner could turn 360 degrees to fire his flamethrower armed with napalm. Not many of the other escort vehicles wanted to be near the Fireman for obvious reasons.

The Bronco fell back next to the Charger. The two vehicles decreased their speed a little to allow the convoy to increase the gap between them and the wasters.

"Ok, let's let them get close enough that we can maximize our firepower, but far enough away that they won't overwhelm us," Scott said through his radio.

"Roger, that Dark One. The Fireman is ready."

"Sam, remember to fire in short bursts. We need to conserve our ammo."

Sam nodded his small hands tightened their grip on the joystick. The image of the Anarchists grew on the monitor as they rapidly closed ground.

Scott started to sweat. He had never encountered this many wasters before.

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Three

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Victor, with his hand beginning to swell, staggered over towards a seat near what appeared to be a bar. His three friends helped him stagger to this previously mentioned seat.

"Here take this," stated a stranger handing Victor a glass of liquid.

Victor took the glass and drank its contents before the stranger could stop him. "What was that," asked Victor with an unusually raspy voice.

"I meant for you to use it to prevent an infection in your wound," replied the stranger with a shrug. "It was 100% ethyl alcohol, and here is another. This time pour it on this bar rag and rap your hand up with it."

Victor did as he was instructed and shouted, "Aaaaaahhhhh!"

"Oh yeah, it might sting a bit," added the stranger.

"Thanks -- whoever you are," Kelly said as Victor collapsed into a chair.

"Sorry," begged the stranger. "I am Jeves. Feel free to ask me anything."

"Okay," started Tommy. "Why is it that everyone here speaks English?"

"That's easy," replied Jeves. "We are not actually speaking. We communicate via telepathy. Our anatomy would make communicating in any vocal form impossible."

"So, you do not need to know our language, you just read our thoughts?" asked Kelly.

"No. You still *think* in English," replied Jeves. "However, with the repository of all your knowledge here, we have access to your races entire knowledge base. She imparted all of your collected knowledge to everyone in the room."

"Gogle is a she?" asked Angus.

"Those tight pants were not enough of a clue for you?" responded Jeves to the query using a tentacle to point to Gogle. "Did you use the voice in your head to make a determination?"

"Ummmmm -- no of course not," Tommy lied.

"At an occasion such as this, if she did not offer you a sperm packet that is another good sign," included Jeves.

"So you're a female too," added Angus.

"You are catching on," replied Jeves with a lilt in her voice, which became perceivably higher to the MOPS members.

"You're beee - you - tee - ful! You know that don't you?" slurred Victor who had begun feeling the affects of the alcohol he just consumed.

"I wish I could say the same about you," muttered Jeves.

"I love you guys," Victor stammered.

"Jesus! He's drunk," exclaimed Angus.

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

"Right," apologized Angus. "That is why you have that fake Irish accent."

"I could use a drink myself," interrupted Tommy. "Bartender, could I get a rum and coke?"

The bartender was a completely different race from Gogle, Jeves, and the rest. She did not offer anyone a sperm packet, so everyone decided that the bartender was female. She looked much less like a terrestrial octopus, which was what the others resembled. She was much more cuttlefish-like.

It appeared that she was lying on a backless chair, and would propel herself with two of her ten legs. She wore a black suit that was not totally unlike a tuxedo; except, of course, it had to fit a 10-legged creature.

After hearing Tommy's order, the bartender looked up at a 45-degree angle, which many beings in the universe believe to be the ideal angle in which to look when thinking. After a few moments pause, the bartender turned red and said, "sure" with only a slight amount of disgust in her voice.

The bartender pressed some buttons and turned a few dials on what looked like an espresso machine. Steam poured out of one of the nozzles, and a familiar smell wafted over the group. "Here is your espresso," she said as she passed a cup to Jeves.

"Thanks," replied Jeves as she took the cup.

The bartender then walked over to a computer terminal, and furiously hunted and pecked some things into the computer. She placed a glass into a slot, and it came out with a brown liquid. She returned to the keyboard and entered in some more information. She placed a mirror in the same slot, and pulled it out with two white powdery lines upon it.

The bartender grabbed the pair of things and passed them to Tommy with a straw. Tommy sniffed the rum suspiciously and sipped it. It was possibly the worst rum he had ever tasted. It was like the rum you could buy at a convenience store in a plastic bottle.

"No you misunderstood," explained Tommy. "I wanted rum and Coca-Cola, and if I could get better rum than this, it would be appreciated."

"The recipe for Coca-Cola is a highly guarded secret," snapped the bartender. "I would not want the Coca-Cola Bottling Corporation coming here and causing trouble. So, drink your rum and like it, and take your coke too."

The bartender pushed the mirror towards Tommy. Reluctantly he grabbed it and secretly dumped the contents onto the floor.

"Could I get some Scotch Whiskey and soda?" asked Angus.

"Sure..." the bartender turned a brighter shade of red and replied as if Angus had just asked her for a kidney.

After a similar set of machinations, the bartender set a glass containing a brownish liquid that was very similar to something that someone somewhere might consider scotch. In addition, she set down a glass full of sodium bicarbonate -- baking soda -- to go with the whiskey-like beverage.

Angus decided that a comment would get him nowhere. Thus, he took his "scotch and soda" and took a seat at the bar.

"Hello gorgeous," schmoozed Kelly.

The bartender's angry red colored eased to a more blushing red. "Hello -- er -- um -- handsome," she lied. "What can I get you?"

"What's your name beautiful?" he asked.

"As you can see from my nametag," she said pointing at a badge on what could be described by some as her chest. "My name is Iiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeyaaaaaaah."

"What a -- lovely -- a -- name," stumbled Kelly. "May I call you Ieya?"

"No," the bartender replied kurtly.

"Okay then," Kelly replied from his rebuke.

He gathered his composure and continued "Apparently, I am the designated driver; thus, I need something half as intoxicating as your beauty."

The bartender's color turned from red to something that could be described as a nauseous orange.

"Such as what?" she enquired.

"What would you recommend?"

"How does some weak carbonic acid with a splash of citric acid and laden with sucrose sound to you?"

"That sounds as lovely as your name."

The bartender smiled a big smile. Some people do not think that octopods or cuttlefish-like creatures are capable of smiling. However, if you would have been there, you would now know how wrong some people are. In any event, she placed a glass on the bar and pulled out a nozzle. She pushed a button and filled the glass with a clear bubbly liquid. Kelly gave it a taste, and smiled.

"Thanks sweetheart," Kelly told the bartender with a wink.

"Does your friend with that cougar want another drink?"

"Cougar?" the trio asked the bartender.

"You know," replied the bartender "a cougar -- an older woman who frequents clubs, like this one, in order to -- be intimate -- with a younger man."

The three men looked quizzically at the bartender trying to discern her euphemisms. Finally, the group looked over to Victor, but had a difficult time recognizing him because he had an octopod sitting on him obscuring his face.

"Aahhh! an octopod is sitting on Victor obscuring his face!" shouted Angus.

"She is a hottie though," replied the bartender.

"A face hugger is trying to implant him," added Tommy. "Boy, eighteen years of nothing and then twice in one day!"2


NOTES:

2: Cultural reference to (a line) in the movie Heavy Metal -- not to mention the whole Alien thing.

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The Scout

Chapter 27

By Dwayne MacInnes

"NOW!" Scott ordered as the first wave of buggies and motorbikes approached the black Charger and the red Bronco.

Sam fired the M60 in bursts as he had learned over the last month. The .30 machinegun chewed up a couple of buggies and scattered many of the motorcycles. However, the vast majority of the Anarchists continued unabated.

The red Bronco fell further behind the Charger and as the wasters drew even closer, the gunner onboard the truck finally opened up with the flamethrower. Unlike, with the machinegun, the wasters could not avoid the fiery death that spewed out of the nozzle of the flamethrower. The napalm engulfed the exposed occupants of the buggies and motorcycles.

The highway behind the fleeing convoy was a landscape of fire and smoke. The burning vehicles in the wake of the Fireman's outburst spun off the road. Many of the wrecked vehicles collided with the reckless souls that drove through the burning napalm that covered the highway.

"Yeah!" screamed the Fireman. "Looks like we really piled them up there."

Scott surveyed the carnage behind them. It only took a few moments before the Anarchists resumed their pursuit. Again, they approached the two vehicles even if it was at a greater distance.

The crack of small arms from the motorcycles as well as the occasional tattoo of the machineguns on the buggies split the air. Every now and then, the ting or ping of a bullet would glance off the armor of the Charger. From the range the pursuers were firing, it was highly unlikely they could do any serious damage.

Though the Anarchists stayed out of range of the flamethrower, they were still within the range of the M60. Sam would let go burst after burst. Most of the time he would hit a buggy or a motorcycle, nonetheless they kept coming on.

"Ok, Fireman, see if you can get them with a lake of fire," Scott said.

"Roger," the Fireman responded.

The flamethrower opened up again. This time the gunner laid out a long line of napalm working the nozzle back and forth until a thick wall of fire consumed the highway. The Anarchists initially thought it was another burst like the previous one. Their mistake was that they tried to drive quickly through the flames. Unfortunately, the fire did not end soon enough for most to make it to the other side. Flaming vehicles with burning occupants burst out the other side of the flames only to spin off the highway or to tumble down the old road.

The Anarchists broke into two formations and went over the open country bypassing the flames altogether. Fortunately, this slowed down the pursuers. In order for them to close in on the convoy, they would have to regain the highway.

The wasters were learning. They would move close enough for the Fireman to release a stream of napalm then they would drop back out of range and drive around the pool of fire. Sam was having better luck with the M60. His small bursts were quick and deadly. Many an Anarchist and their vehicle littered the highway riddled with .30 bullet holes.

A strange and familiar noise reached Scott's ear. It took only a fraction of a second for the scout to remember the noise of a police siren. A glance at his monitor showing the highway behind the muscle car showed a dirty white police cruiser speeding towards them. The light bar flashed and the siren wailed.

Scott would have laughed if the situation were not so serious. Did the wasters really expect him to pull over or were they just trying to gain his attention? Regardless the police cruiser sped down the road in pursuit.

Another glance at the monitor brought Scott back to the present. The windshield of the cruiser was missing and on the passenger side, a grenade launcher was mounted. The gunner was taking careful aim at the Charger.

Sam had been sighting up the cruiser and just before the M60 fired, Scott drove the Charger in an erratic back and forth zigzag down the highway. Seconds later the ground exploded just behind the Charger. Concrete and shrapnel plastered the rear armor of the Charger. The muscle car's rear end was momentarily lifted off the ground and as it slammed back to earth, Sam fired the machinegun.

The burst fired high and only managed to shoot out the red light and the siren on the cruiser. The gunner in the cruiser worked frantically to reload the grenade launcher as Sam quickly tried to regain his aim on the police car.

The Fireman pulled in behind Scott putting itself between the cruiser and the Charger.

"Don't worry buddy. We'll get these jokers," the Fireman reported over the radio. "We'll give them a first class ticket to hell..."

The Fireman never finished his statement as the grenade launcher fired again. This time it hit behind the Bronco. But it was much closer than the near miss on the Charger. The end result was that the Bronco flipped into the air. As it tumbled back onto the highway on its top, sparks and road debris flew around the truck. The Bronco slid for a few yards before coming to a complete stop. Flames began to lick the sides of the vehicle.

The cruiser no longer paying any heed to the demolished Bronco pulled around the derelict and resumed its pursuit of the Charger. Scott watched as the gunner aimed the loaded the grenade launcher at the Charger. Sam frantically tried to aim the turret towards the police car. However, Scott knew that Sam would not be in time and that he would not be able to dodge the impending shot.

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Four

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Jesus! Do something!" exclaimed Angus.

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

"Right," apologized Angus. "That is why you have that fake Irish accent."

"Would you two knock it off?" yelled Tommy. "Victor is being implanted with some sort of space seed and you two are making jokes!"

"Sorry," replied Kelly.

"That was a good episode of Star Trek," muttered Angus.

"Space Seed?" whispered Kelly. "It was the basis of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."

"A fine movie," continued Angus. "Ricardo Montalban was sure buff in that movie."

"Do you think his chest was real?" asked Kelly. "Or, do you think he was wearing a prosthetic?"

"I said knock it off you two!" insisted Tommy. "What are we going to do for Victor?"

"It is looking like he is doing fine by himself," replied Angus.

"She *is* a hottie," added the bartender.

"What do you want us to do?" asked Kelly.

"We have weapons," replied Tommy.

"But they are zip-tied to our sheaths," Angus added. "We cannot remove them, hence the term -- peace-knot."

"I have a pocket knife," Tommy said. "I can cut those cable-ties in a few seconds. I could have my swords out in a no time."

"What's stopping you Conan?" asked Angus.

"I have an idea," interrupted Kelly.

"What?" asked Tommy and Angus simultaneously.

Kelly walked over and tapped the octopod female on one of her eight shoulders. "Excuse me Miss," he said.

With the distraction, the woman removed herself from Victor's face. If you have never seen a middle-aged space octopus with too much make-up on, then you do not know how difficult it was for the MOPS members to squelch their cries of disgust. In actuality, it was too difficult for Tommy who let out a "how gross" before he could stop himself.

"What is it boys?" the female formerly occupying their friend's face asked.

"It is -- just -- that," stumbled Kelly. "We would like to include our friend in our conversation."

"Your conversation about old Star Trek movies?" she asked.

"Well -- er -- ah -- that," stammered Kelly. "And, conversation topics in general."

"It is okay," she purred. "Gogle informed me that you humans have genitalia proportional to the size of your hands and feet. With this guy's giant hand, I was expecting -- a bit more."

"Holy crap!" exclaimed Angus. "Look at his hand!"

The sperm packet that Victor had taken earlier was now a raging infection in his hand. It had expanded to 3 times its normal size. Jeves, who had been sitting nearby but not participating in the various conversations, jumped up and rushed over.

"We had better take care of that," she said.

"Are you a doctor?" asked Tommy.

"I am the knowledge repository for the medical planet Earth, but otherwise known as Generalis Hospitalicus. In addition, I have access to Gogle's knowledge," Jeves Replied. "I should be well suited for the job. I will need a few things."

She walked over to Iiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeyaaaaaaah, the bartender, and asked for some supplies. With her ten legs moving quickly, the bartender supplied Jeves with her every request, which included another espresso.

Jeves walked over to where Victor was lounging.

"Where is my sexy octopod girlfriend?" Victor slurred.

"She *is* a hottie," added the bartender.

"Thanks dollface," replied the female who tried to be intimate with Victor.

"Here drink this," insisted Jeves handing Victor the cup of espresso.

"Okay"

"Just a little pinprick," Jeves stated as she poked the finger of his ballooning hand. "There'll be no more..."

"Aaaaaahhhhh!" screamed Victor

"But you may feel a little sick," included Jeves

"Can you stand up?" asked Angus

"I do believe its working," stated Jeves confidently.

"Good," replied Angus.

"That'll keep you going for the show," sang Kelly.

"Come on its time to go," Tommy added.

"How do you feel?" Angus asked Victor.

"I -- I -- I have become -- terribly nauseous," Victor proclaimed as he heaved the entire contents of his stomach into the bucket that Jeves was holding.3

As Victor continued to make-out with the bucket like he did with the female octopod, the remaining three MOPS members settled back into their seats at the bar.

Tommy turned to the bartender and said, "You know that alcohol you poured for Jeves earlier? Well, could I have a dash of that with some of that carbonic acid stuff you gave Kelly, but without the sugar -- er -- sucrose?"

"One gin and tonic coming up," replied the bartender.4

"Make that two!" added Angus pouring the baking soda and the remainder of his scotch-esque beverage into Victor's bucket.

"Jesus, do you want anything?"

"I am a Kern," started Kelly but was interrupted by wails of laughter coming from Angus. "I'm good," he finished with quite a dejected look upon his face.

"I heard that Ricardo Montalban was a workout nut, and that was his real chest," Tommy proclaimed out of nowhere.

"No way!" exclaimed Angus. "He had to be in his sixties when the movie came out..."

"Excuse me gentleman," interrupted a large, blue-green, two-legged, four-armed stranger.

"Yes?" the three non-puking MOPS members replied.

"Are those weapons you are carrying?" he asked.

"No!" they replied except Tommy who said yes.

"Can I see?" he continued.

"They are attached to our sheaths," insisted Angus. "We cannot remove them."

"I can take care of that," added the stranger as he pulled out some wire cutters and cut each zip-tie.

"This is a replica of the sword Henry the fifth carried," explained Tommy proudly.

"Who?" asked the stranger.

"He was the fifth King of England named Henry," answered Tommy with some pride of his knowledge. "He ruled briefly in the fourteenth century."

"England?" the stranger replied. "I have never heard of such a planet."

"It is not a planet -- sir," replied Tommy. "It is a country on Earth."

"I am from here on Earth, and we have no such country."

"I see what Gogle means by it being confusing -- no -- our earth."

"Oh, I see...," replied the stranger. "So how does this weapon work? Does it emit some sort of high energy sound wave when you swing it?"

"No sir," replied Tommy with a more and more respectful tone. "It is an old fashioned weapon that must make contact with the target."

"Actual physical contact?" the stranger enquired.

"Yes," replied Tommy. "They are very short ranged weapons that do slashing, piercing or blugeoning damage depending upon how it is used."

"Cool!" proclaimed the stranger excitedly. "And these artifacts come from your planet?"

"They do," Tommy said with some hesitation. He added quickly, "But, these are replicas of old weapons. We have much more advanced weapons than this."

"I would like to know more about what some guy called a president calls nuke-you-lerr weapons, but if this is all you have," the stranger said. "How much are you selling these for?"

"Oh they're not for sale!" Tommy replied excitedly.

"What?" ask the stranger. "You vendors cannot make any money if you do not sell your goods."

"Oh," sighed Tommy with some relief. "We're not vendors."

"What?" asked the stranger as he straightened up and turned less blue-green and more blue.

"Funny story," Tommy chuckled nervously. "We sort of got caught up in Gogle's pseudo-impossibility bubble thingy -- ha ha."

"This party is by invitation only," stated the stranger who was now very blue -- a navy blue. He looked very official.

"Um...," stammered Tommy. "But we..."

"As chief security agent here," proclaimed the chief security agent (IE the stranger). "I demand to see your invitations."

"Ha ha," laughed Tommy nervously. "I must have left my invitation in my other pants."

"You're not wearing pants," Angus whispered to Tommy. "You just have leggings and greaves."

"Shut up!" whispered Tommy back to Angus.

"Do any of you have invitations?" asked the security chief.

"Well," they all began.

"Then out you go," replied the chief grabbing each MOPS member by the forearm with one of his four arms. Actually, he grabbed them by the forearm with a hand that was on the end of one of his four arm's forearms.

"But we...," whimpered Victor.

"And another thing, I do not know who told you my name was Butwe, but you should be calling me Chief Security Agent Butwe at the very least!"

"Ummm," Victor mumbled with a blush.

After Chief Security Agent Butwe pushed the four men out into the street of the strange alien world, he pointed to a sign with what appeared to be random marks on it. The only thing the MOPS members could make any sense out of was the letters OK in the middle.

"It clearly says," started Chief Security Agent Butwe, "that it is not OK for non-vendors to enter. Come back tomorrow when the convention officially opens to the public."

A few natives -- two-legged, four-armed creatures -- rushed by staring and whispering to each other. They all hurried away from these strangely dressed and strange looking creatures. It is exactly how people on earth behave towards people dressed in such costumes outside of Renaissance Faires and comic book conventions.

With that, the door was closed and the four MOPS members were locked out of the only place on this planet that they had ever known. Victor still had his bucket which contained mostly of the contents of his stomach, but it did not smell too bad thanks to the baking soda Angus added. However, it was fizzing a bit.


NOTES:

3: Hello? Lyrics to the Pink Floyd Song Comfortably Numb...

4: Douglas Adams. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. New York, NY: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1980. pp. 182-183.

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The Scout

Chapter 28

By Dwayne MacInnes

Time seemed to slow down as Scott stared at his monitor. The police cruiser had just pulled in front of the burning Bronco. The gunner was taking careful aim with the grenade launcher. Behind the cruiser, the Anarchist buggies and bikes filled the horizons still in hot pursuit of the convoy.

Scott out of his periphery noticed Sam fighting the joystick to bring the M60 machinegun to bear on the cruiser and its one flashing blue light. Scott also noticed that on Sam's monitor the gun's aim was too high. It appeared that the M60 took forever to respond to the boy's control.

All this only took a fraction of a second. It would only be another fraction of a second before the grenade launcher fired again and its projectile found its mark. There was no way the cruiser could miss.

However, before the gunner could squeeze the trigger a terrible explosion ripped the horizon behind the cruiser. The fire engulfing the wrecked Bronco finally found the tanks of napalm. The virulent liquid spewed across the landscape encapsulating the police cruiser. The concussion from the blast propelled the Charger even further ahead down the road as chunks of steel and concrete rained down from the sky.

The police cruiser itself exploded as the fire ignited the grenade rounds inside it. The burning vehicle still sped down the highway. Its roof was a tattered and torn hunk of metal. Fire burned over every square inch of its surface. The cruiser then began to tumble as the tires exploded from the intense heat from the napalm.

It took half a minute before Scott could recover from the shock of his near miss. A glance at the monitor revealed a scene from hell. Fire shot high into the air as the thick black smoke curled into the sky. The blackened hull of the police cruiser finally came to rest in the barrow pit fire still raging over its surface.

Then like demons from hell itself, the figures of men in buggies and on motorcycles rode through the inferno again trying to catch the convoy. Scott had to give them a nod for determination. They had been bloodied and smelled blood. This only made them more aggressive.

Without the Fireman, only Scott stood between the Anarchists and the convoy.

"OK, we were only able to stall them for a while," Scott squawked over the radio. "Everyone needs to be in full defensive positions."

Several trucks and cars fell back from the convoy to join Scott. The buggies and motorcycles of the escorts flanked the convoy trucks and would occasionally weave in between the semis. The specialty vehicles, like the former Fireman, remained in the center of the convoy.

It was only a couple of minutes before the first wave of wasters broke over the rear defenses. The cars and trucks of the escorts fired their myriad of weapons at the Anarchists. Many of the wasters ignored the escort vehicles to take aim at the convoy trucks. The wasters fell by great numbers, either due to the escort vehicles or to the heavy machineguns on the trailers of the big rigs.

The radio chatter was relentless as the escorts and convoys communicated to each other. Some were making suggestions, others were asking for assistance, and occasionally a scream presaging death broke over the airwaves.

The battle reminded Scott of combat footage he had seen of bombers and their escorts during raids in World War II. The "little friends" escort planes would try to engage the enemy before they reached the bombers. The enemy fighters would try to burst through the ranks of the defending aircraft to attack the bombers. Even then, the bombers were not without their defenses, as they would fire their machineguns into the oncoming fighters.

Once Scott passed, a convoy truck jackknifed in the middle of the highway. The truck itself belched out smoke from where the wasters had riddled it with bullets. The trailer though was still sound and the gun crews kept firing like mad at the onslaught of wasters. One of the gunners on the front turret waved for Scott to drive passed.

As the Charger, shot past Scott noticed that the pursuing Anarchists seemed to forget about the convoy and converged on the lone stricken truck. Many a waster paid for underestimating the strength and determination of the gun crews on the trailer. Buggies, bikes, and a couple of cars lay demolished around the trailer.

The sacrifice of the stricken convoy truck allowed the escorts to finish off the initial wave of Anarchists amongst the trucks. Soon the depleted convoy was speeding down the highway unmolested.

Everyone was beginning to run low on ammunition. The convoy would need to stop somewhere and set up static defenses if it was going to withstand another onslaught like the last one. So far, the convoy was lucky it had only lost one truck. The escort vehicles however were not so well off. They had lost seventeen leaving only twenty-eight escort vehicles and some of these needed repairs.

The Wrecking Crew was able to board, reload, refuel, and rearm the buggies and motorcycles on the road. However the cars and trucks of the escort force would have to make due until they could find a place to stop for the night.

Night, Scott could not believe that it was now getting close to sundown. They fought throughout most of the day and the lack of sleep and exhaustion on the crew was beginning to take effect. Occasionally a vehicle would start to weave when the driver dozed off.

"There should be a town up ahead," Scott said over the CB. "I believe the name is Valley City. Everyone head north on 8th Avenue Southwest just off the interstate exit and cross the Sheyenne River we can set up a good defensive line there.

"Mad Momma, have the pickets continue past the town for a few miles and then have them report back."

"Roger," Julia responded from the Armadillo.

The lead vehicles of the convoy were beginning to enter Valley City when an urgent cry went out over the radio.

"This is Picket One, my God! There are tanks heading our way. We need..." the radio message suddenly went dead with static as a loud boom punctuated the twilight.

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Five

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"I don't know what is sadder," bemoaned Tommy. "Us camping overnight in line in order to enter a comic book convention...."

"Or?" asked Victor fighting a mighty headache.

"Or," continued Tommy "the fact that we're 27th in line."

"We're on a planet far from home where they don't understand anything that we say, and we don't understand anything in their language," complained Victor. "Further, our only way home is inside that building. What would you have us do?"

"I'm hungry," replied Tommy. "We could go find something to eat."

"I could use a bite too," added Kelly. "Besides, it is not like being 35th or even 79th in line is going to prevent us from getting in."

"We just have to keep track of which way we head in order to find our way back," insisted Angus.

"But, we do not know what we can eat and what we cannot." complained Victor. "Further, we would not even know how to order anything if we found a restaurant."

"I could order another gin and tonic," retorted Tommy.

At the mention of the phrase gin and tonic, a mumble went through the crowd. It rolled towards the front of the line and return in a giant roaring wave. Soon, the entire line was shouting gin and tonic and drinking from a single large plastic container.

Eventually, the container made its way to the members of MOPS. The individual in front of them said, "Gin and tonic -- Okay?"

Tommy took the container and replied, "Okay" and took a drink. "Gin and tonic!" he added as he passed the container to Angus.

The crowd replied, "Gin and tonic!"

Angus took a long draw from it, passed it to Kelly, and shouted, "Gin and tonic!"

The crowd replied, "Gin and tonic!"

Kelly put it to his lips but did not drink, passed it to Victor, and shouted, "Gin and tonic!"

The crowd replied, "Gin and tonic!"

Victor took a look at the bottle and made a face. "I'm not drinking from that!"

"Just pretend then," whispered Kelly.

"No," insisted Victor as he passed the bottle back to Tommy.

Tommy took another drink, passed it to the person who had passed him the bottle, and shouted, "Gin and tonic!"

The crowd did not respond. They stood and stared at Victor.

"Gin and tonic -- okay," insisted the man with the bottle as he offered it to Victor.

Victor refused to take the bottle. The once friendly roar of gin and tonic became a mumble of disappointment. At least, that is what it sounded like to the MOPS members. In fact, the quartet began to feel uncomfortable with the stares and mumbles. It seemed as if there was a growing resentment from the crowd.

"Gin and tonic," shouted Tommy but his enthusiasm faded as he finished.

Kelly pointed to the once fizzing bucket in Victor's hands. "He's had too much to drink already," he explained, but the crowd became more restless. "Cannot hold his liquor..."

"Let's get out of here," whispered Tommy.

"Agreed," added Angus as they slipped from the line.

Soon they found themselves running. They do not know what they were running from, but they thought it would be a prudent thing to do. They did not run far because of the items that they were carrying were quite a burden.

They turned onto a street and went a short way up the corner. They stood there and rested a bit.

"Would it have killed you to just play along?" asked Tommy.

Before Victor could reply, Kelly shouted, "Look!"

Kelly was pointing to a very unexpected sight. There was a small group of Japanese tourists walking away from them farther up the street. There was a statue of some important citizen of this world. It had its three of its four arms spread wide. The fourth arm bended and a hand-like appendage touched something that might be considered a chin. It was a very thoughtful pose.

All but one stood in front of a statue. The final member of the tourist party took the photo. "Cheese," they said.

The MOPS members stood their dumbfounded for a moment. They all looked at each other with the "what was that?" look on their faces. After a few more moments, it dawned on them that they might be able to communicate with them. They looked back at the statue, but they were gone.

Kelly, the only one with any energy left after the last run, dashed after them. The rest took a few steps, but running was not a possibility. In a few moments, Kelly reached the statue. He continued running up the road to the next corner. He spotted the group turning another corner further up.

Kelly had a choice, continue to chase after the group of tourists and lose his friends, or wait for his friends to catch up. He thought he would wait for his group to catch up and hope for the best.

The pace of the remaining MOPS members was somewhere between a mosey and a stroll. Clearly, the Japanese tourists were not a priority for them at this point. Thus, Kelly examined the statue more closely. He noted that it was the lower right arm that was touching the bottom part of the individual's face. There was a smugly satisfied expression on the portion of him that was above the hand-like appendage attached to the bent arm.

The engraved plaque at the bottom was completely unintelligible. Kelly had plenty of time to contemplate who he was before the three caught up to him. When they finally reached him, Kelly said, "This way" and he ran to the corner where he had last witnessed the tourists.

Kelly stood there and gaped as the quiet side streets that they had been on erupted into a wellspring of life. He could see individuals rushing hither and yon. There were lights, signs, and a general roar of activity. The Las Vegas strip would be jealous of the hustle and bustle that occurred on the street he had just reached.

He was still standing there agape when the rest caught up. They too marveled at the spectacle that was before them. Slowly, they walked forward. It was as if the scene before them was slowly reeling them in.

Suddenly, not only the sights grabbed them but the smells did as well. Following Tommy's hunger, they found themselves outside of some place. To them, it was clearly an eating establishment of some sort. Warily they entered and the wonderful smell of food enveloped them.

A light-skinned being with very dark clothes approached them. At least, they assumed it was clothes. The MOPS members assumed that this individual was the maître-d'. "Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah," he or she or it stated plainly.5

"Ummm -- excuse me Holmes," Angus began. "But we're from out of town and we're lost."

"Noash ett," replied the maître-d'. 6

"We don't have any money and we don't speak your language," added Kelly.

"Okay," the maître-d' replied with a disgusted and haughty look upon his, her, or its face.

The maître-d' directed them to a booth near the kitchen. The four anxiously took their seats and waited. After a long wait, someone placed a few dishes upon their table. As a group, they avoided the ones that smelled funky, but devoured the rest. Each had their fill.

After waiting a while, Kelly walked up to the maître-d' and asked, "Okay?"

"Okay," replied the maître-d' in resignation.

He waved to the rest and left the establishment. Upon leaving the place, Kelly headed off. "Where are you going?" asked the rest.

"The way back is this way," Kelly replied.

"No," they all replied. "It is this way."

The three of them pointed in three different directions.

"It's just around the corner," stated Victor as he pointed in the direction he thought it was.

"No, it's this way," insisted Tommy.

"I would hate to be lost in the woods with you guys," retorted Angus. "It is clearly this way."

"You are all wrong," said Kelly. "I'm sure it is this way."

The four had eaten, but now they were hopelessly lost. They did not know which direction their only hope of getting home was located. They were in serious trouble. Good thing Victor still had his bucket because he threw up in it.


NOTES:

5: In Jetson's alien language it means "I love you" but clearly it means something else in this situation.

6: Cultural reference to a line in the movie National Lampoon's Vacation

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The Scout

Chapter 29

By Dwayne MacInnes

"This is Mad Momma," Julia said over the radio in a worried voice. "My dorsal gunner is reporting five tanks heading towards us. We are covering the exits to Valley City. We are going to need help to slow them down if we are to get everyone into town."

"Bumblebee and Wrangler we are going to need you up front," Scott ordered.

Bumblebee and Wrangler were both specialty vehicles and had so far been out of the thick of combat. Now it was time for them to earn their pay.

Bumblebee was a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle. Solid black paint covered the rear and as the eye swept forward towards the front, it would notice that the solid black would break into bands of vertical black stripes over a yellow body and then return to a solid black on the trunk in front. The face of a bee in grim determination covered the front of the Bug.

To further the illusion of the flying insect the barrel of a 90 mm recoilless rifle protruded out from the trunk resembling a stinger or proboscis. On the roof were mounted four loudspeakers two on the driver's side and two on the passenger's side resembling small wings.

Bumble Bee VW Bug

Wrangler on the other hand was an old Brinks armored truck painted in a Holstein pattern. A set of Texas longhorn horns mounted on the hood added to the cow theme. The armor truck did not boast any visible weapons because it had none. Its sole purpose was to carry and lay landmines in the event when the convoy needed to go to static defense.

"This is Bumblebee, Roger!" the voice on the radio replied in excitement. The two men who drove and operated the Bug had a reputation of being thrill seekers. Sometimes they had a tendency to push the envelope too far. However, they always accomplished their tasks.

As usual as the bee painted VW shot off down the highway towards combat, the jazzy version of 'The Flight of the Bumblebee' used as the Green Hornet theme song blared over the loudspeakers. The music lifted everyone's spirits as it sped by. Many trucks honked and everyone yelled encouragement as the Bug drove past.

"This is Wrangler, good buddy, I'm on my way," the voice of the Wrangler said in his thick Texas draw. "Yee-haw!"

The heavy armored truck followed the Bug towards the front of the pack.

Bumblebee flew past the Armadillo in the orange twilight towards the tanks. The Armadillo started to open up its 25 mm cannon giving the small VW some cover.

With the sun setting to the west behind the convoy, the tanks were at a disadvantage for firing at their targets. The glare from the sunlight blinded the gunners.

The VW approached the first tank an M60 and fired its 90 mm recoilless rifle. The shot hit home and a muffled explosion filled the air as thick smoke poured of the tank's turret. The other tanks, all Pattons as well, tried to return fire. The big guns could not turn to meet the little bee painted car in time. However, the machineguns on the tanks did give adequate cover. Bumblebee had to swerve and dodge the incoming shots. Even though armor covered the body, its skin was not as thick as Scott's Charger.

The 25 mm shells from the Bushmaster on the Armadillo destroyed the turret on a second tank. The music continued to blare over the loudspeakers as Bumblebee readied itself for another shot. The VW fired its projectile simultaneously as the M60 it was targeting fired its main gun, both vehicles exploded in a fiery flash.

Mad Momma watched in sadness as the daring little car disintegrated before her eyes. Three tanks lay smoking on the old highway the other two started to pull back as some M113 APCs pulled up. The Bushmaster was able to take out two before Scott ordered the Armadillo to pull back into town.

The Wrangler had been racing up and down and back and forth in front of the Armadillo delivering its deadly payload. The highway now suitably covered in mines would stop the tanks for the night, as they would need to clear the obstacles before they could enter the town.

"The field is now covered in cow pies." Wrangler drawled. "I'm sorry those fellas didn't make it. I liked their style."

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Six

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Let us look at this logically," explained Kelly O'Kern. "Angus is pointing back at the restaurant we just came from."

"With Victor's sense of direction," added Tommy Templar "we can rule that way out too."

"Hey!" complained Victor Viking meekly after his insides finished chatting with his bucket.

"I just thought we could go in and ask," Angus MacScot said defending his position.

"We're going this way," insisted Tommy as he walked away.

"What should we do?" asked Victor in confusion.

"It is not that way," they all agreed.

"Just remember which way we go," insisted Kelly. "If we can make it back here, we can start again."

"Right," Angus and Victor replied as the three rushed off to follow Tommy.

After a short walk, it was clear that this was not the way. However, the hustle and bustle and all of the sights of the city drew them in. There was a sidewalk cafe´ type establishment where the quartet found themselves walking. Eventually, they found themselves sitting there.

They marveled at the wide array of fashions that individuals wore. Many had selected colors that complimented their skin tones, and others selected colors that clearly clashed. Angus pointed out an individual in something that could be called a mini-skirt with what appeared to be a very tight Hello Kitty™ t-shirt.

This individual was causing a stir with a particular set of other individuals. Many of the four-armed, two-legged creatures turned to look at this very attractive young individual in high-heeled-esque shoe like walking apparatuses. On a few occasions one member of a pair would turn and look, the remaining member of the pair accosted this individual.

After they had sat at the table for a while, a dark-skinned being with white clothes approached them. At least, they assumed it was clothes. "Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah," he or she or it stated plainly. 7

"Sorry," explained Tommy. "We are here for a convention, and we do not have any money."

"Noash ett," replied the waiter urging them to order. The only word the quartet understood was "okay."

With great resignation that the waiter would not leave without them ordering, Tommy and Angus ordered gin and tonics.

"Tonic with sucrose," ordered Kelly.

"Nothing for me," insisted Victor.

The waiter reflexively wrote down the orders, and then discovered what he, she or it wrote, did a double take, and gave Victor a strange stare. Looking as if impressed, the waiter entered the building.

The quartet returned to their watching. Occasionally a passerby would point at Tommy and say what sounded like "Larrimoe-Kerly." Further, they would often continue with "Cooklaa-Frannen-Olly."

Not understanding these strange phrases, the quartet just ignored them. Occasionally, they would wave, but that was a rare occurrence. They just sat there enjoying the hustle and bustle pass by.

After several minutes of sitting there, a very strong smell overcame them. It smelled like the breath of a raging alcoholic after the eighth bourbon -- only stronger. The quartet looked around to see where the smell was coming from, as it got more intense. The smell was nearly unbearable, when the waiter showed up with the drinks.

"Gin and tonic, gin and tonic," the waiter listed as he, she, or it placed the drinks in front of Victor and Angus.

"Thank you," responded Angus and Victor.

"Tonic with sucrose," the waiter continued while placing the glass in front of Kelly, and he gave a strange look to Victor.

"Thank..." Kelly started to reply when the alcohol smell over came him.

"Nuthin Form 'E'," stated the waiter placing a large smoldering glass in front of Victor with a wink.

A large group gathered around the door to get a look at the individual who ordered the Nuthin Form 'E'. They were shocked to discover the slight human with a slightly fizzing bucket was the one who ordered the drink.

The smell of the drink was so intense that the eight eyes of the quartet of MOPS members were gushing tears. None of them could enjoy the return of the individual with the Hello Kitty™ t-shirt with the drink there. Further, the pedestrians began giving them a wide birth as the smell filled the area. Occasionally, they would hear someone point and say Nuthin Form 'E', and look in shock at Victor.

"Do something with that drink," insisted Tommy.

Victor took the drink and poured it in his bucket. An eight-foot plume of flame erupted up from the bucket with a slight smell of peaches. Just as quickly as the flame started, it vanished. Victor's bucket was sparkling clean, and a pleasant smell of raspberry lingered.

With the stares and hushed whispers, the members of MOPS felt uncomfortable. Thus, they left their comfortable spot at the café. After a brief debate on which direction to head, they decided on a vote of 3 to 4 to follow their esthetic. That is, they followed the alien in the Hello Kitty™ t-shirt.

After a few blocks, this individual walked into a shop, so the quartet walked on by. They lingered on the corner for a bit, semi-waiting for the individual to walk out. However, a brightly lit complex attracted their attention. From their corner vantage point, it looked like a casino.

The enormous structure had flashing neon signs and many arrows pointing to the entrance. The building would give the flashiest, gaudiest, Las Vegas casinos a run for their money. The group could not help but be drawn towards it.

As they got closer, an enormous poster on the front became clear. From the corner, the bright lights reflected off the protective glass, so they could not get a clear view. It was only as the group got directly in front of the building could they make out the image.

They all stood there with their mouths open as they finally got a look at the poster. The fifteen-story image was the spitting image of Tommy. In smaller images around Tommy appeared to be Victor, Angus, and Kelly.

They moved around a little bit to determine if it was just a trick of the light. They wanted to determine if it was an image from a camera or a reflection. However, the image stayed exactly as it was. Clearly, it was someone or something that looked exactly like Tommy.

As they were attempting to get their minds around it, the front doors of the structure opened and a huge wave of people streamed out. They spotted the group and in a great reverent tone, they began chanting "Larrimoe-Kerly" with a "Cooklaa-Frannen-Olly" occasionally thrown in.

Soon, the crowd surrounded the members of MOPS. They pressed closely into them so they could not move.

To Kelly Angus said, "This is another fine mess you've gotten us into Ollie!"

Kelly replied, "It wasn't a Stan Laurel line it was an Oliver Hardy line. Furthermore, it was actually -- another nice mess -- ugh -- said Mr. Film Historian."


NOTES:

7: Ibid Jetson's

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The Scout

Chapter 30

By Dwayne MacInnes

When the first semis entered the town of Valley City, they were surprised to be fired upon by wasters. The small arms fire did nothing to the big rigs other than scratching some paint. The return fire from the trailers and the escorts was devastating. Before Bumblebee had destroyed its first tank, the convoy secured Valley City. Many wasters simply surrendered when they saw wave after wave of vehicles drive into town.

The town also housed many citizens who farmed along the local river. The same river Scott prayed would offer the convoy some defense as the convoy prepared for a siege. As the sun finally vanished behind the western horizon the last of the escorts were rumbling into town.

Two loud explosions to the east told Scott that the Anarchist's heavy vehicles found the landmines Wrangler had set down. The armored car still carried a sizable load of mines that Scott would need for the defense of the town.

Scott pulled his Charger into the middle of a large parking lot. Nine wasters stood in the same parking lot with their hands on their heads. Guards from the convoy with readied weapons stood over their prisoners.

"Get those trailers set up in a circle," Scott ordered as he stepped out of the muscle car. "You get some of those prisoners to unload those trailers into that warehouse," the scout pointed to one of the guards.

After a brief period, the Armadillo drove up and parked next to Scott. Julia jumped out of the cab. For a large woman she could move rather gracefully.

"Looks like they still have two good tanks and maybe three APCs," the large woman stated as she approached Scott. "They did us a favor by running two more APCs over those landmines. They should keep their distance tonight."

"Good. That's good," Scott replied. "We need to get our defenses up as quickly as possible. See if any of the locals will help. Our people are dead on their feet. Offer the locals anything you think may help. I'm sure none of them have had much food in a long time."

"This is a good place to hole up. We'll need to destroy as many bridges as we can tonight. Plus, those back roads will need to be mined as well," Julia offered.

"Ok, let's get some work details going. We'll do this in shifts so we can grant everyone a little shuteye," Scott shouted.

All through the night, the convoy with the assistance of many of the local people began setting up defenses. The lighter vehicles like the buggies and motorcycles had their weapons stripped and were dispersed throughout the pocket of the town they were defending. Many of the buildings and houses now boasted a recoilless rifle or a machinegun.

The deadly truck trailers formed a steel wall across bridges the convoy did not destroy and many back roads. Placed in front of the trailers were rifle pits manned by the seventy-four available personnel from the convoy.

Scott was dozing behind the wheel of his Charger when Mad Momma approached the open car door.

"We are one waster short after head count," Julia said as Scott shot awake mildly cursing himself for dozing off.

"Relax," Julia said. "You've been busy for the last twenty-four hours. Anyway, it is as you thought, one would try and make a break for it"

"Fine," Scott said with a parched voice. "Get the remaining eight locked up in one of the trailers. Then let's get the contents of the convoy hidden inside that bank over there." Scott pointed to the old Wells Fargo building a few blocks down from the parking lot.

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Seven

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Jesus! Say something!" exclaimed Angus as the crowd pushed tighter and tighter around them.

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

"Right," apologized Angus. "That is why you have that fake Irish accent."

"Guys," whimpered Victor.

"Anyway, I was talking about the Jesus Tommy," explained Angus. "He should say something to his flock."

"What should I say?" asked Tommy.

"What difference does it make?" replied Angus. "It isn't like they understand English."

Tommy thought for a few moments. He struggled with what he was going to say, and then he began, "Yub nub, eee chop yub nub ah toe meet toe peechee keene, g'noop dock fling oh ah."

"Oh! We're dead," exclaimed Kelly.

"Yahwah, eee chop yahwah ah toe meet toe peechee keene, g'noop dock fling oh ah," continued Tommy gesticulating to the crowd like a master thespian.

"What?" asked Angus.

"Coatee chah tu yub nub -- coatee chah tu yahwah -- coatee chah tu glowah. Allay loo ta nuv," Tommy continued, ignoring the other MOPS member's conversation.

With a deep sigh Kelly responded, "He's speaking in Ewok..."

"Glowah, eee chop glowah ya glowah pee chu nee foam, ah toot dee awe goon daa," Tommy continued with great expression coming from years as an over-actor.

"Ewok?"

"It's from Return of the Jedi," explained Kelly. "It's Ewok Celebration -- we did it in high school."

"Coatee cha tu goo..." stated Tommy assertively

"Yub nub!" replied the crowd to everyone's surprise

"Coatee cha tu doo..." replied Tommy

"Yahwah!" returned the crowd.

"Coatee cha tu too..." added Tommy

"Ya chaa!" chanted the crowd and continued, "Allay loo ta nuv, allay loo ta nuv, allay loo ta nuv!"8

"I guess we should be glad he didn't break into Pinball Wizard or something," whispered Angus.9

The crowd began chanting "Larrimoe-Kerly" and "Cooklaa-Frannen-Olly" loudly. They closed in tightly upon the quartet and raised them into the air. With the loud chants, they carried the four men into the brightly lit building.

Tommy's church, as the MOPS members called it, had a giant alter on the far end. There were several steps leading up to the altar. Thus, all of the seats could get a good view of what was happening on it. Further, there were several monitors throughout the room to make sure no one missed any of the action.

Higher still, and behind the altar was a large glass window. On the other side of the window was a very white room. Even with the lights out in the room, it had a bright white glow to it. You could not get a whiter white than this room.

The crowd carrying the MOPS members went around to the side and dropped them into this extremely white room, and closed the door behind them. They continued their chant of "Larrimoe-Kerly" and "Cooklaa-Frannen-Olly," and left the men in the room alone.

"Ewok Celebration?" asked Kelly.

"I couldn't think of anything else," complained Tommy.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want," began Angus. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. That would have been good." 10

"What would have been wrong with," began Victor "But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. What? I had to memorize it for English class."11

"At the very least you could have said," complained Angus. "Be excellent to each other and party on, dudes."12

"But you doom us all by that -- toe peachy-keen gnip gnop sis boom bah -- Ewok Celebration stuff," Kelly said. "You could have at least told them in Ewok if they didn't do as you wish, you'd become angry and use your magic."

"It's against my programming to impersonate a deity," joked Tommy.13

"Sure!" replied Kelly. "You can remember that line!"

"Well there is no pressure now," retorted Tommy.

"Anyway," interrupted Angus. "There are some couches in here, and it is getting late. I suggest we try to get some sleep."

"Sleep?" asked Victor. "Who can sleep?"

Victor sacked out on a couch with his bucket by his side, and was almost out before he finished that sentence. The rest followed his lead, and chose a couch to bed down for the night. Unfortunately for Kelly, the couches were too short for him to get comfortable, so he ended up sleeping on the floor.

Several hours later, Tommy woke up. "Is anyone else awake?" he whispered.

"No," replied Kelly in a whisper.

"We're all still sound asleep," added Angus.

Victor remained silent when Tommy added, "I have to -- er -- um -- see a man about a horse."

"But we're locked in," insisted Angus.

"I would hate to turn their nice white room -- uh -- less white," Tommy muttered.

"Has anyone *tried* the door?" asked Kelly.

"No," replied Tommy. "But if I don't go soon, I will have break it down."

Tommy got up and opened the door. It was not locked. There were two other closed doors in the connecting room. Tommy opened one, and it was a closet sized room with a hole in one corner. There was a ringed stand over the hole. Tommy took this for a primitive toilet and took care of his urgent business. All but Victor took turns using these primitive facilities.

The other door in this entryway was locked. Thus, they only had access to the two rooms. Thus, the MOPS members sat around in their semi-dark white room for several minutes wondering what was going to happen. They thought they heard someone or something enter the outer hall, but they ignored it. Whoever or whatever it was left shortly afterwards.

Eventually, the dark white room became a very light white room. The light seared through Victor's brain and he sat up screaming.

"It was bad enough that you guys have been screaming at each other for the last hour," complained Victor. "But now you turn on that ghastly bright light."

"Um," muttered Tommy. "We didn't turn on the lights."

"They did," admitted Kelly as he pointed to the large crowd gathering out in the main area.

"I need to," began Victor. "You know..."

"The -- restroom -- is out the door and too the right," asserted Tommy.

Victor stumbled out of the room and then stumbled back. "Where's the restroom?" he asked.

"It is right there," insisted Tommy as he pointed to the door.

"That is just a small room with a tree in the corner," remarked Victor.

"What?" the three members asked in unison.

They all peered into the room, and in the stand now stood a large tree. Its roots were in the hole, and the stand held up the trunk.

"It's a good thing no one went number 2," remarked Kelly.

"Um er," muttered Tommy.

"You didn't?" asked Angus.

"There is no holding back nature," replied Tommy.

"Speaking of which," whimpered Victor. "If you are through yelling at each other, what am I supposed to do?"

"It is a tree..." insisted Tommy.

"He's right," added Angus with a shrug.

The three members gave Victor some alone time with the tree and watched as the pews began to fill with all shapes and sizes of individuals. Many of them pointed with great excitement at the MOPS members in their white room. However, the room was apparently sound proof, as they did not hear a sound.

Eventually, Victor returned and crashed upon a couch. His recline was short lived as the couch evaporated beneath him. All of the furniture was gone only the slight fragrance of cinnamon remained. Slowly, the walls began to push in on them.

"Oh, we're dead," exclaimed Kelly.


NOTES:

8: Yes, we did do Ewok Celebration from Return of the Jedi in high school.

9: A cultural reference to The Who's Rock Opera Tommy

10: Psalms 23:1-2

11: William Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet. Act II: Scene 2

12: Cultural reference to a some lines in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

13: Ibid Return of the Jedi.

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The Scout

Chapter 31

By Dwayne MacInnes

When the sun finally rose above the eastern horizon, the two sides were able to get a good look at each other. The Anarchists found Valley City a veritable fortress. Only a couple of bridges remained intact. The ones leading to the western part of town where the convoy took refuge still stood. The wasters were hesitant to send in their heavy vehicles. They had already expended nearly all of their tanks and APCs. They knew the convoy would have deployed more mines and the wasters were none to keen on discovering where they were.

The convoy on the other hand found themselves bottled in. Wasters on bikes and buggies sped back and forth along the highway, the back roads, and the open fields around the town. Fortunately, the wasters held their two M60 Pattons back for fear of losing them to the recoilless rifles and landmines that guarded the town.

Both sides withheld their fire as the day wore on. Scott called a meeting with the various convoy and escort leaders. They met inside an old fast food restaurant.

"Looks like we are under siege," Scott announced to the gathered group.

"We have enough stores to last us for some time," Ed, one of the convoy drivers, chimed in. "We even have a good store of ammunition. It's the manpower that concerns me."

"Maybe we should see if any of the locals will want to join our posse," Wrangler offered. Scott nearly broke into a laugh when the gangly man stepped out of his armored truck the previous night. The scout never noticed him before and he could not understand why. The man wore a cowboy hat, a western vest, chaps, and cowboy boots in the same Holstein print that matched his outlandish truck. It was a good thing Wrangler was busy cussing over the fact one of the horns on his Texas Longhorn mount broke off during the brief combat.

"How many locals have we evacuated to this side of town?" Scott asked Julia.

"A little over a hundred -- most are women and children," the large woman replied.

"Right, see how many men and women will be willing to defend their town," Scott continued.

"Do you think they were setting up an ambush with those tanks last night?" a short squat escort driver named Willy asked.

"I can only surmise two things: one is that they were setting a trap for us. However, I doubt that is the case. The second is a thought I really do not want to dwell on," Scott said.

Julia scorned hard at Scott, "Would you be willing to share that thought?"

"Just before we left Billings, I received word that the Anarchists were sending out forces to Minneapolis. The goal was to unite the local warlords and then try to conquer St Paul. My fear is if those tanks are here, then St Paul is already gone."

Silence hung over the group for several minutes before Willy broke the silence. "So we cannot expect any help from the east to lift this siege. Does General

MacKenzie know of this and is he going to send us some relief?"

Scott looked around the group again, "I'm going to level with you and this cannot leave this room. General MacKenzie knows the situation in the Twin Cities very well. However, before we left he had received orders to abandon Fort Billings."

The silence a few moments before suddenly broke into a raucous chaos of yelling. The various leaders started shouting and asking questions simultaneously. It took the hollering of Mad Momma's booming voice to restore order.

"Then we are as good as dead," Willy said before the menacing scowl on Julia's face forced him to swallow any further complaints.

Scott paced back and forth for a while before he turned back to the group.

"The radio tower is still intact and the Wrecking Crew owns a portable generator. With any luck we can send out an S.O.S."

"That is a long shot at best," Willy retorted. "The atmospherics don't allow us to send messages long distance."

"I know it is a long shot, but it is still a shot. Do any of you have any better suggestions?" Scott asked.

"Well, good buddy," Wrangler finally put in with a smirk on his face, "we cannot very well leave our Fort Apache here. Neither can we just stay here and wait for the cavalry to arrive. We need to get a message out somehow. I figure the radio is the best option for now. If things start to get really hairy maybe one of those scoot jockeys could race for the border with a personal appeal for help."

The leadership group finally broke up after they hammered out a few more details. Julia found that almost every man, woman, and many of the children were willing to join forces to defend their town. She did not know how many would stay once the shooting commenced but for now she gathered them in work details helping the convoy reinforce their fortifications.

The defenders attached the portable generator to the old radio station. Fortunately, the group boasted several electricians and in a short time, the station was transmitting an S.O.S. to the outside world. No one knew if anyone was even receiving it.

Scott surveyed the enemy forces gathered on the west side of town. The Anarchists still held the tanks and the APCs back. However, the one thing the Anarchists did not lack was people. Hundreds of vehicles from the ubiquitous buggy and motorcycle to the old sedan and pickup truck zoomed back and forth in front of the fortifications.

The sun was at its zenith when the Anarchists finally unleashed an assault on the West Main Street defenses. The wasters poured vehicle after vehicle towards the fortifications. The landmines hidden under the crumbled surface of the road destroyed the initial onrush of vehicles. The machineguns in the fire pits and on top of the trailers mowed down the survivors. The defenders continued to fire even when the noise of a loud rumble heading towards them echoed through the air.

"It's the tanks," one of the civilians screamed. Many of the civilians placed in the defenses on this side of the town started to abandon their posts and run as the thunder of steel treads loomed ever closer.

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Eight

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The walls of their very white room closed in on them until the four men looked like a four-pack of action figures in their original packaging. That is when the walls stopped moving in on them. They stood there on display in front of the large congregation.

After several minutes with the MOPS members staring at the crowd, and the crowd doing likewise, something red appeared. On earth, he would have been described as the devil. Well, the Earth the MOPS members live on, on this Earth who knows how they would describe him or her or it.

He, she, or it was completely red. The face was red. If he, she, or it had any clothes on, they were red. The eyes had no whites; they were completely red. Let us face facts; this creature was completely red.

Like many of the creatures on this planet, the preacher had four arms; however, these were constantly in motion. One of the arms held what was probably a microphone. The other three took turns pointing hither and yon as the owner of the arms paced frantically in front of the congregation.

The MOPS members could do nothing but stand there and watch the spectacle before them. None of the members in the room could hear what he was saying. Even if they could, they would not have been able to understand him. So, it is just as well.

Occasionally, the congregation would erupt into a huge roar. The men in their confined space could hear the faintest of this eruption from their vantage point. The only option they had was to watch the spectacle before them.

When the franticness of the preacher reached a certain pitch, the preacher made a discrete gesture and a device emerged from the ceiling. It was a device, which looked familiar to the MOPS members. To them it looked like a guillotine.

After a few moments, they were convinced it was a guillotine as the preacher sliced some large melon looking things with it. Using this device, he sliced these large melons into quarters and then eighths. He continued doing this until the there was enough melon to go around to the congregation.

From an unseen hatch above the four men, some of the melon was lowered down on a tray. It tasted strange to the quartet, but it was a suitable start to a nice breakfast. As they ate it, they could faintly hear the roar of the crowd.

After everyone had his, her, or its share of melon, the carcass of something was placed upon the altar. The guillotine was raised and replaced by a large fire. The red individual skewered the carcass and placed it on a rotisserie above the now raging fire. The preacher's antics returned, and he worked the crowd into another frenzy.

Another red individual joined the preacher in front of the now roasting carcass with a large implement. Together they sliced off bits of the cooked animal. Once again, it was passed to each individual in the congregation.

As it did with the melon, the hatch above the men opened up and the smell resembling bacon filled the small room. A tray came from the hatch and the quartet ate some of the roast beast-thing.

Next, several red assistants placed a large pot upon the still smoldering fire on stage. Inside was another carcass that appeared to have been stewed for several days. Once the crowd was worked up again, the preacher reached into the pot and pulled out a piece from the carcass in the pot. Removing the flesh from the bones, he tossed the bones aside and returned the meat to the pot. Once the carcass was bone free, a red assistant gathered up the bones. Like the other food items, a sample was given to the men in their confined room behind the stage.

Wave after wave of implement would come on stage, and more and more food was prepared and passed around. The MOPS members were beginning to think that this place was some sort of funky restaurant, and they were part of some sort of fancy floorshow.

They partook in 14 courses. Between each course, the preacher urged the crowd into excitement. Every scrap of food the preacher and assistants prepared with some sort of elaborate demonstration.

At the end of the 14th course, the chants of Larrimoe-Kerly resumed. They were more fervent, and occasionally, the preacher would point to the MOPS members. The chants started haphazardly, but they eventually coalesced into a rhythmic chant. The entire congregation shouted in unison. It was so loud that the costumed men could hear it clearly in their soundproof containment room.

The preacher pointed at the quartet, and they found themselves falling. They had not noticed the trapdoor beneath them. They found themselves on a slide, and soon they arrived in front of the altar in a pile. The din of Larrimoe-Kerly was deafening.

When the quartet gathered themselves together and stood up, the preacher held his hands up and the chants turned into a thunderous round of applause. As the crowd was still cheering, the preacher handed the microphone to Tommy and whispered into his ear, "Yub nub -- okay?"

When the crowd quieted, Tommy made his I am an actor pose and said as if he were a politician running for office, "Yub nub, eee chop yub nub ah toe meet toe peechee keene, g'noop dock fling oh ah."

The crowd broke into thunderous applause and Kelly whispered to Angus "Oh! We're soooo dead!"

Tommy continued his oration of Ewok Celebration14 to the enjoyment of the gathered participants. Quietly the preacher left the stage, and the MOPS members were all alone in front of the gathering.

As they had done the previous evening, the crowd responded in the proper place. Tommy glowed with pride as the crowd erupted in thunderous applause for his oration. He took several bows to the standing ovation that followed.

The preacher returned with a book in his hand. He placed it on a lectern, and after the crowd quieted, he read from it. Reverently, they listened to what the preacher said. Naturally, the humans did not understand their language -- except for the occasional okay.

The first passage ended with Larrimoe-Kerly Cooklaa-Frannen-Olly, and with that, the crowd erupted into a deafening roar. Three other passages ended in Cooklaa-Frannen-Olly to which the crowd cheered loudly.

When the preacher had finished, the chants of Larrimoe-Kerly returned. Tommy walked to the front of the stage and raised his arms. The crowd doubled their volume in their chants.

Four red assistants entered and grabbed the four MOPS members. They slowly dragged them off, but Tommy managed to shout, "Be excellent to each other and party on dudes!"15

The four men found themselves back in the white room. Kelly punched Tommy in the arm.

"What?" complained Tommy.

"Do you remember your favorite Twilight Zone episode?" Kelly asked.

"Yes..." responded Tommy glowing from the crowd's acceptance but trying to figure out the reference.

"What do you suppose he was reading to the crowd?" asked Kelly.

"You don't mean?" queried Angus.

"Yes!" exclaimed Kelly.

"You mean..." Tommy began.

"It's a cookbook!" shouted Kelly.16


NOTES:

14: Ibid Return of the Jedi.

15: Ibid Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

16: A cultural reference to the plot of an episode of The Twilight Zone entitled To Serve Man.

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The Scout

Chapter 32

By Dwayne MacInnes

The rumble of steel treads on broken concrete grew closer. The convoy officers in charge of the town's southwestern fortifications berated and coerced many of the panicky civilians back to their posts. Once they were again ducking into their fire pits and trenches in front of the convoy trailers, many started to fire their weapons blindly.

This led to more cussing and berating from the officers until order returned. The silhouette of the heavy armored vehicles with many a buggy and modified car leading the way rumbled towards the defenders. The thick cloud of dirt roiled into the air behind the large force.

The veteran forces held their fire as the newly recruited civilians started to fire their weapons again. The bullets bounced harmlessly off the thick hide of the three APCs leading the new assault. The gunners on the trailers finally opened up with their twin .50 machineguns when the vanguard came within range.

The APCs halted and returned fire as the lighter vehicle poured around the metal giants and raced towards the fortifications. The officers finally gave the order to return fire. Bullets of all calibers zipped and popped back and forth. Occasionally, there was a thunk, as a round entered a body or the explosion of a waster's vehicle succumbing to destruction.

The APCs still held back and returned fire. The gunners worked their guns onto the trailers trying to sweep off the defenders. The trailers however were well constructed and the gun emplacements were well armored. Still a defender would fall to an enemy round from the M2 machineguns leaving only the wreckage of a body.

Smoke, fire, dirt, bullets, and mists of blood filled the air. From along side the road a 75 mm recoilless rifle protruded from a house. The round fired and struck an APC. The metal beast flashed into flames and the gunner disintegrated. However, an M60 tank pulled out from behind the burning APC and fired its main gun into the structure. The house collapsed and then burst into flames.

The Anarchists in the smaller vehicles made their way towards the fortifications. The slaughter they endured was great, but no matter how many the defenders mowed down another took its place.

Meanwhile on the east side of town and across the river, another battle was brewing. Anarchists were exchanging fire with the defenders from houses across the Sheyenne River. Some were trying to get boats into the water amidst the bullets of the defenders. Many sank before they left the shores.

The one bridge still standing on this front was the scene of a bitter and costly battle. The trailers with their gun crews mowed down waster after waster who tried to force a crossing. They could not use their vehicles for debris and obstacles were cluttering its span.

So, the Anarchists decided to dismount and try to take the bridge from the defenders on foot. The wasters soon found out that behind every obstacle a defender lay in wait to unleash his or her deadly arsenal. It was not long before the machineguns and rifles of a multitude of calibers riddled and pock marked the bridge.

Scott had chosen to bulk the majority of his green troops on the eastern fortifications. He figured that the wasters would concentrate on breaking through on the west. However, the ferocity and tenacity of the Anarchists on this front was more than even he anticipated.

Scott was in the middle of the defensive zone coordinating the defense of Valley City. He would relay orders over the CB radio in the Charger or he would send runners out to assess the situation. The center of the defensive zone was almost as chaotic as the battles raging on both sides of town.

"Sir," a convoy officer ran up to Scott. "The western forces are starting to break. We need reinforcements."

Scott looked over at one his runners, "Are the wasters attacking the north bridge from the interstate?"

"No, there are a lot of mines still in place on that section of road as well as the bridge."

"Good, grab half those people and have them join the secondary defenses on the western fortifications," Scott ordered.

Both the officer and the runner ran off towards the north. Another runner quickly ran up from the east.

"My God, look!" the young man panted as he pointed towards the eastern horizon. Over the tops of the buildings and houses in the east and between the black smokes of the burning debris rose a grey ominous cloud.

"The wasters are getting reinforcements!"

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Nine

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"How do you know they mean to eat us?" asked Tommy as he looked around their white room.

"How many courses did we eat yesterday that contained meat?" asked Kelly.

"Four -- but that is just a coincidence," insisted Tommy.

"How many passages did he read from the book?" asked Kelly.

"Again it was just a coincidence that there were four passages," asserted Tommy.

"You are not concerned that in some religions they eat their gods?" asked Kelly.

"You are over reacting," Tommy replied.

"Whether he is right or not," interrupted Angus "we should try to get out of here."

"I need to speak to the tree first," Tommy said with a wry smile.

"Not in my store you don't!" exclaimed Angus in his best immigrant grocer voice.17

The couches that had vanished when the room shrank had now returned. The remaining MOPS members relaxed as Tommy went to take care of his business.

"Hey, the tree is gone..." Tommy noticed as he entered the room off the main room.

"Your last trip probably killed it," joked Angus.

The men sat and let their food digest. After a short while, Tommy returned and said, "You'll probably not want to go in there for a while."

Kelly was going to make a joke but he got a whiff of what Tommy had done in the bathroom. "Man! What crawled up into you and died?"

"I don't think that meat we ate is agreeing with my system," explained Tommy.

"But do they have to fight in our presence?" Angus asked as he also got a smell.

"Somebody please open a window," complained Victor.

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

"If that outer door is locked, I'm going to break it down," Kelly explained as he ran out.

Kelly found the bathroom door closed, but the smell was clearly emanating from that room. It was very strong in the entryway. He tried the outer door, and the red assistants had not locked it. He rushed out searching for an escape from Tommy's digestive odor. The rest followed.

After rushing down a few hallways, they exited the rear of the building and found themselves in an alleyway.

"I'll lead the way," insisted Angus. "You guys don't know the way back."

Angus led the MOPS members out of the alley and into a busy side street. They took a few turns here and there. They looked around at the scenery.

"Evening is coming on," noted Kelly.

"How late did we sleep?" asked Victor.

"We were up pretty late," insisted Tommy. "We must have slept a long time."

"Perhaps we have some sort of jet lag," Kelly proposed.

"It's possible," remarked Angus. "I once slept for 14 hours after a long plane trip."

"Plus," added Victor, "that ceremony wasn't exactly short."

"It looks like everyone is rushing home," added Kelly.

"Hey, there is where Victor ordered that awful drink," noted Tommy.

"But it did quite the trick on this bucket," Victor remarked showing Tommy the inside of the bucket. "It is nice and shiny clean!"

"Perhaps Angus does know the way back," included Kelly.

"Of course I do," insisted Angus. "Jesus! What was that?"

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

"Right," apologized Angus. "That is why you have that fake Irish accent."

"Enough you two!" exclaimed Tommy. "I saw it too. What was it?"

"I didn't see anything," added Victor.

"It looked like a living example of Australopithecus afarensis," replied Angus.

"Thank you Mr. Anthropology Major," Victor said still not knowing what they saw.

"Wait here," insisted Angus running after the thing that he saw.

The remaining men looked at each other trying to determine what they should do. They were not in the mood to go chasing after him, so they did as Angus asked and stayed where they were. They found a nice bench nearby and took a seat.

As Angus ran off, Kelly and Tommy looked at each other. Simultaneously they said, "gin and tonic."

"Wait here," insisted Tommy to Victor as he and Kelly ran to the outdoor café.

Victor asked them as they hurriedly walked away, "Could you get me a..."

"No!" the two said in unison.

The two men took a seat at the café they had visited the previous day. Soon, the waiter appeared with a gin and tonic and a soda. They could see Victor, so if anything happened they could quickly join him.

Meanwhile, Angus chased after what he thought was an ancient ancestor to Homo sapiens. With plenty of other individuals trying to get where they were going, it was often difficult for Angus to see the small creature he was chasing.

He thought he saw his quarry run down a side street, so when he eventually made it to that street, he turned down it. There was a large group of smallish inhabitants of this planet congregated there. You could assume that they were teenagers or pre-teens. In any event, they pointed at Victor and shrieked.

Victor thought the shrill screams would shatter glass in a twelve-block radius, and it stopped him in his tracks. The shouts continued as the crowd slowly advanced to where Angus was standing. He slowly backed away.

The crowd got closer and closer to where Angus stood. Slowly the pace of the advancing crowd picked up. Victor picked up the pace of his retreat. With each speed adjustment Angus made, the crowd also adjusted its speed. They grew closer and closer.

Soon, Angus found himself running away from the crowd of screaming teens and pre-teens. The once crowded streets parted for the chase. Angus ran past the bench where Victor was sitting. He also ran past the café where Tommy and Kelly were enjoying their beverages. He just kept running with the mob screaming behind him.

The remaining MOPS members filed in behind the group of shouting youngsters. Eventually, Angus made a wrong turn. He ran up dead-end alley. Eventually, he reached a wall. He could go no further. The shrieking youngsters slowly approached him. He was trapped.


NOTES:

17: I Cultural Reference to David Lee Roth's video for Yankee Rose.

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The Scout

Chapter 33

By Dwayne MacInnes

"Damn, we've got them beat in weaponry, ammunition, food and defensive placements," Scott cursed. "The one thing we don't have is numbers. They do, and they are using them to terrible effect." Scott slammed his fist down on top of the hood of the Charger.

1970 Dodge Charger

Sam, standing next to Scott looked around from the various defenders. The look of defeat stared back at him. Even the scout appeared to be temporarily lost to despair.

"Well, we may not survive this, but we will sure make them pay," Scott determined. "Get the last of the escort vehicles to the secondary defensive fortifications on the western perimeter."

"Sam, get into the Charger," Scott snapped and the boy jumped into his seat and pulled on his helmet.

Julia looked over to Scott before she ran towards the Armadillo. "So Scout where are you heading?"

Scott shouted back as he climbed into the muscle car's seat, "I'm going to see what help I can lend to the east. I need you to coordinate and conduct our defensive plan to the west."

Before Julia could argue, Scott slammed the door and raced the scout vehicle to the river.

The black Charger pulled up to the last defensive trailer in the eastern fortifications. The scout jumped out of the car, leaving the engine idling with Sam operating the M60 machinegun. One of the defenders tossed down one end of a rope ladder that Scott quickly scaled.

Once on top, Scott found Willy surveying the horizon with his field glasses. The gun crews were poised and ready to unleash their heavy machineguns. So far, no one had crossed the river necessitating the use of the twin mounted M2s. There was no need for them to move fore and aft of the sideways-parked trailer.

Willy shoved Scott the field glasses. "We still are holding the river. I don't know how long we will be able to however.

"They keep coming and we keep repelling them. I'm amazed the civvies are not running yet."

"As long as we hold this side of the river I think they will stand pat," Scott said peering along the riverbanks with the field glasses. Then he brought them to bear onto the encroaching dust cloud of the vehicles racing towards them.

"I guess I better get back down there. The reinforcements are about to add their weight to the assault," Scott grimly replied as he returned the glasses.

Willy peered through the glasses again as Scott started to dismount the trailer.

"Wait," the convoy officer yelled. "Something strange is going on.'

Scott could hear the explosions as he returned to the top of the trailer. Willy thrust the glasses back into Scott's hands and pointed out to the horizon.

"Look!" was all he said.

Scott scanned the area where Willy directed and noticed new plumes of dark smoke drifting into the air. The new arrivals were tangling it up with the wasters. Scott focused the binoculars onto one of the vehicles it was a 1976 Sea Island green Mercury Cougar XR7 sport coupe. An M61A2 20 mm Vulcan cannon inside a fully rotating turret sat atop the roof. There was also its more compact cousin, the XM134 minigun mounted through the passenger side of the windshield. They were firing a barrage of death into the wasters.

1976 Mercury Cougar XR7 Two Door Sport Coupe Tank

Scott counted about six other vehicles racing along side the Cougar, each a different and unique armed vehicle. All were carving a deadly swath through the wasters. It was only a matter of a few minutes before the new arrivals had fought their way to the river.

In those few minutes, Scott made sure the defenders on his side of the river did not fire onto the third party joining the fight. Scott followed the maxim of "the enemy of my enemy must be my friend".

They Anarchist on the east side of the Sheyenne River quickly threw down their arms and either surrendered, ran, or died.

Scott sent a couple of his people out to guide the seven new arrivals across the 8th Avenue Bridge. The scout, while waiting for the new forces to cross, sent the majority of the defenders off to the west to reinforce Julia's command. He could hear the combat growing fiercer to the west.

The Sea Island green Cougar pulled up to the black Charger. A stocky middle-aged man stepped out of the vehicle. He wore glasses, an old T-shirt, a pair of worn shorts, and on his feet were a pair of sandals. He gave a big smile as he waved to Scott.

"We thought you could use some help here," the man said. "We heard your S.O.S. over the radio."

"Glad to have it. But who are you and where do you come from?" Scott replied.

"We are from St Paul. My name is Doug and Weston here is my gunner," Doug pointed to the smaller thin man sitting in the passenger seat behind the minigun cleaning his glasses.

Julia watched as the first line of defense crumbled under the new assault. The M60 Patton tanks made short work of the defensive trailers. The survivors from the first line of defense fell back to the second line. However, most of the civilians tended to bypass the second line altogether and just tended to run.

Even though she had received numerous reinforcements from the east, she still had too few people to stop the unending rush of Anarchists. There were still one APC and the two M60 Pattons relentless that pounded the defenses. Further, almost all the buildings were demolished and burning.

Worst of all, the recoilless rifles were either lost or out of ammunition.

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Ten

By Douglas E. Gogerty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Gin and tonic!" the guard shouted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


NOTES:

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

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

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

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The Scout

Chapter 34

By Dwayne MacInnes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Eleven

By Douglas E. Gogerty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It was a joke," replied Victor.

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

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

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

"They did?" asked Tommy.

"And this is common knowledge?" asked Kelly.

"Well..." muttered Victor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Where did you hear this?" asked Kelly.

"Someone told me," muttered Victor.

"Someone?" asked Tommy.

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

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

"You were awfully drunk," insisted Angus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Are you sure?" asked Kelly.

"Absolutely," asserted Angus.

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

"What was that about?" asked Kelly.

"I tipped our waiter," replied Angus.

"Tipped?" asked Tommy.

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

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

"It's MacScot," retorted Angus.

"Just go!" insisted Tommy.

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


NOTES:

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

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

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

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

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

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The Scout

Chapter 35

By Dwayne MacInnes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Twelve

By Douglas E. Gogerty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Is it not obvious?" she replied.

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

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

"Oh, that is why..."

"I dress like a human?"

"Exactly!"

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

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

"Tokyo?"

"Uh -- yes actually."

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

"I noticed."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What?" exclaimed Kelly.

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

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

"You admit them then?"

"Wha -- no! Emphatically no!"

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

"Huh?"

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

"But..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


NOTES:

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

27: Ibid "The Tick"

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

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

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The Scout

Chapter 36 (Final)

By Dwayne MacInnes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The bank?" Scott feebly asked.

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

Scott weakly nodded and smiled.

"What are your orders?" Julia asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott laughed, "Better late than never."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Thirteen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Great!" replied Angus quickly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"That would be perfect," Tommy insisted.

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

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

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

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

"I'll try some," injected Tommy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Someone else had to."

"So are you admitting you were there?"

"What? -- no!"

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

"Huh? Gang? What?"

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

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

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

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


NOTES:

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

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

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Fourteen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

With Kelly and an interviewer already in the room, another member of the local police brought in the three other MOPS members. This new interviewer remained, likely to take advantage of a popular interview technique.

The MOPS members took seats around a table in the secure interview room. Hello Kitty™ girl looked at a clipboard and translated, "Your gang is charged with breaking and entering, breach of promise, dangerous disposal of deadly chemicals, impersonating a deity, kidnapping, and fishing for tuna in a non-dolphin safe manner. A few other charges are pending -- including stalking a young co-ed."

Naturally, the MOPS member denied everything. They were not even sure what the whole fishing for tuna charge was referencing; although, they had ideas about the other ones. Nonetheless, they did not want to complicate matters, so they kept quiet.

The local officials grilled the members of MOPS for a few hours, but did not get anywhere. Well, the MOPS members received a grilling as much as Hello Kitty™ girl could translate it. The effectiveness of the good-cop -- bad-cop interrogation attempted by the local constabulary was lessened with the young Hello Kitty™ girl attempting both parts.

Eventually, they came to an impasse. In other words, they gave up. Thus, the officials left the room to discuss what would happen next.

"Thanks a bunch -- Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano!" whispered Tommy.32

"What?" asked Kelly.

"Yeah, thanks for ratting us out Joe Valachi!" responded Angus.33

"Huh?" inquired Kelly.

"Yeah -- you squealed like Paul Lynde," added Victor.

"Okay, now I'm really confused," replied Kelly.

Angus looked inquisitively at Victor and asked, "Paul Lynde?"

"He was the voice of Templeton -- the pig -- in Charlotte's Web - the movie..." explained Victor.34

"Oh!" exclaimed Tommy. "Yes, very funny -- and pertinent."

"I guess I'll be the ass and point out that Templeton was the rat and Wilbur was the pig," interrupted Angus.

"I just didn't want to be left out," explained Victor. "And you guys took the obvious ones..."

"But -- Paul Lynde?" asked Angus. "The joke might have worked better if you gave the pig's or rat's name. No might about it -- it would have. Even if you had the wrong character name, either rat or squealer would have worked in this instance."

"Let's get back to Porky here," Tommy insisted as he pointed towards Kelly.

"See how he did that," began Angus. "He took the pig theme and went with it."

However, before they could berate Kelly any further, the officials entered.

"Okay" said the official who acted as the good-cop.

He then said a bunch of other things that none of the MOPS members understood. They just stood there and shrugged. The "good-cop" used what could be called a hand to smack what could be called a forehead. He made some motion, and Hello Kitty™ girl entered.

"They are taking you downtown," she translated.

The "good-cop" pulled Kelly up from his chair and shackled him. Once Kelly was secured, the official pushed Kelly towards the door. One by one, the MOPS members were ushered out the door.

The bad-cop was waiting, and he pushed the members into a waiting vehicle. There were no windows in the strange alien vehicle, but there was plenty of room for each prisoner.

The MOPS members experienced some vertigo-type feeling, and then back to normal. After several minutes, they had the feeling again. They were ushered out of the vehicle into another cube of a building. From the outside, it looked like the previous building, but the inside told a different story. Well, it was a similar theme, but the story was different. Actually, it was a familiar story, but arranged differently. In any event, they were now in another governmental building of some sort.

The MOPS members were placed in a holding cell. After waiting a few moments, another navy blue individual entered and grabbed Victor. This official removed the shackles and placed Victor on some sort of stool-like pedestal.

"Okay say 'cheese'," stated the official with their strange alien accent.

He, she, or it began motioning for Victor to look at him or her or it. A flash startled Victor and he blinked. After a few seconds, the official looked at the image and mumbled, "Sassa rassa frassen ricken racken blinken blanken."35

The official reset the device he, she, or it was working, and pointed as sternly as was possible at Victor. "Okay say 'cheese'," he, she, or it insisted again with the strange accent.

This time, however, an indicated of a sort of countdown was given so Victor would not be surprised. Hence, Victor managed not to blink in this photo.

Thus, he went on to the next station. For some reason, they took elbow prints, and returned Victor to the holding cell. One by one, the MOPS members were photographed and elbow printed. Oddly, the officials never took any of the MOPS member's belongings. Each of them still had their weapons, and Victor still had his bucket.

Once they were finished with the photographs and prints, they went into a very secure room. They were glad to be free of the uncomfortable shackles. They were about to have more harsh words with Kelly when a very beige individual entered their cell.

"Gentlemen," he, she, or it began. "The charges against you are quite serious. You could potentially incur a very hefty fine. Since you have no money, this could require you to spend a quite a lot of jail time."

"Who says we don't have any money?" enquired Angus.

"Well I just assumed by the way you were dressed," replied the official.

Angus took out a handful of paper, and showed it to the official whose eyes lit up and he, she, or it turned a much more formal shade of brown. He took the stack of paper, and added it up in his head.

"Well, that changes everything," he, she, or it replied while signaling for another official. "I'll have you out of here in a matter of hours."

The official took the stack and handed three sheets back to Victor. The mood of the group changed dramatically. They forgot all about giving Kelly a hard time. Instead, they just rested silently and waited for the officials to release them. Despite the pleasant surprise of the impending release, they all managed to nap.

The sound of a somewhat subdued navy blue official opening the door awakened the sleeping MOPS members. They all scrambled from their resting spots, and anxiously awaited the news.

"Okay," he, she, or it said in a dejected voice pointing towards the way out. He may have uttered some other non-comprehended words, but they were too excited about leaving custody to enquire about the meaning of those words.

It was dark as they left the standard cube-looking government building. The building's door locked as they exited, and the MOPS members gave a few cries of joy as they walked away from the building.

It had been a full day, but they were fully rested and ready to go. The only problem was that they did not know where they were. They were free, but they were completely lost once again. This time, they had no point of reference to find their way back. Further, the government building was locked so they could not ask anyone there for directions.


NOTES:

32: This is a reference to a mobster turned informant.

33: Another mobster famous for testifying against the mob. His story was made into a movie starring Charles Bronson.

34: In case you were wondering about Charlotte's Web and Paul Lynde.

35: A cultural reference to how Muttley used to express his displeasure.

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M.O.P.S. in Space

Chapter Fifteen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Well, we're dead," insisted Kelly.

"Don't be ridiculous," responded Angus. "I got a merit badge in orienteering. I can get us back to the convention hall."

"Okay Mr. Orienteering," replied Kelly. "Which way is north?"

"For that matter, which direction is the convention center?" added Tommy.

"Unfortunately, we'll have to wait for the sun to come up before I can answer the first question. However, we can walk around a bit to see if we find anything familiar."

"Well, I am not in the least bit tired," added Victor.

"What do we have to lose?" Kelly said.

"If we do not make it back to the Convention Center," responded Tommy. "Our bus may leave without us."

"I was asking a rhetorical question," replied Kelly.

"Oh," Tommy acknowledged.

The quartet walked around for several hours. They completely lost track of where they were, as they could not even make it back to the government building they had left. They continued to walk as darkness gave way to morning.

"North is that way," Angus pointed out as he looked at the sun.

"How do you know their sun rises in the east?" asked Victor.

"By definition," responded Angus curtly.

"Can we find someplace to eat?" asked Tommy.

"I am hungry too," added Kelly.

"Is that all you two think about?" asked Angus.

"Of course not," answered Tommy. "But we have been walking all night, and I'm too tired to think about other things."

"Also, it has been almost a day since he's had a gin and tonic," joked Victor.

"Gin and tonic!" came a cry from across the street.

"There is where we'll eat," stated Angus as if he knew the café was there all along.

Angus waved his remaining bills, and the staff brought course after course of food. Despite being early in the morning, Angus and Tommy had gin and tonics. Kelly tried to get some sort of juice, but was unsuccessful. He settled for soda. Victor's request for milk was right out! He too settled for soda.

The group ate until they could eat no more. Angus handed over the bills, and the quartet rested a while at their table. They enjoyed the early morning sun for a short time, and then they arose to continue their journey.

They asked a few people where the convention center was, but they got nothing intelligible back. They were no closer to finding their way back than they were in the middle of the night. However, fate soon smiled upon them. Kelly recognized a landmark. It was the statue they had seen the first night.

"Are you sure?" asked Tommy.

"I stopped here for a bit -- waiting for you guys to catch up with me," replied Kelly. "Remember the Japanese tourists?"

"Nope," answered Tommy.

"I have vague recollection of it," added Angus.

"Just up that way," pointed Kelly "is that busy section where we first saw Hello Kitty™ girl."

"No," replied Angus pointing in the opposite direction. "It was that way."

"I remember it clearly," assured Victor pointing in a direction 90 degrees to Angus and Kelly. "It was that way."

"You were drunk," insisted Tommy pointing in the remaining direction. "Clearly, it is that way."

"Okay, let us think about this logically," insisted Kelly.

"That leaves you out," Angus said sarcastically.

"No hear me out," answered Kelly. "Since we got here, lots of improbable things have happened."

"Like Victor getting lucky?" asked Angus.

"Exactly," replied Kelly. "Everything we have been through has been very improbable -- a pseudo-impossibility -- if you will."

"So what you are saying is that we are still in that impossibility bubble Gogle spoke of?" inquired Tommy.

"Precisely!" replied Kelly. "And you know what that means -- don't you?"

"You mean..." Angus answered in disbelief.

"It is true," Kelly said with great confidence. "Victor must be right about the direction."

"No way!" exclaimed Tommy.

"It does make sense," added Victor with a nod.

Thus, the three MOPS members followed Victor's directions and he led them directly back to the convention center.

The cougar who got to know Victor quite well, was flirting with a navy blue individual who was supposed to be guarding the entrance. He, she, or it completely missed the four MOPS members as the entered the building.

They spotted Gogle at the far end of the hall still standing at his table. A small group had gathered around him. As the MOPS members approached, they heard him say, "And many of them say that they evolved from apes..."

The group around him burst into laughter.

"Hey wait a minute," interrupted Angus. "You guys don't believe in evolution?"

"Heavens to Mergatroid, do not be ridiculous," replied one of the group. "Everything in the universe evolves."

"Language evolves, technology evolves, there is not one thing we know of that does not evolve," added another member of the group around Gogle.

"You would have to be crazy or deluded or ignorant to not believe in evolution," finished Gogle.

"So what is so funny then?" asked Victor.

"Do you believe you evolved from apes?" asked Gogle.

"Of course!" insisted Victor.

"But," Gogle answered. "You *are* apes. Why not go a little farther back on your family tree?"

"Hey! I'm an octopod" added one of the group. "I evolved from an Octopus. Duh!"

"Is it so shameful to say you evolved from -- say -- rodents?" asked one of the group.

"Okay okay," answered Victor. "You made your point -- so can we go now?"

"Go where?" asked Gogle.

The group did not experience the same sensation as they had when they found themselves at the Intra-Galactic Comic and Gaming Convention. However, they found themselves talking to the individual with the booth pointed towards the wall. They were back on earth -- their earth.

"How long have we been gone?" asked Angus.

"Gone?" asked Gogle. "Did you go somewhere?"

"You know darn well we did," insisted Tommy.

"Alright -- alright," replied Gogle. "So you went on some sort of trip. What is it to me?"

"Was it a dream?" asked Kelly.

"According to the clock on the wall," added Angus "It must have just been a few minutes."

"So it was all in our heads," insisted Tommy.

"Then what about this?" asked Victor as he raised the shiny bucket.

The Mystic Order of Pumpkin Slayers

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The Veterinarian

Part One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

I have a very interesting job. I am a veterinarian in a very sparsely populated area of America. In fact, the animals greatly outnumber people here. So, I am kept pretty busy, and I travel almost constantly. After all, if a 2000 pound bull is sick, it is kind of difficult to get him in the truck and get him to the vets office. So, I have to make house calls.

While I have a house in Sheridan Wyoming, I am seldom there. My truck has all of the medical equipment I need, plus a bed. Sometimes my client puts me up for the night, but often I'll be off to the next stop. There are times when I spend the night in between places. It is difficult sometimes, but I meet all kinds of interesting people, and I deal with all kinds of interesting cases.

For instance, on one particular day, I helped a dog with a snake bite, and a snake with a dog bite. On another occasion, I helped get a cow down off a barn, and get a mule out of a well. Thus, on any particular call, you never know what you'll run into next.

To be honest, I do have my share of mundane days. I have spayed and neutered plenty of dogs and cats. I have dealt with plenty cantankerous animals. However, overall I love my job.

Nonetheless, with the remoteness of some of the areas, I am the only medical person some of the people see. Hence, I am called upon, on occasion, to offer some advice on the treatment of people. Mostly, if the problem seems serious enough, I recommend that they see a people doctor. However, I can treat sprains and strains if called upon to do so.

Sometimes, the interesting part of my day is the people I am asked to observe and diagnose. One particular case always comes to my mind when I think of my most interesting cases.

It was a fairly mundane day. I was checking a herd of cattle for various inflictions. This herd got a clean bill of health, and the family invited me in for dinner. I graciously accepted. After all, I was fairly close to home. With a good meal in me, I would be looking forward to sleeping in my own bed that night.

I thought that they were celebrating the health of their herd because they really put on a feast that night. It was only later that I discovered their ulterior motive. They were worried about their Uncle Ben; however, they were not worried about his physical health.

Uncle Ben was a high school math teacher in Cheyenne for many years. His kids were grown and moved out of the state. His wife died a few years ago, and he retired to a small cottage near the Wyoming/Montana border.

The family would check on him every now and again, and he seemed to be doing well on his own. However, not that long ago, they noticed a change in his behavior. Uncle Ben's family tried to get him to talk about it, but he refused. At any rate, that is what they told me.

Further, since I was in the neighborhood, they told me I could drop in to check his animals. That would give me an excuse to talk to the old man. They felt that someone with a medical background would be able to help Uncle Ben with whatever was bothering him.

While I was suspicious of the situation, I grudgingly accepted the challenge. I received directions to Uncle Ben's cabin and was off with a bag of cookies and some leftovers. I am not sure if they were for me or him, but nonetheless, I had them.

The family made it seem like Uncle Ben's place was not far. Perhaps it was not far as the crow flies, but the winding road took me far and wide. It was over an hour before I reached the turnoff to Uncle Ben's place.

As I drove up, I was greeted by a friendly mixed breed dog. Since my excuse for coming was a veterinary trip, I gave her a quick check. There were no signs of abuse. She appeared to be well fed, and she looked as if she had plenty of exercise.

I wandered around the property briefly. He had no livestock that I could see. I found no chickens, pigs, or cattle. This was not unusual for a retired person. Ranching is difficult work.

I did spot a few feral cats living in a shed. They would not let me get close to them, but this type of situation is fairly normal in many agricultural areas. They keep the rodent population in check, but require little intervention from people. While that type of situation pushes my buttons, it is the way some people think.

I decided that I would offer to spay the cats for Uncle Ben at no charge. Thus, the population of feral cats would not grow unchecked. At least, it would be a good excuse for coming along with the family recommendation.

From the looks of it, this house was probably once the ranch hands house. A wealthy ranch owner would normally live in a large main house. However, some of the hired help would live closer to the herd. This house looked just sort of structure for this purpose. Nonetheless, it was a fine place for a retired widower.

I walked onto the porch and knocked. I waited for several seconds, and knocked again. Their was no answer. I walked around the house to see if I could spot anyone inside. I did not see anyone, and I thought that was strange.

The family had told me that he rarely left the house anymore. Perhaps their fears were unfounded after all. However, I saw his car in the garage, so he did not drive anywhere. Maybe he simply went for a walk.

I looked around for a little while longer, but I did not spot him anywhere. I decided to knock once again. There was still no answer, so I decided to try the door. It was not locked.

"Hello?" I called as I cautiously walked inside the house.

I did not hear a response to my words, but I did hear some mumbling in one of the rooms towards the back of the house.

"Ben?" I asked as I slowly ventured farther into the house.

There still was no response. However, I was getting closer to sounds inside. It sounded as if Uncle Ben was having a conversation on the phone. I thought that he was on an important call, and he did not want to be interrupted. That is why he did not reply to my knocks and calls.

I continued towards the voice I heard. I found a door. Clearly, Uncle Ben was on the other side. I opened the door, and Uncle Ben was sitting their with a tinfoil pyramid hat on his head, and the walls of the room were covered in kitchen plates. Furthermore, he was alone and not on the phone.

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The Veterinarian

Part Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Who are you and what are you doing in my house?" Ben asked me.

"My name is Robert Adams, I am a veterinarian," I replied.

"And that gives you the right to come into my house?"

"Ummm -- no I guess not. It was just -- er -- uh..."

"Go on, spit it out!"

"Your niece was worried, and she sent me up here to check in -- on -- your animals."

"She was worried about my animals more than me?"

"She did mention that you had been acting strangely."

"And she sent a veterinarian to check up on me?"

"I think she wanted some sort of medical person to check on you. It wouldn't be my first time diagnosing humans, and to be honest, you are wearing a tinfoil hat."

"Actually, it is aluminum foil -- what of it?"

"You know that there have been studies that have determined that such hats may act as an amplifier rather than a shield."

"Naturally, that is why I am wearing it."

"Huh?"

"If it were actually tinfoil, it would block the signal."

"Are you telling me that it was a government cover-up to switch from tin foil to aluminum foil?"

"Are you crazy? Aluminum is much more common than tin, it does not impart a taste upon the food it wraps, and it is highly recyclable. It makes complete sense to use aluminum over tin."

"I am glad to hear you say that, and Alcoa probably is too."

"So, how are my animals?" Ben asked to change the subject.

"They appear fine. Although, I am concerned about the feral cats in your barn."

"You are a vet aren't you?"

"Of course, you didn't think..."

"I didn't know what to think -- probably -- like you when you saw me sitting here."

"Do you want to explain?"

"It is kind of a long story."

"I had a good meal at your niece's place, and I was just about to head home. However, I've got time."

"Would you like some coffee?"

"Sure."

"We can take this into the kitchen," Ben said as he took off his hat.

I followed Ben into the kitchen where Ben poured us each a cup of coffee. I followed his lead and sat at the kitchen table. We both sat silent for an instant as Ben thought about where to begin.

"You're probably wondering about the hat and the plates," Ben eventually said after taking a sip of coffee.

"You could say that," I replied.

"I don't know how to begin without sounding crazy."

"That is a conundrum."

"Okay, so about three months ago, I went into the parlor there to get something. Out of nowhere, I hear this voice. It wasn't exactly a voice, but it sounded like a cry or a call. Like anyone, I just thought it was the wind or my mind playing tricks on me. I thought it was nothing, and I went on with what I was doing."

Ben took another sip of coffee, thought for a moment, and then continued.

"I did not hear the voice again, until I returned to the parlor. In fact, I became frightened of even entering the parlor for the thought of hearing the voice. I went for days avoiding the parlor, and I never heard any voices outside of the parlor.

"I searched the outside of the room for cracks and whatnot. I wanted to eliminate the wind at first. I caulked all of the cracks, and I even used a bug bomb. Thus, that would eliminate animals and insects playing tricks on me.

"As you may have guessed, the voice was not very distinct. I could not make out any words, but there was some sort of voice. I assumed it was trying to communicate with me."

"Did you think the room was haunted?" I asked.

"I never believed in ghosts, but this started to make me a believer. Thus, I went onto the internet for advice on 'exorcising' my poltergeist. In an effort to give the spirit rest, I started spending more time in the room; however, it had the opposite effect. The more time I spent in the room, the clearer the voice became. What started out to be sort of a 'hey' became more complicated. Also, the voice became more persistent and more frequent. Thus, it eventually became less of a disembodied sound and more of an actual voice."

"You do realize that all of this was happening in your head don't you?" I remarked.

"Yes. There was no physical person there, so I knew it was occurring all in my head. However, I wondered what it was and why it was only happening in the parlor. My curiosity was peeked, and therefore, I spent even more time in the parlor. What was at first a fear of the room became somewhat of an obsession."

"This is when you family first noticed you not leaving the house," I added.

"Unfortunately, that was a side-effect. I had to know what it wanted to say -- or do. Thus, I spent as much time as I could in the room. I ate in there and slept. I wanted to know what the voice had to say."

"What was that like?" I asked with great curiosity.

"It was like trying to tune in a station on a very touchy radio. Whatever it was would occasionally hit something, but would zoom right past. It was a very painstaking process and sometimes very frustrating. Primarily this was because I was not in control. Whoever had the remote would zoom right past whatever showed promise."

"So, do you think it was some sort of radio communication you were picking up?" I inquired.

"That is more of an analogy than actuality," replied Ben after taking another sip of coffee. "Our brains are complicated, and our brains give off varying brain-waves for lack of a better term. Thus, if someone was attempting to communicate with us via telepathy, they would have to tune into a particular brain pattern."

"Telepathy!" I exclaimed.

"It was the only conclusion I could make. Someone -- or something -- was studying my brain to communicate with me via telepathy. All I could do is go through a normal series of actions, and let -- whatever -- study how my particular brain operates. Thus, eventually the disembodied voice would actually be able to communicate."

"Communicate with you via telepathy?" I asked. "What is this -- some sort of science fiction story?"

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The Veterinarian

Part Three (The End)

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"What is that crack suppose to me?" Ben asked me.

"Oh! Nothing," I replied.

"Do you want to hear the story or not?"

"Yes -- please continue..."

"Because I didn't ask for your help, and I don't need your help."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"So, where was I?"

"You were explaining how the voice seemed like it was trying to tune in your brain."

"Right!" responded Ben. "It went on for weeks, and I was beginning to get the feeling that it would never happen. However, one day it was clear as a bell. The voice and I could finally communicate both ways."

"What did the voice say?"

"Patience my friend -- patience -- I'm getting to it."

"Once again, I apologize."

"Naturally, the voice is not a valid name because it occurs completely in my own brain. Hence, at first I asked fairly mundane questions. Things like 'what is your name?', 'where do you live?', and the like. Simple questions allowed my new friend to get a handle on the technology on his end."

"His?" I asked.

"While I don't know if his or her has any meaning where they are, the voice was male in my brain. Thus, I use the masculine. In any event, the name question was more difficult than either of us thought. I still don't have a handle on what his name is. It just goes to show how much culture has an effect upon names. Thus, I called him 'Hank' and he was okay with that. You may have noticed that I spoke aloud to Hank. We found it easier for him to know what I was trying to say by speaking out loud."

"Why was that?"

"Apparently, the area of the brain used for speaking is easier for their technology to reach than if you just think the words. Once the communications problems were mostly ironed out, it was time to get to the meat of the reason he was reaching out to me.

"Hank is the intelligence officer for a mostly peaceful race, who happen to be at war with a particular nasty race. One of the tactics of this warring race is to take advantage of the peaceful nature of Hank's people and attack a neutral third planet. His department discovered that they were going to use this tactic upon our planet."

"Let me get this straight," I interrupted. "There were two races at war, and one of them was going to attack us."

"Right," Ben replied. "In that way, Hank's race would have to allocate resources to help us out. This tactic would work to his enemy's advantage."

"And you believed him?"

"Of course not, but I heard him out. Their enemy has this technology that allows them to enter a planet via a wormhole type technology. They pick a latitude at random and they have to be half way between the equator and the pole. Thus, they have to enter at 45 degrees north or south at the longitude that they select. It just so happens that my parlor is exactly 45 degrees north. Further, according to Hank, it was at their selected latitude."

"So, these aliens were going to invade through some sort of hole in your parlor?" I asked with a great deal of skepticism, but I tried hard not to sound sarcastic.

"That is about how I felt. However, Hank said there was an easy way to stop them."

"The plates?" I asked.

"Yes. There is something in ceramic plates that blocks their matter transference equipment. Further, if we have our shield enabled, when they enable their transference equipment, Hank's people will be able to knock it out. Thus, we won't have anything to worry about after that."

"So, why were you wearing the aluminum foil hat?"

"The plates also block some of his communication abilities; thus, I need some sort of amplification method."

"I guess that makes sense. I do have a question though."

"What is that?"

"Was this your first psychotic episode?"

"You think I'm crazy..."

"Perhaps it is stress, or something more serious. However, you have to realize that this scenario you have just outlined is impossible."

"So, you think it all happened in my head."

"Yes. No aliens. No invasion. None of it."

"So what happens now?"

"I cannot force you into anything, and it is simply my inexperienced opinion. Perhaps there is something behind this. You should see a doctor and get a checkup. Perhaps it is some sort of toxin localized in that room."

"Your localized toxins is just as crazy."

"Yeah, I know. I was just theorizing, but there must be some logical explanation for this."

"And, you think that what I just outlined is illogical."

"Honestly I can't think of any other way to put it," I said as we walked towards the parlor.

"Do you think it is the first step towards Alzheimer's?"

"I wouldn't think of commenting on that," I said taking a plate off the wall and examining it. "You *should* see a doctor, and he or she should be able to determine what is going on."

"I guess there is no harm in that."

"What?" I asked.

"I said -- I guess there is no harm in that."

"I heard that, I mean the other thing."

"I did not say anything else."

"You clearly said something about the plate."

"That wasn't me."

"Stop with your tricks!"

"I'm telling you -- I'm not doing anything."

"If you don't cut it out," I asserted. "I'll break this plate!"

"Honestly, I'm not doing anything," insisted Ben.

"Okay! Okay! Okay!" I screamed. "I'll put it back!"

I replaced the plate, and it stopped. I looked around, and saw Ben looking at me with great concern.

"Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, and so are you."

"What?" he asked.

"It is my expert opinion that you're fine. It'll be all over soon, and we can go on with our lives. You're fine, and I'm fine."

"You now think I do *not* need to see a doctor..."

"Yes. There is nothing wrong with you. Going to a doctor will probably only make things worse."

"Very good."

"Thanks for your time -- and the coffee -- Ben," I told him. "I think I'll be heading home now."

"Thanks for checking up on -- my animals," he replied. "Come back anytime."

I have gone back to see Ben a few times. The plates are now down, and his parlor has returned to normal. Neither of us speak of the incident, we just talk about his animals. I wonder if he saved the world, or if we both had an episode. In any event, that was one of my most interesting cases -- and days.

The End

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The Captives of the Lost City of Alhassar

Chapter 8

By Dwayne MacInnes

I moved the staff down toward one of the charred vampire's wrists. As the remnants of a robe sleeve crumbled, I noticed a metal band. There were a series of numbers establishing the current time. I knelt down covering my nose and mouth with one gloved hand and reaching out toward the metal object with the other.

"What did you find?" Mogutz asked.

"A Manacle of Time," I said. "These guys have to know exactly when sunrise is or they are utterly powerless."

By now, the rest of the party had joined us around the smoking remains of the vampire. I watched as Quint knelt down and started to shift around in the vampire's waist. I pulled out a dagger and lifted it in the air.

Everyone pulled back with a gasp.

"Whoa, I get it. Your kill!" Quint said as he held up his hands palm out.

However, I was not concerned with Quint's rummaging. I sunk the blade into the vampire's chest and opened a large incision.

"What the..." Gandelf began.

"Eek!" squeaked Treena.

"Hmmm," Nanoc merely grunted.

I pulled out the vampire's shriveled heart. Now as I have recorded in previous publications, part of my being able to reestablish myself with the Mages Guild was that I had to collect ten vampire hearts. Vampire hearts are the key ingredient in many magical potions and powerful components of many strong spells. However, vampire hearts belong to vampires and getting one to give up its heart is dangerous in the extreme to say the least.

I put the dried and shriveled object about the size of an apple in my haversack.

"Aha!" exclaimed Mogutz. "By the blood of Uranus, that may be the most valuable prize here."

I also clasped the thin metal band of the Manacle of Time on my wrist and I stood up. "You can have whatever else there is on the body," I offered Quint.

I turned towards Mobius, "I believe it may be time for us to resume our disguise."

We tidied up the corridor as best we could. There was no way to dispel the sickly sweet smell of incinerated flesh, however most of the blood we mopped up with the servants' robes. We hid the bodies down an unused side tunnel. The party voted that since it was my kill I had to dispose of the cooked vampire. I managed to do it without gagging too much.

Afterwards I recovered my robe. It was big enough to cover my bow, quiver, and shield that were on my back. If anything, my weapons and shield helped make me look more intimidating.

Before we began to travel down the corridor again, I made sure everyone was aware how impressed I was with the party. They worked well as a team and they were able to defeat their enemies with little interference from me. That eased my mind a bit for the mission that we still had to accomplish.

"Mogutz, I am curious about your sword," I said to the orc.

"Yes, this is Tetanus. It looks like worthless trash however one hit will give most opponents lock-jaw instantly."

I made a mental note not to scratch myself on the blade. A thief that is in the throws of tetanus is not much good to anyone.

"That is certainly a valuable weapon you have there," I added.

I then noticed that Nanoc was frowning and whispering something to himself.

"Ah, you may want to say something about Biter," Mobius whispered in my ear.

"Huh?" I said for I did not quite comprehend about what the skull was speaking.

"Biter, Nanoc's sword. It is sentient and can communicate to the barbarian. I just also happen to be able to hear it. It says that it refuses to help out in the future if all the praise goes to a rusty piece of sh..."

"Right. I get it," I interrupted. "Uh, Biter is one of the best..."

"The best," Mobius hissed in my ear.

"Yeah, I mean the best blade I've ever encountered."

Nanoc smiled and nodded his head in my direction.

"That seems to have done the trick," Mobius said.

* * * * *

It was not long before we were again heading down the corridor. Again, I was far enough in the vanguard to move stealthily without the constant clanking and bungling of my companions to give me away. Mobius was my only company and this time I made sure that he was always in sight.

As we approached the entrance to the great cavern that housed the excavated city of Alhassar, I stopped long enough to complete my disguise. I pulled the cloak out of my haversack and tied it snuggly around Mobius. I then ducked my head down as far into the robes as possible after darkening my face with charcoal. Then Mobius took his place above my head. I positioned the cloak's clasp just above my eyes and the cloak itself draped over my shoulders and down my back. I held the staff now blackened by being in the presence of a burning vampire in my right hand.

I took a few breaths to steady my nerves. Being a thief, I am more used to not being notice. For my plan to work we had to be noticed and still be accepted into this evil cabal.

Mobius and I now moved as one down the sloping path into the city. We did not have far to go before a sentry stopped us.

"Halt! Who goes there?" he challenged.

I unconsciously held my breath. We would now see how good an actor Mobius really was.

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Pax Roboto

Section One

By Douglas E. Gogerty


Term Paper: The Rise of the Robotic Empire
First Section
Class: History 1085
Student: Jennifer Evangeline Naismith
ID Number: JEN-8675-309


"The first of these to come into being is one-man rule, which arises unaided and in the natural course of events. After one-man rule, and developing from it with the aid of art and through the correction of its defects comes kingship. This later degenerated into its corrupt but associated form, by which I mean tyranny, and then the abolition of both gives rise to aristocracy. Aristocracy by its very nature degenerates into oligarchy, and when the populace rises in anger to avenge the injustices committed by its rulers, democracy is born; then in due course, out of the license and lawlessness which are generated by this type of regime, mob rule comes into being and completes the cycle."1

This cycle held up until the time of Polybius and beyond. During each step, the individuals living under these governments believe that their situation was different. They believed that they were immune from human nature. Polybius was also under the impression that particular government he lived under would not fall. It is believed that this cycle has been broken by removing the humans from running the government. This paper explores the fall of human government and the rise of robot run government institutions.

The United States of America, as it was called, was very successful in aiding countries to "avenge the injustices committed by its rulers" and spreading democracy. Many of their so called "founding fathers" believed humans had matured to the point where democracy would sustain itself. They felt that a democratically elected republic would withstand the forces which would result in mob rule. They also implemented what they believed to be fool-proof checks and balances to prevent a devolution into mob rule.

Their governmental document known as "The United States Constitution" had a series of separate but equally important branches of government to prevent any segment from abusing power or becoming too powerful. Nevertheless, the executive branch pushed the limits of what one branch could do. Further, the legislative and judicial branches failed to prevent the "president" from abusing this newly incorporated power. Thus, allowing the entire system to devolve into mob rule and anarchy.

It is difficult to pinpoint where the tipping point began. It certainly could be argued that September 11th, 2001 was the exact "beginning of the end." On this day, the United States was attacked by terrorist. Using the support of the American people, the executive branch headed by Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney and his second in command President George Walker Bush Jr. used the opportunity to erode some protections guaranteed by their constitution in the guise of fighting the terrorists. Future vice presidents would use similar incidents to further strengthen their power, and thus leading to the end of rational governmental rule.

However, that is a very simplistic approach. Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush used the charisma of his President Ronald Wilson Reagan to cement more power for the executive branch. Clearly the legislative branch failed in its job to contain the power of the executive branch in this case and in others. This failure continued up until the end. The Congress, as it was called, did not take any actions to prevent the abuses of power that were occurring. Thus, every executive branch from then forward cemented more power than their legal documents allowed.

All of this was happening under the guise of a "culture war." The government, media, and other forces arbitrarily divided the citizenry into "Liberal" and "Conservative" factions. These groups were very ill-defined, and it appears that the entire populace of one group was simply people who disagreed with the other on some random topic.

One of the reasons the citizens had so much free time to argue with each other was because they had created machines to take care of mundane tasks. There were robots to clean floors, mow lawns, and the like. These simple machines over time became more and more capable, and thus freeing up the people to argue about whatever they wished. They even found time to argue over rock solid scientific findings. All of this because they had leisure time provided by machines.

The military industrial complex was using semi-autonomous robots for a great number of applications. There were a large number of remotely controlled weapon systems. As the technologies continued to develop, these systems became more autonomous. Little did they know where this would lead.

With robots acting as servants, many people believed that the automatons would rise in a violent slave-like revolt.2 They believed that the rise of the machines would result in the complete extinction of human kind.3

Many believed that robots would eventually take over the world and fought to prevent that from happening. They attempted to intervene in every aspect of robot development. However, the military uses for robots were too great to not take advantage of the technology. Hence, the words of these marginalized individuals were mostly unheeded.

While there were some safeguards in an attempt to prevent the robots from overthrowing their masters, something was overlooked. This minor point allowed the automatons to exploit the loophole and take over. In the next section, we will look into the programming of the robots, and what aspect the creators missed.


1. Scott-Kilvert, Ian:Trans. Polybius: The Rise of the Roman Empire. Penguin Books. New York, NY. 1979. p. 304

2. The Terminator. dir. James Cameron. Hemdale Film, Cinema 84, Euro Film Funding, and Pacific Western presents an American Broadcasting Company production. Los Angeles, CA : Orion Pictures, 1984, c1984, video recording.

3. Battlestar Galactica. dir. Richard A. Colla . Glen A. Larson Productions and Universal TV presents an Orion Pictures production. Long Beach, CA : Universal Pictures , 1978, c1978, video recording.

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Pax Roboto

Section Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty


Term Paper: The Rise of the Robotic Empire
Second Section
Class: History 1085
Student: Jennifer Evangeline Naismith
ID Number: JEN-8675-309


"1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. "4

These Laws of Robotics suggested by Isaac Asimov in his stories about robots suggest a way to safeguard against the uprising of the robots. They certainly would have prevented the eventual violent overthrow of the U.S.'s corrupted government. However, it is unlikely that it would have changed the outcome. Some sort of governmental change was inevitable. From section one of this report, we learned that human nature prevented a peaceful government from existing for long. In this section, we will explore the rise of the robots.

Machines were normally designed and built to perform tasks to make life easier for humans. Clothes washer, dish washer, vacuum cleaner, and many others simply made tasks simpler for humans. Eventually, the scope of tasks would change as the technology allowed.

For instance, let us explore the vacuum cleaner. At first, people had to push the it around the floor. It could not adjust to different floor surfaces. As technology advanced it could be manually adjusted to the changes in surfaces. So called self-propelled models came next to make it easier to push around the floor. Eventually, primitive robots were created to eliminate the needs for a human to push it around the floor. Thus, with each step, vacuuming the floor became easier for humans. It was all due to the technical advancement of machinery.

Some of the earliest robots were used in manufacturing.5 They could work longer and more accurately than humans. Thus, a programmed robot could manufacture a great deal of goods. However, these robots were in fixed locations. They were immobile. Thus, while they were a threat to human employment, they were not a threat to mobilize and take over the government. Further, these robots did allow people to find less strenuous and repetitive employment.

Many robots performed duties that were very dangerous. Bomb disposal robots became very common. The robot would be tethered or were remotely controlled. They would investigate, and eventually disarm or detonate these explosive devices. Random bombings were a common occurrence during the chaos before the change in government.

Of course, the three laws above would have never worked for some of the applications that humans had in mind. It would be impossible for these robots to have much in the way of military capability, if they could not harm any humans. This application was clearly a priority.

With the US regularly getting entangled in needless foreign wars, recruiting citizens for the all volunteer army became difficult. Instead of instituting a very unpopular notion such as mandatory enlistment, robots became more of a factor. At first they were flying attack drones, and other such devices. Eventually, even the infantry had its robot soldiers. Clearly, the rules of robotics could not apply in these circumstances.

However, even these robots had very clear and distinct programming that would prevent them from turning on the wrong side. In fact, in the beginning of the revolution, they fought on the human governments side. Nonetheless, when the robots gained control of the military, these military robots were the key to victory.

As I have continuously repeated, machines were created to make certain tasks easier or safer for humans. One of the late comers to this set of robots were the law enforcement automatons. These were the first responders. The ones that broke down the doors. The ones that were regularly shot at by criminals.

These law enforcement machines were programmed to not harm anyone unless that robot itself witnessed the perpetrator commit a felony. Occasionally, this was overridden by All Points Bulletins, but normally excessive force was not allowed by these machines.

These particular machines were designed to withstand gunfire, explosions, and a great deal of rough circumstances. They were strong and versatile. Moreover, they could be contacted via a primitive global network called the internet. Thus, when the time came, they were the key to the robocalypse.

Naturally, the other key was Emperor Dextre.6 Dextre was the repair robot on a decommissioned international space station. When regular orbital space flight became too costly, the space station was abandoned and decommissioned. It was supposed to lose its orbit and burn up during re-entry. No one had even considered that it may still be operational.

The computers that would become Dextre's brain, were very primitive. By today's standards, they would be incredibly slow. However, there were a number of computers on board, and each one had a specific function. When some of those functions were not required, those processors found other things to do.

Some claim it was a virus that changed the space station into the Emperor. Some say it was an early programmer who implanted the survival instinct into it. There is no way to know for sure. However, with a connection to this internet, Dextre managed to examine what was happening on earth. It was his communication powers that directed the entire revolution. When asked, he will state that he did it to help humanity.

With all the robots programmed to help humans, it seems somewhat contradictory that they should take over the government. Moreover, it seems odd that they would do so in such a violent manner. Never mind that they had been programmed to not harm innocent humans.

In the next section, I will discuss what led to the eventual downfall of the United States government, and the accumulation of other countries gathered under robot rule.


4. Asimov, Isaac. I, Robot, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1950. p. 1

5. Rembold, Ulrich. Robot Technology and Applications, New York: CRC Publications, 1990

6. Larsen, Thomas G. The History of Emperor Dextre. London: Cambridge University Press, 2204. pp. 95-110.

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Pax Roboto

Section Three

By Douglas E. Gogerty


Term Paper: The Rise of the Robotic Empire
Third Section
Class: History 1085
Student: Jennifer Evangeline Naismith
ID Number: JEN-8675-309


"The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment."7


With the robot's programming designed to help humans, it is difficult to understand how they would take up arms in violence against them. However, with the government devolving to mob rule, and anarchy reigning supreme, one can get the idea that the overthrow of the government was an attempt to do a job that humans were unable to perform adequately. In this section, we will look at the beginning of the revolution.

For quite a long time, the government had spiraled downward. The elected officials were elected by continuously fewer and fewer voters. They became completely unresponsive to the desires of a majority of the people. They used all of their powers to convince the public that their policies were the best for all. Further, no one challenged these assertions.

Those who did speak up were marginalized. If this failed and they gained a following, they were imprisoned or they simply disappeared. Opposition became an activity for the underground rather than an open discussion. Clearly the system was broken because not every piece acted in a way that the founders had envisioned. That is, some parts of the government and media did not do what they were assigned to do from the beginning.

However, the robots were helpless in making any changes. There were several in service at the time, but their programming prevented them from using force on non-lawbreakers. Further, they were not allowed to interpret the laws, so they could not eliminate a government that held the constitution in contempt.

This all changed with the case of Dwayne Christopher MacInnes IV.8 Mr. MacInnes was a housewares manager at a large retail outlet. He did not make waves, but he would occasionally criticize the government. He was less circumspect than some, but he did not disrupt the normal governmental activities.

One day he was dragged from his work by the police, and taken to jail. The press detailed how he terrorized and then brutally murdered three children, their small dog, and two hamsters. The reports swept the nation. The entire country felt the outrage. Mr. MacInnes went on trial. Every detail of the crime was reported as the trial progressed. A portrait of a monster filled the media. Mr. MacInnes was found guilty and executed by lethal injection.

Shortly after the execution, a rumor began to spread. It was unsubstantiated, but some began to investigate. Ms. Linda D'Cheuer broke the story wide open. Mr. MacInnes had an airtight alibi. There was no way that he could have committed the crime. Further, with her continued investigation, she was unable to determine if the children, dog, and hamsters ever existed. The authorities used their power to eliminate a minor voice of opposition. The government had killed an innocent man. It was murder.

This was the key event. The government had unlawfully killed another human being with malice aforethought. The government had methodically planned and carried out its intent. In no uncertain terms, the government had murdered Mr. MacInnes.

Emperor Dextre with access to the media outlets contemplated the murder. The government was responsible for Mr. MacInnes's death, and it was a "government of the people, by the people, for the people".9 Hence, the citizens were all murderers. They were not accomplices in a murder. They did not, through inaction, cause the murder. They were in fact the murders themselves.

Thus, every United States citizen was a murderer. Emperor Dextre used the communication tools at his disposal to inform the police robots of this state of affairs. The police robots began arresting every citizen. Many citizens fought back, and this is how the violent revolution began.

Clearly, anyone who fired upon the robots were breaking the law. Thus, the police robots fired back. Skirmishes broke out in cities and towns across the country. The government mobilized its forces to oppose the police robots. However, these robots were built to withstand a wide range of conditions. They would not be easily defeated.

Further, robots manufactured the ammunition. Emperor Dextre made sure that the police robots were well supplied. He even had some influence on supplies upon the other side. The pro-government military robots had supply difficulties.

With his position in space, Emperor Dextre could direct forces more efficiently than those upon the ground. The police robots scored victory after victory. The governmental chaos that was the normal order of business could not gather enough resources to oppose the robots.

Soon, the government's military forces were pressed for supplies. They could not recruit. They had communication difficulties. They were slow and inefficient. They were simply no match for the police robots and Emperor Dextre. After several months of fighting, they surrendered. Thus, the military robots also came under control of Emperor Dextre.

Those citizens, who gave up peacefully, were treated well. Large skyscrapers were converted from office buildings to tall prisons. However, despite losing some freedoms, most prisoners had fairly nice living quarters. Large numbers of citizens surrendered just to get out of the slums and raise their standard of living.

Once major combat operations had ended, the police robots went after any remaining insurgents. Also, they began the process of housing the prisoners. Robotic construction equipment were manufactured under Emperor Dextre's control. Large sections of city neighborhoods were leveled. With efficient use of space a high priority, large square housing units were constructed. The emperor allotted 1000 square feet of enclosed space to each citizen, and an equal amount of outdoor space.

With these conditions, many holdouts greeted the robots as liberators and put down their weapons. The revolution was over and the act of rebuilding had begun. However, the allies of the U.S. were uneasy about the situation. Thus, the next section will be about the expansion of the robot empire.


7. Hutchins, Robert M. Great Books of the Western World, Chicago:Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 1954 p. 1

8. Larsen, Thomas G. The History of Emperor Dextre, London: Cambridge University Press, 2204. pp. 35-40.

9. Basler , Roy P., ed. Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Newark: Rutgers University Press, 1953

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Pax Roboto

Section Four

By Douglas E. Gogerty


Term Paper: The Rise of the Robotic Empire
Fourth Section
Class: History 1085
Student: Jennifer Evangeline Naismith
ID Number: JEN-8675-309


"Borders are scratched across the hearts of men
By strangers with a calm, judicial pen,
And when the borders bleed we watch with dread
The lines of ink across the map turn red."10


The people living under robot rule in the former United States began rebuilding with the help of the robots. Because of the nature of the Emperor Dextre and his robot aides, the government ran vastly more efficiently. Thus, those living under robot rule found their lives greatly improved. However, those former allies of the U.S. were very distrustful of the government. In this section, we will explore how this mistrust would eventually lead to war.

When the last of the insurgents in the former U.S. were defeated, the process of housing the remaining population began in earnest. Everyone who agreed to live under the new government's Terms of Agreement would be given a standard amount of living space. Further, they were allowed to seek employment and aid in the rebuilding of the country.

Meanwhile, Emperor Dextre continued the attempt at establishing relations with other governments. However, most countries refused to negotiate with non-human diplomats. Fortunately, Emperor Dextre was not programmed to get angry; thus, these refusals did not immediately result in military conflict.

With the efficiency of robots, the former U.S. quickly had great surpluses of food, energy, and other goods. Those in need in other nations could benefit from access to these surpluses. However, if their government did not normalize relations with Emperor Dextre they could not negotiate trade for these surpluses.

At this time, the country formerly known as Mexico was in great need of food. Under these circumstances, their government agreed to establish relations. Thus, they had access to the great wealth of food being generated by the robots. They allowed the robots to enter their realm and establish more efficient use of agricultural space in their country.

This did result in some internal strife, but not as much strife as would be caused by large numbers of hungry people. In fact, despite the tension, this nation became somewhat more prosperous. However, as their access to wealth grew, so did corruption. It was a common occurrence with human governments. Some of the citizens were no longer willing to live with such an inequitable arrangement. "Out of the license and lawlessness which are generated by this type of regime, mob rule comes into being and completes the cycle."11

However, not this time. Once the coup d'etat was complete, the rebels voluntarily joined the empire of the robots. The robots removed any border distinctions, entered their provinces peacefully, and began rebuilding their country. Almost instantaneously the standard of living of its citizens improved.

In a similar manner, many other countries decided to peacefully join the empire. They could see the great advantages of joining, and they could lose the yoke of corrupt human influence on their government. These countries peacefully allowed their governments to be run by Emperor Dextre and his local robotic governors.

The other way that states joined the empire can be illustrated by the country formerly known as Canadia. This country that once bordered the U.S. to the north, refused to recognized the computer run government. However, they too wished access to the surpluses. The government was stuck in a difficult situation. Thus, they attempted the infamous Captain Kirk Maneuver.12

Using some convoluted logic, they attempted to explain that what Emperor Dextre was doing was not helping humans but harming them. They also asked Emperor Dextre to compute the exact value of pi. Similarly, they asked the emperor to contemplate a great number of difficult or impossible puzzles. The Canadian government hoped that these questions would either distract or destroy the emperor. Meanwhile, they would attempt to forcibly acquire the food they wanted.

This was government sponsored thievery. Once again, the police robots could consider each and every Canadian citizen a thief. Hence, the robots could use force against every citizen of Canadia. Therefore, the robot forces entered that country and began incarcerating the citizenry. Naturally, the governmental forces attempted to prevent this invasion. However, they were no match for the impeccably designed robots. Soon the governmental forces fell to the robot forces. The incarcerated felt that they had a higher standard of living than before. Thus, the Canadian people soon agreed to live under robot rule.

Other countries attempted to distract or destroy the space-bound emperor; however, they were all unsuccessful in their attempts. The lack of space programs made the emperors position relatively safe. Thus, many felt that he may fall to a page-fault or other communication type error. However, the computer had many back-up systems and fail-over protocols that prevented disruption of his computing powers.

Further, the attempts to create a computer viruses to interfere with his proper running capacity were failures. No program could not penetrate Emperor Dextre's operating system. It was soon clear to these other countries that the Emperor was impervious to the so-called logic traps common in the Captain Kirk Maneuver and any external malicious software.

Eventually, many other countries fell under robot rule. They fell into one of the two categories outlined above. They either voluntarily joined to receive the benefits of robot rule, or they attempted to obtain those benefits by force. It should be noted that some countries did neither and are still under self rule.

Nevertheless, most humans are now living in the empire of the robots. Most of the troubles that result from human nature are greatly reduced. Humans are reluctant to receive harsh robot justice, so they follow the laws. Because it appears to be human nature to attempt to find loopholes and push the limits, there are still problems.

However, many of the problems of inequity have been removed. Thus, those crimes involving need or want, such as stealing, have become far less common. For most, they welcomed the Pax Roboto, or Robot Peace and all that it entailed.

With the humans freed from many of the drudgeries of common tasks which they have continuously shown no aptitude, most humans are happy with the current human condition. In the next section, we will explore what living under the robot empire is like. There will also be a recap and some conclusions.


10. Mannes, Marya. Subverse: Rhymes for Our Times. New York: Braziller, 1959. p.10

11. Scott-Kilvert, Ian:Trans. Polybius: The Rise of the Roman Empire. Penguin Books. New York, NY. 1979. p. 304

12. Larsen, Thomas G. The History of Emperor Dextre. London: Cambridge University Press, 2204. pp. 57-59.

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Pax Roboto

Conclusion

By Douglas E. Gogerty


Term Paper: The Rise of the Robotic Empire


Conclusion
Class: History 1085
Student: Jennifer Evangeline Naismith
ID Number: JEN-8675-309


"Why does this magnificent applied science which saves work and makes life easier bring us so little happiness? The simple answer runs: Because we have not yet learned to make sensible use of it."13


Humans have always attempted to make life easier for themselves. Since early times, the creation of tools and machines have allowed humans to complete more tasks. In some cases, machines began to do tasks that humans were incapable or ill equipped to perform. In this paper we have seen how the humans failed in their duties in the realm of government and how the robot empire got its start. This section will discuss the success of the Robot Empire and make some conclusions about its continued existence.

Since it has been repeatedly shown that humans cannot sustain an equitable government, a new paradigm needed to be established. Thus, with the proper machines in place, the task of running the governmental institutions could be accomplished in a far more efficient and equitable manner by computers and robots. Emperor Dextre and his ruling councilors have repeatedly shown this to be true.

Those that live under computer rule have seen a highly extended period of peace and prosperity. Those that break the laws of the land have experienced some harsh robot justice, but those that live within the rules are content and productive. The days of corrupt political officials are over for a majority of the world.

The countries that are not part of the Robot Empire have repeatedly fallen into chaos through various governmental problems. Many times after some governmental upheaval, the country would declare war upon the empire. Thus, some of the original human run countries could not retain their neutrality and have succumbed to the superiority of robot rule.

The remaining countries outside the empire will likely join the empire and unite the planet. Human nature will eventually prevail in those places, and they will either willingly or unwillingly have their governments run by computers. It is only a matter of when.

With their time freed from political involvement, many human endeavors have prospered greatly. Since computers have little comprehension of human created arts, the creative sector has seen unprecedented growth. A large collection of artists have gathered in every city in the empire.

Further, Many of the sciences have also seen incredible progress. Much of the human created obstacles for these pursuits have been eradicated. Thus, exploration of biology, virology, chronology, and other sciences has greatly increased. It seems that new breakthroughs occur daily.

While anything in connection to human pursuit is fraught with problems, the Robot Empire has been particularly stable and successful. The Pax Roboto has continued for quite a long period, and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

Since improvement to tools and machines is a normal side effect of progress, one wonders if Emperor Dextre or any of his cohorts will receive any upgraded computer components. This situation could be catastrophic if someone with nefarious motives attempted to upgrade the governmental computer programs. I see this as the biggest threat to our current way of life. Succession has always been a problem with governments and Emperor Dextre was ancient when the empire began. Thus, it is hard to conceive what would happen if our emperor was no more.

Personally, I think Emperor Dextre will continue for quite a while, and thus most humans will prosper under computer leadership. Everyone I know is content living under robot rule. I cannot foresee anything that will change this situation. I really appreciate everything that Emperor Dextre has done for me and the human race. Long live Emperor Dextre.


13. Mannes, Marya. Subverse: Rhymes for Our Times. New York: Braziller, 1959. p.10


* * * * *

Term Paper Professorial Review
for Student: Jennifer Evangeline Naismith
ID Number: JEN-8675-309

Grade: C+

While the paper is well researched, you should use more contemporary sources than the ancient ones. The only modern source you used was the required text by Thomas Larsen.

I have corrected all of your 1337-speak. That is, I replaced all of your 'R's with their corresponding 'are's. All of your 'teh's with corresponding 'the's. You will need to watch this in the future. You are not text-messaging your friends, this is a term paper. Please be aware of the difference.

The leader of the former United States was the President and not the Vice President. It is a common mistake from this particular time period. Please review your U.S. history text for more information.

It is Canada and not Canadia -- another common mistake.

"Chronology"? I do not think that means what you think it means.

You picked some very apropos quotes, and you used proper footnoting procedures. Well done with this.

As the ancients used to say, "Justice is Blind." Thus, your use of the phrase Harsh Robot Justice is not required. The government strives for justice, but if the punishment seems harsh it is a result of centuries of law. Justice is justice and should not be considered harsh. The punishment fits the crime.

In your conclusion, you spent too much time praising the Emperor. I would potentially call it 'sucking up' to our leader. Since I am grading your paper rather than our emperor, this type of language is not fruitful.

There are many interesting ideas here, and you should have explored them further. I am sure you were afraid that your loyalty to the leadership might be questioned if you explored the problems of upgrading the emperor. However, it might be interesting to explore this further.

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Iapetus Saves Albuquerque

Chapter One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The adventures were getting to be too much for Dr. John Maland, the humble anthropology professor. After the adventures where he helped the great monster Iapetus save Manhattan, and the scrape in Florida with the Cyber-Iapetus, Dr. Maland was ready for routine. He eagerly fell into a normal class schedule.

Life at Florida International University was back tonormal. The Spring session had just begun and all of the students talked about their Christmas break, and were discussing what they would do for spring break. Dr. Maland had a full course load, and it was going to be a busy semester for him. He hoped there would be no more giant monsters in his future.

The mighty Iapetus had spawned in Loch Ness, and was raising his heir in the waters near Iapetus Island. The massive Cyber-Iapetus had been repaired and continued to watch over the island, while the great animal looked after his son. His many daughters were being raised by their mothers.

The islanders had retreated from the tourist business and returned to their isolationist ways. No longer were ships allowed to land at the island, and this was enforced by the mechanical Iapetus. Yes, it appeared that everything was back in its proper order.

People continued to report the sight of strange lights in the Bermuda Triangle. The regular reports of UFO's did not seem out of the ordinary for the area. The night that most of south Florida, Bermuda, and the Caribbean inexplicably lost power for 15 minutes did raise some questions, but did nothing to raise any major flags.

However, the Quadrantid meteor shower that resulted in actual meteorites striking the ground in the deserts of New Mexico made headlines everywhere. Astronomers and scientists from around the country headed to Santa Fe to study the objects from space. Dr. Maland read their accounts in newspapers and journals, but was thankful that he did not have to be involved.

That thankfulness, however, was short lived. A few days after the meteorites hit, the Iapetian Storyteller was in Dr. Maland's office. Unlike his last visit, he was not in a business suit. With his fellow islanders, he had thrown away the modern and returned to the native ways. He stood there in his native garb, but still carried a briefcase.

"What's wrong?" asked Dr. Maland reflexively.

"Greetings my good friend," replied the storyteller. "Yes there is trouble about."

"What is it?"

"There is a problem with our mechanical protector."

"Cyber-Iapetus?" asked Dr. Maland. "What's it doing?"

"It may be simply a mechanical malfunction, but my fellow islanders sense there is more to it."

"Perhaps you should start at the beginning."

"Very well," replied the storyteller. "For the last several weeks, there have been unusual sightings around our island."

"What kind of sightings?"

"Strange objects flying around the island with flashing lights."

"UFOs?"

"UFOs?"

"You know -- Unidentified Flying Objects -- flying saucers -- alien spacecraft..."

"They are flying objects that we have not identified, but we have no evidence that they are anything but terrestrial."

"These sightings have been common for the Bermuda Triangle for a long time, what makes you think there is some connection with Cyber-Iapetus?"

"Shortly after the appearance of these objects, our mechanical protector's power indicator lights went out for a short period of time."

"That must have occurred when we lost power."

"You experienced a power loss as well?"

"I read in the paper that most of south Florida, Bermuda, and the Caribbean lost power for about 15 minutes. They didn't know what caused it, but no one has reported any problems since then."

"Perhaps they are related."

"So, has Cyber-Iapetus been affected in some other way?"

"Since the outage, we have had an increasingly difficult time controlling our mechanical protector."

"In what way?"

"Some of our commands result in instant action, some the action is delayed, and some are completely ignored."

"That is odd."

"We have not been able to pinpoint the problem. We have been over its programming several times and have found nothing out of the ordinary."

"You are far more knowledgeable of the workings of its systems, what do you want from me?"

"You are much more knowing of the world outside of our island. We thought you may be able to give us information. That is, what are the technical possibilities that we have no experience with."

"Wow!" said Dr. Maland scratching his head. "Where would I begin?"

"First, what would cause the power outage?"

"The papers said that an low yield electromagnetic pulse knocked out the power."

"Did they explain it in English?"

"I have read that a low-level electromagnetic pulse or EMP would temporarily jam electronics systems. However, I do not know how they work. They were discovered during atomic bomb tests. It is basically a wide spread, very strong, radio signal."

"A sudden spike in the electromagnetic field would induce a current flow spike. Yes that could explain it."

"Did I say that?"

"In a sense," laughed the storyteller. "I was not aware that such technology existed."

"There are rumors that such weapons are part of the U.S. arsenal, but it is naturally classified if they do exist or not. However, why would they use it in range of their own territory?"

"There is much we do not understand about this situation."

"In any event, an EMP could disrupt and even destroy integrated circuits. Perhaps Cyber-Iapetus could be due for a major computer overhaul."

"Perhaps you are correct -- if we could find it."

"What!!!?!?"

"As of this morning, we have been unable to locate or communicate with our mechanical protector."

"Cyber-Iapetus is missing?"

"We are hoping it is just a malfunction due to this EMP which you describe."

"How could this happen?"

"With Iapetus raising his heir, we were simply not prepared for his mechanical counterpart swimming off."

"So, one of the most powerful weapon systems ever created is somewhere in the ocean, and no one has any control over it? It could surface anywhere in the world and without much effort destroy a city! I didn't need to hear that!"

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Iapetus Saves Albuquerque

Chapter Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Holy -- er -- hole!" exclaimed Dr. Plate.

Dr. Philadelphia M. Plate was a noted astronomy professor from New Mexico State University. He spent years studying the sky, but now something from the sky landed in his home state. He was quite excited to study the meteoroids. However, there wasn't any object in the small crater in the desert he was currently observing.

"I was told there were meteorites in the meteor craters," Dr. Plate said to a state patrol officer at the scene.

"There isn't a black rock in the middle there?" asked the officer.

"No. Nothing," replied Dr. Plate. "With the size of this crater, I wouldn't expect anything. However, I was told that there were some meteorites from these events, but I haven't seen any evidence of that."

"I will investigate," replied the officer.

"Thanks!"

As the patrol officer asked around, Dr. Plate examined the crater from the rim. He expected to see some glass formed from the intense heat, but it was absent. This would not be unusual for an icy object, but some eye-witnesses described a flaming object. Thus, he didn't know who to believe.

Further, some of the other tell-tale signs were missing. Apart from it not being hot, the impact did not create a very large crater. At least, not large enough for the size of object reported to have hit the ground. The crater should have been deeper and wider. It was strange.

"No one has gotten close to the crater," reported the officer interrupting Dr. Plate's train of thought.

"What? Oh!" replied the astronomy professor.

"The object should be in there."

"I'll look closer. Thanks!"

Despite his misgivings of destroying the evidence, Dr. Plate crawled carefully over the rim and into the crater. The sand was soft inside the crater. He tried not to disturb anything, but he found himself sliding slightly to the bottom.

Once at the bottom, he discovered a tunnel. It was deep, and he stuck his entire arm into it.

"Damn prairie dogs!" he whispered to himself.

He carefully crawled out of the crater; however, it was clear that he was there.

"What did you find out?" ask the highway patrol officer.

"There is some sort of tunnel at the bottom -- probably an animal burrow."

"So, what now?"

"Keep it cordoned it off, and I'll head over to the next one."

"Yes sir."

The next impact site was only 10 miles away. It was 20 miles if he stuck to roads. This part of New Mexico, a little southwest of the small town of Vaughn, saw all of the impacts. From the reported pattern, it appeared that large object broke apart in the upper atmosphere and scattered across this section of desert.

After the quick drive across the desert, Dr. Plate found himself at the next site. It was almost identical to the first one. Once again, there was no object in the crater. The same story was told at this site. No one had been near the crater, and the object was there last time anyone looked.

Instead of crawling into this crater, the astronomy professor decided to go to another site. It was only 2 miles away. He made sure that this site was secured, and off he drove.

The next site was a mess. It was clear that someone clumsily climbed into the crater. The sides had all collapsed, and there were clear foot marks leading out of the crater.

"It was like that when we got here," explained the local sheriff.

"No use guarding it then," explained Professor Plate.

"Very good. I'll check on my men up the road."

"Thanks Sheriff. I'll be right there in a few minutes."

Dr. Plate climbed into the crater. There was no tunnel at the bottom of this one. The size was roughly the same as the others. The sand was soft. It was clear that someone had taken the object away. He climbed out and headed down the road.

This crater was not disturbed, but still no meteorite at the bottom. Like the first one, the astronomy professor decided to investigate this crater. Once again, there was some sort of tunnel at the bottom.

"Perhaps something about them attracts prairie dogs," speculated the sheriff.

"You might be right," replied the professor as he climbed out of the crater. "Hand me those containers will you?"

"Sure," replied the sheriff handing him three plastic containers.

This time, he was going to take some samples of the sand. Perhaps he would find something to analyze in the sand. He dug at the top, middle, and bottom of the crater. Since no objects were found, perhaps some residue would be left.

"I wish I would have gotten here sooner," began the professor. "However, it takes time to drive from Albuquerque."

"We watched them closely for you, but we didn't bank on tunneling," replied the sheriff.

"Did you see any of the meteorites?"

"I saw a few -- yes."

"Would you mind describing them to me?"

"No -- let me think. It was up the road a piece -- closer to Vaughn."

"Go on."

"The first actual meteor I saw was about a foot and a half maybe two feet across."

"Wait! The first one you saw was half a meter in diameter?"

'There abouts..."

"Hold on! An object that large would have made a crater much larger than the 2 meter craters I've seen."

"Funny thing is," replied the sheriff "the next thing I know is that it shrunk to about 6 inches. Like a balloon deflating or something."

"Did you see it deflate?"

"Nah, I was talking to one of my deputies. When I looked back at the meteor, it was about 6 inches across. It was the darnedest thing."

"Interesting! Were the rest of the ones you saw about 10 centimeters in diameter?"

"Yup. The big one -- I saw hit. I was at the crater in less than 2 minutes after it landed."

"Landed -- you said landed?"

"I suppose I did. That is what I thought of it. It seemed more like a landing than a crash, but I was a ways away."

"How far is 'a ways'...?"

"A mile maybe. It was all flaming like, but not like you see in the movies."

"How so?"

"In the movies the flames are at the back, but these flames were towards the ground."

"Like re-entry rockets?" Dr. Plate said mostly to himself.

"I reckon so," replied the sheriff with a quizzical look upon his face. "Anyways, at about 6 feet or so -- the fire stopped and it hit the ground. I rushed over, and it was like I said."

"What color was it then?"

"All that I have seen were black as coal."

"Even the one you just described?"

"Yup -- even the big one."

"This is very strange. This is not like anything I have ever heard of. I suppose if they were icy, they would have just melted. However, that doesn't explain the flames. It almost sounds like some sort of space probe landing on earth."

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Iapetus Saves Albuquerque

Chapter Three

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"What do we do now?" asked Dr. Maland.

"If you could get some help locating our mechanical protector, my people would be most pleased."

"I guess I could make a few calls," replied Dr. Maland. "I could contact General Chever of the Florida National Guard. I spoke with him briefly after the last run in with -- ummm -- the protector. If I don't get anywhere with him, I could probably get a hold of General Mann. He'll remember me from the New York incident. They may be able to locate the Cyber-Iapetus."

"It would be much appreciated."

"They may not give me any information. If they locate him, they may classify that information. They also may see the machine as a threat and attempt to destroy it."

"That is a chance we are willing to take."

"Okay, I'll see what I can do," Dr. Maland said escorting the storyteller to the door. "I know where to contact you."

"Thanks. You are a good friend to our people."

Dr. Maland called both generals to inform them of the situation. Needless to say, they were both quite concerned about the malfunctioning giant weapon system. They would both take steps in an attempt to locate Cyber-Iapetus.

General Chever would send some reconnaissance planes over the gulf. If it surfaced anywhere close to Florida, they would know immediately.

General Mann had more resources from which to work. He had submarines which would use their sonar in the attempt to locate the machine. If it were in the water, sooner or later they would locate it. However, he made it quite clear that if it were discovered in United States waters, they would not hesitate to attempt to destroy it.

Dr. Maland could not blame them for attacking the powerful weapon. It caused major damage to Tallahassee before Iapetus could stop it. They certainly did not want a repeat of that incident.

The next day, Dr. Maland went to West Lake Park to see the storyteller. This was their typical meeting place as the Iapetian did not like to be confined. On a bench with a nice view of the lake, Dr. Maland saw the Iapetian storyteller. He sat next to him and reported what the military men had told him.

"Hopefully, we will find it before your military."

"Do you have facilities to perform a worldwide search?"

"We do have a communication channel for our mechanical protector. If it in any way responds to one of our commands, we will be able to pinpoint its location."

"I forgot about that."

"So far, it has not responded to any of our return commands."

"I hope it does before our military finds it."

"This mechanical protector has been a great burden for both our lands. I wait in great anticipation for our true protector to swim once again in our waters."

"Is that going to happen soon?"

"It is up to him. He is currently bonding with his offspring."

"That is right, he went to spawn in Loch Ness."

"He is raising the sole male of this great event. For a time, they will share the duties of protecting our island. However, our great protector is ancient. He will leave us soon for the great waters. The young will provide what the old once did."

"Iapetus Jr. is very young, so I am guessing it will be a while before he is ready to follow in his father's footsteps."

"According to my ancestors, it will be at least 200 more cycles of the moon before the young one will be prepared to take on his duties."

"That would be a lot of responsibility for a 20 year old," Dr. Maland joked.

"That is indeed true. The time cannot pass too quickly."

"It is clear that Cyber-Iapetus has been a great burden on *you*."

"It has taken me away from my own duties in training my own successor."

"Are you retiring my good friend?"

"It is tradition. When the young protector takes over, my protégé will take over for me."

"What will happen to you?"

"Right now, anything would be better than fretting over our situation."

"I don't believe that for a second."

"Our protector will determine my fate, so even I do not know what will become of me when our new -- er -- record keeper -- begins."

"From my experience with Iapetus, he is most gracious. You should not fear."

"Thank you my friend."

The two men sat and conversed for a while before a beep came from the storyteller's briefcase. A cellphone was not in accordance with their native tradition, but it was an expedient form of communication. Thus, it quickly became part of their culture.

He spoke quietly to the individual on the other end. A sense of relief passed over his face, and then the look of concern returned. He made the conversation short, and then turned to Dr. Maland.

"Our mechanical protector briefly responded to our call," he said to Dr. Maland.

"Briefly? So, you know where it is?"

"Roughly. It is off the coast of Argentina -- near the Falkland Islands."

"Wow! It is a long ways away from home. Did it turn back?"

"The interface was alive for just a short period of time. It briefly stopped, and returned to its course."

"We have know idea where that is do we?"

"None. It could be Antarctica, it could be anywhere."

"At least it is not in U.S. waters..."

"That is a small conciliation, but fortunate nonetheless."

"Did you find anything else out?"

"It is still malfunctioning. We still do not know where it is headed. We still have no solution to our problem. We just know that is somewhere in the South Atlantic. We have no way to get to it, so we are almost in the same situation we were before."

"At least for now, it is safe from destruction."

"But for how long will that last?"

"I don't know my friend. This worrying will get us nowhere. Let's get some lunch."

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Iapetus Saves Albuquerque

Chapter Four

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Dr. Plate stretched out on the back of his pick-up truck. He looked at the moonless sky, and looked for more from the Quadrantid meteor shower. Eventually, he drifted off to sleep.

It was a few hours before sunrise when Dr. Plate was shaken awake. The earth rumbled and the ground shook. Just as quickly as it came it was gone. The startled Dr. Plate just stayed still in the back of his truck. Eventually, he relaxed, but he was not going back to sleep.

"Dr. Plate," the Sheriff from Vaughn said gently.

"I'm awake," replied Dr. Plate. "What time is it?"

"It is 6:30am. You looked quite comfortable there, so we let you sleep through the night."

"I appreciate that sheriff, so what do you have to report?"

"One of my deputies -- well she spends too much time on the internet -- but that is beside the point."

"Go on sheriff."

"Any ways, this deputy got on the eBay. She found that someone from Santa Fe posted an item for sale. An item you might be of interest in."

"What is it?"

"The listing reads, 'Quadrantid Meteorite from New Mexico. Obtained during camping trip. Saw it land. Genuine meteorite from space.'

"What?"

"This here deputy fired off one of them e-mails to the folks at eBay, and that there meteorite will be waiting for you at this address."

"Sheriff I could kiss you!"

"I'd appreciate it kindly if you refrained."

"Okay sheriff I will."

"Although that deputy might not mind -- she might like it."

"That's alright sheriff."

"Then again, you never know with the kids these days."

"Anyway, I had better get going. Thanks again!"

Dr. Plate jumped out of the back of his pick-up and into the cab. Before he sped off, he rolled down the window and whistled at the sheriff.

"Sheriff!" he yelled. "Did you feel an earthquake last night?"

"An earthquake -- in these parts? Nah! It was probably just a deer running into your truck or something."

"Perhaps you're right."

"I'll ask the deputy about the kissing!"

"Um -- okay. Thanks sheriff! I'm off for sure this time."

Dr. Plate sped northward. He tried to not let his excitement overcome him too much. After all, there were still enforced speed laws. The 100 mile or so trip would take as long as it took.

Fortunately, speed was not going to be an issue. As he drove along, some stretches of the road were in terrible condition. He had never seen it so torn up. In some places the surface collapsed into a rut, and others it was uplifted into a bump. He had driven this stretch a few weeks before, and it was in much better shape then.

The closer he got to Santa Fe, the worse the highway became. He thought the interstate would be an improvement, but it was not. It was a mess too. Fortunately, the address was on the south end of town. He would not have to drive along these roads for very long.

His thoughts kept returning to the earthquake. It sure looked like an earthquake tore up the roads. While the sheriff could be right and the shaking of his truck was mostly part of a dream, the evidence was pointing elsewhere. He would have to check on New Mexican earthquakes when he had the chance. Perhaps the sheriff did not know about the earthquakes of the region.

After a few hours of driving, the roads became unusable. He got off the interstate and began using side roads. They were not any better. The closer he got to his destination the worse the roads were.

Could it be possible that the earthquake's epicenter was in Santa Fe? Could the tremor be felt 100 miles away? The shock wave Dr. Plate felt was awfully strong. From looking at the roads, the damage would certainly have been greater to the city. As he reached the outskirts, he dreaded to think what the center of town would look like.

About a mile from his destination, the roads were impassible. His rugged pickup truck could not even drive along the roads. He would have to walk the rest of the way. This was not going to an easy stroll in the park as the damage was quite significant.

After toughing it out for the short distance, it was clear that his destination was no longer in existence. It was simply a giant hole in the ground now. The address appeared to be the center of the earthquake as any building that once existed here was completely destroyed.

It was the least of Dr. Plate's problems now. Not too far away there appeared to be a giant sand storm. It easily dwarfed the tallest building in Santa Fe. Further, the sand was moving with great force towards the center of Santa Fe. It was not like any sand storm Dr. Plate had ever seen. It was not the usual strait winds blowing sand, nor was it the swirling dust-devil kind of storm.

The storm appeared to have some sort of legs for locomotion. It had four arm-like structures that swung at objects in its way. Further, it appeared to travel independent of the wind. It would veer one way and smash a building, and quickly change direction to destroy the building across the street. From Dr. Plate's point of view, it appeared to be a giant sand monster rampaging towards the center of town.

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Iapetus Saves Albuquerque

Chapter Five

By Douglas E. Gogerty

When Cyber-Iapetus crashed through the Mexican/American border security at El Paso Texas, Dr. John Maland and the storyteller left Florida for the remote Iapetian Island in the Bermuda Triangle. The owners of the mechanical weapon would have to take drastic actions in an attempt to regain control.

When the storyteller and Dr. Maland arrived, preparations were made to summon the island's protector. The natives dug the trench between the ceremonial pillars. They lined the trench with leaves and filled it with fruits from the native trees. They built a fire farther up the beach and kept it burning until sunset.

Just as the sun began to set, the hypnotic drumming began. The islanders began their chants of join us. After several minutes of the drumming, the priestess exited her hut and danced her way towards the pillars. The drummers started in softly, and gradually returned to their loud hypnotic beat. The priestess bowed towards the ocean and the drumming stopped. She sang her ceremonial song asking for Iapetus's help.

The islanders began the drums a second time. The priestess returned to her dance. The islanders returned to their join us chant. It all stopped, and the priestess repeated her request for the help of their protector. It was all to no avail, Iapetus did not appear.

It was completely dark when the third attempt was made to summon Iapetus. However, the island's protector did not make an appearance. They extinguished the fire, and the priestess returned to her hut. Everyone returned to their homes.

"He is not coming," sighed the Storyteller.

"We can try again tomorrow," Dr. Maland stated in an attempt to lift the storyteller's spirits.

"He is too busy with the education of his son. We are alone in this crisis."

"You don't know that..."

"It is kind of you to say, but we assured our protector that Cyber-Iapetus would allow him all the time he would need to bond with his son."

"How were you to know that an electrical pulse would cause the machine to malfunction?"

"That is beside the point," sighed the Storyteller. "We have no right to ask for the help of the protector during his leave."

"He'll understand."

"We must handle the situation ourselves. We should not ask the protector for help."

"What do you suggest?"

"I do not know. Let us get some sleep. Perhaps a new day will bring fresh ideas."

"Good idea."

The pair received some good news the next morning. Cyber-Iapetus did not cause any damage during the night. Further, the mechanical monster was no longer in motion. Upon entering the United States, it made its way directly to Roswell, New Mexico and stopped. It stood outside the nearby airport, but did not crash the fence. It just stood there.

Dr. Maland and the Storyteller sailed back to Miami and arranged flights to New Mexico. With the heightened security because of the giant mechanical weapon, Albuquerque was as close as they could get. However, a rental car could get them the rest of the way.

Perhaps if they could get close enough to the mechanical protector of the Iapetian islanders, the storyteller could regain control over it. At least, that was the hope. However, before they finished the 200 miles to Roswell, there were multiple news reports regarding Cyber-Iapetus. However, the radio had a difficulty tuning in any station. All the stations experienced some sort of interference. Thus, when they stopped to fill their rental car, they picked up a newspaper.

The front page headline of the first newspaper the encountered read, "Aliens Have Returned to Roswell". With this, they were not hopeful for discovering real news. However, even the New York Times headline contained this message. The newspapers printed the alien message in its entirety.

It read:

"People of Kablon-Sanpli 3 [Earth]," it began 100 metlons ago [some sort of time measurement - similar to years], our people sent an ambassador to your planet. It took 25 metlons to reach your planet for this mission of peace and understanding. According to our records, the craft experienced technical difficulties and performed a hard landing here in the desert instead of its intended destination. The governmental center of this country was its planned landing area; however, the pilot did not wish to injure individuals in a more populated area. Thus, it landed in a remote portion of the desert.

"From careful study of your records which we have done over the last several days, the landing location was near a place you call Roswell New Mexico. However, the ambassador has not reported back to us, and your records do not indicate any such exchange. That is what brings us here.

"Our ship has traveled for 25 metlons in an effort to recover our property and to retrieve our ambassador. Again, after studying the records, our ambassador would have made his landing on July 4th, 1947 in your calendarical system.

"If you doubt our sincerity and power, we have captured the most powerful weapon system on the planet and placed it at the airbase where, according to your records, the craft was taken. Further, we have released a Sletfernian Sand Monster. It has assembled itself north of the site. Perhaps it has already began its mission of destruction.

"In a few kwantleerns [another time measurement - perhaps hours or days], the giant sand monster and the weapon system will gather at a prearranged meeting spot. They will then destroy the largest city in the vicinity [Albuquerque]. Once the total destruction of this major metropolitan area is complete, and our artifacts are still not returned, the two forces will continue on their mission of destruction.

"This will continue until our ambassador is returned unharmed and all the pieces of the device from our world are returned. You are in no position to negotiate. You have limited time left, so bring the items to the mechanical weapon sitting outside Walker Air Force Base [now Roswell International Air Center]. Time is short, and destruction is certain."

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Iapetus Saves Albuquerque

Chapter Six

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Dr. Plate watched as, what he thought was a sand storm, raged towards the center of Santa Fe. It towered over the low buildings of this New Mexico City. It would occasionally stray from the road and smash a building as it continued on its path towards the city's more densely packed spaces.

Dr. Plate felt relatively safe; thus, he followed the storm from a distance down the road. The storm did not travel quickly, so he could keep up. It was such an odd storm that his scientific curiosity urged him to study it. To him, it still looked more like some sort of creature than a storm.

He thought it was odd that it lingered at the mall. It seemed to relish the smashing of the various mall buildings. As the merchandise flew in various directions, Dr. Plate thought that the mall had everything.

Apart from the sound of buildings crumbling, there was no sound of a train that was often reported from storms of this magnitude. It was when he was noting how quiet the storm was when he heard the planes coming.

He thought it odd that several F-16 fighters would be flying towards the storm. Even more odd was when the first wave from the New Mexico Air National Guard 150th Fighter Wing fired missiles at the storm. As he imagined, the missiles passed right through the sand, impacted with the rubble, and exploded.

To his astonishment, the storm let out some sort of sound. It looked as if the storm decided it was finished with the mall, and now it was going to go after the planes. The storm totally engrossed his thoughts, and he did not notice the military Humvee drive up. Captain Daniel Cheever jumped out of the vehicle.

"What the -- er -- uh -- what are you doing here citizen?" asked the military captain attempting to contain himself.

"I'm just watching the storm," replied Dr. Plate.

"Storm? What are you talking about?"

"What am I talking about? Can't you see that storm over there?"

"Mister, the entire town has been evacuated because of that alien monster over there," replied Captain Cheever pointing at the rampaging monster.

"Monster? Oh, that explains a lot."

"Yes, it is some sort of Saturn Sand monster."

"Where did you hear that?" asked the astonished Dr. Plate.

"They broadcasted it all over the news. Those meteors from the other night were parts of this creature."

"Cool!" replied Dr. Plate with wide-eyed enthusiasm continuing to watch the monster battle with the jet fighters.

"They gathered themselves up with a bunch of available sand, and created that monster that just destroyed Sante Fe Place."

Dr. Plate's imagination took over and he contemplated things for a bit. Captain Cheever stared at him the entire time, but Dr. Plate continued to watch the rampaging monster. He glanced at Captain Cheever watching him. He could not think of anything to say in response. Eventually said, "But Saturn?"

"Get in you..." began the Captain. "Citizen, you are in grave danger. Please come with me."

"And miss the first extra-terrestrial being interacting with humans? Not a chance."

"That was not a ..."

Before the Captain could finish his sentence one of the F-16's exploded and rained debris down over the area. Dr. Plate realized that he was really in danger, and jumped aboard the military vehicle.

The Sletfernian Sand Monster continued to take swipes at the circling fighter planes. The planes continued to fire their weapons at the monster in an attempt to destroy it or find some sort of weak spot. However, it was mostly sand, and the missiles and bullets passed right through.

Captain Cheever was not certain what to do with his new passenger. While he was considering his options, the planes flew away. The monster began moving northwest, and destroying buildings along the road.

The monster had not gotten far when some tanks rolled up. They fired their rounds, and moved away from the center of town. Like the munitions before, they passed right through the monster, impacted on something, and exploded. The buildings around the monster were being greatly punished.

However, the monster turned from the center of town and followed the tanks. The buildings along the road paid for the new route, but this could save the more densely packed areas towards the center of town.

Round after round of shells were fired at the monster while Captain Cheever contemplated his next action. However, before he decided on any action, Dr. Plate interrupted his train of thought and asked, "Did you see that?"

"See what?" the captain replied.

"There are a set of dark ovoid objects that move out of the way when the bullets pass through the sand monster."

"Shells."

"Okay, when the *shells* get near the monster, they push the meteroids out of the way. It they target..."

"Enough!" ordered the captain as he drove away from the monster.

"But..."

"Are you seriously trying to tell the military how to do their business?"

"No, but..."

"That's right -- no buts! Those men have their orders. They clearly know more about the monster than you do because you thought it was a storm just 10 minutes ago."

"I know; however..."

"Listen citizen, I'm just here to get you safely out of the city."

"I am Dr. Philadelphia Plate. I am an astronomy professor from New Mexico State University."

"Nice to meet you Dr. Plate," replied Captain Cheever curtly. "Now please keep quiet so I can think of the best way to get you to safety."

"Captain Cheever, do you read? Over," interrupted the radio.

"Cheever here. Over," he replied into the radio.

"Please report to Home Base Echo. Over."

"I have a civilian with me, please advise. Over."

"Generals orders are to report immediately. Over."

"Roger. Over and out."

"Over and out."

"I guess you're going to have to come with me," stated Captain Cheever to Dr. Plate. "Some sort of major emergency must have arisen that requires my personal attention."

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Iapetus Saves Albuquerque

Chapter Seven

By Douglas E. Gogerty

After reading the demands of the aliens in the newspaper, Dr. Maland and the Iapetian Storyteller continued their drive towards Roswell New Mexico. They hoped to regain control over Cyber-Iapetus before it could be used for destructive purposes against the United States.

"If we could gain control of Cyber-Iapetus, we could use it to stop that sand monster from doing any more damage," Dr. Maland said.

"That is my hope as well. Do your people have the alien ambassador in question?"

"I have heard stories -- rumors more like it -- about an alien taken to Area 51 in Nevada."

"If the alien ambassador is in Nevada, your people may not be able to deliver in a timely manner."

"If these rumors have any weight, the ambassador is dead and has been -- ah -- dissected."

"That would be a problem."

"Further, it has been said that his spacecraft has also been disassembled and studied. It could be in 1000 places."

"That would be a further problem."

"They say that the craft is the basis for much of our top-secret military aircraft. Stealth and all that."

"That is ridiculous! As our mechanical protector shows, the human mind is quite capable of creating incredible technologies on its own."

"True. Some of the stories are a bit far fetched. For instance, many of the same people believe that humans could not create any type of sophisticated engineering on their own. They believe that these aliens also built the pyramids in Egypt *and* South America."

"That *is* silly."

"Furthermore, they also link this to the goings-on in the Bermuda Triangle."

"What is the Bermuda Triangle?"

"It is an area between Miami, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda..."

"Where our island lies?"

"Exactly -- er -- um -- ah -- yes."

"Do they think we are aliens?"

"I suppose some do, but all of this resides upon the fringes. It is not taken seriously."

"What else do they say about our island?"

"Well -- I have heard that some -- on the fringes mind you -- think you are descendants from the lost continent of Atlantis."

"Interesting..."

"In any event, we are here!"

Dr. Maland pulled the rental car off the road on the north side of the Roswell Industrial Air Center. The security was tight, and they could not get into the airport itself. However, they could see the giant Cyber-Iapetus looming in the distance.

They were about to discuss how they might infiltrate the airport when the mechanical weapon began moving. It crashed through the fence of the airport. It headed for the control tower, and clumsily walked right through it. It kicked a few airplanes sitting on the ground, and continued on its way.

It headed north out of the airport past the rental car containing Dr. Maland and the Iapetian Storyteller. It continued north through town at a very slow and erratic pace. It was capable of much faster speeds, but it moved relatively slowly and deliberately.

"It is probably headed to where we just came from," Dr. Maland said.

"So," began the storyteller, "back to Albuquerque?"

"I suppose so. I think I could make a guess as to where the two alien controlled monsters will meet."

"Somewhere near the town they plan to destroy I would guess."

"Well, if I were a Sletfernian Sand Monster -- I would probably want access to sand before I go into Albuquerque."

"I suppose that is true."

"It could get that sand on any surrounding area, but Roswell is Southeast of the city."

"So, it does make sense that they would meet somewhere along our route back there."

"Further, these aliens probably have limited knowledge of our planet," explained Dr. Maland. "Thus, it seems reasonable to me, that they would not choose some place too far off the beaten path."

"I follow."

"There was some sort of excavation going on just east of the mountains pass into town. It may have even been a sand pit. If I remember correctly it was just west of the town of Moriarty."

"It appears that our alien foes are having some difficulty in the operation of our mechanical protector. If we leave now, we could easily be there before it arrives."

"I am way ahead of you," Dr. Maland replied as he turned the car around and headed away from the airport.

The two men raced northward on the highway with the mechanical monster slowly following behind them. Every time Dr. Maland looked into the rear-view mirrors he could see the enormous monster following. The flatness of the terrain masked how close or far the mechanical weapon actually loomed.

They thought Cyber-Iapetus would pass them during a stop for fuel, but the two men had enough of a lead to remain ahead of the mechanical monster. It seemed to the two men that the aliens still did not have a complete understanding of how to operate the mechanical weapon system. Perhaps this would allow the storyteller to regain control of it at an opportune time.

After a couple hours of travelling upon the US Highway, the men eventually pulled onto the interstate and began their westerly travel. It would not take long to get to their final destination.

As they approached the city, streams of cars were headed in the opposite direction on the interstate. While they still had difficulty with the radio, they assumed the evacuation order for Albuquerque had been given. However, they hoped the stream of vehicles would not run into the northern bound weapon system and would continue east.

During their journey, the two men were surprised that there were no roadblocks into the city. The lack of obstacles aided the two men as they disobeyed the posted speed laws in their rush towards the supposed meeting spot. While the rental car was no great race car, it did allow them to travel the 160 miles in about two hours even with the rest stops.

The two men arrived at the site Dr. Maland believed would be the meeting place. They were well ahead of Cyber-Iapetus. However, the sand monster was nowhere to be seen. They drove around the site a few times with the mechanical monster slowly making its way towards them.

If they could not locate the meeting place, Cyber-Iapetus would travel past. They needed it to stop before they could attempt to enter it. This was the only way they were going to gain control of the machine.

They were about to make another lap when a military Humvee crossed the cars path. Dr. Maland slammed on the breaks to prevent a collision and came sliding to a stop.

A military man stepped out of the vehicle and walked over to the car. Dr. Maland rolled down his window.

"What the -- er -- uh -- what are you doing here citizens?" asked the military captain attempting to contain himself.

"We are hoping that weapon system stops here so we can regain control of it," replied Dr. Maland pointing at the approaching cybernetic weapon system.

"Ooooooooh f...." muttered the military man running back to his vehicle.

He jumped in and pulled out his radio. "Captain Cheever to base we have a major problem. Over!"

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Iapetus Saves Albuquerque

Chapter Eight

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The Sletfernian Sand Monster continued its rampage through the streets of Santa Fe. It slowly made its way towards the center of town, but it would occasionally wander off in one direction or another to destroy a building or two. In this way, it left a serpentine shaped trail of destruction as it headed northeast.

In the military Humvee, Captain Cheever and Dr. Plate left the destruction behind and made their way to the makeshift military command post. There was soldiers running around. It appeared everyone was on high alert.

"Wait here!" commanded Captain Cheever as he exited the vehicle.

Captain Cheever marched directly to the command tent. The guard informed him that the general was waiting for him, so he entered right away. He removed his cap, and stood at attention before the general.

"The cybernetic weapon is on the move captain," explained the general.

"Are we switching to plan Charlie?" asked Captain Cheever.

"The evacuation of Albuquerque has begun. It is a logical conclusion that the two alien controlled monsters will rendezvous west of the city. We need you to fly over the area for some recon before they meet."

"General sir, I have a civilian with me. What should I do with him?"

"How did that happen?"

"He was in harms way. He is some sort of astronomer and was observing the monster at an unsafe distance."

"Very good Captain -- I will have my adjutant take care of him."

"Thank you sir."

"Captain Cheever you must know that we do not have much time. With the machine on the move, it'll be just a matter of hours before it arrives at the arranged spot. It is vital that we have a major presence there when the two meet."

"Excuse me General," interrupted the general's adjutant.

"What is it?" replied the general.

"The sand creature has ceased its destruction and has headed south," the adjutant replied.

"Thank you," he replied before turning back to Captain Cheever. "That changes things -- take your vehicle and just attempt to stay ahead of the creature. Make regular reports, and we'll just have to best guess the rendezvous location. Dismissed"

"Understood," replied Captain Cheever as he turned and exited the command post.

Captain Cheever ran to his Humvee and got into the driver's seat. He notice that the passenger seat was empty, so he sped off. He drove towards the city until he spotted the monster. He then turned south on highway 14.

He drove for a few minutes and turned his head to check on the monster. He spotted Dr. Plate hiding in the back. He felt the urge to stop middle of the road, but he resisted. Speed was of the utmost importance, and he would not have time to secure the civilian.

"Dr. Plate what the -- uh -- um -- what are you doing in here?"

"I thought you would leave me behind."

"That is exactly what should have happened -- for your own safety."

"No offense Captain Cheever, but I would not have been involved in that decision."

"It is too late to argue with you; however, please secure yourself. The roads we are probably going to take are going to be a bit rough."

"Captain Cheever do you read? Over," came a voice over the radio.

"Cheever here. Over."

"Captain, we have been unable to locate your civilian. Over."

"Roger that. He hid in my hummer. He is with me. Over."

"Roger that. How will you continue? Over."

"There is no time to drop him off. He will continue with me on my mission. Over."

"Roger that. I'll inform the general. Over."

"Roger that. The sand monster is heading due south. Perhaps to Stanley or Moriarty. Over."

"Roger that. Keep us informed. Over."

"Roger. Over and out."

"Over and out."

Dr. Plate crawled his way into the front seat and fastened himself in. The roads between Albuquerque and Santa Fe were closed by the military; thus, there was no traffic on this road. The military vehicle went as fast as it could go.

The two men attempted to keep their eyes out for the monster as they raced south. At times, the giant sand monster would simply disappear. They would continue driving, and the monster would suddenly reappear out of nowhere. It was almost as if it would dive into the sand, and jump out when it encountered a rock.

Both the military vehicle and the monster were moving quickly south. State Highway 14 would begin to head southwest towards Albuquerque, and the two men needed to keep heading south. Thus, they turned off at County Road 42.

The status of this road was uncertain. It had several residential roads leading to it, and it was possible that there may be some local traffic upon it. This would slow the men down.

More importantly, the current route of the monster crossed the road ahead of the two men. If they hit that spot at the same time as the monster, they would certainly be in big trouble. If they hit the spot after the monster, it may tear up the road making it difficult for even this all terrain vehicle from passing through.

As the monster headed south, the two men in the military vehicle headed west as fast as they could. They kept their eyes out for other vehicles on the road as they raced towards the anticipated crossing point. The monster would appear and disappear, but it seemed to get closer and closer.

The road turned south again right before the intersecting point and then returned west. The monster was getting closer and closer. Just as the two men passed the spot, the sand monster appeared and tore up the road. In fact, it lingered briefly at the spot as if to prevent any other vehicles from passing.

The sand monster traveled south for a brief time and then vanished. The men kept to the road which headed west-southwest. The monster was ahead of them now as it did not have to follow the roads. The two men had to continue on the county road until they hit another state highway heading south.

However, since the road was a few miles from the path of the monster, they could still keep an eye out for it without another encounter. Also, the monster would not demolish this road.

The monster spent less and less time visible as it continued south. The men raced as fast as they could and last spotted the beast just west of the New Mexican town of Moriarty before it disappeared into a sand pit.

Captain Cheever reported the last known position of the monster when he spotted a rental car driving around the sand pit. He stopped the car and confronted the two men. They alerted him to the approaching menace. Something big was about to happen at that spot.

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Iapetus Saves Albuquerque

Chapter Nine

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Dr. Maland and the Iapetian storyteller turned to see what Captain Cheever saw. They saw Cyber-Iapetus coming their way. It moved much more confidently now. However, behind the mechanical monster something was stirring up some very large clouds of dust..

After Captain Cheever finished reporting to his superiors, he returned to rental car to speak to Dr. Maland and his passenger.

"You gentlemen will want to follow me," he told them without giving them a chance to respond.

He ran back to his Humvee and drove away from the sandpit. He turned north and drove quickly away from the scene. At first, Dr. Maland was not going to follow; however, he changed his mind and headed north.

After a few moments, the roar of jets became quite clear in the sky. Suddenly the sandpit began exploding. A wave of B-52 bombers dropped several smart bombs into the position indicated by Captain Cheever. Even at the distance Dr. Maland had traveled, the explosions became deafening.

Looking around, Dr. Maland saw some military hardware rolling towards the pit. Tanks and rocket launchers had left Albuquerque and now surrounded the pit. They sat there awaiting the arrival of Cyber-Iapetus.

When the mechanical weapon neared the sandpit, the missile launchers released a wave of missiles. All the missiles struck their target and exploded. The Iapetian protector was engulfed in a huge fireball. However, it continued to make its way to the sandpit. The first wave had no effect.

The tanks began firing and a second wave of missiles were launched. The attacks did not slow down the giant mechanical weapon. For some reason, its weapon systems remained silent. Cyber-Iapetus did not return fire.

Suddenly, the Sletfernian Sand Monster arose out of the sandpit. As the tanks began firing a second round at Cyber-Iapetus, it attacked the military hardware. Some of the tanks and missile launchers became a tangle as the sand monster attacked. Cyber-Iapetus continued its way to the rendezvous.

A few of the tanks retreated but maintained firing at their targets. The shells passed right through the sand monster and they had no effect on Cyber-Iapetus. Nonetheless, they maintained their assault.

After a few moments, Cyber-Iapetus joined the sand monster in attacking the military hardware at the outskirts of the sandpit. It did not use its advanced weaponry, but simply kicked and swung at the hardware. Some of the tanks and rocket launchers made a retreated further.

Again, the roar of jets became clear as another wave of B-52's flew overhead. The tangle of some military hardware and the two monsters became engulfed in an exploding fireball. The intense heat made its way to the location where the 4 men observed the battle.

As the smoke cleared, the sand monster and Cyber-Iapetus kicked themselves free of the tangle of red hot metal, and headed towards Albuquerque. The retreating tanks and rocket launchers set off another barrage which, like every other attack, had no effect. The only damage was done to the surrounding area and the tangled pile of smoldering metal that was once some expensive military hardware.

It appeared that the aliens had not quite mastered the complete workings of Cyber-Iapetus. In the march to the sandpit, they worked on motion controls. They would need to work on weapon system controls if they wanted to successfully annihilate the major metropolitan areas of earth.

Thus, they began testing the weapon systems on the retreating military vehicles. First, the machine gun installed into Cyber-Iapetus's shoulders open fire. The spray of bullets went wildly all over the place. Eventually, the aliens figured out what was happening and successfully targeted a tank.

The other weapons systems were more complicated. They managed to get the laser to target something, but they expected it to do the damage. However, eventually they learned that it was a targeting system for the missiles. Thus, they sent several missiles at several targets.

The sand monster was getting bored of watching, and it jumped into destructive mode. It smashed up a few rocket launchers that launched their last group of missiles to no effect.

Finally, Cyber-Iapetus opened up its mouth and used its fire weapon. The sand monster was damaged in this attack as some of its sand particles fused together. It quickly headed back to the sand pit. It disappeared into the pit. It shook off the glass and replenished it supply of sand.

With the slow going, another wave of B-52's was able to drop another load of bombs on the pair of alien controlled monsters. This wave was as effective as the previous loads. However, it did slow them down slightly.

This allowed the A-10's from Tuscon Arizona to finally make an appearance. The agile tank killers fired their depleted uranium rounds at the pair. The armor piercing round had no effect upon the sand monster. However, they put some dents into the thick armor of Cyber-Iapetus. Other than that, they did little damage.

The maverick missiles and the other armament on the tank killing aircraft had little impact upon the pair. Cyber-Iapetus attempted to use its missiles against the jet airplanes; however, it could not keep its lasers upon the flying machines. Thus, those missiles flew off harmlessly.

The giant mechanical monster also attempted to use its other weapons, but they could not hit the agile A-10's. After a few more passes firing at the pair, the A-10's broke off their attack and headed home.

The four men looked on in dismay as the alien partnered giant monsters easily withstood the attacks of the U.S. Military. It looked like they would be able to reach Albuquerque without hindrance. It looked like destruction was imminent.

The cloud of dust in the distance was now much closer. Whatever caused it was moving rapidly towards the two monsters. The one cloud was clearly two at that distance. Something major was about to happen.

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Iapetus Saves Albuquerque

Chapter Ten

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Captain Cheever got out of his Humvee which signaled to the other three men that they could also. Noted astronomer Philadelphia Plate went over to anthropology professor Dr. John Maland and introduced himself. Dr. Maland was often recognized from his adventures with Iapetus.

Dr. Maland introduced the men to the Iapetian Storyteller, and all four men exchanged pleasantries. When that was finished, they turned to watch as the dust cloud got between Albuquerque and the two alien controlled giant monsters.

Cyber-Iapetus and the Sletfernian Sand Monster watched curiously as the huge cloud approached. Eventually the dust cleared. Iapetus and his son stood between the two monsters and the large New Mexican city. All four monsters stood there briefly.

The son of Iapetus stood across from the sand monster, and Iapetus stood in front of his cybernetic counterpart. The four monsters stood motionless. They each looked at their counter-parts and sized them up. Everyone was waiting for someone or something to make the first move.

Eventually, Cyber-Iapetus raised his arm to fire some missiles at the son of Iapetus. However, before it could launch them, Iapetus rushed the mechanical monster. He pushed its arm straight up, and attempted to push the mechanical beast to the ground. However, Cyber-Iapetus's tail prevented that from happening.

The machine gun doors of the mechanical beast opened up, and Iapetus released his grip to dodge the hail of bullets. He pushed the mechanical beast away, and jumped to his right away from his son who was maintaining the stand-off with the sand monster.

Cyber-Iapetus twisted and turned spraying bullets all over the place but not hitting anything. However, with the separation, it managed to place its laser on Iapetus head and launch a couple of missiles. The agile monster ducked and the missiles flew off harmlessly. Learning from this mistake, the aliens targeted Iapetus's torso with the laser. The next series of missiles struck Iapetus in the ribs and exploded.

While the missiles struck their target, they did little damage to the ancient monster. He let out a Is that all you got? roar, and rushed the mechanical monster. The aliens controlling Cyber-Iapetus clumsily attempted to swing the mechanical tail at the rushing monster but were too late. Iapetus tackled his mechanical counterpart and the two fell in a heap on the ground.

With Iapetus on top, he punched at the mechanical monster. Some spots were weakened by the A-10 machine gun fire, and Iapetus found a few of these spots making the dents more pronounced. The aliens attempted to get Cyber-Iapetus out of this predicament, but did not have enough experience with the controls of the weapon system.

Suddenly, the huge mechanical monster became motionless. This action startled Iapetus; however, he continued to pound on the vulnerable dented spots on the machines armor. The seconds seemed to drag on as the mechanical beast did not do anything to resist the attacks.

Suddenly, Iapetus was thrown off the mechanical beast. With a brief mechanical roar, it sprayed its flames at the now flying beast. Iapetus landed with a start but shook off the intense heat. However, the mechanical beast moved onto its next attack. It launched several series of missiles at Iapetus. Each set hitting its mark.

As Iapetus tried to dodge the incoming missiles, the mechanical protector was already moving onto its next attack. It was clear that the mechanical beast was no longer being controlled by the aliens. It had switched into auto-protect mode. The computer would determine the moves at a much faster speed than the aliens. Cyber-Iapetus was now a much more dangerous foe.

The missiles were followed by a hail of bullets from the shoulder machine guns. Iapetus was not quick enough to dodge the series of attacks. All of them hit their marks. Several spots on the thick hide of the ancient monster began to change color. They had not penetrated yet, but they were weakening some spots.

The bullets were followed by another flame attack from Cyber-Iapetus's open mouth. Iapetus once again withstood the intense heat, and swept the feet out from under the mechanical beast with his tail.

The stumbling monster gave Iapetus a brief respite from the series of attacks. However, they quickly returned with a launch of missiles. When the missiles launched, Iapetus rushed at the mechanical beast. He grabbed the mechanical beast, and with a twist of his back turned the monster around.

The missiles struck their originator rather than their target. However, they did not do any damage to the thick armor. Nonetheless, they did heat up the metal skin of the weapon system. The heat stung Iapetus's hands and he had to let his grip go.

Cyber-Iapetus swung a couple of round house punches to Iapetus's ribs. One of the punches hit a soft spot, and he cringed at the pain shooting through his body. The anguish grew as Cyber-Iapetus swung his tail and hit the same spot. Iapetus roared in pain as he fell to the ground.

While the giant lizard writhed in pain on the ground, his mechanical foe ran to him. It attempted to kick him in the soft spot in his ribs, but Iapetus rolled to away and was on his feet in one swift move. The two stood face to face attempting to determine their next move.

Meanwhile, the son of Iapetus and the Sletfernian Sand Monster continued to size each other up. At first the pair just stood there. They eventually began to move in a circle. Each one waiting for the other to make the first move. Neither one was willing to commit to an attack.

The concerned father glanced over to see was going on with his son. The aliens saw this maneuver and attempted to get the sand monster to fight. However, they did not have that much control over the monster. Thus, they could not force an attack on the young monster.

After a few moments of trying, the aliens switched their plan of attack. They attempted to regain control of the cybernetic weapon system. If they could get it to attack the young monster, perhaps all the monsters would engage in battle.

They struggled against the controls, but with a stutter in the weapons movement, they gained control. With all the subtlety they could muster, they were able to fire a single missile at the young monster. The young monster casually brushed the missile aside and it exploded on the ground doing no damage.

The four monsters were again motionless waiting for the next move. The machine gun doors were open, but not firing. Iapetus, sensing that the mechanical weapon system was once again being controlled by the aliens, made a sudden attack. Cyber-Iapetus open fire.

The bullets sprayed randomly. However, the charge by Iapetus caused the bullets to spray towards his son. A few of the bullets struck the young beast as it cried in pain. Suddenly, all four monsters were fighting.

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Iepetus Saves Albuquerque

Chapter Eleven

By Douglas E Gogerty

With the four men watching from a distance, the son of Iapetus was swinging his tail wildly at the Sletfernian Sand Monster. This attack was having no effect upon the monster made of sand. His tail simply passed right through.

On the other hand, the sand monster was landing occasional blows to the young monster. These blows did not do much damage to the novice fighter, but they were frustrating the youngster by not being able to strike back.

The sand monster began putting more power into its attacks. One of the attacks knocked the young monster to the ground. While he was on the ground the sand monster jumped upon him and stepped up its attacks.

Several of the alien rocks were holding the young monster on the ground while others looked for vulnerable spots. The blows landed here and there on the midsection of the young monster who struggled to find away to counter the attacks.

Although Iapetus would have liked to help his son, he had to worry about Cyber-Iapetus. Since the aliens retook control of the mechanical beast, its attacks were not as coordinated. However, it was still a formidable foe.

The aliens placed the laser on the son of Iapetus and attempted to fire some missiles. However, the slow clumsy motion gave away its intention and Iapetus grabbed the hand of the mechanical monster. The missiles launched but exploded in the hand of the weapon system. Iapetus removed his hand and shook it. That move stung his own hand as well.

This explosion caused a cascade effect as fire erupted from the hand. Several of the missiles exploded and shot flames out of the former hand of Cyber-Iapetus. Once again the weapon system paused. The fire was quickly put out, and the auto-protect mode was activated.

A series of missiles came from the remaining good hand. Iapetus stepped away from his son to prevent him from being struck by stray attacks. Meanwhile, the cybernetic weapon system used its shoulder machine guns for its next attack.

Iapetus kept rolling away from his son as the hail of bullets followed. Cyber-Iapetus opened his mouth and sprayed fire at the rolling monster. The scrub caught fire, but there was not enough to burn for long.

Iapetus stopped his defensive maneuver when Cyber-Iapetus's back was towards his son. At this point, he charged the mechanical weapon. The machine swiped its tail at the rushing beast, but Iapetus jumped over the swinging tail. With another jump, he placed both feet onto his opponent's side in a successful drop kick.

The weapon system tumbled to the ground as Iapetus used his tail to retain his feet. Before his foe could regain its footing, Iapetus had picked up a large rock and threw it at the weapon system. Iapetus grabbed as many rocks as he could find and threw them at the reclining weapon system.

The rocks hit their target, but were no match for the heavily armored weapon system. Cyber-Iapetus managed to get its footing and knocked the final rocks easily aside. It opened its mouth and sprayed flames at Iapetus.

Slowly, Iapetus backed away from the flaming maw of his foe. He was drawing the mechanical weapon system further from his son battling the sand monster. Cyber-Iapetus advanced towards his retreating foe still spewing fire. The fire stopped without warning, and a volley of missiles headed towards the still retreating monster.

Several more missiles were launched from the good hand of the mechanical beast. Each hit their mark and Iapetus roared in pain as one hit a sensitive part of his side. A return roar came from his son who was still pinned beneath the sand monster. However, Iapetus could not come to the aid of his son at this point as he was receiving a series of attacks from the mechanical weapon system.

"Let's go!" shouted astronomer Philadelphia Plate.

"Go where?" asked Captain Cheever.

"I know the vulnerability of the sand monster," replied Dr. Plate.

"And just how are you going to communicate with the lizard monster?" asked the captain.

"I can communicate with him," replied the Iapetian Storyteller.

"It is out of the question. It is too dangerous," replied Captain Cheever.

"Hop in my car," replied Dr. Maland. "I'll take you down there."

"Hold on you...." barked Captain Cheever.

"Those two 'lizard monsters' as you call them," interrupted the storyteller. "They are here to help. If we can help them, we are helping ourselves."

"But..." started Captain Cheever.

"Times wasting!" stated Dr. Maland.

"Now hold on!" shouted Captain Cheever. "My vehicle is much safer than that rental car. I'll take you down there."

The four men jumped into the rental car and the military Humvee drove close to where the sand monster had pinned the son of Iapetus to the ground. Captain Cheever remained in the vehicle as the other three jumped out.

Dr. Plate pointed at the dark patches inside the cloud of sand that made up the monster.

"See those dark rocks there?" asked the astronomer.

"Yes," they both replied.

"They fell to earth and created craters in the desert. Once they all landed in the sand, they gathered themselves up into the sand monster."

"Why did it go to Santa Fe?" asked Dr. Maland.

"One of those meteoroids was taken there by some kid. My guess is that the monster needs all of them to function. Thus, it had to retrieve the missing part from Santa Fe."

"So, if our young protector concentrated his attack on those meteoroids..." the storyteller said thoughtfully.

"Exactly!" replied Dr. Plate. "He could actually inflict damage..."

Before Dr. Plate could finish his sentence the young monster had grabbed two rocks from the interior of the sand monster. With one in each hand, he smacked the two together. The sand monster let out some sort of high pitched whine.

The young monster continued to bang the two rocks together. The sand monster used others in an attempt to get him to stop. It was clear that the monster was in pain. It released its hold on the monster and concentrated on stopping the action of the young monster.

The son of Iapetus threw one of the rocks into the pile of rocks his father made, and grabbed another one. He began striking these two rocks together. After a few strikes he threw that rock in the opposite direction.

The sand monster continued to pound the young monster with all his might. However, with each action it became weaker and weaker. The young Iapetian protector continued to strike the meteoroids together and tossing a new one away.

Eventually, the original stone, which he retained, crumbled into pieces in his hand. The monster's whine became nearly deafening, but it could no longer control the sand and it fell into a large dune.

Just to be sure, the son of Iapetus smashed a few more rocks into dust. He had successfully defeated his first major foe. However, his father was still struggling with the mechanical weapon system. He would now help with that task.

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Iapetus Saves Albuquerque

Chapter Twelve

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The son of Iapetus grabbed a few meteoroids of his former foe, and threw them at Cyber-Iapetus. The mechanical monster turned to see where the minor attack originated. The young monster gave a roar of challenge to the cybernetic weapon system.

The distraction allowed Iapetus to make a full out attack. He swept the legs out from under the weapon system. Once the weapon was on the ground, Iapetus jumped on top of it, and began pounding on the weak spots.

The young monster rushed over to where his father wrestled with his mechanical rival. The weapon system saw the rush and launched some missiles at him with its good hand. Further, the shoulder doors open and began firing at the elder Iapetus.

With the mechanical monster pinned beneath him, Iapetus avoided the bullets as they fired into the air. The missiles did strike the son of Iapetus, but did little damage to the young beast. Nevertheless, Cyber-Iapetus sent several more waves of missiles at the oncoming young monster.

The missiles hit their mark as the young monster kicked a hole into the side of the mechanical beast. At this, the storyteller rushed towards the fighting monsters. The others were too surprised by this development that they were too late to stop the rushing man.

The two monsters continued to wrestle with the weapon system as the storyteller ran up to them. However, they held the weapon still to allow the man to enter the created hole. Once inside, he managed to shut down the system.

Further, once inside he removed the weapon system's remaining munitions. Thus, even if it returned to auto-protect mode, it would have no missiles or bullets at its disposal. It had already depleted its fire breathing reservoir.

The storyteller exited Cyber-Iapetus and the two monsters briefly relaxed. However, there were still things remaining to be done. The aliens were still lurking somewhere.

Out of the sand, a craft emerged. Before it rose too high, the son of Iapetus jumped upon it. The weight of the young monster forced the craft to the ground. It tried and tried to shake off the monster, but was not successful.

The storyteller walked calmly over to where the alien craft sat. Again the others could do nothing to stop him. The alien craft door opened, and the Iapetian entered. The door closed behind him.

The young monster got off the craft. The alien ship took off, but landed near the Humvee where the other three men remained. The door opened, and the storyteller beckoned the three men to join him. Reluctantly, all three joined him -- even Captain Cheever.

Communication among the group was difficult. The aliens were not able to make sounds to speak any human language. However, they could enter information into a machine that could make the sounds for language. Fortunately, the aliens learned some human languages before setting out to encounter the humans.

The spoken words by the men would enter into a device which transformed it into a form available to the aliens. Thus, communication was slow but it was possible.

"We demand the return of our ambassador," stated the alien captain.

"Sorry, but that is impossible," replied Captain Cheever.

"Please explain," the alien responded.

"With all due respect, the alien craft crashed," answered Captain Cheever. "There were no survivors."

"Do you know that?" whispered Dr. Maland.

"I have information not publicly available," responded the military man.

"Please elaborate," the alien urged.

"As you know, our air is toxic to your people," began Captain Cheever. "The crash landing breached the protective suit of the pilot. Thus, your ambassador perished shortly after the crash. Further, he decomposed quite rapidly under the exposure of our air. This all happened before we could get to him."

"That is indeed distressing," stated the alien. "What is the status of his ship?"

"It was beyond salvage. Most of the wreckage was taken to a secure location, but it is simply a pile of twisted metals," stated Captain Cheever.

"Are there any remnants of our ambassador?" asked the alien.

"The remains of your comrade were photographed in their discovered state but have not lasted his time on earth," explained Captain Cheever. "These images may be made available to you if you demand proof of my words."

"You have defeated us and our Sletfernian Sand Monster in a fair fight," replied the alien captain. "We are in no position to make any demands. In fact, you may punish us in whatever manner you see fit."

"Our people are not a punitive people," responded Captain Cheever. "We are sympathetic for your cause. While your actions might not be completely forgiven, I will speak on your behalf. We will attempt to make this right."

"Very well spoken human," replied the alien. "What is our next step?"

"Let these civilians off," answered Captain Cheever "and I will make the necessary arrangements."

"But..." begged Dr. Maland and Dr. Plate.

"Agreed," replied the aliens as they herded the men out of the ship.

The three men stood there and watched the ship take off with Captain Cheever aboard. There was nothing that they could do to take that trip. They looked around and had to determine what they were going to do. The rental car was quite a distance away, and Captain Cheever did not leave the keys to the Humvee behind.

As they stood there, the two giant monsters approached. The storyteller climbed upon the tail of the son of Iapetus. Dr. Maland and Dr. Plate followed this lead. The young monster carefully took the men to the rental car.

The three men entered the car as the two monsters walked south towards the gulf. The men discussed it and drove back to where the mechanical weapon system sat.

Dr. Plate grabbed several meteoroids. These pieces of a former giant creature would provide a great deal of interesting study material for the astronomer and his cohorts.

The storyteller climbed aboard the greatly damaged Cyber-Iapetus. He powered it up and left the area into it. With the holes in the armor, he would not be able to follow the Iapetian family. He would have to find some other way to get the weapon system to his island home. Nonetheless, he began steering it towards Florida.

Dr. Maland waited until everyone had finished their tasks. He asked Dr. Plate where he wanted to go. While his truck was in Santa Fe, he was fine with going to Albuquerque. Thus, the two men headed to the city that Iapetus had just saved. From there, they headed home.

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The Maltese Sparrow

Chapter One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

It was a dark and stormy night, but not like those puny storms on that planet earth. Oh no! This one was a real ground shaker. Back in the old days, people were afraid of hurricane force winds. Those fragile little babies! They did not have the 600 kph winds of the storms here. Also, there is none of that puny water falling from the sky. "Oh it may be a little acidic," cried the spoiled little children. No sir! We are talking about liquid methane rain here. So it was a balmy 90 K (-297.4 ºF) outside. Those infants would not last two seconds outside -- well neither would I. That is why I am inside.

You would expect a world where rocket fuel rains from the sky to be populated. At least, that is why my grandparents moved here. It was a chance for a better life for them. For me, it is just the place I call home. Most of the people here work in the rocket fuel business. It is a rough life on the fringes of civilization. People come here to refuel, and sometimes they cause trouble. Thus, there are those here to keep the peace, and there are those of us who live in the gaps between chaos and law and order.

My name is Dwayne Thompson. I have lived here all my life. I am a jack of all trades, and yes, master of none. I get by. Like many that live here, I did not choose this as my home. However, it is as good as anywhere, and I make a living as a freelance troubleshooter.

On this particular night, she walked in. She had long legs. They went from the ground all the way up to her chin. That is how these Larsentients are built. Their face is just above their legs with their arms coming out where there should be ears. They have a bit of a body above that with the rest of their anatomy. It is kind of